Junkyard Gem: 1988 Chevrolet Spectrum Sport Coupe

Before General Motors created the Geo brand for cars built or designed by its overseas partners, the Chevrolet Division put its badges on U.S.-market versions of the Toyota Corolla Sprinter, the Suzuki Cultus and the Isuzu Gemini. Those cars were known as the Nova, the Sprint and the Spectrum, and all became Geos starting with the 1989 model year. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of the last Chevy Spectrums ever sold, found in a Denver self-service yard a few months ago.

Midway through 1988, the Chevrolet Spectrum abruptly became the Geo Spectrum and was assigned to the 1989 model year. This car was built in May 1988, making it one of the very last of the pre-Geo Spectrums.

The Chevrolet/Geo Spectrum was available as a four-door sedan and as a three-door hatchback, from the 1985 through 1989 model years. For 1988 only, a Spectrum Sport Coupe package, featuring some trim upgrades and these rad decals, could be had on the hatchback.

This car was essentially identical to its Isuzu-badged counterpart, the I-Mark. In 1988, the MSRP for the cheapest possible Chevy Spectrum hatchback (the stripped-down Spectrum Express) was $6,495, while its somewhat better-equipped I-Mark twin started at $7,439 (that’s $17,128 and $19,617 in 2023 dollars). Meanwhile, the base Hyundai Excel hatchback listed at $5,295 and the Yugo GV cost a hilarious $4,199 ($13,963 and $10,941 in today’s money).

Power came from this 1.5-liter SOHC four-cylinder, rated at 70 horsepower. A turbocharged version with 110 horsepower was available as well.

You could get an automatic transmission in the Spectrum, but this car has the base five-speed manual.

This car didn’t get the optional air conditioning, but at least it has the traditional Isuzu HVAC control icons featuring blow-dried hair and high-heeled dominatrix boots.

Just over 170,000 miles on the odometer.

Someone installed a pretty good (for the 1980s) Blaupunkt Charlotte CR148 cassette deck in the dash. This was a necessity if you wanted to enjoy full appreciation of the music of the era.

The Spectrum is special!

It’s as slick as city rain.

“I didn’t spend a lot of money but with my Spectrum it looks like I did.”

Joe Isuzu mocked Toyota salesmen when pitching the I-Mark.

As was nearly always the case during the 1980s, the JDM ads for the same car were much more fun.

They should have recreated this commercial with Spectrums.



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