Junkyard Gem: 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity Sedan

When it became clear that front-wheel drive allowed for fuel-saving lower curb weights and better interior space in cars, the days of the old A-body Chevy Malibu became numbered. Its replacement, riding on an all-new front-wheel-drive A platform, appeared for the 1982 model year and millions roared out of showrooms through 1990. That car was the Chevrolet Celebrity, and this once-ubiquitous Detroit workhorse has been all but forgotten during the past three decades. I’ve documented a few Celebrities during my junkyard history lessons, but they’ve been wagons or optioned-up Eurosports. Today, we’ll look at a meat-and-potatoes ordinary Celebrity sedan, the sort that once outnumbered Camrys and Accords on American roads, finally discarded after 33 years of service in Colorado.

Registration and insurance documentation still resided in the glovebox when I found this car in a Denver car boneyard, so I was able to look for it in Google Street View. Sure enough, the Googlemobile spotted it last year, with then-current tags in a quiet Denver neighborhood just a couple of miles from its final parking space.

The original sales documents from Craig Chevrolet in nearby Arvada were there as well, so it’s a good bet that this car spent its entire life living in the region. The site of Craig Chevrolet is now owned by the Denver Beer Company, and I’ve hoisted a few steins while eating tasty fried appetizers there.

The engine badges made this car seem pretty modern by 1987 standards, when plenty of cars still ran carburetors. The F.I. is for “fuel injection,” kids. 

However, beneath that throttle-body electronic fuel-injection system lived the rude-and-crude 2.5-liter “Iron Duke” four-cylinder engine. Essentially one cylinder bank of the wheezy Pontiac 301-cubic-inch V8, the Iron Duke was sturdy but sounded unpleasant and didn’t make much power. 98 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque on tap here. A 125-horse, 2.8-liter V6 was a $610 option (about $1,425 today).

The Celebrity came standard with a three-speed automatic transmission, which made the $10,265 sticker price for the sedan a pretty good deal (that’s about $24,000 in 2020 dollars). However, air conditioning cost a hefty $775 (about $1,810 today).

If you wanted the absolute cheapest audio “system” available in the Celebrity, here it is: a single-speaker Delco AM-only radio, priced at $39 ($91 today). If you didn’t want to pay extra, you got no tunes other than the ones you sang yourself. For the AM/FM/cassette stereo, the cost was a frightening $339 ($790 today).

Power windows in your ’87 Celebrity? That’ll be $285 ($665 today). As far as I can tell, no power locks could be had on this car.

This car served its owners for well over three decades. Trip to Tiny Town? Let’s go!

The Lumina replaced the Celebrity after 1990, though production of the Celebrity’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera sibling continued all the way through 1996. To the Oldsmobile Division’s credit, the Iron Duke ceased going into Cieras after 1988.

Family value from Chevy.

The snazzier-looking Eurosport got most of the screen time in Celebrity ads, but you’ll glimpse the occasional base-level sedan.

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