Autos

Wagon Wednesday: Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport VR was a Prelude to Sport Wagons in the U.S. Market

1987 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport VR

By 1987, station wagons had been relegated to merely an afterthought in the United States. The Big Three had changed course, and minivan sales were booming with the Dodge Caravan, Chevy Astro, and Ford Windstar leading the charge.

With wagon interest waning, another run-of-the-mill rollout from the Big Three wouldn’t suddenly turn the tides this late in the game. If the station wagon hoped to survive in this new era, it would have to develop its own niche and differentiate itself from the minivans on the market.

While both were capable family and cargo haulers, the minivan’s superior ride height made entering and exiting the vehicle much easier. Driving visibility was improved too with a higher seating position.

Short of dropping the car on a Silverado chassis and installing a lift kit, General Motors knew the station wagon wouldn’t win this battle. But maybe it didn’t have to.

Instead of focusing on a wagon’s inherent weaknesses, Chevrolet decided to build upon its strengths when designing the 1987 Celebrity Eurosport VR Wagon.

Previously, the wagon market in the U.S. had been driven solely by utilitarian function. With the attractive wagons from the muscle car era long gone, current production models were primarily used as family trucksters and styling had become a mere afterthought.

Bringing the Sport Wagon to the U.S.

In Europe, however, “sport wagons” had proven to fill a void in the market for the family that didn’t want to sacrifice performance and styling for practicality. Although this segment had yet to gain traction in the U.S., Chevrolet hoped the Eurosport VR would pave the way going forward.

To give the VR a similar look to the sport wagons in Europe, Chevrolet teamed up with Autostyle Cars Inc. The goal was to create a more aggressive, streamlined version of the standard Celebrity Eurosport wagon.

Special ground effects gave the VR a visually lowered stance, while a functional front air dam and rear bumper diffuser let you know this was no ordinary station wagon. Other exterior modifications included flush mount headlights, blacked out trim, monochromatic bumpers, and exclusive 16-inch wheels. The VR was available in only four colors—silver, black, white, and a vibrant red that was reserved exclusively for the Corvette and Camaro.

Inside, the 1987 VR line was equipped with brothel red carpet and specially appointed seats with red piping and leather thigh bolsters. In 1988, various cost-saving measures were taken and the VR models received the standard Eurosport interior for the final year of production.

Under the hood, the multi-port fuel injected 2.8-liter LB6 V6 engine produced 140 horsepower. While that figure would have been respectable for an ordinary celebrity station wagon, it was a bit underwhelming for a halo model like the VR. Paired with a four-speed automatic transmission, this combination resulted in an uninspiring 9-second zero to 60 mph time. Despite its lackluster performance in a straight line, the Eurosport’s standard F41 sport suspension and VR-rated tires made it surprisingly agile in the corners.

Enthusiast Rescues Abandoned VR Wagon

1987 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport VR
1987 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport VR | Photo submitted by Jay Rat

More than anything, enthusiasts are drawn to the rarity and styling of the car. In fact, that is what led VR enthusiast Jay Rat to travel more than 350 miles from his home in Florida to Atlanta in 2010 to rescue one of the few remaining 1987 VR wagons in existence.

This particular example had been driven by a family from upstate New York, who abandoned the car at a relative’s house in Atlanta shortly after moving to the area. With 193,000 miles on the odometer and no desire to restore it, the property owners were going to donate it to a local tech school if it didn’t sell soon.

In what can only be described as a suicide mission, Rat hopped on a Greyhound for an overnight trip with a backpack full of oil and spare belts to keep the VR from suffering that terrible fate. He arrived the next day, and purchased the car for $250.

He performed an oil change on site, changed the serpentine belt and had to bottle feed the transmission along the way until he safely made it back home. It wasn’t easy or particularly sane, but Jay believes the journey was worth it to save such an irreplaceable car.

So just how rare are the Celebrity Eurosport VR Wagons? According to the research Rat has gathered on production figures, only 124 VR Wagons were made in 1987. His is one of 57 in black.

Even though it certainly looked the part, the VR fell short of being recognized as a true sport wagon. While it may not have had the performance to back up its aggressive styling, the VR was a step in the right direction and showed that General Motors certainly wasn’t giving up on its station wagons. That much was certain. The best was yet to come.