1988 Pontiac Grand Prix coupe

“… one of the most aerodynamic cars in the world.”

The Grand Prix was all new for 1988. Gone was the elderly G-body rear-wheel-drive (dating from 1978), replaced by an aerodynamic front-wheel drive W-body.

For 1988, the standard Grand Prix powertrain was the LB6 130 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with fuel injection paired to a four-speed automatic (a five-speed manual was available). With a curb weight of 3,038 pounds, 0-60 took a little over 10 seconds with the standard powertrain. Mileage with the same powertrain was 20 city/29 highway by the standards of the day (18/26 by today’s standards). A 16.0-gallon fuel tank meant that a Grand Prix owner could expect a range of between 315 and 355 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

The 1988 Grand Prix came in base, LE, and SE forms. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $12,539 base coupe (about $27,300 in today’s dollars) included composite halogen headlamps, dual sport mirrors, power steering, four-wheel power disc brakes, an independent rear suspension, and P195/75R14 tires (a size still available from multiple vendors) on 14 x 6 inch wheels with custom wheel covers. Inside, notchback front bench seats, an electronic digital speedometer, a glove box with a combination lock, and an AM/FM stereo radio were included.

Moving up a little to the $13,239 LE added power windows with illuminated switches, lamp group, 40/60 split reclining pallex cloth seats, rear folding armrest with pass through to the luggage compartment, and mechanical analog gauges with tachometer and trip odometer.

The top-of-the-line $15,249 SE (about $32,300 in 2018 dollars) added the Y99 Rally Tuned suspension, dual exhaust system, and P215/65R15 tires on 15-inch aluminum wheels and switched the standard transmission to a five-speed manual. Inside, air conditioning, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, cruise control, power cloth front bucket seats with three-position lumbar controls, and rear bucket seats were all part of the SE experience.

Options included power door locks, an electric rear window defogger, a power antenna, and a UX1 AM stereo/FM stereo radio with seek, scan, auto-reverse cassette, five-band graphic equalizer, and digital clock.

The 1988 Grand Prix was relatively well received—it was Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year, and Pontiac sold 86,357 cars in slightly over half a model year (sales only began in January 1988), which marked more than five times as many as the last of the G-body versions in 1987. For 1989, sales would top 136,000 and would stay over 100,000 for every year through 1995.

Grand Prix’s of this generation are rarely seen in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. Sometimes you do see the ASC/McLaren or GTP versions, but rarely the “civilian” models.

Make mine red, please.

1985 Pontiac Grand Am coupe

“Introducing a brilliant new driver’s coupe”

The Grand Am name returned for the 1985 model year. Instead of the rear-wheel-drive coupe and sedan that it been in its previous two lives from 1973 to 1980 (with none in 1976 or 1977), it was now a front-wheel-drive coupe, part of GM’s N-body offerings. As such, it’s first relatives were the Buick Somerset Regal and the Oldsmobile Calais.

The standard powertrain on the Grand Am was GM’s Tech IV 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection connected to a five-speed manual. For $560, optional power was a 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci V6 with fuel injection which required the $425 automatic transmission (also available with the base engine). 0-60 times for early N-body cars are hard to come by, but were likely about 10.5 seconds for the standard powertrain and about 9.0 seconds for the V6/automatic combination—the 2,419 pound shipping weight helped. Mileage with the standard powertrain was rated at 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by today’s standards). With the 13.6-gallon tank, Grand Am buyers could expect a range of 310 to 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,995 base coupe (about $19,600 in 2018 dollars) included power rack and pinion steering, power front disc brakes, and P185/80R13 tires on 13-inch wheels. Inside, reclining bucket seats and an integral floor console were included.

The LE (starting at $8,495 or about $20,200 in today’s dollars) included “substantial body side moldings,” upgraded front bucket seats with adjustable headrests, deluxe door trim, and a fold-down rear seat armrest.

Options included rally tuned suspension ($50) and cruise control ($175). A Driver’s Package was also available, which included 215/60R14 Goodyear Eagle GT radials on 14-inch turbo cast aluminum wheels, “sport-tuned” front and rear stabilizers, and a Driver Information Center.

