By on November 20, 2014

09 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBack when I saw this red ’88 LeMans at a California wrecking yard last year, I figured that would be the last Pontiac-badged Daewoo LeMans I’d ever see in a self-service wrecking yard. After all, these things sold poorly, were built like crap, and mostly lasted about five years before being stuffed into the nearest car shredder. But no, here’s another example that I saw in Denver a couple of weeks ago.
17 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis won-pinching Korean managed over 150,000 miles before expiring, which is pretty impressive.
06 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s no ’64 Catalina, that’s for sure.
16 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStripes!
10 - 1988 Pontiac LeMans Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere can’t be many of these hubcaps left in the universe.

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162 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac LeMans...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Pontiac deserved to die for calling this a LeMans

    • 0 avatar
      Southern Perspective

      Agreed.

      Also, this is one of the several Detroit motorcar company’s offerings (in this case, Korean-made, as I recall) that made me glad that I had purchased a Corolla.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep! This thing made the original Hyundai Excel look like a good choice…

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      LeMons would have been a more appropriate name.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      This car is exactly where it needs to be, sorry it wasn’t crushed before the photo was taken.

      ‘Nuff said.

    • 0 avatar

      I rented an Opel version of this in Germany in 1989 and drove it through East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. It had a 5 speed and 1.4 liter engine, tight suspension, and we loved it. We even got stares in the Eastern Bloc….Trip memory…almost running out gas near the German Border and the Czech gas guy not taking hard currency for gas…our gas Coupons were only available during business hours in the next major city….ah, Communism…

      Drove a LeMons over here a few months later. Totally different car. Really. Suspension tuned by the guy fired from the Olds Cutlass base version. Engine by Waring Blender.

    • 0 avatar
      BRIAN scotland

      im sorry to correct you but the cars NOT a Daewoo as its a vauhall astra opel kadett European models the Daewoo had different front and rear lights and was later car in 90s as ive owned a few astra models mainly gte,s and tbh the Vauxhall/opel versions a great car the 1.8 injected and 2.0 8v cars great and reliable 16v versions had cosworth redtop head c20xe engines were fast cars easily doing 120mph plus whereas the Daewoo as we say in uk was a bucket of sh## and Daewoo,s didn’t appear till after astra mk2 range was ended in 1990s astra mk3 or 4 was in production Daewoo had diff shaped rear light clusters and diff front end on the vin plate itll prob state adam opel ltd on chassis plate if Daewoo best place is scrapyard as nowhere near as good as gm models of 80s and had smaller engines 1.3 1.4 1.6 opel range had gte gse 1.8 2.0 8valves and the dady was 2.0 16valve to let anyone know diff thanks brian

  • avatar
    Garagezone

    By God . . . perhaps the worst GM re-badging ever. These cars had to have been manufactured to lower standards than 10-year-old used cars. NOT EVER a good car ! Amazing this one went 150K !

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The only car where people turned the miles forward to impress others

    • 0 avatar

      In terms of damage to GM, the Cimarron was worse.

      You said GM and they did deserve special scorn for soiling the Lemans nameplate, but I think the Ford Aspire was perhaps the worst badge engineered car ever. A Ford Festiva designed by Mazda, built by Kia and sold here as the Aspire, something got lost in the translation from Japanese to English to Korean and back to English. It stands out in my memory as the single worst car that I’ve ever driven. Other than a good A/C system it was horrid. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the Elio Motors prototype that I drove was more refined.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        No arguments that Ford did the same thing and Chrysler and when those surface on “Junkyard Finds” we’ll let them have it as well

        The thing is that Ford didn’t call the Aspire a Mustang, they learned their lesson when they called the Pinto a Mustang

        • 0 avatar

          No use getting stuck up on names. Marketing does what marketing will. But it is an Anglo, most especially American, fetish, have to respect that of course.

        • 0 avatar

          The original Mustang had more Falcon in it than the Mustang II had Pinto components. The only common part is a bit of sheet metal in the floor.

          Knocking the Mustang II as a Pinto is about as cliched as saying guys drive particular cars to “compensate”. Yes, the British drink warm beer, but Lucas doesn’t make refrigerators.

          The Mustang II was one of the best selling Mustangs ever and kept the brand alive.

