By on September 15, 2014

Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe
In 2006, GM had a winner on its hands. In fact, they’d had the idea of a winner since at least 2002, when the Solstice concept car was shown at the NAIAS in both convertible and coupe form. The concept, however, was based on the Delta platform, later seen in the infamous Ion, Cobalt, and G5. In order for the car to actually come to production as a rear-wheel driver roadster, a new platform would be required.

Enter the Kappa.

The Kappa platform was designed with a Corvette’s soul—including hydroformed rails and the Y platform’s backbone central tunnel design. The result was a car so terrifyingly capable, especially the Pontiac Solstice with the Z0K performance option, that it inspired Mazda to offer a trunk kit for the Miata to keep it from getting stomped by the Solstice in Showroom Stock B racing and C Stock autocross. The only complaint about the car from most enthusiasts was its lack of power—it came with a 177 HP, 2.4 liter Ecotec four cylinder engine.

So, not long after the debut of the Solstice and it’s sister, the Saturn Sky, GM introduced a GXP/Red Line version of each car with a turbocharged 2.0 liter engine that made 260 HP and 260 lb-ft of torque. Oh, hello. Of course, GM wouldn’t be GM unless they did something stupid like not make the Z0K kit available right away (which they didn’t) and pair it with a truck transmission that topped out around 52 MPH in second gear (which they did). Still, the additional power of the turbocharged motor made the Kappas competitve not just with the Miata, but with S2000s. The 2.0 also had massive potential in the hands of tuners, who unlocked enough power to make the Solstice GXP competitve with modded Evos and M3s at the autocross and track.

Unfortunately, the Kappas were not particularly well made. I personally remember seeing a fellow autocross competitor pull the door handle right off of his Solstice GXP at the 2009 SCCA National Championships—he was forced to enter and exit the car Dukes of Hazzard style for the rest of the week. Interior trim pieces rattled like a baby toy. The top was legendarily tough to get up and down, and storage space was nil.

And, of course, all this happened at pre-bailout GM. When Obama decided to shut down Pontiac and Saturn, the Kappa died along with them…or did it?

Tauro Spider

Not many people know that the Kappa car lives on today. GM sold the Kappa platform to a Spanish car company called Tauro. Tauro took the Kappa platform, made it undeniably gorgeous, shoved an 6.2 liter LS3 V-8 in it, and they’ll supercharge it up to 650 HP for you if you’d like, all for a mere 100,000 Euros. Of course, you’d have a hard time finding anybody who’s ever bought one. Or seen one. Rumor has it that they do exist, though.

But what if? I mean, the new GM is supposed to be light years better than the old GM, right? The C7 Corvette is certainly a winner (granted, so was the C6). The new Impala is fantastic. What if they could take some of that New GM magic and apply it to the Kappa platform? What if they didn’t just take parts from whatever bin they could find (the original Solstice shared a steering wheel with the G5, for example), but actually put together a serious Miata fighter? The space is wide open. Nobody other than Mazda is making an affordable roadster. And despite being built with the same quality control that I used when I put together my son’s train table, the original Kappa was pretty much a sell out.

Come on, GM. Bring it back. You can rebuild it. You have the technology. Make it better. Stronger. Faster. You were so close the first time.

And I even know what to call it: The 2016 Chevy Monza Spider. Or Maybe not.

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126 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: When I Say Kappa, You Say…...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I can’t help but think of Family Guy. We can rebuild him, we have the technology. But I don’t want to spend a lot of money.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    One time (07 or so) I saw a middle aged man pull up near where I had parked, in his brand new Saturn Sky. He was looking cool and confident, until he got out and started having to fiddle with the manual, annoying top. I had a little laugh to myself, and decided that top made the car very undesirable in my book.

    But when you say Kappa, my mind goes to Gamma (the Lancia) – which is more interesting and attractive.
    http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6122/5998585089_7ef52e699f_z.jpg

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    “You can rebuild it. You have the technology. Make it better. Stronger. Faster. You were so close the first time. ”

    I hope it doesn’t cost six million dollars though!

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Wasn’t the Kappa an expensive car to produce? If I recall correctly, they used expensive processes to build it. In any event, economies of scale would be limited and they’re not going to unseat the MX-5 in a hurry. To some extent, it also competes with the FRS/BR-Z, so the field is more crowded today.

    It would also compete with the Corvette, to some extent. If you can get a toy car, you can also get a used toy car and maybe have the money for an expensive toy car.

