Junkyard Gem: 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity Wagon

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity Wagon

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The beginning of the end for station wagons arrived as the second half of the 1980s dawned, thanks to Chrysler's introduction of its game-changing minivans and AMC's introduction of the even more influential XJ Jeep Cherokee (both as 1984 models), but few noticed at first. At that time, GM's Chevrolet Division still offered wagons in three different sizes: the Cavalier, Celebrity and Caprice Classic; today's Junkyard Gem is an example of the middle type, found in a Denver self-service yard recently.

The Celebrity was based on GM's front-wheel-drive A Platform, which was derived from the X Platform that underpinned the Chevrolet Citation and its kin. It was built from the 1982 through 1990 model years and was a huge success with well over 2 million sold. The Celebrity has all but disappeared from streets and car graveyards by now, so this is a rare opportunity to follow up the base-model '87 Celebrity sedan we saw a few years ago with a loaded longroof version.


The Celebrity's near-identical siblings were the Buick Century, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera/Cruiser and Pontiac 6000.

I have some personal and not-so-pleasant family experience with the Celebrity. My parents were patriotic Midwesterners who chose Detroit machinery (with a couple of notable exceptions) to drive from the time I was brought home from the hospital in a 1956 Olds 88 after my birth until I was off at college during the middle 1980s. They'd had an unpleasant experience with a 1979 Ford Granada, writing it off to simple bad luck, but then my dad decided to trade in his 1978 Pontiac Bonneville on a new Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport sedan (above is the only surviving photo of that car, shot past the snout of my now-legendary 1965 Impala sedan). That car was an across-the-board lemon, failing repeatedly under warranty and then even more repeatedly later on, and it drove my parents into the waiting arms of Toyota and Mazda, from which they never returned to Detroit iron.

That said, my family's Celebrity experience wasn't universal, and there are still devoted Celebrity enthusiasts to this day. That becomes relevant when telling the tale of today's Junkyard Gem, because it will lead us to a heartwarming junkyard happy ending.

This car's interior was just beautiful, leading me to believe that the 43,977 miles showing on its five-digit odometer represented the actual mileage. What a waste of nice interior parts, I thought, but then I remembered that I knew a Celebrity wagon owner!

Yes, the same married couple of Denver-area 24 Hours of Lemons racers who compete with a Chevy Vega and bought a 1990 Dodge Omni for their 16-year-old (because it's a cool old car that, amazingly, came with a peace-of-mind-providing driver's-side airbag) picked up a Celebrity station wagon to drive in the Route 66 Lemons Rally last month. Since my tip about a junked 1988 Plymouth Horizon led them to a bonanza of Omni parts, I let them know about the super-clean Celebrity in a nearby boneyard.

As it turned out, they had too many weird hoopties in their stable and had just sold their rally Celebrity to an enthusiast in Iowa who owns several nicely restored Celebrities. He would be flying out to Denver to pick up his wagon and was elated to learn of a nearly-impossible-to-find parts donor in a Mile High junkyard.

After picking up his new ride, he drove the 10 minutes over to U-Pull-&-Pay and harvested all these Celebrity goodies to take home.

As an added bonus, he found the original build sheet under the rear seat and sent a photo. Look at all those expensive options!