1987 Pontiac Grand Prix coupe

While dropping my parents off at church this Sunday morning, I saw a stock-appearing facelifted fourth-generation Grand Prix with two-tone paint out of the corner of my eye—heading west on the Lincoln Highway. As good a reason as any to finally complete this blog post that I’ve been working on for over six months.

“… a Pontiac classic …”

1987 marked the final model year for the G-body Grand Prix coupe—it would be replaced in 1988 by an all-new W-body front-wheel-drive model. Changes were few; the Grand Prix portion of Pontiac’s 1987 brochure emphasized a new sport steering wheel and new 45/55 seats for the LE.

The standard Grand Prix powertrain continued to be the LD5 110 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor paired with a three-speed automatic. Optional engines included the LB4 140 bhp 4.3 liter/263 ci V6 with fuel injection ($200 and available with either a three-speed or a four-speed automatic) and the LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor ($590 and only available with a $175 four-speed automatic). With the V8, a Grand Prix owner could expect a 0-60 time of a little over nine seconds in a coupe with a shipping weight of 3,231 pounds.

Mileage wasn’t good with any engine/transmission combination: the best was the 4.3 liter/four-speed automatic combination with 19 city/26 highway (17/24 by today’s standards). Predictably, the V8 was the worst, at 17 city/24 highway—with a 13.6-gallon gas tank the owner of a V8 Grand Prix could expect a range of between 225 and 250 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the $11,069 Grand Prix (about $25,300 in 2019 dollars) included power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P195/75R14 blackwall tires (a size still available thanks to Hankook and Kumho) on 14-inch wheels. General Motors was moving to option groups in the late eighties, and the base Grand Prix had two. Option Group I $1,313) included dual sport sideview mirrors, body side moldings, air conditioning with Soft Ray tinted glass, a tilt steering wheel that was also a luxury cushion steering wheel, and a Delco ETR AM/FM stereo radio. Option Group II ($1,867) added cruise control, lamp group, controlled cycle windshield wipers, power door locks, and power windows.

Moving up to the LE ($11,799) added dual sport sideview mirrors, 45/55 notchback seats in Pallex cloth, and a four-spoke sport steering wheel. For the LE, Option Group I ($1,844) included body side moldings, air conditioning with Soft Ray tinted glass, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, lamp group, controlled cycle windshield wipers, power door locks, power windows, a visor vanity mirror, and a Delco ETR AM/FM stereo radio. Option Group II ($2,117) added halogen headlamps, a deck lid release, and a power driver’s seat, and made the visor vanity mirror illuminated.

The top-of-the-line Brougham ($12,519) added 45/55 notchback seats in Majestic cloth, power windows, special trim, and a luxury cushion steering wheel. Option Group I ($1,874) for the Brougham included body side moldings, air conditioning with Soft Ray tinted glass, a tilt steering wheel, a power driver’s seat, cruise control, lamp group, controlled cycle windshield wipers, power door locks, a visor vanity mirror, and a Delco ETR AM/FM stereo radio. Option Group II ($2,078) added halogen headlamps, cornering lamps, luggage compartment trim, a deck lid release, dual remote mirrors, and a dome reading lamp, and added illumination to the visor vanity mirror. A Brougham with Option Package 2, the V8, and the four-speed automatic came to a non-trivial $15,362 (about $35,100 in today’s dollars or about what a 2019 Buick Regal Avenir sedan goes for).

Individual exterior and mechanical options included a rally-tuned suspension ($50), a power sunroof ($925), a hatch roof with removable glass panels ($905), a power antenna ($70), two-tone paint ($205 to $295) and turbo-finned cast aluminum wheels ($246). Inside, you could get bucket seats with recliners and console ($292 with Ripple cloth in the base coupe, $69 with Pallex cloth in the LE, or $369 with leather in the LE), and a rally gauge cluster with tachometer ($153) along with a range of stereos up to a Delco ETR AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and graphic equalizer ($450).

Grand Prix page from the 1987 Pontiac brochure.

The 1987 Grand Prix did not sell well—sales were about 41% of the 1986 total, and, at 16,542, the typical Pontiac dealer sold more Grand Ams, 6000s, Bonnevilles, Sunbirds, Firebirds, and Fieros.

Evidently (based on my observation this morning) someone is saving these cars! Hagerty declines to value any Grand Prix after 1977, but this generation does come up for sale every once in a while in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. As I write this in February 2019, there’s a 1985 Silver/Medium Gray two-tone Grand Prix LE with gray cloth notchback seats, a 3.8 liter/231 ci V6, an automatic, and 54,000 miles available for $12,900.

