The Chevy Beretta promised to be a stronger weapon in the war against Japanese imports. But true to GM’s way in the 1980s, the Beretta’s style preceded its substance.
The Beretta and its four-door Corsica stablemate filled the gap left by the embattled Citation X-car, after the Citation got the bullet in 1985. Dire predictions of rising gas prices had this coupe projected in the advance spy shots to be a smaller Monte Carlo, but the unexpected flow of crude oil had the Monte Carlo marching on as the intermediate it was.
Ideally, the Beretta was to going fend off Accords and Integras and Celicas. The curvy sheetmetal was very un-GM, after a decade of boxy shapes. The Beretta was another import beater with attractive looks and competitive stats. And it was named after a gun. Lock and load, it’s import-hunting season!
The number of surviving Berettas on Craigslist tells us they weren’t complete lemons. But this fancy coupe’s underpinnings were rooted in model year 1980 – albeit with many refinements along the way – at a time when the competition was churning out breakthrough designs every four years. It didn’t take long for the Beretta to sink into irrelevance, as 275K sales in 1988 quickly fell to 180K in ’89 and then 100K in ’90, and then down from there.
Also typical of pre-bankruptcy GM was the way the Beretta was trotted out year after year as it received minimal updates. It sold just 42K units in 1996, its final model year. No bullets were left in this gun, and few cared when the Beretta was retired.
Let’s take a tour of an early Beretta with this decently documented 1989 model.
Before we proceed, let’s affirm that it would be a reach to spend $2K on a 26-year-old Beretta with 128K miles and no service history.
It has the 2.8-liter V6 that debuted in the 1980 Citation…
…and it has a five-speed manual transmission. Sounds fun, but the combo was more torquey-economical than tuned-for-sport.
The interior probably looked great on the drawing board with all those basic shapes and straight lines. But physically, it came out looking cheap.
Again with a priority on style, that neat smoked-plastic tail presented a high liftover height for your luggage. If your bags were heavy, then you’d probably drag them over that nice smoked plastic to plunk them into the starkly unfinished trunk.
The Beretta was another in a line of handsome GM compacts that debuted with much hullabaloo and then fizzled. And then it was dragged through too many model years as it was milked for its last drop of profit.
How nice it is that the only place we find this GM today is in the past.
Tell us in the comments – what do YOU think of the Beretta?