    I think they’d be better off trying a convertible on the Delta-class platform. Keep the price low, forget the sporting pretensions and maybe cash in on the relative resurgence of convertibles. A Cruze-class convertible with a good top, good mileage and a usable back seat might make a decent second family car.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGrieves

      IIRC, the Kappa platform (at least the Solstice and Sky) were developed on the extreme cheap from a large selection of parts from the GM bin. Steering, drive, brakes, etc. were taken from other vehicles. Didn’t Lutz have a hand in this? Anyway, the perception was that the cars felt like a slapped-together cobbling of parts instead of a solid, purpose-built roadster.

      The top was especially bad, noise insulation was an option that added another several hundred to the sticker. Also, you got neither a trunk nor any kind of behind the seat storage space because the top folded into where the trunk should be. Raising and lowering it was a major effort.

    • 0 avatar

      “I think they’d be better off trying a convertible on the Delta-class platform”

      That would be the Opel Cascada, which will reach our shores sometime this decade wearing Buick badges. It’s basically a Verano convertible, but the Verano is also on the Delta II platform (which, by the way, is being phased out in favor of a new modular architecture similar to VW Group’s MQB platform).

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      TTAC discussed the profitability of the Kappas when the news came out that they were being discontinued:

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/09/gm-losing-10k-per-car-on-solstice-and-sky/

      That’s what I was thinking of earlier. Even if they use cheap parts wherever they can, could they build a decent Kappa that could retail for under $30K at a profit? The Spaniards that are using the platform are asking $100K. Could GM really do better on a low-volume car? The Spaniards probably got all the development at a bargain basement price, too.

      — Correction: … asking $130K. The car is 100K Euros. Ouch.

      • 0 avatar

        Well…I’m sure the Tauro version only costs that much because it “can”. Tauro figure that they’ve added $100K worth of value with the V8 conversion, the altered styling and the red leather that seems to cover every interior surface. And Tauro probably did stock up on all of the parts before suppliers quit making them, but they surely didn’t buy the design from GM. They’re probably paying licensing fees.

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      FRS/BRZ, within the confines of price and intent, does compete with the base 2.4 Kappa. I traded my Carbon Flash SE Sky in for my FR-S. The dynamics and build quality are vastly better on the FRS, its a bit slower than the RedLine though faster than the price equivalent base 2.4. The FRS feels infinitely more connected/engaged than the Kappa every did.

      The Sky Redline is a fast, sexy boulevarder. The FRS is the drivers car.

      I miss my Skys drop dead good looks, straight line speed, and the option to put the top UP. I left it top down in my garage %98 of the time. I drove my other car to AVOID messing with the twice-warranty-replaced-in-three-years-delicate top). The Sky was more comfortable on long interstate drives. I was often asked if it was a Corvette…only to be followed with a “wait… what? Thats a Saturn… Oh” . That never happens in the FRS.

    • 0 avatar
      korvetkeith

      I didn’t see how they could build them much cheaper than corvettes. It was essentially made the same way.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Fiat may have an affordable roadster soon.

    Re “Monza Spider”: as much as I love the Corvair the right car to bring back for a Miata fighter is the Fiero.

    Especially since there is nothing cheap and mid-engine on the horizon except the Renault Twingo/Smart.

    Unlike the Solstice/Sky a mid-engine car has an excuse for no rear trunk, although the Fiero did have a rear trunk that was probably larger than the Solstice/Sky’s.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    GM needs to start partnering up with kit car companies. Folks could accept a rattle trap with a manual top if it gave em an LSx engine and a decent enough chassis for ~30 or so thousand.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    This reminds me of a question I had about the C6 Corvette: it started in the mid-upper $40k with a crazy motor, brakes etc. There was a Caddy version that was a good bit more expensive for classic GM stupid reasons. It was essentially a body-on-frame. Why couldn’t GM come up with a 3-series competitor with a smaller motor and rear seats for ~$30k? Was the LS2 really that cheap?

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t call the Y-Body (Corvette and XLR) a body-on-frame design. It’s more of a space-frame design. And if you look a Y-Body frame, it’s really ill-suited to anything other than a roadster. GM tried to do a 3-Series competitor with the original CTS and to some extent the second CTS, but that evolved into something else entirely.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Kyree’s right – here’s what a C5 looks like naked:
      http://i1189.photobucket.com/albums/z432/clevelandpap2/corvette/12-039/DSC06386.jpg

      The XLR actually had quite a bit of content to differentiate it from the ‘Vette, most prominent being a retractable power hardtop that you couldn’t get on a ‘Vette at any price. There was also a far better finished interior, and the Northstar V-8.

