By on October 10, 2011

To those of us in LeMons HQ, GM cars have that extra-special something that gives them the edge on the Index of Effluency. Sure, we thought that the Bangers & Smash ’00 Dodge Intrepid had the edge starting the race, but Chrysler products tend to be a little too effluent to keep running all weekend (in fact, the Bangers & Smash car ran exactly two laps before nuking its 24-valve V6). In the end, the Murph and the MagicTones-themed Racing 4 Nickels ’89 Olds Cutlass Ciera drove straight to another General Motors triumph.
48th place out of 98 entries (many of which were A-Class Integras and E30s) is startlingly good for a car that shouldn’t have been allowed on the race track in the first place. It wasn’t an easy decision for those of us in LeMons HQ, though; a three-cylinder Geo Metro came in 21st, and a ’92 Olds 98 finished 29th (note the GM Effluence Advantage once again). In the end, the Ciera came out on top. Congratulations, Racing 4 Nickels!

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20 Comments on “And the Real Winner Is…...”


  • avatar
    Hoser

    Super extra mega bonus points if they were running an Iron Puke.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If it had the 3300 I’m not surprised that it at least lasted through the race. I know I put the one I had through LeMons-level abuse.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      The 3300 is dangerous for the mind: It can make you think that engines don’t need oil and coolant is only for the weak.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        How did the 3.1 liter L82 V6 that replaced the 3300 measure up in dependability? They were remarkably smooth for GM V6s when brand new.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The lone GM product in our extended family has the 3.1 and at over 120K, seems fine. A little bit of what I believe is valvetrain noise on a really cold startup but other than the intake gasket which is really a coolant related issue the engine has not been touched. The Dex Death has been removed and replaced with a universal coolant though…

        For the pedestrian engine that it is, she revs willingly, has an nice growl, and unlike many a GM six, does idle very well. I assume that is because this was designed as a six from the start instead of just hacking off two cylinders from an eight like most GM sixes. So even without the trick crank found in the 3800, it is a very good engine. Now, about that plastic crap inside the car…

      • 0 avatar
        rentonben

        CJinSD: The 3300 was a baby Buick 3800 – the 3.1 comes from the Chevy side so any virtures may/may-not have carried over.
        The 3300 was sort of a perfect blend of boring older engine combined with easy to fix electronic ignition and fuel-injectors. The thing was very easy to wrench on, not that it needed it.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        I had the smaller 2.8 version of the 3.1 in my Pontiac version of the feature car. I blew it up at 90,000 miles, after discovering it was a gutless dog and really worn out. Rebuilt it and it was a honey of a motor very willing to play, and it had a nice growl and could rev to the moon once I found out the trick to making it live at high rpm. I had that car to 130mph a few times and that was with the engine well past the 6,000 rpm redline.

        The 3800 in comparison, which is the bigger version of the 3300 had more meat in the middle of the power band, but not a heavy breather like the 2.8 was.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I rented a brand new(had to complete assembly myself) Buick Century in 1996. It was an old-school A-car with the addition of a relaxed rear window angle. I spent most of that year driving rental cars, and the engine in the Century was by far the best performer. The previous week, I’d had a Plymouth Breeze, which had a great chassis, comfortable and supportive seats, and a transmission that mostly did what it should. What it didn’t have was an engine. The 2.0 out of a Neon wasn’t up to the task of moving a midsize car with an automatic transmission in an authoritative way. It reminded me of my old Mercedes diesel. The Buick was its polar opposite. The tires weren’t worthy of trailer use. The shocks seemed to be dry, judging by the way the car started bouncing when you sat in it and didn’t stop until you were out of the car and three steps away. The seats were shapeless sofas that an evil city council might employ to keep vagrants from sitting around in common areas. The build quality was abysmal, requiring me to reinstall the weather stripping around the front doors to quiet the wind torrent on the highway. The engine practically made up for it though. It would light up the white-wall compact spares at the lights, hit 85 mph in short passing zones, and never sounded like it was unhappy. The exhaust even had that nice GM high performance rasp that one has to learn to associate with low quality by experience. I always thought it was a 3300 until I looked at wikipedia and learned they were long gone when the car was built.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      My neighbor got 300,000 miles out of his 3300 V6 in an ’89 Buick A car before giving it to his brother in-law. Don’y know how much longer it lasted. He drove to the Flint engine plant to show it to them and got a plant tour out of it.
      The Cutlass Ciera was the best selling car in America for years, and won top quality rating in its last model year, if memory serves. I didn’t believe Ford when then planned to leapfrog over the GM A cars with the Taurus, but they sure did!