Other rear-wheel drive G-platform (designated A-platform before 1982) cars I have written about include the 1984 Buick Regal Grand National coupe, the 1983 Chevrolet Malibu sedan, the 1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe, the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe, and the 1980 Pontiac Grand Am coupe.

Make mine Dark Maroon Metallic, please.

1987 Buick LeSabre T Type coupe

“… ranks as the most exciting new LeSabre ever”

1987 was the first year for the T Type version of Buick’s sixth-generation LeSabre. Looking toward a looming future where the rear-wheel-drive Regal would no longer exist, Buick did its best to inject some sportiness into these big front-wheel-drive coupes.

Power wasn’t great—the only engine available on any LeSabre was the 3.8 liter/231 ci sequential fuel injected V-6 making 150 horsepower and mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 came in a little over 10 seconds in the 3,250-pound coupe—sprightly but not speedy in 1987. Fuel economy was 18 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (16/25 by 2018 standards). With an 18-gallon fuel tank, a LeSabre owner could expect a range of about 330 to 365 miles.

Exterior and mechanical features specific to the $15,591 T Type (about $35,500 in 2018 dollars or about what a 2019 Buick LaCrosse Preferred sedan goes for) included blackout trim treatment, a front air dam, a rear deck spoiler, a Gran Touring suspension, a 2.97 performance axle ratio, and 215/65R15 Goodyear Eagle GT blackwall tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Inside, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, gray/black 45/45 cloth seats, a gage package with red backlighting, and an ETR AM-FM stereo radio with graphic equalizer, cassette tape, and more red backlighting were included.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all LeSabre coupes included composite tungsten halogen headlamps, power rack and pinion steering, clearcoat paint, dual horns, Soft-Ray tinted glass, and a fixed-mast radio antenna. Inside, air conditioning, adjustable front-seat headrests, and cut-pile carpeting were standard.

Exterior and mechanical options included an anti-lock brake system ($925), flip-open Vista-Vent removable glass sunroof ($350), electric side mirrors ($91), intermittent windshield wipers ($55), and power antenna ($95). Inside, automatic climate control ($165), power door locks ($145) power windows ($210), tilt steering column ($125), and electronic cruise control ($175) were available.

LeSabre pages from the 1987 “Hot Buick” brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The automotive press and the auto market itself weren’t quite sure what to make of the LeSabre T Type—Consumer Guide said: “it had nothing exceptional to rave about.” Sales were not good in a year when the LeSabre overall sold quite well; only 4,123 out of the 16,899 coupes sold.

A few folks do collect these cars, but I haven’t seen a LeSabre coupe of any type for many years. This generation of LeSabres does maintain some presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—however, there are none for sale as I write this in February 2019.

Make mine Dark Blue Metallic, please.

1987 Sterling 825 sedan

“… such effortless motion, …”

The Sterling 825 sedan was an interesting (perhaps desperate) attempt at re-introducing Rover cars to the North American market, but with different branding than the brutally unsuccessful Rover 3500 hatchback sedan from 1980. Based on the same platform as the acclaimed Acura Legend, the Sterling featured an angular exterior design and an interior with traditional British luxury cues such as Connolly leather seats and burled walnut trim. On the exterior, only the door handles were obviously shared between the Acura and the Sterling.

A Honda-built 151 bhp 2.5 liter/152 ci V6 with fuel injection combined with a five-speed manual transmission yielded mpg ratings of 18 city /24 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by modern standards). The four-speed automatic transmission dropped mpg incrementally to 17 city/23 highway.

The $19,200 (about $30,700 in today’s dollars or about $6,000 less than the price of a base 2019 Jaguar XE sedan) 825 S came with remote locking, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, and 195/65R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch alloy wheels. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, an electric moonroof, cruise control, velour cloth seats, and a Phillips AM/FM stereo cassette with six speakers were all included.

Moving up to the $23,900 (about $38,200 in 2018 dollars) 825 SL added a four-speed automatic transmission, Bosch anti-lock brakes, a trip computer, leather upholstery with a heated driver’s seat, and an eight-speaker stereo.

Advertised as “The inevitable British road car.” Sterling sold 14,171 units of the 825 in the 1987 model year—not a bad debut. But, trouble was brewing; in an attempt to generate more jobs in the United Kingdom, Rover had decided to use Lucas electronic systems instead of those from Honda. Predictably, those electronics weren’t reliable, and there were also issues with the interior plastics and the exterior paint. Finally, rust came much too quickly.

All this meant that sales dropped rapidly. In 1988, only 8,901 were sold, and every year following things got worse. In August 1991, Sterling announced they were leaving the North American market after selling a total of about 35,000 cars over five years.

