1988 Chevrolet Celebrity CL: Nicest one left?
If you grew up in the ’80s, you will remember the Chevrolet Celebrity. The General’s most affordable A-body was seemingly everywhere, in every flavor: sedan, wagon, woody wagon, Eurosport. And then, one day, they were all gone.
I still see Cutlass Cieras and Centurys on occasion here in the heartland. One recent Saturday, I saw four of them—one Century and three Cieras, all of mid ’90s vintage—but the Celebrity is a rare bird. True, there are a couple in my photo files other than this one. I have pics of a solid 1986 sedan seen here in town and another one found in Kewanee, Illinois, that is a bit of a unicorn: the rare two-door sedan, whose final year was also 1988, the year of today’s find. But both those cars were photographed several years ago. I don’t think I’ve seen a Celebrity in at least seven years.
Even in the mid-’90s, Celebritys were getting scarce, and as a teen, I wondered if every single one had the bark beaten off it. I regularly saw late-model ones with major rust in the ’90s, when production had only ended in 1990. Odd, as there were still plenty of Buick and Olds models running around in good shape. The Century and Ciera were still in production then, granted, but it still didn’t explain how seemingly three-quarters of Celebritys had disappeared between 1993 and ’95.
Back in the late summer of 2014, one night driving home past this little car lot, I was stunned by what appeared to be a brand-new Celebrity CL just sitting there. Wow! It even had whitewalls. I immediately vowed to return soon and see it up close. And the following Sunday afternoon, I did.
While the Chevrolet Celebrity was the best-selling car in America in 1986, the new jellybean Taurus soon knocked it from its perch, though the car remained a good seller through its final year in 1990. Oddly enough, only the station wagon was available in ’90; the new Lumina was slowly replacing the Celebritys.
I remember these cars well, as our pastor drove one. His was a navy-blue base model with full wheel covers and blue interior. It was a rather appropriate mode of transportation for a Lutheran minister: domestic, unpretentious, and roomy. It was later traded in on a navy blue Corsica.
The CL was the “Brougham” trim level in the Celebrity hierarchy, specifying plusher seating with velour upholstery, choice of 55/45 divided bench seat or 45/45 seating with a console, and velour door panel trim–not to mention CL badging on the trunk lid. Gotta let the neighbors know you spiffed for the fancy interior, dontcha know! Just don’t get that Tru-Coat.
As the basic Celebrity had a rather plain interior, the CL was much more Oldsmobile-esque. Looks like you could just sink into those seats! This one even had power windows, which I can’t recall seeing often when these were new cars.
I miss interiors color-keyed to the exterior paint. Though I guess you can still do black/black or gray/gray in your 2022 Soap Bar Combover LS. But I really miss the blue on blue, burgundy on burgundy, and green on green options. Or how about a Coupe de Ville or Mark IV in triple white? Or a triple Colonial Yellow Eldorado? Now you’re talking!
Whoops, fell down the Brougham rabbit hole there for a minute.
At any rate, this Celebrity was just in amazing shape. I am quite sure it has been garaged from new, and with only 46,000 on the clock, it had to be someone’s aunt’s or grandmother’s car.
Yes, I know it isn’t a Duesenberg or even an ’80 Camaro Berlinetta, but it’s nice to see a car exactly like it was when I was in grade school, and to remember when cars had a little bit of style and squared-off formality, unlike many of the pseudo-fastback steel and plastic blobs now populating our roads. The closest you can get to this now is a ’22 Malibu Premier, and while you can get it in metallic red, I’m sad to report that burgundy velour is unavailable.