          Are the Bentley Continental and Audi A8 VWs? They have more in common with the VW Phaeton than the Mustang II has with the Pinto.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            In retrospect, though, the Mustang II is one of the most hated names because of the way Ford decontented it. At least they changed the name a little to distance themselves from the deed

            “The second-generation Ford Mustang is a pony car that was manufactured by Ford Motor Company from 1973 until 1978. It was introduced in showrooms during September 1973, in coupe and hatchback versions for the 1974 model year, in time for the 1973 oil crisis. The Mustang II had no common components with the preceding models and shared its platform with the subcompact-sized Ford Pinto.” – Wikipedia

            It shared more then a couple of parts with the Pinto

            At the time it was a smart move by Ford in the face of the oil embargo, but hardly the same move as renaming the Daewoo a Pontiac LeMans

          • 0 avatar

            Hear, hear. But in cases like this I always remember Shakespeare’s rose… What is a name?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            @ Ronnie, this is what you said, “but I think the Ford Aspire was perhaps the worst badge engineered car ever”

            How does this relate to the Pontiac Daewoo LeMans? What Legendary car did Ford make that was named the Aspire?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “Hear, hear. But in cases like this I always remember Shakespeare’s rose… What is a name?”

            There’s another saying, Marcelo, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”

          • 0 avatar

            Lol, true! Like statistics, there are enough sayings to go around. Just pick your poison.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            I get the impression that a lot of people thought that the original Mustang was a performance car. It was not, it was a sporty coupe, most of which were sent out the door with a modest drivetrain and nothing special in the suspension or brake department. Yes, Ford did start making high performance models later on, but they weren’t ever the volume models. Considering the downsizing of cars that was done after the first oil crisis, the Mustang II was much more true to the original Mustang’s intent then a lot of y’all think.

      • 0 avatar

        And yet the Fiesta was always such a good car. Always of course, tread carefully when using an absolute word like always, but the Fiesta was always a very nice subcompact car. Something must of gone very awry if the Festiva was really that bad…

        And the Cimarron looked like a hell of a car on paper at least. Had they kept at it, it would “naturally” be a 3 Series fighter today.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          “And the Cimarron looked like a hell of a car on paper at least. Had they kept at it, it would “naturally” be a 3 Series fighter today.”

          You very funny guy, Marcelo ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “the Ford Aspire was perhaps the worst badge engineered car ever.”

        It’s not a particularly good example of badge engineering, as there was only one version of the car sold in the US. Badge engineering is ultimately a marketing problem that arises when consumers see two versions of the same car and treat one of them as less authentic, thus losing sales and/or reducing its market price.

        A good example of that was the Corolla-based Chevy Nova, which was obviously a Toyota and commanded lower prices because it seemed to be less legit than the real thing. The market tends to favor the original as being the authentic version and disrespects the copy. Badge engineering sometimes works well enough (it doesn’t hurt GMC and didn’t hurt the Firebird), but it usually doesn’t.

        The Aspire just wasn’t a good car. I drove one in Australia (badged as the Festiva) that was just as miserable as its American counterpart. The only difference between them was RHD; it was obviously built to a price point and wasn’t meant to impress in any hemisphere.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Thank you

          .

          You’ve been to Oz? Does BAFO know?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I don’t know how anyone could hate the Mustang II generation. Even among Mustang fans. I’m one of them, and just cons!dered it an upscale Pinto, throughout the years. Good for the Pinto line. Whichever. No matter.

            But with each passing year, Mustang fans, and enthusiasts in general, are giving the Mustang II the respect it deserved all along. Extremely light weight (in retrospect), room for a V8, if not so equipped, and its classic looks is becoming more and more favourable.

            And we know how to wake up a Malaise Era V8.

            But Hot Rodders have been bastardizing their street machines with “Mustang II front ends” (suspensions) for, since there’s been used/junked Mustang IIs to be had.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            ” Even among Mustang fans. I’m one of them, and just cons!dered it an upscale Pinto”

            Well, there you go, a Mustang fan who doesn’t even cons*der the “II” a Mustang. Neither did Ford, hence the “II”

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          Spot on and characteristically lucid.

          But in the case of the Toyolets, didn’t the almost military, walled segregation between the Toyota and Chevy production lines within NUUMI permit Chevy’s degradation of Toyota’s kaizen practices to the point that the Nova *was* a slightly inferior product?

          Or did I just read partisan griping?

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      Frankly I’m believe it a testement to the wit and humor of the gods that someone TRUSTED this car enough to feel the need to purchase a Thule rack system (or apparently the KMart version thereof) for this thing. Being this pig was staggered upon in a Denver junk yard, one assumes the lucky owner(s) took this thing up Monarch Pass and maybe even to the top of Pikes Peak (most likely to throw it off). Or maybe they just found a ski-rack cheap at the yearly SNIGRAB sale at Dick’s.