      I’d take one, particularly the V.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        That is super cool, and thanks to you and Kyree for weighing in, but transaxle or not it still looks like you (i.e. GM) could sit whatever they wanted on top. The A pillar and B (hoop?) could be steepened or extended or whatever, and they would end up with a badass mobile whether it was a 3/C series competitor or a CRV/Forester competitor.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The obvious issue with bringing this back is that it’d have to come back as a Chevy…and we know there’s only enough room in that showroom for one purpose built two seater. It was perfect for Pontiac, but alas…

    A shame, since this was a pretty cool little car.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Maybe you can get the front clip from the Daewoo or Opel versions and do a conversion. It’d be worth it to keep that ugly gold bowtie off the car.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think the Saturn version WAS just the Opel/Vauxhall version with a different logo.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          There was a Daewoo verson of the Kappas…you learn something every day.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            http://www.wallsforpc.com/wallpapers/2012/09/2007-Daewoo-G2X-Turbo-800×960.jpg

            And it looks so different! x.x

            Look at that trunk lid panel fit.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            If I owned a Sky, I would Daewooify it. KDM yo!

          • 0 avatar

            “Look at that trunk lid panel fit.”

            I swear…there are nine or ten different occasions where I saw a Sky or Solstice while driving and genuinely thought that the trunk was open, and almost flagged down the driver. There’s a silver Solstice running around here that’s particularly bad in that regard…

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            If only Koreans wanted sports cars or convertibles. The Daewoo roadster should live!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Koreans want sports cars, but more of a different sort:

            -Something JDM like a Skyline.
            -Something half-assed like a Tosca (Tiburon)
            -Something high end, like a 911

            There is one kind of person who purchases this car in Korea, and that is a young, yet-married or newly-married man with no children. He works at a bank or chaebol corporation. The end.

            They do not want convertibles, and the weather is largely unsuitable. And even if it were more suitable, they have elaborate hair and clothing which would be mussed by winds.

          • 0 avatar
            epsilonkore

            Want to know a secret about the trunk panel fitment? It wasnt bad from the factory

            It typically becomes bad after you closed the trunk once or twice WRONG on the top. Before closing the trunk, you had to pack down both sides of the folded top by walking around the car to make it fit right before closing. If you didnt? Warp central. My ex did it to mine once and had to have the trunk hinge mechanisms replaced. One of 18 unscheduled trips to the dealership in the 3 years I owned the car.

          • 0 avatar

            @epsilonkore

            I did not know that one or two bad closings could cause such glaring fitment issues. Yet, and even as a GM fan, it does not surprise me one bit.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            No car made in modern times should require such meticulous customer-initiated folding of the roof to prevent a horrible panel damage event. That’s just bad engineering.

          • 0 avatar
            msquare

            Kappa Gangnam Style! Or the Daewoo G2X.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          Pretty much, only the Solstice had unique sheetmetal. Might as well pick the coolest logo on the other ones.

          • 0 avatar
            epsilonkore

            And to be fair, if you are a GM fan, even more specifically a SATURN fan, body panel fitment should NOT be something that bothers you. Can you imagine how bad it would have been if Saturn stuck with plastic body panels for the Sky?!

          • 0 avatar

            “Can you imagine how bad it would have been if Saturn stuck with plastic body panels for the Sky?!”

            The HORROR!!! I shudder just thinking about it.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Hello everyone, you are missing the ultimate opportunity to slap a tri-shield on it and call it a Reatta!

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    I’m not a fan of the convertibles but the hardtop they did for the last model year was simply sex on wheels… and rare!
    http://image.motortrend.com/f/auto_shows/coverage/chicago/17739333+w+soriginal/112_2009_chicago_06z+2009_pontiac_solstice_coupe+side.jpg

    Why, oh why GM- did you not keep that going in some way!?1

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Yes the coupe version was all kinds of awesome! Too bad it was still a GM mess underneath. I seriously considered one of these before I got my 350Z, then I remembered who it was made by. The real turn off was the truck transmission, at least the coupe fixed the terrible storage issue. I remember checking one at an auto show and being completely underwhelmed. Kit car is the best way to describe it: every piece came from last years GM parts bin which meant it was not only garbage but out dated garbage. The collectablity of the coupe can’t be denied, they only made 1,266 of them.

