Junkyard Gem: 1987 Chevrolet Corsica Sedan

Chevrolet started off the 1980s with the modern front-wheel-drive Citation compact, which offered more interior space than its Nova predecessor while boasting a smaller footprint and superior fuel economy. Sales were very strong at first — nearly a million units for the 1980 model year— but plummeted with each successive year due to widely publicized recalls and quality-control problems. GM needed a Citation replacement, and so the Corsica sedan and its Beretta coupe sibling appeared in 1987, two years after the Citation’s demise. We don’t think much about the Corsica/Beretta today, despite a decade of production and hundreds of thousands of sales, so I was pleased to find one of the first examples ever built, in a Denver-area self-service yard.

Some may say that the first model year for the Corsica was 1988, but it turns out that GM built quite a few 1987 models for fleet-only sale. This one rolled off the line at Linden Assembly in September of 1986, making it one of the first Corsicas ever built.

13 1987 Chevrolet Corsica in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

Though it almost certainly began life as a much-abused rental car, subsequent owner or owners must have treated this Corsica very kindly during the following decades.

48 1987 Chevrolet Corsica in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

The Bordello Red vinyl-and-cloth upholstery still looks pretty good at age 34; this is especially unusual for a car in Colorado, where the harsh sun nukes interiors to crumbling tatters at one-fourth the age of this one. We can assume that this car spent most of its time in a garage.

20 1987 Chevrolet Corsica in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

GM was a newcomer to the six-digit-odometer world at this time (enabling me to document a discarded 363,033-mile Olds Calais), and thus we are able to see that this car wasn’t driven much during its long life.

05 1987 Chevrolet Corsica in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

Perhaps it spent most of its life in western Kansas. Scott City is about 300 miles southeast of Denver.

31 1987 Chevrolet Corsica in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

The Corsica and Beretta lived on the L platform, a stretched version of the Cavalier’s J platform, and so it shared suspension and running gear with its smaller cousin. This one has the base engine, the 2.0-liter four-banger rated at 90 horsepower. A 125-horse, 2.8-liter V6 was available as an option. Supposedly a five-speed manual was standard equipment, though I can’t imagine that any fleet buyers wanted transmissions other than the column-shift automatic. You’ll see the occasional Beretta with three pedals, but I’ve never managed to unearth a manual Corsica.

22 1987 Chevrolet Corsica in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

No cassette, but it least it played FM and delivered refrigerated air.

The kind of car that aliens would abduct for some passenger-probing a visit with the frozen-in-time Dinah Shore.

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