  • avatar

    Must’ve been a slow day with slim pickings if this car is worthy of publication.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Strange thing is there are millions of these things still kicking in the 3rd world. Still crap, but not necessarily unreliable.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You see them in South Korea as well – they must be reliable in some form, as Koreans don’t really tolerate unreliability.

    • 0 avatar

      I was never of fan of this car. Didn’t like the ride, interior dimensions and price. But yeah you still see them here in Brazil kicking around, though I’d say their numbers have seen a steep decline over the last half decade. It’s the engine, old as the hills, even a semi literate mechanic can fix with it some bondo and elbow grease.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    I’ve always wondered: if you bought the most poorly-made vehicle available in the American marketplace, then maintained it by the book and weren’t abusive when driving it, how long would it last?

    Looks like we have an answer.

    No, wait, maybe we don’t – I think the Renault Alliance was still available in 1988. If memory serves, it was worse than a LeMans.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      This is a great question. How far does impeccable maintenance go on a crap-box

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        The problem would be finding that odd-duck, cheapskate owner willing endure something like that. I wager someone diligent and conscientious enough to maintain to that level (including always being able to afford the work or do it themselves) would probably not want to drive a high mileage penalty box for a decade or more. Garaging probably makes a huge difference, too, and if you’re car buying on a shoestring your housing situation probably isn’t all that much better.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        I recently saw a 1984 Chevette being used as a daily driver.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      I think it really depends on sheer luck. An otherwise rock-solid car can be killed early in it’s life due to something like engine sludge (i.e. the infamous Toyota V6 problems). An utter crapmobile can go for a 200k+ as long as you keep repairing the niggling little things that keep going wrong with it.

      And a lot also depends on what you consider “maintenance”. Is “maintenance” only things listed in the manual, and parts that are explicitly wear parts, like tires and break pads? Or do other things like worn shocks, ratty floormats, and rubber parts (like hoses) cracked from age count?

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “Is “maintenance” only things listed in the manual, and parts that are explicitly wear parts, like tires and break pads? Or do other things like worn shocks, ratty floormats, and rubber parts (like hoses) cracked from age count?”

        All of the above… plus, after about 10-15 years, suspension ball joints, steering links, and gaskets (which you covered with rubber parts), after that around the 15-20 year mark, suspension bushings, eventually the wheel bearings… and so on.

        So yeah, pretty much.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I wouldn’t own a Yugo that long.

      I see one of these being driven daily around here. I know the driver- it was his first car, so he keeps it in nice shape for the sentimental reasons. It’s not a nice car by any means, but it does its job every day.

      One of my cars is a 1995 LeSabre. It’s had many owners- I believe that I’m #8. It clearly wasn’t someone’s pride and joy, but it still has 220k miles on it, and takes me 80 miles per day.

      If you take care of something, and give it a few parts when needed, a car can last almost forever (Barring rust, of course).

    • 0 avatar

      A lot of it is going to depend on how many parts it has that aren’t shared with anything else or are otherwise unavailable. You can keep replacing parts indefinitely if you are so inclined, as long as you can find the parts to replace it with.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Definitely. For a common car (LeSabre/Taurus), parts are easy to find.

        There are parts for this car, though. I looked up the transmission. On Car-Part, there are 31 in our region that are priced. There are over 50, total.

        Did they really sell that many of these?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      There is a guy in my town who drives a Yugo GV. It looks post-apocalyptic, but I see it on the road regularly. And given our annual safety inspection, that is no mean feat.

      I fail to see how the LeMans was any worst than pretty much any other car in its class from the mid ’80s. Very, very, very few of them lasted longer than 10 years here.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Is it only me or are there some remarkable similarities in the styling of this car to the Pontiac Aztec?

    Vaguely remember them in Canada. Weren’t they part of GM Canada’s import dealership network branded as Asuna? Would like to know more about them. Based on size, interior height, configuration (were they available as a 5 door) look like they might have ticked a lot of the right boxes for those looking for reasonably priced, practical transportation who still would only buy ‘GM’.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Compared to the ’68 through ’72 Tempest/LeMans, these things looked cheap and flimsy. They certainly didn’t deserve the name.

  • avatar
    tall1

    Ahh this era of LeMans brings back fond memories for me because it was one of the options of vehicles used for my high school drivers training course. Vehicle choices included the Pontiac LeMans or Pontiac Sunfire – both totally sucked but the LeMans was definitely the worst! I was often stuck in a LeMans with a 300lb mouth-breathing instructor who liked to play Barry Manilow on the measly stereo. Good times!