      • 0 avatar
        epsilonkore

        When I test drove Sky’s I drove the “truck manual” that came out of the COLORDADO/CANYON. It was NOT a pleasure, despite having the fact it was a manual. I ended up with the automatic, which was sourced from a CTS. It was not a bad transmission for cruising, but its upshift/downshift timing was anything but sporty. Smooth, but not sporty. It was the only Auto I have ever purchased, and it personified why I hate automatics. If only GM had a DSG available, or a decent manual. That plus an extra 6 months in development for the whole car to fix stupid ideas (the Sky got an additional year of tweaking over the Solstice and was overall a better execution) and it could have been a very different story.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    A hundred grand for a Kappa? I’d probably hand my NC + $40K over to Flyin’ Miata if I want a tiny, Corvette-powered roadster.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    When Fisker took over the GM plant in Delaware that built the Kappas, I was really hoping they’d take the tooling and continue to build them instead of pushing the heap of ugly that was the Karma. I’m glad someone did.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I keep thinking about Fisker, since when I went to get my car recall done at the dealer, the nextdoor Porsche dealer still had a Fisker logo on the front of the building, and a dark part of the showroom at the front right corner.

  • avatar

    I actually did know about this car. I think it’s a very interesting design study, but that’s about it. It would be nice to see GM field some kind of new RWD roadster with better fit-and-finish and the newer 2.0-liter turbo engine, but it’s not likely to happen.

    Also, that three-spoke steering wheel you’re talking about was really just one of GM’s corporate parts at the time, and was seen in many cars, including the G5, G6, Cobalt, Corvette, Malibu, Sky, Aura, Astra, Vue, Torrent, etc. It’s no different than the fact that every Volkswagen model except for the Beetle and Touareg has the same steering wheel (although it looks like they’re moving to a new steering wheel design for MY2015, which you can see on the new Golf).

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I thought both Kappa models were simply gorgeous. But the idea that they are going to be resurrected in any form is unlikely, at best.

    If Mazda can’t rustle up any more than low volumes for the quite capable Miata, introducing another player in that market is not a recipe for success.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. Looking back, you realize that the mid-late aughts were kind of a wild time for GM. Amidst all of that cost-cutting, we got to see some really cool stuff. But I’m sure that the small, four-cylinder roadster market is unprofitable enough that GM would be happy to surrender it to Mazda…

  • avatar
    nickoo

    No. I can’t imagine the kappa program came anywhere close to the black. Just leave this super small niche to the vette. Or if they think they need another roadster, bring back the riata badge and build it as a Buick on the bones of the vette and start it at 30k with the 3.6l v6 or the ats turbo motor as the only engine option.

    Gm has more important priorities, get the improved Malibu to market, get the next gen volt to market, get the new caddy flagship to market, get the new atscamaro out, and fix Buick. If they build the caddy flagship, they should also build a panamera/model s lift back gt car for a Buick flagship using current regal themed styling.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I still want one all these years later. It’s too late for this year, but next spring might be my time to get one..

  • avatar
    robc123

    that’s nicer than the new mx-5- based on looks.

  • avatar

    From a practical standpoint, the downfall of the Kappa cars was the top and everything associated with it. It had the appearance of poor fitment from new with perpetually-wrinkled ‘buttresses,’ that silly unlatching system that guaranteed seams would split, and a “trunk” in name only. Also, the cupholder broke from go and the little quarter fender below the hood forward of the doors never lined up quite right.

    I think a little less ambition on keeping the decklid/tonneau looking quite so slick would’ve paid off heavily in practicality. Save that for the next generation with more gestation time under its belt. They also should’ve greenlighted a cheap hardtop/liftback that would’ve eschewed all those problems much earlier than they did. Imagine a cheap-o stripper Solstice hardtop with all your internetz requirements – manual gearbox, tunable DOHC motor, no options but A/C and a radio for the base $19,995. Its a car kids could ACTUALLY afford and Pontiac already had the distribution base. Oh well…

    But, God, what a gorgeous little car with the top down. Nice ones in right color combos with two-tone leather and chrome wheels bring all the money still, but you can pick a workable one up for a steal.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I really like the looks and performance of the Sky Redline. The incredibly botched roof and storage equation though completely ruins it (as mentioned by many others) The fact that with the roof down you can barely even use the trunk is unacceptable to me. Sad when the Sunfire convertible had a top that, while ugly, worked a ton better.

      I mean, I picture me and the lady tossing in a lunch, hike gear, or a weekend bag into the Sky Redline, dropping the roof and blasting through the Rockies. Not possible in a Kappa though. Such a poor design.

    • 0 avatar

      I could understand if the top were electric, but it wasn’t. It was manually-operated. It should been the simplest thing in the world.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Beautiful, alluring, but deeply flawed. Sums up quite a few GM products during my lifetime.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    “Infamous Cobalt”

    Unless that is referencing the whole ignition switch debacle, I actually think that the Cobalt is an underrated little commuter car. The ecotec engine is a sturdy, torquey little beast, albeit a bit rough around the edges compared to a Honda/Toyota in terms of NVH. The bodies/suspension/fasteners on these cars are actually very resistant to corrosion, and hold up rather well. Interior leaves a bit to be desired, but is not atrocious like the old Cavalier and is fine for an affordable commuter/ daily driver.

