Donald Petersen, the then CEO of the Ford Motor Company, once dismissed GM’s rival to his very own Ford Escort as an “automotive cockroach,” but that observation was only partially accurate. Certainly Chevrolet Chevettes were everywhere–just as cockroaches are in every modern western home and there is no denying the underpowered little econoboxes crawled along the byways at roughly the speed an adult Periplaneta americana moseys along a kitchen floor.
But that’s where the similarities end. Because scientists have proven cockroaches to be indestructible and Chevettes, well, time has proven that they weren’t. I live in sunny California, where cars live forever. I love cars and I keep my eyes open for well-preserved vintage models at every turn. Over the years I’ve spotted AMC Gremlins and Matadors, Ford Mavericks, Mitsubishi Colts, Mercury Capris, Chevy Monzas, Dodge Omnis and once in awhile I even run across that most ridiculous clown car of them all, the Geo Metro. But I’ve never seen a Chevy Chevette, either running or parked. Ever. There literally may not be one Chevette on the road today, anywhere. Like H&M clothing or 50 ml plastic bottles of Popov vodka these automobiles simply weren’t built to last. They were disposable, if you will.
But mein Gott, weren’t they were popular while they they were still around! Anyone could afford one, even people with virtually no income, like the incarcerated or deceased, and a lot of high school students drove around in them. Although it was undoubtedly better than taking a yellow bus to school every day, it wasn’t really a ride a teenager was exactly dying to show off. I heard tales of some smart-alecks who would meticulously file off the crossed “T”s on the logo so that it read “Chevelle” but they weren’t fooling anyone, including themselves. Even if you had $1,500 worth of Alpine and MB Quart stereo equipment installed in your $600 used car it was usually better to wait until you got out out of town and onto the backroads before REALLY cranking up that Ratt Invasion Of Your Privacy cassette. There was no use drawing undue attention to yourself.
Ford’s CEO no doubt thought he was being both withering and clever when he likened the Chevette to a cockroach but the truth is, it was more like a dog.