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I dunno, I always liked the exterior styling on those. Also, I believe they were branded as Opels.. Opel Kadett IIRC.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Dam, I haven’t seen one of these in AT LEAST ten years.

    Still nothing to notice now, lol

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Turdtastic!

    Anyone who wonders why once venerable Pontiac went away in 2009 can start their research with this H.O.S.

  • avatar
    Nick

    A friend of mine purchased one of these, based on largely on the incentives they were offering. Like a lot of people he looked around and said ‘Hey, I can ge a new car for the price of a good used one!’. He’d have been better off with buying almost anything used. It says a lot that the first thing to go wrong was a spark blew out of the cylinder head…I think the heads were made out of lard. It went downhill from there (it would actually make quite a comical story).

    It’s hard for me to feel sorry for GM when I remember episodes like this.

  • avatar
    CrapBox

    This is a Korean-built version of the Opel Kadett E. A friend drove one, and he said that other than the brakes, which required frequent service, it was quite reliable.

    It wasn’t a perfect design, but when it was introduced in the early eighties, it outshone its Italian and French competition and sold in huge numbers.

    Dismissing it offhand is similar to issuing a thoughtless anti-American jibe: “They’re all fat and stupid, and they make crappy cars.”

    • 0 avatar

      I could dispute with you whether it was better or worse than the competitions’ offering, but it was in no way the disposable car people here seem to think. The 150k mile odometer reading is a witness to that.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        The original owners towed it behind their RV, that’s half the miles right there

        • 0 avatar

          LOL! Fair enough, can not dispute your impression. No mention in the text, but if it was GM’s old 1.8 (like here in Brazil), the car would disintegrate around it while the engine soldiered on (with some, minimal, degree of effort)! As far as I can tell, that has always been GM’s saving grace in my country (Brazil).

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Per Wikipedia-

            “The original series Daewoo LeMans was available as a three-door hatchback and a four-door sedan when introduced in July 1986. Sales of the LeMans in North America began in 1988, where it was sold as the Pontiac LeMans. The LeMans was one of the first aerodynamically designed cars to be sold in South Korea, and the first to feature a digital dashboard. It was powered by the 1.5 L G15CF I4”

            .

            It was a Daewoo, it didn’t even have that GM 1.8L engine you speak of

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Does that Daewoo Lemans article say anything about it being based on the Kadett E?

            The 1.5L was developed by Opel as well. It’s a GM small block Family I engine. The 1.8L is a Family II big block.

          • 0 avatar

            Humm, looks like maybe Daewoo took it and ran with it? No matter, as often wikipedia gets it wrong. For example, had no idea anyone has ever stuck a trunk into this car.

            To me an authoritative source, I’ll direct you here. Google translate might, or not, make it readable, but it is an exhaustive view. Seems the little Kadett was quite a mark in Opel’s history (FWD among other things I can’t remember):

            http bestcars uol com br/cpassado3/opel-kadett-1.htm

            Me, respectfully thinks, Murilee is wrong (but I am by no means a GM expert, so there is that…).

            As a side note, have no idea whence that 1.5 came from. As far as I know, Chevy never used an engine of that size here.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            The Kadett E was a Vauxhall Astra Mark 2

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Vauxhall = Opel in the UK.

            Vauxhall is just Opel with a lion badge. Opel is actually Vauxhall’s parent company.

          • 0 avatar

            Lie2me,the system keeps eating my comments, but it’s bee a while so i’ll try again, copy and paste what was previously marked as spam…

            Humm, looks like maybe Daewoo took it and ran with it? No matter, as often wikipedia gets it wrong. For example, had no idea anyone has ever stuck a trunk into this car.

            To me an authoritative source, I’ll direct you here. Google translate might, or not, make it readable, but it is an exhaustive view. Seems the little Kadett was quite a mark in Opel’s history (FWD among other things I can’t remember):

            bestcars uol com br cpassado3 opel-kadett-1

            Me, respectfully thinks, Murilee is wrong (but I am by no means a GM expert, so there is that…).

            As a side note, have no idea whence that 1.5 came from. As far as I know, Chevy never used an engine of that size here.

          • 0 avatar

            hey Lie2me, they keeping voiding me, but suffice to say wiki is wrong (especially as to cars, very doubtful info there). Have no idea where that one point five came from. Maybe the Skoreans took it and ran with it. Here it used a 1 point 8 and a 2 point zero.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            GM’s evil plan has worked, you’re so confused now you don’t know WTF you’re driving.