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Pretty sure the Buick Lesabre was the only GM car that rated well on quality during the ’80s.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @CJin SD- I was writing of 1996, or thereabouts. I distinctly remember the momentary elation at hearing good quality news about an Oldsmobile followed by the let down of knowing it was Ciera, in its last year. I felt no great pride, the thing had been in production since 1982. I thought it should be built perfectly by then! Cutlass Ciera accounted for 40% of Olds sales at the time. The new, post reorg Olds management, astoundingly, had decided to get out of the P90(Malibu) program and leave dealers without their bread & butter car for a whole model year until Alero was to be released.
        Some thought it would be better to drop the Olds P90, since it tidn’t fit the image they wanted. A slightly rebadged Malibu “Cutlass” was the stop gap.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Gotcha. Should have caught the last model year bit and realized they were still around when the Buick Century I rented was built. I didn’t remember the Cutlass Ciera still being sold, but my hometown was very import oriented by the mid-90s. I remember the Cutlass Malibu. The magazine reviews focused on how GM had moved the ignition switch from the column to the dash. What else was there to say?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      3.3 and 3.8 are the Buick 90 degree V6, the 2.8, 3.1, 3.4, 3.5 & 3.9 are the 60 degree Chevy V6. The 4.3 Chevy 90 degree V6 is the 3/4 of small block motor.

      I’d had a couple of the 3.4’s in my Azteks, they were pretty good natured motors, but moving around that big box of a body, the fuel mileage wasn’t all that great. It was in the mid-high 20’s IIRC.

      The 60 degree V6 is a popular swap into the third generation J car, back when I would go to the J-body meets, I would see a fair amount of them. They could really wake up a J-body.

      My personal favorite was the post 1998 Grand Am GT, with the 3.4 Ram Air option. I had one as a service loaner back in 2002. Even with the 4 speed autobox, it was a zippy little car.

      By the time GM released the new (ugly) Malibu in 2004, they’d gotten the 3.5 to play nice, no wonky gaskets or any other stuff like that. Smooth motor, plenty of power, I had one in my Malibu Maxx. I just wished I could have gotten a 6 speed autobox, instead of the 4 speed autobox.

  • avatar
    spork

    It has the 2.8 in it.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    I had a 1990 Cierra as the first car I ever drove on a semi-regular basis. It was my mom’s old car. With the 3300, it was startlingly fast- I routinely got it up in the triple digit atmosphere, that v6 screaming for all its might. It ate a couple of computers, but otherwise was a fairly dependable and economical car- even with my abusive driving, it averaged 25 mpg every single tank. My brother inherited it, ran a red light, and got T-boned. I still miss the torque steer, sometimes.

    I’ve always thought these GM A-bodies (Celebrity, Cierra, Century) would make great LeMons cars. They were ubiquitous when new, are at the very bottom of their depreciation curve, and are surprisingly peppy and durable. In fact, when I get the prototypical car guy question, IE, “I only have $1000 to spend and need a good car”, the nod usually goes to one of these seldom-remembered family haulers. Heck, if you look hard enough, you can even find a wagon version! A couple of my friends had them, and they were great haulers. A college friend had a Celebrity wagon she racked up 280,000 miles on before driving it to the junkyard, she was so tired of the thing!

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Indeed, A-Bodies are the absolute bet use car value that nobody wants to admit to. I would, though. Especially a Cutlass Ciera XC or Century/Ciera 2-door!

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    The more these cars age, the more appealing they seem to be. A nice wagon version would make the perfect daily-beater to keep miles off the new cars. Right now a 78′ Malibu is fulfilling that role, and it’s a great car, but I’m lucky to break 20mpg, and that’s with the 90hp V6…..

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Well the Iron Duke made roughly the same hp and would get you to approx 30mpg highway. I 1982 Celebrity was my first car.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      I had an ’86 Pontiac 6000-STE at one point in my life, and I would actually like to find another in decent shape. It’s more roomy than your A-body Malibu, and with the 145hp 2.8 I got a dead consistent 23mpg no thanks to the 3 speed automatic, but in town it got 17mpg.

  • avatar

    You can’t assume that an engine with good street reliability will be reliable in this kind of endurance racing. In a LeMons weekend, I’d say the 2.8 V6 has about a 60% chance of failing during a race. That’s a lot better than, say, the Mitsubishi Astron or small-block Chevy, but not nearly as good as the Chrysler LA or Mazda B.


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