Lost Pocket Rocket: 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Turbo

Think America never made a good mini-compact car?

You'd be half wrong, and half right.

The Chevrolet Sprint looks like a pretty cool car. It was made in partnership with Suzuki and based off their widely shared Cultus platform.

It was only marketed as a Chevrolet Sprint in North America from 1985-1988.

The Sprint seems like it was basic but passable transportation. Given Chevrolet's unfamiliarity with small cars, I wouldn't have trusted them to build a solid sub-compact in the 1980s. I respect them more for using the Suzuki platform, of which I'm sure they were very happy to have access to thanks to a huge business deal with Suzuki in 1981.

This is the Turbo model. The turbo simply added a turbocharger to the tiny 1.0-litre 3-cylinder (yes, 3-cylinder) engine, boosting horsepower to 79. Appearance-wise the Turbo came with some nice cosmetic effects like body color trim, flared skirts, "Turbo" decals and special wheels. Turbo models only came in red, white or blue (oh, the irony).

Design-wise it's pleasant enough. Sparse, simple and clean, thanks to Suzuki's stylists. It continues to amaze me how many different manufacturers created a spin on the two-door subcompact hatchback during the golden period of the late '70s to the mid '90s, from the Gremlin to the Yugo to the CRX. Currently, there really are no cars that still have this small, bare-bones shape with a minimal use of body sheet-metal, and I think it's sorely missed by consumers.

The seller gives little info and no history, but mentions it has a new clutch and pressure bearing. He also says it takes a little throttle and "away you go". I guess that's a good thing. With a curb weight of only around 1,500 lbs., this was one lightweight car. The engine is pitifully small, but that only means better gas mileage. In answering a question posed by a potential bidder, the seller claims the Sprint gets 40 miles per gallon and I believe it.

In talented hands, this could be a truly great car. Spend some time making it even lighter, possibly swap in a bigger 4-cylinder engine and you had some obscure but real street cred on your hands.

This thing at least deserves a cosmetic restoration to original specifications. I think restoring small cars is a cool idea. For one, there's just less car and therefore less to worry about. It seems easier. I would give it a quality re-paint matching the original red, freshen the decal text, and restore the original white wheels that matches the white text (the seller shows they thankfully kept the wheels). The rear bumper seems to be a black plastic piece from the base model, so the original may have been hit. I would try to track down an original Turbo rear bumper as it may have been differently sculpted. Failing that, I would just paint the existing bumper to match the red body color.

The interior is slightly better looking. The seats look original but need a thorough cleaning and detailing. Most people don't know how to keep the insides of a car clean. It basically comes down to a combination of constant vacuuming, cloth foam cleaning, febreeze, and Armorall wipes. The seats look filthy and sun-bleached but I wouldn't attempt any color restoration, I would just clean the heck out of them. Seat covers with a similar color scheme might also be an appropriate investment to prevent further wear and tear. Then wipe the dash clean and windex all windows crystal clear.

Basically it can and should be brought back to look like this:

The seller reports the odometer reading 110,280. That's not too much for a 1988, but they don't indicate whether it is original. I wouldn't worry. With the worn shape it's in, it needs a clean slate anyways. Originality isn't the point here, but glossiness will be key if it's going to get looks at stoplights.

Price-wise I would try to grab it for cheap. It still being an extremely small car it does have somewhat limited use. Although it's also probably more well-known now thanks to the internet age, it has no major value either. You'll need the extra cash to do the restoration. Besides, there are probably a handful of pristine examples left from owners who actually knew what they had and took care of them. Those would be worth the cost of this plus the restoration for this one.

Find it here on ebay for sale in Maryland with active bidding but the reserve still not met. And me getting slightly envious.

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