December 1983

Old News - Mysterious Chevy Test CarMy original intent behind the “Old News” series was to present bygone information and speculation that, being read years later, could be picked apart and analyzed using a hindsight perspective. However, I didn’t expect to stumble upon something from nearly three decades ago that could confound me today.

That is the case with two spy photographs of a single mysterious Chevrolet sedan that was caught roaming out and about in late 1983.

The front end looks awfully familiar, doesn’t it? But, after seeing it in its entirety, examining some details, and comparing it to other known vehicles, I can’t figure it out.

Continue reading to see more (and maybe help shed some light on this mystery.)

What it likely isn’t
1983 Chevrolet test car front1983 Chevrolet test car rearBefore jumping to conclusions, as I initially did, bear some things in mind:

  • despite sharing a somewhat similar front end to the Caprice, this is obviously a much smaller vehicle;
  • while it’s not out of reason that it could pass for an A-body (Chevrolet Celebrity) mule, that car was already on the road, having been introduced for the 1982 model year;
  • when the photographs were taken in December of 1983, despite a striking resemblance to the Malibu, that car was in its final year until its rebirth would occur almost a decade and a half later;
  • Chevy’s Citation (part of GM’s X-body line) was approaching the end of its days (ceasing after 1985), and wasn’t scheduled for a 1986 replacement unlike Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac’s compacts (which switched to the N-body Summerset Regal, Calais and Grand Am, respectively); and
  • in lieu of an N-body car to replace the Citation, Chevrolet was in fact planning their own compact substitution. That car, however, would utilize a slightly different platform (a Chevrolet N-body derivative, called L-body) and debut for the 1987 model year as the Corsica sedan (and Beretta coupe). Visually, it is hard to connect that sedan with this test car–the wheelbase even looks longer on the tester.

So what is it?

Professional opinions
The official word of automotive journalists at the time, reportedly according to a GM “decree,” was that this car was being referred to as the X/A-body and represented GM’s X-body replacement.

Further, it was speculated that, while Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac would make the switch, Buick wouldn’t upgrade to this newer model but rather stick with an X-body-based Skylark through the 1987 model year.

We know the second part didn’t happen, so that essentially throws the rest of the reported information into the “suspect” category.

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