            .

            You can call this steaming POS anything you want, but for anyone who knew what a Pontiac LeMans/GTO/Judge/Tempest was knows that this was a Pontiac Death Knell

          • 0 avatar

            Could well be it was the death knell for Pontiac, but it was that fresh new thing that kept Opel/Vauxhall alive in Europe and the ROW.

            FWIW, here in Brazil GM has always been a most curious amalgam, Opel cars with old (small) American Chevy engines. Our Chevies are like no others, :)!

          • 0 avatar

            Also FWIW, I know what a GTO and LeMans and all that was. Products, excellent to be sure, desirable until today, of a by-gone era. Maybe GM should have just invented another name for this 80s competent, and agreeable, and modern for the times, Opel. Pontiac Kadett would’ve been fine.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Per Marcelo,

            “I was never of fan of this car. Didn’t like the ride, interior dimensions and price. But yeah you still see them here in Brazil kicking around, though I’d say their numbers have seen a steep decline over the last half decade. It’s the engine, old as the hills, even a semi literate mechanic can fix with it some bondo and elbow grease…

            …but it was that fresh new thing that kept Opel/Vauxhall alive in Europe and the ROW.”

          • 0 avatar

            So? “desirable until today” was a hell of a stretch, but for GM, it was a breakthrough. FWD, more space than the outgoing RWD Chevette (that you guys got too), though paling in comparison to much of the competition, it was GM”s first real small car. I fond the interior design boring to the extreme, the space sorely lacking, but what the hell, the car espoused some of the values that are sought after until today. A neutral, well behaved ride that was neither here nor there, a finishing that was middle of the road, an engine (at least here) that was “indestructible”. Yeah, “I” never got it, but thousands of others did. In a way, it was the equivalent Toyota of the time, a car tailored to be appealling, or rather, non-offensive, to the largest swath of the population possible. In that, they did a good job. In CrabSpirits story, had I been offered a Kadett/LeMans would not have turned it down. I would have surely turned it over though, as it didn’t appeal to me, on a personal level.

            Besides, it did look very nice compared to the archaic Chevette.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey Lie2me, I answered, long answer, they ate it. Done fighting the system

            Long story short, hell no, I didn’t like it, thousands upon thousands of others did. To me GM/Opel was like Toyota today, minimum common denominator supreme.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    When I was a little kid, I thought these were sporty and cool, namely because of the hatchback shape, the stripes, and the black bit at the back connecting the brake lights. I’m a sucker for full-width or connected (sometimes nearly connected) brake lamps. Lemans, I30, Scorpio, Sterling 827, 68 Bonneville, 67 Thunderbird sedan. I like all of these things.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “When I was a little kid, I thought these were sporty and cool…”

      Corey, you said the same thing about the Geo Metro, how old were you when your parents let you out of the attic?

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      I was also a little kid when these came out, and I really liked the design at that time. Compared to the Cavalier/Sunbird that was being built, these at least looked modern. Of course the reason for that was it was a German-designed Opel, that was then built by a Korean company with not much experience yet building export-quality cars (Daewoo), and then rebranded with an American badge, which has, lo and behold, become GM’s defacto manner of developing the majority of its car line today.

      This was the first modern Chevy!

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I’m glad to see that Corey wasn’t alone in that attic ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Clearly I was a GM discount cars fan as a child. I still like the flat wheel arch at the rear, which was present on my first car, the 5000.

          Probably not coincidentally, my favorite movie as a child (my mom said I actually wore out the VHS) was ET.

          And what car was featured in that movie? The 5000.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            There was a car in ET? Did you have an anti-gravity bicycle as well?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I had a regular bike which I wanted to strap a milk crate to the front. Mom said no.

            And yes it was the mom’s car, as they were fairly wealthy upper middle class suburbanites. I can’t recall where the dad was in the story – divorce?

            http://automobilesdeluxe.tv/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/audi-5000-sudden-acceleration.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Yes, Corey she was a struggling divorced single mom who had trouble getting support from her ex who was living on the coattails of her once upper-middle class lifestyle, driving a not-so-glamorous 5000 because…

            .

            … she couldn’t afford her dream Pontiac LeMans

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hey it was 1982, that 5000 was a prestigious car! And it was an S so she can have an automatic, don’t need no AWD in California or wherever desert.

