Extremely Rare and Cool Special Edition Packages and Limited Run Models – Chevrolet Edition Part I
We’re continuing our extremely rare and cool special edition and limited run models series with GM’s volume brand. Needless to say, being as such, Bow Tie brand has produced plenty of vehicles that can be considered rare, cool or even obscure. Given GM’s long bench of brands and divisions, one would think, however, that every single one of them had their own assignment in the team. Well, it’s much more complicated than that, but then again when wasn’t it with the GM? In the next two chapters of the series, we’ll cover the Chevy part of GM’s special edition jambalaya. So, lay back, relax and enjoy the informative read in front of you. It might just give you previously unknown insight into Chevrolet’s special edition manufacturing affairs.
Spirit of ’76 Pickup
As it was the case with pretty much every domestic manufacturer, Chevrolet also jumped in on the America’s bicentennial theme. They were rather reserved with it, however, tying the special edition package to Monza (of which 24,646 were made) and C10 truck only. To make things even more exclusive, it appears that only 500 of these C10’s have been produced. Moreover, it appears there were couple of paint schemes going on – white exterior with blue cab and bonnet, and light blue exterior with red-white-blue stripe on the side. However, the interior was the same in both versions. Only indicators of Spirit of ’76 package inside were special badges on door panels and glove compartment, and fashionable multi-color seats. All of them were sold with either 350ci or 454ci V8s under their hoods, and most were 4-speed manuals.
Although being available for five full model years, Spyder package for Chevy Monza wasn’t all that widespread. There were three options available for order. Z01 Spyder Equipment, Z02 Spyder Appearance which included the former Z01 within itself, and Z29 Spyder Equipment Package which was a combo of the two finally officially banded together for 1980. Only 5,095 Monza Spyders with Z01 were ordered between ’76 and ’79, while 22,150 Z02’s were bought between ’77 and ’79. Finally, 7,589 Chevy Monza Spyders with Z29 package found their new owners in 1980.
Monza Spyder was one hot H-body subcompact car thanks to blackwall tires, sport suspension and steering wheel, and wheel opening moldings available exclusively with the Z01 package. Z02 added blacked out headlamp and tail-light trim, special decals, body sill, and door and center pillar louvers among other things. Z29 didn’t add much apart from new side decals and a new front air dam. 4-cylinder was standard for ’76 with optional V8 on the side, but as of ’77, 305ci V8 was the only thing you could have ordered with the Monza Spyder.
Today, Chevrolet can’t be imagined without the SS badge, but do you know how it all began? The SS started as a special edition package on third generation Impala and subsequently became one of the most prolific automotive badges culminating in a separate model – a rebadged Holden Commodore for the US market. Optional Super Sport box was only ticked off 453 times in ’61. For $53.80, First Chevy SS owners received engine-turned aluminum exterior panel and a host of performance upgrades including heavy-duty front and rear coil springs, heavy-duty tires and shock absorbers. There were also power brakes, power steering, and a tachometer included. Chevy Impala SS could have been ordered with any body style including wagons and 2-door sedans. Those would be quite a sight these days. Maybe a barn somewhere hides one such treasure.
Engine options included 348ci V8 in 305-hp 2-barrel carb variation and 340-350-hp 4-barrel carburetor version. Moreover, 142 of those 453 cars were fitted with the stronger 4-barrel carburetor 409ci V8 making 360 ponies. 4-speed manual was standard across the board, while 2-speed automatic was offered as an option with 2-barrel 348’s.
COPO ZL-1 Camaro
No one would have guessed that Central Office Production Order (COPO) 9560 Camaro from 1969 would end up being the most muscular of Camaros for decades to come, but that’s exactly what happened to be the case. Only 69 of these all-aluminum 427ci V8-fitted pony cars have been made, but they earned their legendary status straightaway. ZL-1 Camaro wasn’t intended as a street car, but Fred Gibb of Gibb Chevrolet and Dick Harrell, a longtime Chevrolet drag racer, had a different vision for it. They ordered this limited batch of Camaros through a COPO, and the rest is history.
Although the cars didn’t sell that well back then, they are some of the most sought after muscle cars today. $7,200 sticker and 435 horsepower according to Chevy proved to be customer repellents. In truth, 1969 Camaro with the ZL-1 engine delivered anything north of 500 horses. They only needed minor modifications in order to run quarter mile in 11 second range. Even the COPO 9561 Camaro with L72 big-block engine which was another limited run model from ’69, was commissioned in less than 1,000 copies.
C10 Rollin’ Rebel
When Choo Choo Customs asked for 200 C10 pickups from Chevy back in 1981, they had only one thing in their mind – to create one of the coolest special edition pickups of the early eighties. And they pretty much succeeded. Rollin’ Rebel was built upon Custom DeLuxe trim, single cab config and 305ci 5.0L V8 engine combo. It featured one odd silver paint with darker inserts all over, and all-red interior with wooden dash. Numbered plaque on the dashboard was the only identifier of the Rollin’ Rebel special edition apart from the mentioned special interior and paint job. In addition, Chevy Rollin’ Rebel came with special wheels, tires and roof spoiler. It was a lonely Chevy in the sea of 73-87 GMC special edition trucks.
Highlander Pickup, Suburban and Blazer
Plaid Highlander theme debuted 14 years prior to 1986 movie that would pit Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown and Sean Connery against each other in an epic fantasy historical saga. Available in half-ton, three-quarter ton and one-ton pickups, as well as in Suburbans and Blazers, wacky interior trim could have been ordered in blue, gray, avocado green and orange colors. However, pickups and Suburban required Custom DeLuxe Z62 package, while Blazer mandated the CST Z84 option. Although not much more than kilt-mimicking seat package, Highlander option added special wheel covers in C10 pickups or chrome hubcaps in C20 and C30 trucks. It also added chrome front bumper, power steering, Turbo-Hydramatic transmission and A/C, but these were all part of the aforementioned mandatory packages that were prerequisites for plaid Highlander trim.