1985 Pontiac Grand Am, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

I think these were handsome cars, especially with those turbo cast aluminum wheels. Like many America cars of the era that aren’t considered to be collectible, they have essentially vanished despite over 82,000 sold in 1985 alone. They’re invisible in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay and are hard to find anywhere.

1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am hatchback coupe

Every year I do a retro CD for the holidays that goes to friends and family. Whatever expertise in popular music that I do have is from the eighties, so I go forward one year in that decade—that means that this year I’m doing 1988. There’s a story behind every year’s CD, and this one involved a 1985 Trans Am. So, I decided I would draw a 1985 Trans Am dashboard and thus this blog post.

“The most serious piece of machinery we put on the road.”

Updates for the 1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am included a restyled nose with built-in fog lamps, new taillights, fake hood louvers replacing the traditional power bulge, and full rocker and quarter panel extensions. A new WS6 suspension package was made available for the Trans Am, which included gas pressurized shocks and 16-inch wheels with P245/50VR16 Goodyear “Gatorback” tires for a $664 price tag. Inside, all gages now had graph patterned backgrounds, and a new UT4 “Touch-Control” optional stereo was available.

1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am dashboard.

For 1985, the standard Trans Am powertrain was a 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester four-barrel carburetor paired with a five-speed manual transmission. The top of the line engine was the $695 LB9 fuel injected 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8, with 205 bhp—but that was only available with a four-speed automatic transmission, yielding a zero to sixty time of about 7.5 seconds. If you wanted the five-speed manual transmission, the best engine choice available on the Trans Am was the 190 bhp H.O. V8 with a four-barrel carburetor.

Mileage with the standard powertrain was 15 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (14/22 by 2017 standards). With a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, a Trans Am owner could expect a range of between 255 and 280 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $11,113 Trans Am (about $26,000 in today’s dollars and close to what a base 2018 Camaro costs) included power brakes (front disc/rear drum), hidden electronically-controlled halogen headlamps, dual sport mirrors, an all-glass rear hatch, a rear deck lid spoiler, and P215/65R15 steel-belted radial tires (still an easily available size) on “deep-dish” 15 x 7 wheels. Inside, reclining front bucket seats and side window defoggers were included.

Options included T-tops ($825), a louvered rear sunshield ($210), air conditioning ($630), Recaro bucket seats ($636), and cruise control ($175).

Trans Am page from the 1985 Pontiac brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The 1985 Trans Am sold reasonably well, with 44,028 sold—about 46% of total Firebird sales. Third-generation Firebirds have a strong following, and 1985 Trans Ams make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. As I write this in December 2017, there’s a dark blue LB9-equipped car for sale for $5,850. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 Trans Am in #1/Concours condition is $21,000, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $8,000.

Please make mine black, please—I think.

1981 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe

“Soul Survivor”

1981 was the last year for the second-generation Firebird and thus also the final year for the second-generation Trans Am. With the third-generation cars on the way, Pontiac’s eleven-year-old F-car got only minor changes. The “screaming chicken” decal on the hood was now two colors, compared to the four color decal from 1979 and 1980. Not much could be done about the general lack of space efficiency (the EPA rated the Firebird as a subcompact car), the relatively high weight (about 3,300 pounds when the Mustang weighed about 2,800), and the fairly primitive technology.

The standard Trans Am powertrain was the L37 150 bhp 4.9 liter/301 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor matched with an automatic. The only choice for Trans Am purchasers who wanted a manual transmission was the Chevrolet-built LG4 145 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor, but you did get a $147 credit.

The top engine was the $437 LU8 200 bhp 4.9 liter/301 ci V8 with four-barrel carburetor and turbocharger, which included a new hood-mounted boost gauge. A Turbo Trans Am would accelerate from 0-60 in a little over eight seconds. Fuel mileage was predictably bad—14 mpg by the standards of the day for the combination of the turbo engine and the automatic. With a 21-gallon fuel tank, Trans Am owners could expect to travel about 260 miles before refueling.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment included in the $8,322 base price of the Trans Am (about $24,300 in today’s dollars) included black accent grille and headlamp bezels, dual rectangular headlamps, wheel opening air deflectors, side-split tailpipe extensions, shaker hood, power brakes, and P225/70R15 blackwall tires (a size still readily available) on Rally II wheels. Inside, power steering, air conditioning, console, bright engine-turned dash plate, and rally gauges with tachometer were standard.