    I came very close to buying a low mile XFE sedan a few years back but was lured away by the more comfortable and more tightly screwed together Civic.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    2940. That was the curb weight for the base Sky. Unacceptable when the Miata has a functioning top, the same power, and 400 fewer pounds to drag around. MX5 all day, every day.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      The heavy curb weight was a real downer. Also the fuel economy of the turbo was much higher than the NA engine. When I was doing my cash for clunkers deal trading in the rusted out LX 5.0 I briefly considered the Solstice. Problem was the Turbo was the only one that got me the full $4500. The NA’s fuel economy was too low.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Kappa just has no where to live in the current line up.

    As a Chevy you can’t – you have the Corvette, and although the ye’ ol’ dogma of nothing shall best Corvette has been chipped away, I just don’t see how Chevy can justify a niche convertible in their line up.

    It just isn’t a “Cadillac” kind of car – and obviously GMC is out.

    That leaves Buick – which is getting the Delta II Cascadia.

    There is no home.

    I lament the death of Kappa – as I wrote last week the worst sins of Kappa were, as I agree, the Cobalt grade interior materials and Rube-Goldberg roof. The “platform” is tremendous, shattered the strangehold the Miata had on the quasi-racing circuit (I say that will all the love in my heart and as someone who spent tons of time in SOLO).

    The $100K Euro LS version is a ripoff. They built 100 Mallet versions of the Solstice with LS power and the starting price was a bargain $38K. Yes, you could option one up quickly to the stratosphere – but $38K was a bargain (although I would guess the CTS-V derived differential in the Solstice would be shredded within 20K miles)

    http://www.mallettcars.com/solstice-conversion.htm

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      It should have become the new Oldsmobile F88!

      http://americanclassicars.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/F-88-3.jpg

      Oh wait, right…

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I thought it was 38K PLUS the Solstice or Sky. If I am wrong then yes, 38k for an LS powered Solstice or Sky was a screaming bargain.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Nope – a base Solstice was about $20K (various price increases through the 2009 model run would push the price up each year) and the conversion started at $17K — $19K if you wanted AC.

        So after delivery fess, you could get a stripper Solstice for about $21K and $17K later have a 4.4 second – 0 to 60, 1/4 mile in low 12’s 1.02g on the skid pad car with warranty.

        • 0 avatar

          The Mallet site lists a price of a bit over $21,000 for the base conversion to an LS family V8. Looking on Craigslist I see Solstices for between $7,300 (salvage title) and $18,000 (GXP). For about $30,000 can you buy that much speed any other way?

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            Good lord. I may have to put that on my radar as I push towards retirement. I still like a flyin Miata NB though…I don’t know if they have done an NC but a PRHT NC with an LS would make a pretty sweet retirement ride.

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            And they offer a 900 HP turbocharged LS7 version. My god that would be INSANE!

  • avatar
    mkirk

    All 3 generations of the Miata we decent commuters as well. You could load stuff in the trunk. Hell my friend can get his golf clubs in his NC. While my NA and NB couldn’t accomplish this I could fit luggage for 2 in the trunk with ease (with a spare tire to boot…unlike the Kappa). This is what the Kappa couldn’t duplicate. I had an extended test drive with a Sky. On a trip to the grocery store I had to take the groceries out of the bags and arrange them just so around the gas tank. Top down was worse which again, was not an issue with the Miata as the top takes no trunk space. I could have lived with the crazy procedure to raise and lower it, but I left with the impression that the Kappas were toys suitable only as second cars. The Miata was a real car and as a bonus was a great sports car. I got the Mazdaspped MX-5 instead which had some flaws (stupid 6 speed, stupid rims, and a turbo selection that wasn’t as good as most aftermarket kits), but the Kappa just had too many compromises.

    • 0 avatar

      “I could have lived with the crazy procedure to raise and lower it, but I left with the impression that the Kappas were toys suitable only as second cars. The Miata was a real car and as a bonus was a great sports car.”

