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1996 Chevy Beretta Z26: The Iconic GM Car That Sparked a Legal Feud

Hey everyone, I’m Andrew, and today I’m driving a 1996 Chevy Beretta Z26. Up front, we’ve got a 3.1-liter V6 engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. I’m really excited to drive this Beretta for a few reasons. Firstly, I’ve been on a bit of a GM hot streak lately, having recently reviewed a Cadillac Cimarron. Now, I’m in a Beretta, two iconic GM cars from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

This is my first time driving a Beretta, and this one comes with the FE3 suspension package, which we’ll talk more about later.

Now, let’s get back to the 3.1-liter V6 engine. This engine is the 3100 from GM, used well into the 2000s with cars like the Buick Century. It evolved from the 2.8-liter engine from the ’80s, which was used in the Cadillac Cimarron I reviewed.

GM bored it out to make the 3100. These engines are reliable and fantastic, though they don’t make too much power. This Beretta makes 155 horsepower, down from the 160 it made before 1995 due to emission regulations. There was even a V8 concept car of the Beretta known as the Ferretta, but it never came to fruition.

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Paired with the engine is a four-speed automatic transmission, typical of GM in the 1990s. It’s not anything crazy, but it’s still working 26 years later, and that’s all I can ask for. The Beretta is front-wheel drive and comes with the FE3 suspension package.

This package includes a thicker sway bar in the back and stiffer springs, making the car sit a bit lower and giving it a sportier feel.

Inside the Beretta, you’ll find plain gauges. On the left, there’s the coolant temperature, oil pressure, and tachometer. On the right, there’s the speedometer, battery voltage, and fuel gauge. Everything you need to know is right there. The steering wheel is large and puffy, with horn buttons, and that’s about it.

To the left and right of the gauges are some interesting buttons. On the left, there are the headlight switches, which are very ’80s, chunky plastic with a twist mechanism. On the right are the wiper controls, using a similar turn-dial knob system. Below the headlight switches is a climate control vent, and on the door, there are power locks and a handle.

In the center, there are two climate control vents labeled “Beretta.” Below, there’s the factory radio with Dolby noise reduction and a cassette player. The climate controls are below the radio, and there’s a button to release the trunk.

The shifter knob is from a different GM product, but it works well. The center console has a cup holder/ashtray combination, depending on which lever you pull. The Beretta’s power windows are located in the center, which is unusual but interesting.

The seats are incredibly comfortable, with sportier bolsters for the Z26. Even for a big guy like me, they fit well. The back seats are also comfortable and spacious for a coupe. Getting in and out isn’t fun, but once you’re in, it’s not bad at all.

The trunk is decent-sized for a coupe, with no crazy features but good space. I love the blue color of this Beretta, a nice change from the usual red, white, or black. The Z26 stickers and graphics complete the ’90s look. The saw blade wheels are a standout feature, some of the most attractive wheels from the ’90s.

Now, let’s talk about the Beretta name. GM said it evokes style, sophistication, brutality, and macho vibes. However, there was a problem. Beretta is also a firearm manufacturer in Italy, operating for nearly 500 years.

When Chevy debuted the Beretta, the firearm company sued GM for $250 million. Eventually, they settled, with GM donating $500,000 to Beretta’s cancer research charity and exchanging goods. Chevy sent a Beretta car to the Beretta factory in Italy, and Beretta sent two shotguns to GM execs. The car is still on display in Italy, but the shotguns have since gone missing.

Driving the Beretta is super cool. It’s a unique and interesting car from GM in the 1990s. However, GM sometimes cannibalizes its own cars, like with the Pontiac Solstice.

The Beretta was part of the L-body platform, used for only a few cars, unlike the more widely used N-body. The Beretta only had one generation, from 1987 to 1996, and was discontinued when passenger airbags became mandatory in 1997.

Despite its short-lived run and limited popularity, the Beretta was meant to replace the Camaro, much like the Ford Probe to the Mustang. Things didn’t go as planned for GM, but I’m happy to be driving one and reliving GM’s mid-1990s era. This car is a cool piece of automotive history, and I’m thankful to share it with you.

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