Curbside Classic Capsule: 1988 Pontiac Safari

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

Curbside Classic keeps generating spin-offs. The Outtakes were intended to be for the cars that didn’t make the cut for a full-on CC. But I (rightly) got grilled when I put the mile stone 1978 Mercury Marquis Brougham (the last of the Ford-Mercury land barges) into a CC Outtake. But I still have this problem of too many cars shot and not enough time. Ergo; a new category: CC Capsules. It’s for cars that generally qualify for CC status, but lack the compelling qualities to inspire a lengthy tome, and might be a bit on the younger side. Anyway I do this, I’m bound to disappoint somebody. So here’s our first CCC: a mightily well preserved 1988 (I think) Pontiac Safari wagon:

Like a poker player reluctant to show his cards until the right time, I have some trepidation about exposing this car now. I’m planning a full-on CC for the ground breaking 1977 Chevrolet Impala/Caprice, and this Pontiac is of course just a badge-engineered version of that. Well, the 1980 reskin, that is. So let’s try to restrain ourselves and keep our enthusiastic attention on the Pontiac, and not on its Chevy donor.

The Pontiac B-Body has quite an interesting story of its own anyway. The downsized 1977 Catalina and Bonneville didn’t sell as well as its Chevy, Olds and Buick cousins from the start. In the midst of that nasty 1981 second energy crisis, Pontiac pulled the plug and did a 1962 Plymouth/Dodge re-enactment: forsook full size cars altogether, and transformed the mid-sized LeMans into the Bonneville Model G. It had almost the same consequence as the Chrysler fiasco; and just like Dodge quickly cobbled up a full size 880 from the family parts bins, so Pontiac reached up to Canada, where the full-sized Parisienne had never been canceled.

What makes this (sort of) interesting is that the Canadian Parisienne was truly just a badge-engineered Chevy Caprice, unlike the ’77-81 US B-Body Pontiacs, which had their own unique exterior skin and a coupe. We touched on this whole Canadian Chevy/Pontiac incest history here, and at least Pontiac had the honesty to now call it the Parisienne, instead of a Bonneville. The Parisienne also ended up with a brief lifespan, from ’83 through ’86, after which it was replaced by the new FWD Bonneville.

But the new 1987 H-Body lacked wagons, so the Safari stumbled along through 1989. I’m not certain of the exact year of this wagon, because there were very few if any changes in those last years. Being true Chevys, the Parisienne and Safari wagons only had SBC V8s under the hood, a 140 hp 305 in the case of the wagon.

This particular Safari is a mighty well-kept example. And the Collectible Automobile magazine featuring Pontiacs laying on the back seat makes it clear this is not being driven by granny anymore. It’s fallen into the hands of a dedicated Ponchophile, despite its provenance.

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Hungrybear Hungrybear on Jul 28, 2013

    Love seeing these cars on the net I just bought one myself. I just broke 63K original miles on mine it was a one owner car he keep it nice a few missing trim pieces on the outside but the inside is pretty much perfect my kids love sitting in the back and looking out the back window and I love being able to roll down the back window takes me back and I love the looks and questions I get from people I love it more when I pull up playing the national lampoons theme song "Holiday Road" its hard not to laugh but I love it!!! its fun to throw my bicycles on the roof rack that throws people off to and makes them smile which I love. Great car wouldn't trade it for anything. :)

  • Goldwolfnhn Goldwolfnhn on Jul 07, 2018

    Ok time to clear some things up, First off I own a 1987 Pontiac Safari, they only came with the olds 307, but some might not realize that because it is still considered a 5 liter engines just like the chevy 305. Also there was Never a sedan version of the Safari, the Safari brand was only ever a station wagon. As to which make was the cream of the crop why not find the MSRP on chevy and buick and I have proof that my 87 Safari cost $17,003.00 with all the options it had, but then an additional 788.00 for the extra protection packages added by the dealership. Also the wood grain siding option cost 345 dollars power windows 285 power locks 245 power 6 way drivers seat 240 my wagon had 2,564 dollars in options

  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.
  • Aja8888 Someday in the far away future, all cars will look the same, people will be the same color, dogs will be all mixed beyond recognition, and governments will own everything. That car looks like my son's Hyundai Tucson without badges.
  • Tassos Of course, what the hell did you expect? A SERIOUS, BEAUTIFUL car you can ACTUALLY USE AS YOUR DAILY DRIVER???............. NOOOOO, THIS IS TIM WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. SO HE FINDS SOME OBSOLETE POS WHICH IS 22 years old, .............AND HE PURPOSELY MISSES THE BEAUTIFUL MODEL, THE Classical Beauty E39 that ended in 2003. ...........So he uses his column as a WASTEBASKET once again, to throw the first year of BMWs BANGLED 5 series (as in the INFAMOUS CHRIS BANGLE WHO SCREWED UP THE DESIGN ROYALLY). ................................................ As Dr. Evil, Fake Doctor Jill Biden would scream at the top of her voice, so her senile idiot husband could hear her, "Good Job, (Tim)! You answered all the questions and ticked all the boxes!" ..... KEEP UP THE S---Y work, Tim!