Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac LeMans

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1988 pontiac lemans

We haven’t seen many Daewoo products in this series— in fact, just this ’00 Nubira wagon has made the cut, out of all the expired Lanos es and Leganza s I see— but there was a time when The General saw fit to sell a Pontiac-badged, Opel-based Daewoo LeMans next to its Chevrolet-badged Suzuki Cultus and Geo-badged Toyota Sprinter and Isuzu Gemini. The 1988-93 Pontiac LeMans never was a common sight on American roads, and its iffy reliability and plummeting resale value sent most of them onward via the Great Steel Factory In the Sky by the late 1990s. Still, someone has to win the lottery, and some Daewoontiacs have to survive on the street for as long as Grandpa’s Plymouth Valiant hung on to life. Here’s a miracle LeMans I found at a California self-serve wrecking yard a few weeks back.

GM’s marketers did their best to spin the LeMans as a sexy-yet-sensible ride for big-haired 80s women with tiny bank balances, but the Ford-badged Kia Pride and the first-gen Hyundai Excel proved far more popular.

This one made it to just 127,990 miles, which suggests either long-term inactivity or a meticulous drive-only-to-church-on-Sunday long-term owner.

Here’s an engine that ought to provide good trivia-question material at your next Pontiac car show: the Daewoo G16SF.

Overhead cam! The future, it has arrived!

More or less your standard-issue late-80s cheapskatemobile interior.

How many of these things are left today?

The German-market Opel Kadett GSi version of this car got a sportier-looking ad campaign to go with its allegedly high-performance option package; the US-market got a GSE version with a whopping 96 horses, starting in the 1989 model year.

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  • Calypsored Calypsored on Apr 02, 2014

    Okay- I so still actually own one and it runs very well;Same red color/model as in the junkyard article. Known as the 'Value Leader' model. 262K miles/1 owner and still going 'strong'. For the past 10+ yrs it's been my car to drive my dog in and for loading up junk in the hatch. Shocked to see one in the junkyard as I haven't seen any in my local junkyard since '05 and other than mine haven't seen one on the road since that time. Brief history: My parents bought brand new in 1988 for me when I was in high school. We saw an ad in the local paper for a new car for $5K. 4 speed manual/no AC. We saw 'Pontiac' and thought 'Made in USA'. HA> The dealership offered to put in an aftermarket AC (which of course was undersized and worthless in the Texas heat) for a few hundred bucks. The car made it through college and was my DD until 1997. Left me stranded once in Post, Texas due to a broken timing belt. Had to spend the In '03 with 220K miles on the original motor I found a brand new still-in-the-crate complete drop in motor. With a winning bid of $500 I decided to put in a new motor in. (After all, every guy has to install a motor in their car once in their life). Also replaced clutch at the time and even with 220K miles on it, there was still plenty of life left--another ebay purchase for just $40. Of note, the original Bosch clutch read 'Made in East Germany'. Mechanically, pretty much everything has been replaced. The only original parts are the transmission and the steering rack. Pros: Paint job still looking good after 20+ years. Rust free. Oil Changes: Only requires 3.5 quarts of oil. Tires: Thanks to 13" rims, 4 new tires cost me walk out price for $225. Heck, most tires now for newer cars are $200 EACH. It's all mechanical; There's no electrical door locks/window motors/seat motors to break. Parts: Ridiculously cheap for the last 10-15 yrs. Yes, mechanical/electrical parts are still available thanks to the internet. CONS: UGLY! enough said. Interior is complete cheap crap plastic... Valve cover gasket: thanks to a cork gasket on the valve cover, it's guaranteed to leak after 10k miles. Cheers, Calypsored

  • Killerclark Killerclark on Feb 06, 2022

    Well it is now 2022....And I still have my red 1989 Pontiac Le Mans hatchback that I bought new in October, 1988. It has 254,000 miles on the original engine and transmission. The car has always been kept off the road in the winter and I did have it repainted in 2018. It still doesn't burn oil....and it runs very smoothly to this day. The car looks like it is essentially new...

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