      Sounds about right. In my current lifestyle—if I were being honest with myself and if I weren’t too lazy for three petals—I could do a Miata as a daily driver. The Solstice and Sky, however, are only suited to be alternate transportation…”toys”, as you so appropriately said. Maybe in another couple of generations, GM could have gotten it right…

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        The Paddle shifted NC Miatas aren’t too bad. Maybe the new one will get that dual clutch deal with the torque convertor. My next car I want something like a Miata again but I may end up in Atlanta which means no third pedal so a good auto would be nice.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    The Solstice and Sky were beautiful but terribly flawed. A Miata is a car that one can actually live with as a daily driver (I had one for 13 years before children complicated my automotive needs). The top worked flawlessly and the trunk, while small, was usable for grocery runs.

    A friend got a beautiful Sky Redline and I was amazed by the top… the frame had worn a hole in the top by the time he had 3k miles on it. The lack of any usable storage space (with the top down) in a car so much larger than the Miata was breathtakingly bad.

    IIRC, when that cool Solstice hard top came out, they designed it so that the targa top was too large to fit anywhere in the car if you took it off… so it had to be left at home in the garage.

    Oh, and like a lot of GM cars of late (e.g. Camaro), the visibility out of the car while driving was horrible… and that was with the top down!

    I would love to buy a low-mile Sky Redline purely because I think it’s one of the most striking cars GM has made in many years. I also used to work for Saturn (1991-1999) so have a bit of a soft spot for the brand. But I also know I would probably get terribly frustrated owning it.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I was going to ask if the Solstice with the Targa was any better. I forgot it wouldn’t actually fit in the car. Yes the Miata hard top won’t fit in the car either but at least I still have the soft top if it starts raining. Funny though if it had just been a hard top (no Targa) I think it would have sold in the same numbers if not better. I wish one could get either car as a straight up hardtop. Always had thought an RX version Miata with the rotary and a hartop would be pretty much ideal.

      • 0 avatar
        jdash1972

        The rotary engine is dead!!! And for very good reasons – cool as it is, it’s a piece of crap!

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The one good thing about the Solstice Coupe, beyond how gorgeous it is (holy crap, the car is stunning) is there were less Solstice coupes built than even G8 GXPs. Do a search on ones for sale – they are instant collectibles, commanding close to sticker price five years later (dogged out and salvage title examples excluded).

        The rare bird is the GXP with a manual – cargo capability is much better, but as noted, you couldn’t drive with the metal targa topped stowed (you did get a stowable canvas (think convertible top material) version you could take with you.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      What would have suited the Kappa cars best was a fastback hatchback (think Jag E-Type, Jensen or MGB-GT) That would definitely have been a winner.

      I was a passenger in a Sky Redline once, and it felt like the car was on rails, and it sure had some serious giddyup and go. But, it flexed better than a Yoga instructor, and the wind noise was unbearable with the top up. A hatchback fastback would’ve solved some of its most serious flaws.

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      I agree, the visibility with the top up was dangerously bad. I left mine down the majority of the time just so I wasnt so stressed out driving it in traffic.

      I never got to drive the targa/coupe Solstice, (though someone at my doctors office has a copper colored coupe, and man is it stunning) but I am willing to bet the visibility is still not acceptable. Probably better, but still not as good as the top down on the convertible.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    “When Obama decided to shut down Pontiac and Saturn…”

    GM decided that, not the big bad gummint. And they should have. They had completely taken away any brand equity from both brands by 2008. Pontiac was seen as the maker of cars (G6, Vibe) bought by people too credit-challenged to get financed at a Toyota dealership. Saturn had a dedicated buyer base but the Ion, singlehandedly and completely, wrecked it.

    And it would be stupid for GM to try to make a cheap roadster today. The Kappa couldn’t compete for numerous reasons already covered by other comments here. They don’t have any other platform that would work. They could build other roadsters off the Corvette platform or an Alpha roadster, but either of those would have to be packaged and priced as a Z4 competitor, not a Miata competitor. There is very small volume in the segment and Mazda already has it locked up. Even Toyota, with an appropriate platform completely in place, can’t pull the trigger on another roadster.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      There are a lot of Miata buyers who desire a hard top. Mazda has teased but never pulled the trigger. The FRS I had hoped would be a little closer to that but it isn’t quite there. Many a dollar has been spent stiffening Miata chassis that could be spent elsewhere if the car was not a roadster.

      And I would love to see a Miata type car built off the Corvette platform, but it would have to be pretty radically different to avoid canabilizing Corvette sales for less profit for GM. This is why they will never do it and as much as I loved my Miatas I don’t want to see the Corvette get watered down either.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Well it’s got that retractible hard top. That’s close!