In 2018, the Sterling 825 rarely comes up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. I haven’t seen one in many years, but I believe I’d still notice that handsome styling if I did. Make mine silver, I think.

1987 Mercury Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe

“… the sporting side of Lynx.”

1987 was the last year for Mercury’s version of Ford’s Escort. The Escort would soldier on for many more years (through model year 2002), but from 1988 forward the smallest American-built Mercury would be the Topaz. For 1986 and 1987, the top of the line Lynx was the XR3 hatchback coupe.

The Lynx XR3‘s standard powertrain was a “High Output” 115 bhp 1.9 liter/113 ci inline four with Bosch fuel injection paired to a five-speed manual transmission. Mileage was good—25 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (about 22 city/31 highway by 2018 standards). Acceleration was reasonably quick: 0-60 came in about 10 seconds in the approximately 2,400-pound car. With a 13-gallon fuel tank, Lynx XR3 drivers could expect a range of from 310 to 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $8,808 Lynx XR3 (about $20,100 in today’s dollars and close to what a 2018 Fiesta ST hatchback costs) included an asymmetrical grille, aerodynamic front air dam with built-in fog lamps, wide wheel flairs, rear spoiler, dual power mirrors, and P195/60R15 Goodyear Eagle GT tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, cloth sport bucket seats, power steering, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and locking fuel filler door with remote release were included.

Standard equipment on every Lynx included front wheel drive, rack-and-pinion steering, independent four-wheel suspension, aero halogen headlamps, low-back individual reclining seats, and a folding rear seat.

Exterior and mechanical options included tinted glass ($105), rear window wiper/washer ($126), and engine block heater ($18). Inside, air conditioning ($688), speed control ($176), and tilt steering wheel ($179) were available.

1987 Mercury Lynx XR3, from the 1987 Mercury Lynx brochure.

The final-year Lynx didn’t sell very well: a total of 39,039 in a year when Ford sold 374,765 Escorts. First-generation Escorts and Lynx’s were once so prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see Lynx’s for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none out there as I write this in July 2018.

1987 Chevrolet Chevette CS hatchback sedan

My wife and I were taking a walk early this Saturday morning and passed a Chevrolet Chevette parked at the end of our street. Reason enough to finally complete this blog entry.

“… one of America’s best known cars …”

1987 was the final year for the somewhat antiquated rear wheel drive Chevette—in North America, at least. The 1.8-liter diesel engine was no more, but otherwise little was changed from 1986.

The only engine available was the L17 1.6 liter/98 ci inline four with a Holley 6510c two-barrel carburetor and 65 bhp, but you did have a choice of transmission: the standard four-speed manual, an optional three-speed automatic ($450), or an optional five-speed manual ($75). Mileage with the standard transmission was 28 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (24/31 by today’s standards). With the 12.2-gallon fuel tank, Chevette owners could expect a 340-mile range with a 10% reserve. Predictably, 0-60 mph took a little under 16 long seconds.

The Chevette was a small car, classified by the EPA as a sub-compact. Curb weight for the sedan was 2,137 pounds, with a 97.3-inch wheelbase, a 164.9-inch overall length, a 61.8-inch width, and a 52.8-inch height.

The truly “base” Chevette had been gone since 1985, but standard equipment was spare even on the supposedly upmarket CS. For your $5,495 base price (about $12,500 in 2018 dollars—a little under the cost of a base 2019 Chevrolet Spark hatchback coupe), you got four doors, a rear hatch with a single strut, rack and pinion steering, front disc and rear drum brakes, and P155/80R13 tires (a size still available from Kumho) on 13-inch by 5-inch steel wheels. Inside, there were vinyl front bucket seats and vinyl rear bench seats, along with a floor console.

Because the standard equipment was so spare, there were a lot of options. Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included power brakes ($105), power steering ($225), an engine block heater ($20), and a custom exterior package ($154). Inside, the buyer could add air conditioning ($675), a tilt steering column ($125), custom cloth bucket seats ($130), a rear defogger ($145), and an AM/FM stereo radio ($119).

Despite being on its last legs, Chevrolet still sold a little over 20,000 Chevette sedans in 1987, along with slightly more than 26,000 coupes. Chevettes rarely show up in either the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

Updated February 2019.

1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic coupe

For unclear reasons, for several years this was my most popular post on this blog. Because of this, I recently updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“… the personal flair of a distinctive coupe.”

1987 was the final model year for Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic coupe, with only 3,110 made. Beginning in 1988, the Caprice would soldier on with just the sedan and wagon, as the once very popular big American coupes continued to lose favor.

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The standard power team on the coupe (and sedan) was the LB4 140 bhp 4.3 liter/262 ci V6 with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a three-speed automatic transmission. Mileage was rated at 18 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by modern standards).