The Trans Am Special Edition package cost $735 additional—$1,430 bundled with t-tops. There was also a special edition of the Special Edition—the NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car, resplendent in oyster white with a black and red interior. It included the LU8 turbocharged engine, the WS6 special performance package, four-wheel power disc brakes, and limited slip differential. Inside, the most notable upgrade from other Trans Ams was Recaro seats—among the best available from any manufacturer in 1981. All this extra content was a good thing because the NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car listed for $12,257; about $35,700 in 2017 dollars.

Options available for the Trans AM included the WS6 special performance package, limited slip differential, tungsten quartz halogen headlamps, white-lettered tires, cast aluminum wheels, four-wheel power disc brakes, power antenna, electric rear window defroster, and custom bucket seats.

Firebird pages of the 1981 Pontiac brochure, linked for the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Long neglected by the collector market and with most now used up, late second-generation Trans Ams in good or great shape are starting to get interesting numbers at auctions. A black and gold 1981 Trans Am went for $19,000 at Mecum’s May 2017 auction in Indianapolis. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1981 Trans Am in #1 condition is $38,200. A more normal #3 condition version is valued at $13,600.

Make mine the black and gold Special Edition, of course. The NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car is tempting, if only for those Recaro seats.

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1980 Pontiac Grand Am coupe

“One exhilarating road machine”

The last of the rear wheel drive Grand Ams came in 1980. Unlike in 1978 and 1979, the sedan was no longer available—only the coupe remained.

The standard engine in non-California cars was the 155 bhp 4.9 liter/301 ci L37 V8 with four-barrel Rochester carburetor and electronic spark control (California cars got the Chevrolet-sourced 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci LG4 V8). The only transmission available was a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic TH200 automatic transmission. Mileage was 17 city/25 highway by the standards of the day. With the 18.1-gallon fuel tank, range was about 340 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. Period performance tests of the Grand Am are hard to come by, but 0-60 mph likely came in around 9 seconds.

New features for 1980 included a revised soft-fascia front end with three sections per side, an Ontario Gray lower accent color for the exterior, a silver upper body accent stripe, larger wraparound black-out tail lamps, and larger front and rear stabilizer bars for the optional ($45) Rally RTS handling package.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,299 car (about $23,900 in 2015 dollars) included dual sport mirrors, dual horns, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and 205/75R14 black sidewall radial tires on Rally IV cast aluminum wheels. Inside, Grand Am purchasers could expect cut-pile carpeting, custom vinyl front bucket seats with center floor console, rally gages with clock embedded in a brushed aluminum instrument panel, and a custom sport steering wheel.

Available exterior and mechanical options included a power sunroof —either metal ($561) or glass ($773), dual remote sport mirrors ($73), Soft-Ray tinted glass ($107), and electric rear window defroster ($107). Inside, air conditioning ($601), power door locks ($93), power windows ($143), a six-way power driver’s seat ($175), a tilt steering wheel ($81), automatic cruise control ($112), and an AM/FM stereo radio with stereo cassette player ($272) were all available. A nicely configured Grand Am could easily push past $9,600—real money in 1980 and over $31,000 in today’s dollars.

Page from 1980 Pontiac full-line brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Grand Ams didn’t sell at all well in 1980—Pontiac moved only 1,647 of them, after selling almost five times as many coupes only two years prior in 1978. Despite this, Pontiac would not give up on the Grand Am name—it would be back in 1985 as a small front-wheel-drive coupe.

Most of the Grand Ams being collected are the larger and more powerful first-generation Colonnade versions sold from 1972 to 1975. You do occasionally see second-generation Grand Ams for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors.

Make mine Starlight Black, please.

Other G-bodies in this blog:

1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe

1983 Chevrolet Malibu sedan

1984 Buick Regal Grand National coupe

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1989 Pontiac 20th Anniversary Turbo Firebird Trans Am hatchback coupe

For the fourth of July, here’s some eighties American iron.