Both production numbers and production years of the Corsica XT are unknown, and that alone makes otherwise uninspiring (to say the least) Chevy Corsica cool and obscure. Corsica XT was apparently only available with the performance LTZ package, and it added special leather upholstery and a body kit made by a third party supplier. Since LTZ trim was prerequisite for XT package, at least we know that Corsica XT didn’t dabble with the 4-cylinder engines. Initially all LTZ’s had the 2.8L V6, while latter models came with 3.1L V6. Unlike LTZ models which had the smooth grille, Corsica XT features the same plastic grille found in conventional models. You’d have to dig inside in order to recognize one, if you manage to find it anywhere, that is. LTZ’s were already rare and expensive compared to conventional models, and XT is in a league of its own in that respect.
Celebrity Eurosport VR
What started with captive imports of the seventies, carried over with Euro-inspired cars of the eighties. One such vehicle was Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport VR available only throughout ’87 and ’88. Although cool-looking, Eurosport VR was pointless, to say the least. For starters, it offered nothing more in performance part than the regular Celebrity Eurosport, but it costed full $3,500 more than the base Celebrity. 2.8L V6 was the sole engine option, while transmission lineup consisted of 3 and 4-speed autos, and 5-speed Getrag manual.
New for ’88 were coupe models, while ’87 body options consisted of sedans and wagons. However, ’88 Eurosport VR’s cast away body-colored wheels for those with colored inserts, and lost the unique interior treatment which made ’87 models much more desirable. 1987 interior featured gray, black and red velour seats and door panels, and red carpets, while exterior was limited to black, white, silver and red. Conversion was done by a third party supplier – AutoStyle Cars – who also added smoother grille and one-piece front bumper with airdam. If only we knew that 1,621 Chevy Celebrity Eurosport VR’s would become a collectible car one day.
Monza Estate Wagon
Chevy Monza Estate Wagon was only available in 1978, and only 2,478 of them have been produced. That makes it limited run special edition in my book. They used leftover 1977 Vega’s bodies, and being a one year affair, it surely looked like they were intended for that purpose alone. In any case, 1978 Monza Estate Wagon used the 151ci 2.5L Iron Duke in-line four as its base engine, while Chevy’s 196ci 3.2L V6 and Buick’s 231ci 3.8L V6 were optional. In fact, the Iron Duke and smaller V6 weren’t available in California and high-altitude areas. Monza Estate Wagon also carried on without the 305ci V8 available with other body styles.
Cosworth Vega is nothing more than performance version of the regular Vega built in Chevy/Cosworth cooperation. It was only available through ’75 and ’76 with production numbers of 2,062 and 1,446 units respectively. In other words, only 3,508 Cosworth Vegas have been made. They used Chevy’s all-aluminum 122ci 2.0L in-line four engine with Cosworth’s dual overhead camshaft cylinder head. The engine delivered 110 horses and redlined at 6,500 rpm’s. Cosworth Vegas were also called Cosworth Twin-Cams due to the front fender and rear cove panel lettering in gold. Other unique details included black acrylic lacquer base and gold pinstripes on hood bulge. Vast majority of Cosworth Vegas came with perforated black vinyl interior, while the rest were finished in white. Interior also featured golden dash bezel and plaque with production number.
Cobalt SS Turbo Sedan
Cobalt SS wouldn’t be considered all that rare or special, but turbo and sedan are the keywords here. While hatchback was available for a few years already, Chevrolet finally added the sedan for last two years of Cobalt’s production run. Mind you, Cobalt SS sedan was available before that as well, but only with naturally aspirated four. SS Turbo Sedan was motivated by 2.0L in-line turbo four engine generating 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. In true sporty fashion, it was only available with the 5-speed manual gearbox.
Forget for the moment that it made 260 ponies and think of its 5.5 seconds 0 to 60 time. Moreover, Chevy Cobalt SS Turbo Sedan was one of the last Bow Tie performance cars to receive a glowing report from numerous respected automotive reviewers. They praised its impeccable body control and balance, aside of its performance. Sadly, Cobalt SS Turbo Sedan’s life was cut short by the latest economic recession.
However inadvisable that may be, one would have to agree that EV truck would have gone a long way in finally delivering long sought fuel efficiency to the pickup truck world. Chevrolet S-10 EV was the pioneer of such aspirations, but as it’s usually the case, it failed miserably. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t one cool truck, though. Nor rare, for that matter. Although there were 492 of them assembled in the first batch, only 60 were sold through fleet channels. The rest were scrapped. Not the intended fate for electric vehicle powered by a single 85 kW (114 horsepower) electric motor and either 16.2 kWh lead acid or 29 kWh Ni-MH battery pack.
One of the rarest cars of them all would have to be the 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z16 of which only 200 were built. 200 coupes, that is. There was also one convertible which disappeared decades ago and hasn’t been seen since. As for the existing ones (some 70 have been accounted for), Chevelle Z16’s were offered with Corvette’s 396ci big-block Turbo Jet V8 and Muncie 4-speed manual trans. Being exclusive as they were, Z16 Chevelles packed pretty much all of the available equipment plus the heavy duty suspension. They even had the unique speedometer engraved to 160 mph. There are only a handful Chevy’s scarcer than this one. That basically makes Chevelle Z16 the holy grail of the Bow Tie brand alongside the aforementioned COPO ZL-1 Camaro.
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