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          True Corey, but for those that want the most performance bang for the buck a true hardtop would be great. The PRHT is pretty well engineered though and I may look at one eventually as it doesn’t really compromise the car. It is about as well done as this sort of arrangement can be executed though.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I suppose you would lose some weight by getting rid of all that extra metal and motor etc. I’m guessing in a car this small, you feel every 20 pounds you chop off.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            On my NA I swear I could feel the difference in a replacement hood that was steel versus the OE aluminum after a hailstorm. I got a correct hood but the reality was it was probably in my mind since I am far from the caliber driver that would be likely to notice. The Miata faithful swear it makes a difference though. I know it was heavy enough that it deformed the OE prop rod designed for the Aluminum hood so who knows.

    • 0 avatar
      turboprius

      One of my friends has a 2004 Ion and loves it. I was weary when he got it back in March, but he told me he enjoyed it.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Yes, GM needs to focus on core products, not something low volume like this. It makes sense for Mazda because the Miata is sort of the embodiment of the brand but for GM this money would be better spent on cars like the Malibu and the trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      @ DAL20402 – “When Obama decided to shut down Pontiac and Saturn…” it’s just lazy-troll writer syndrome. Best to ignore it.

      Obama fans would phrase it as “when Obama’s superpowers met their limits in only being able to save Chevy, Buick, Cadillac, GMC …” and it would be equally worthy of being ignored.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The initial bailout plan submitted by GM in late 2008 called for Hummer being cancelled.

      It was only later in 2009, when Steven Ratner was hired to oversee the bailout that the other brands were added to the pile. That was not GM’s idea.

      And that was a good thing. The sad fact is that Steven Rattner did a better job cleaning up GM than anyone at GM could have done. The bailout didn’t go as far as I would have personally gone, but it was a vast improvement over what they started with.

      GM is here today because it was turned into a somewhat smaller, more manageable company, and that was done over the objection of the folks who ran the company into the ground. In any case, as the equity partner who funded the bailout party, the task force had every right and reason to impose demands on the management that clearly needed the guidance (and the money, of course.)

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I always thought that the team overseeing the bailout did GM (and the taxpayers) a favor by advocating the phase-out of Pontiac and Saturn.

        Pontiac’s glory days were long gone by the early 21st century. The “Wide Track” years lasted from 1959 through about 1973. Buyers who were around for those days were hardly driving the market by 2000. By the late 1980s, both Chevrolet and Ford had more of a performance image than Pontiac.

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    “Bark’s Bites: When I Say Kappa, You Say… ”

    LANCIA !!!

    (Wait, why are you all staring at me….?)

  • avatar
    turboprius

    A one-owner, accident-free, non-Florida/northeast Solstice with about 75K miles sells for nine grand. In 2007, GM said they were obsessed with quality. Sounds like they were obsessed with depreciation.

    There are some lower-mileage ones near me, but the dealers that are selling them scream Florida and northeast cars.

    • 0 avatar

      What’s wrong with a Florida car…?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      $9K is favorable depreciation for a then $27K? ride which sold for much less, an identical G6 would do 5s at this point.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Someone else is buying a Miata of the same model year and laughing their a$$ off at whoever paid 9k for a Solctice. I could’ve got one at dealer cost and walked away when I found how completely impracticle the little Pontiac is/was/shall ever be.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Solstice is kind of an oddball because its a roadster or convertible, but convertibles in general are weird on the block. They generally have a higher floor than their coupe counterparts. In 2012 when my cousin bought her G6 Conv/31K otc, I researched and the highest mile’d 07 example at Manheim brought low 9s. She paid 12.9 for a nearly new car, GTP 3.9 as opposed to GT 3.5, and received aftermarket warranty for $4K more than a 98K example at *the auction*. The KIA dealer didn’t know what they had and wanted it gone.

        • 0 avatar

          Convertibles are indeed very weird on the block. Very seasonal and dependent on the audience that happens to be there at that moment. Six months ago, we had an ’07 Eclipse Spyder GT V6 w/leather and 54k miles (+) and a stick (-!!!). Bought it out of an off-circuit auction from a new car store and we were all in for $8200. Ran it at Manheim Tampa. Three guys were on it and rode it all the way to $11,200

          You can’t smile on the block when something rings the bell; its poor form. But man. Still never saw that one coming.

  • avatar
    robc123

    whats wrong with Florida and northeast cars?

    • 0 avatar
      snoproblem

      Salt corrosion, both times.

      • 0 avatar

        Disagree on salt corrosion for Florida cars. Unless you live in the Keys or park directly east of A1A, its a realtive non-issue. Lovebug etching and sun-related damage to clearcoat, rubber/plastics, and trim are more of a concern.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Lovebug etching?