“The Only Modification It Needed To Pace The Indy 500 Was A Decal.”

For 1989, there was big news in the Pontiac camp with the release of the 20th Anniversary Turbo Firebird Trans Am, which was essentially a Trans AM GTA coupe with an exclusive engine option and some specific trim elements.

Rated at 250 bhp but actually making about 300 bhp, the LC2 3.8 liter/231 ci sequential fuel injected turbocharged and intercooled V6 was teamed with the 200-4R four-speed automatic transmission. Mileage was 16 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (15/22 by today’s standards), and nobody cared. What they did care about was the acceleration—Car & Driver managed to achieve a 4.6 second 0-60 time (Pontiac had claimed 5.5 seconds) and a top speed of 153 mph. At least in power, the third generation Trans Am had come a long way from 1982

For $31,198 (about $59,900 in 2014 dollars) 20th Anniversary Turbo Firebird Trans Am buyers got all the Trans Am GTA exterior and mechanical equipment which included four-wheel disc brakes, fog lamps, special performance suspension, a rear limited slip axle, and 245/50-VR16 tires mounted on gold 16 x 8 diamond-spoke aluminum wheels. Turbo Trans Am-specific additions included larger brake rotors and softer front springs. The only color available was white with Turbo Trans Am emblems on the fenders and 20th emblems on the nose and rear pillars.

1989 Pontiac Firebird brochure cover, courtesy of Flickr user Alden Jewell.
1989 Pontiac Firebird brochure cover, courtesy of Flickr user Alden Jewell.

Inside, standard GTA equipment included power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, power antenna, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, rear window defroster, and remote deck release. Turbo Trans Am owners also got a turbo-boost gauge inside the tachometer face.

Pontiac built a total of 1,550 Turbo Trans Ams for sale (there were another 5 test cars), with 85% of them being t-tops with a leather interior (buyers could order a cloth interior and/or the hardtop, but few did).

Unlike many other eighties cars, Turbo Trans Ams hold their value just fine. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1989 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am in #1/Concours condition is an astounding $47,700. A more “normal” #3/Good condition example is valued at $20,700. Turbo Trans Ams often come up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds. As I write this in July 2014, there’s one with 835 miles advertised for $31,500.

1983 Pontiac 6000 STE sedan

“Enter the realm of the senses”

The 6000 STE was Pontiac’s 1980s attempt to make a car that could effectively compete with the BMWs and Audis of the age. Of course, Pontiac had been trying to do this for at least a decade, including two different generations of the Grand Am (1973-1975 and 1978-1980). Though hampered by the fundamental constraints of the front wheel drive A-platform, the 6000 STE was still a reasonably impressive try.

For 1983, the 6000 STE’s power was provided by GM’s Chevrolet-built corporate “High Output” LH7 2-barrel carbureted 2.8 liter/173 ci V6, rated at a respectable for 1983 135 bhp, but the only transmission available was (oog) a three-speed automatic. 0-60 came in about 9 seconds in the 3,000 pound car. Mileage was 19 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With the rather small 13-gallon fuel tank, range was an unimpressive 250 miles or so.

Improvements over the standard Pontiac 6000 (and the other A-platform cars—the Buick Century, Chevrolet Celebrity, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera) included a special steering rack and suspension tuning with a self-leveling rear air suspension. Four halogen headlamps paired with two inboard driving lamps gave the 6000 STE a distinctive and relatively unique face. Power steering and 195/70R14 Goodyear Eagle GT tires (a size still readily available) on aluminum wheels were also standard on the 6000 STE.

The 6000 STE came comfortably equipped by 1983 standards. Standard features included air conditioning, rear window defroster, power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, rally gauges, and an AM/FM stereo cassette. One of the few options available was a $295 sunroof.

1983 Pontiac 6000STE, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

6,719 buyers paid at least $13,572 (about $31,900 in 2014 dollars) for a 6000 STE in 1983 and it managed to make Car and Driver‘s 10 Best Cars that year and the two following.

6000STE’s only occasionally show up in either the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors. Please make mine the same two-tone as there is in the brochure picture above.