From edgy to wedgy

Design Notes: 1988 Chevrolet CorsicaBy the mid 1980s small cars were rapidly becoming a hot commodity in the American auto market. Domestic manufacturers had been bolstering their compact ranks for sometime but Chevrolet’s groundbreaking X-car, the Citation, introduced in 1979 as a 1980 model, had formidable new competitors and was headed for the proverbial pasture after 1985.

The end of that model’s relatively short lifespan would result in a vacancy for 1986 in Chevy’s lineup between the Cavalier and Celebrity. That position was to be filled by their all-new compact sedan, the Corsica, for 1987.

Wait… for 1987? Or was it 1988? Actually, sorta both.

What’s in a model year?
Many global markets identify new vehicle models and their subsequent updated versions with a series-type designation rather than correlating the changes with a year (similar to how most computer software will offer updates when they are available, not annually). Associating vehicle progression with a model year is largely a North American practice.

According to historic accounts, the idea behind assigning calendar year designations to vehicles originated at General Motors during the 1920s. It was conceived by Alfred P. Sloan as an innovative means of perpetuating interest on the part of the consumer. The use of a model year for vehicles quickly became a standard here and, at least to Americans, seems a natural preface to a model name.

Even though the yearly designation system seems fairly straightforward, at times there can be ambiguity. A perfect example is the first-generation Cadillac Seville; was it a 1975 or 1976 model year? There are certainly differences of opinion on that matter, as discussed in this prior post: Design Notes: 1975 Cadillac Seville.

Another example would be the subject of this post, the Chevy Corsica. However, this one seems a little simpler to wade through than the Seville. Chevy did in fact produce a 1987 model year Corsica but there were a mere 8,973 made and those were only available through leases to rental fleets and, to a lesser degree, for use on dealer lots and internally at Chevrolet.

The reason or reasons for that are not made clear in any of the documentation I’ve seen but one reason could be its late launch as a 1987 model. It appears the Corsica wasn’t officially announced until January of that same year.

Further, there was no marketing or advertising taken out for the 1987 model. According to Thomas A. Staudt, Chevrolet’s general marketing manager at the time, “What we’ve learned from model launches in the past is that successful ones depend on having good availability of product once the marketing effort begins. We view leasing Corsicas and Berettas [Corsica’s two-door brother] to the daily rental companies as an extra exposure opportunity. Every Corsica and Beretta on the road is a rolling billboard pointing to a Chevrolet dealership because that’s where a person can really find out what the cars are all about.”

Another reason might have to do with quality control. The car (along with Beretta, which will be covered in a future Design Notes) was heralded for its advancements in fit and finish. And, when the car was officially launched to the public on March 12, 1987, accompanied by a nationwide advertising and marketing campaign, it was called a 1988.

Of note, it was estimated by Chevy’s general manager at the time that roughly a quarter-million copies would be sold in its first full year. While I was unable to determine exactly what that sales number was, I did find out that there were 291,163 built as 1988s and it was certainly regarded a success.

Okay, enough of this background stuff. Onward to the gravy.

Concept sketches
I don’t have any dates for the following sketches but one of them has what appears to be “12-26-82” written on it. Click on the pictures to see the full-sized versions.

1988 Chevrolet Corsica design sketch1988 Chevrolet Corsica design sketch

Those are pretty nice. The window lines on the car sketched above left look incredible. The rear of the car in the sketch above right reminds me of the rear of a Geo Storm.

1988 Chevrolet Corsica design sketch

The rear of the car sketched above draws clear lines to the third generation Camaro from its taillights to the C-pillars and hatch’s curved glass–yes, this one is a proposed five-door hatch that didn’t make the first-year cut but did show up as an optional body style for 1989.


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