Optional power was the LG4 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with four-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed automatic transmission (I see what you did there, Chevrolet). In 1987, this combination was rated at 18 city/25 highway (16/23 by 2014 standards). With a 25-gallon fuel tank, you could reasonably expect a comfortable range of about 440 to 480 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—impressive for a 3,600-pound full-size car back then. Even with the V8, these cars were not fast—0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds.

Standard equipment for the $11,392 coupe (about $26,000 in today’s dollars—just a few thousand dollars less than a 2019 Impala LS sedan goes for) included power steering, power brakes, halogen headlights, and P205/75-R15 all-season radial tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside, a full-width cloth bench seat, Quiet Sound Group, and an AM radio were standard.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($775), cruise control ($175), power door locks ($145), power windows ($210), power seats ($240 each), power trunk opener ($50), a 50/50 split-front seat ($195), and AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer ($435).

Caprice Classic Coupe pages from the 1987 Chevrolet Impala/Caprice brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

I have fun sometimes (often?) building a “unicorn” configuration for these old cars. When I was working at the local Chevrolet dealership in the mid-eighties, I dreamed up a Caprice S. Here’s what optional equipment it would have required, all still available in 1987:

  • F41 Sport Suspension (includes a rear stabilizer bar, 15-inch by 7-inch wheels, and sportier shock absorbers)
  • LG4 5.0 liter/305 ci V8
  • P225/70R-15 tires
  • Sport wheel covers
  • Limited slip differential
  • Performance axle ratio
  • Heavy duty cooling
  • Dual power Sport mirrors
  • Special instrumentation/gauge package

So, a “John-configured” coupe would have listed for at least $15,096—real money in 1987 and about $34,500 in 2019 dollars. A desperate product planner might have tried to get the leather seats from the Brougham available in the Coupe and maybe scored some black wall tires, but that’s another story …

These big and (I think) handsome coupes show up occasionally in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track Caprice Classic values past 1975. When I updated this blog entry in August 2017, there was a Light Brown Metallic/Medium Brown Metallic two-tone 1985 coupe with saddle velour seats and 60,000 miles for sale on eBay Motors with a starting bid of $8,500. Make mine Silver Metallic, please, though I’m tempted by the Black/Medium Gray Metallic two-tone.

Another Caprice that I’ve written about is the 1985 Caprice Classic station wagon.

Updated February 2019.

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1987 Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera coupe

“The Classic Porsche”

For 1987, the Carrera version of Porsche’s evergreen 911 continued with the Bosch fuel injected 3.2 liter/193 ci flat six in use since 1984, but with a new fuel mapping that increased horsepower slightly to 214 bhp. With the standard Getrag G50 five-speed manual transmission (also new for 1987), you could expect to hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, with a top speed of 149 mph in the 2,750 pound Carrera (the 2020 911 Carrera S is almost 3,400 pounds). Fuel mileage was 18 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (16/23 by today’s standards) with premium gas.

The 911 was certainly not an entry-level Porsche: in 1987 that was left to the 924S (starting at $19,900) and the 944 ($25,500). For your 911’s $40,425 base price (about $92,100 in 2019 dollars) you got four-wheel vented disc brakes (but no ABS) and an engine oil cooler. The exterior included forged alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles, fog lights, and tinted glass. Inside, power windows, air conditioning, fold-down rear seats, and Blaupunkt’s AM/FM stereo cassette (either Charleston or Portland) with four speakers were all standard.

By 1987, Porsche had figured out that the real money was in the options—a behavior that continues to this day. They included the Turbo-Look 911 Turbo body components ($12,593!), limited slip differential ($741), sport shock absorbers ($247), and front and rear spoilers ($1,604). Inside, you could add cruise control ($365), power door locks ($334), heated seats ($164 each), an alarm system ($240), and Blaupunkt’s upmarket Reno AM/FM stereo cassette ($133).

Things hadn’t gotten that comfortable, though—that would wait for the 1990s. There was as yet no automatic transmission option, and many (including Car and Driver) mentioned that the ergonomics still showed their 1960s origins when compared to the 928 or 944.

911 Carreras from the 1980s have held their values quite well. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1987 Porsche  911 3.2 Carrera coupe in #1/Concours condition is $86,000, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $45,500. A cabriolet can fetch up to $68,900 while a targa can get up to $77,700.

Porsche 911 3.2 Carreras have (of course) excellent club support from many sources and are often available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds. As I update this in February 2019, a Guards Red 1987 coupe with 40,000 miles is for sale for $74,500. Make mine Silver Metallic, please.

Updated February 2019.