I was feeling a little nostalgic today for the time I spent at World of Wheels Magazine and Carguide Magazine. Not only was it my first full-time writing gig, but the first that promised regular press cars and long-term test cars.
They're now both fully defunct, but it's safe to say that all of the talent has since gone on to bigger and better things!
One of the discussions we'd indulged in on a slow day was the notion that, despite having the best of intentions as car enthusiasts, we often held seriously high opinions of objectively terrible vehicles.
Some of you know about my love for the Suzuki X90. I can't really tell you why, or why I spend a few minutes every few weeks looking through classifieds for one.
Brad, an editor, told us about his crush on the Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 (sorry for outing you, Brad!) and fellow editors Mark and Mike were in the discussion but sadly, I can't remember what their picks were…
(Brad also loves the Pontiac Fiero, which is why I sent him this Hall & Oates Pontiac Fiero poster a few months back…)
It turned into a long email chain, then a small thread on vwvortex, and, eventually, a story, where we each confessed our strange vehicles to readers.
We called it, "If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right" and it was a lot of fun. Send me yours and I'll share them.
Today's car, the 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport VR Wagon, comes from that pile.
From 1982 to 1990, the Chevrolet Celebrity (and its cousins, the Buick Century, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser, and Pontiac 6000 LE) sold like hotcakes. In 1987, the first year of the Eurosport VR range, there were more than 400,000 Celebrity models sold in the U.S. alone.
That would put it #2 in sedan sales today, outselling the Honda Accord. It'd also be good enough to outsell the current Chevrolet Malibu 2-to-1.
The car answers a simple problem: customers were beginning to pick entry-level imports over American sedans. Whether or not General Motors believed it was solely an issue with how the Celebrity looked—or also how it performed—the resulting VR trim level was basically an appearance package.
And why not? The bones of the car were pretty good. A year later, Audi introduced the 90, with 134 horsepower for North America. The VR's high-output V6 with multi-port fuel injection offered a few additional horsepower—and could be serviced in any town.
The conversion, by a company called AutoStyle, was made in a facility just a mile away from General Motors' Oklahoma City plant, and driven each way. (GM would use the same trick with the current Camaro, with an outside company responsible for stripe installation a short drive from the factory.)
A full interior package is what really set the VR cars apart for 1987, including their red carpeting. Cost of the conversion package? $4000—bringing the car's total price to $17,000—still $10,000 less expensive than the equivalent Audi.
For 1987, the Celebrity Eurosport VR was available in sedan and wagon body styles. Yes, you could get a manual transmission in the sedan. In 1988, the car lost its custom interior and other details, becoming less expensive as a result. A coupe body style was also offered in 1988.
The fan website eurosportvr.com says that 1021 VRs were made in 1987 and ~600 in 1988. You could get white, black, silver, or Code 81—otherwise known as Corvette and Camaro red.
Even better? There was a full apparel range, just like all the grown-up factory tuner cars get—BMW M, Mercedes-Benz AMG, and Audi RS! The whole range of accessories is predictably awful.
Today, the Eurosport VR models are worth virtually nothing, and yet they hold a special allure. Maybe it's the red carpet, maybe the blacked-out trim. Or the idea of a Celebrity fitted with a nice V6 and five-speed manual transmission.
Did they rival the Europeans? Of course not. But the VR package wasn't first—or the last—domestic attempt to mimic the imports.
But that's a story for another day.