          • 0 avatar

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovebug

            Lovebugs contain a slightly acidic body chemistry that can stain if not completely eat through clearcoat if left on your car for a long period of time. A good coat of wax provides a sacrificial barrier and frequently washing when driving through a swarm will minimize damage.

            This is a Forester and S60 we have with lovebug damage.
            http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800x600q90/907/uQL8Vm.jpg
            http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800x600q90/912/Amw9vi.jpg
            Heavy compound and wetsanding can get rid on light damage, but if its as bad as it is on the Forester, you have to paint.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yikes, what a nasty looking bug. My Grand Prix had similar looking rock damage all over the hood. I had it repainted over the summer when it went in for rust repair.

        • 0 avatar
          turboprius

          If you read the CarFax reports, most of these Florida cars are from areas like Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Here in Georgia, if the price is really low and the CarFax looks good, it’s probably a northeast or Florida car.

          I remember trying to find a G37 for someone, and it was impossible to find a Georgia owned G37 for under 24. Big clues the car is from the north, besides the price: it’s AWD and has a front plate bracket. Both of these are non-existent down here.

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          I had a 68 Cougar that was a Florida Car and while the bottom was OK, the top under the vinyl was another story.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    I’ll tell you why they will never build something like this again. Because they’re stupid. Because they’re F’ing idiots. Because their incompetence is exceeded only by their corrupt and unethical standards of behavior. GM is dead.

  • avatar
    Dan

    GM’s biggest mistake with the Solstice had nothing to do with the Solstice itself. Of course a tiny roadster wasn’t going to sell well, and it didn’t. A smidgen of better execution wouldn’t have changed that. The problem was the absence of anything else with relevance to car people once that beautiful Solstice out front got them into the showroom.

    That’s where the salesman is supposed to redirect you into something else you still want but practical enough to actually buy. A Firebird. At least two sizes of sporty RWD sedan, the big one being a Bonneville. Some variety of souped up Tahoe with a LS motor.

    Of course, GM being GM, in the midst of an auto market absolutely afire, none of those existed. Zero credit for the G8 showing up 3 years later, when the Solstice was old news but just in time for the great recession.

    The consolation offers actually available on consisted of a few garbage rental cars and a bunch of garbage rental SUVs and minivans.

    GM deserved to go bankrupt. They deserve to go bankrupt again.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      GM actually put out several concept cars based on the Kappa architecture. Problem was that the accelerated development schedule for the Solstice meant that there was no time to develop the platform for any other body styles.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Chow.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Cal it a Buick Delle Soule.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Call it a Buick Delle Soule.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    I believe the Solstice coupe and the Chrysler Crossfire will both become collectors items.

  • avatar

    Will there be a Chevy code 130r in the future? There very well might be given GM’s history of boneheaded decisions based on auto-forum enthusiasm. Between the scion-subaru twins and the new Miata, there is almost zero market for tiny roadsters. A small RWD platform is also pretty much useless for any other application. The Camaro and Vette convertibles sell in decent numbers there is no need for a Buick fwd convertible. The kappa died a well deserved death.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Seven years ago, a couple built a brand new dwelling on the windy curving road I live on. Before the landscaping or front steps went on, a new BRG Solstice was parked in the front yard.

    Every time I have passed the house, morning, noon or night, weekend, summer or winter or whenever, it’s always been sitting there, top up. Never driven much.

    Just last week, a FOR SALE sign appeared inside the windshield. Must have been a hoot to pilot. Not.

    Solstice was never anything but a damp squib.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    Was anyone over 5’10” and 210lbs ever able to fit inside one of these beautiful but flawed creations?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Yes. A friend of mine who is 6′ and 300+lbs is able to pour himself into his Toyota 2JZ swapped Solstice. At ~800hp, you always feel like you’re a split second away from death driving in it.

  • avatar
    baconator

    It seems to me the bigger hole in the marketplace is for a relatively affordable 4-seater convertible. Now that the Sebring, Eos, and C70 convertible are no more, there is really nothing out there that two couples can take to dinner on a hot summer night anywhere south of the 4-series / S5 price point. The Mustang / Camaro don’t have the back-seat room in their convertible forms and are not really of appeal to the people who want something more elegant and restrained. Aand let’s face it, the people who buy convertibles are either empty-nester Baby Boomers or well-off Gen X and Y folks who still need to worry about what their co-workers think.

    There’s plenty of room between $30k and $50k for a well-made copy of the BMW 6-series ‘vert. The current Chevy SS would make a great starting point – it would be the spiritual successor to the iconic ’64 Impala droptop. I bet that has a better business case than another canyon-carving 2-seat toy.

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