            Though I feel like when they showed in town scenes it was very green and not desert – and when in the beginning the kid is in the very lush forest, getting ET to follow him with candy pieces. That may be a production error.

            Unless they moved in the film and I don’t remember.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            ” in the beginning the kid is in the very lush forest, getting ET to follow him”

            That’s just Griffith Park in L.A.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            LOL I always remembered it having huge trees and redwoods and stuff. Guess I need to rewatch.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Ah, then you must have been a Beretta fan.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Correct! I also used to admire a 5-door Lumina/Corsica in metallic red that went by daily when I was waiting for the bus. It looked so different, and better than the broke ass Pontiac 6000 parked there, the only other thing I had to look at.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        When I was a teenager, I had a thing for the women who drove Berettas. In the late 90s and early 00s, Small city, SE Michigan high schools were filled with Berettas driven by Tinas, Tammys, Crissys, Kathryns, etc.

  • avatar
    Bee

    I wasn’t aware these were foreign made, much less Korean. With that quarter window treatment I used to think these were related to the Chevette. I saw a white one of these about a week ago, I think it might have even been a 5 door.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Nathan was in a sticky situation.

    “God, I can’t wait till this election is over. You can’t even watch TV anymore.”, said Steve, while pouring more chili from his thermos. “I hear ya.”, replied Nathan. The two men finished their lunch on the “front porch” of their BNSF 2012 Ford Super Duty rail maintainer, pausing conversation as the 12:15 freight clattered past into Denver. Nathan waited until the last car trailed off into a dull peaceful whine of steel to spring his question. He cued a Marlboro into his mouth and stoked it out. It hung from Nathan’s lips and oscillated with nonchalance as he muttered the words, “Hey, you want a free car?”. Steve choked on a spoonful of chili, and laughed. “Fu%k you. I’m not taking that thing.”

    The Super Duty disengaged from the rail, and it’s high positive offset wheels rolled out at the intermodal facility. Nathan went inside the office to file their work report with the supervisor. “Hey, know anybody that needs a car?”, Nathan asked. Sheila was slightly intrigued. Her youngest would need a car most likely next year. “What’s wrong with it?”, she asked. “Nothin.”, was the response. Sheila followed Nathan outside into the parking lot. “There she is. Runs good. Just want it to go to a good home.” Sheila thought, “Ohhh. THAT car.”, and then began to feign interest in it before getting halfway there. Nathan opened the door for her to inspect. Sheila could only imagine the little Pontiac getting smoked by a pickup, her daughter’s face becoming one with shattered bits of black plastic as it folded up on her body like a burrito. The vision concluded with her brushing her bloody hair from her face in pain while looking out of the buckled window opening with a “Why!?” expression. “Oh Nathan…I don’t know. It’s just too…old. Thanks though.”

    Nathan placed the key for the LeMans atop the pile of Hamiltons on the poker table, and flicked the butt of his cig. One of his friends knew what it was immediately. With perfect poise, he diverted from taking a sip of his beer, and instead picked up the GM key coupled to the red fob, flinging it into the corner of the room like so much trash. His action culminated in a half-shrug, as if saying “…and that’s that.”, then resumed beer. Another buddy quipped, “Yeah. Get that sh$t outta here.” Nathan protested laughingly, “What!? It’s a good car!”

    Nathan was surprised that the man from Craigslist was actually on time. “Where is it?”, the man asked. Nathan was a bit puzzled, saying “Uhhh. Right here.” The man moved to the rear of the Pontiac as if the subject of a prank. Then he saw the badge. “Awww, goddammit. I thought it was a ’68 LeMans.” Nathan’s plan for removing pictures from the ad had backfired.

    Nathan passed his Grand Cherokee in the apartment parking lot, and got into the LeMans for the last time. The engine fired right up. He pulled the shifter back with a plasticky creak. He took the cap off his Pepsi, and placed it on the console, spilling it carelessly. Then, he twisted the fan to high speed so it would actually work. His fingers prodded the radio station preset buttons, groaning under the pressure. “I can’t believe nobody wants a free, good-running car. Some recession this is.”, he thought, as the Pontiac made brilliant work of the potholed street.

    Nathan sat in the oil-stained parking lot at U-Pull-&-Pay. “Hey, you on your way?”, he asked over the phone, noticing with disappointment that the fuel needle still registered 3/4 of a tank. Now in a foul mood, he grabbed the title from the passenger seat, and went inside. There, he found the only person who wanted his car.

    A week later, Nathan received a text. “Hey. U still got that pos pontiac? My brother needs a beater.”

    “Are u shitting me?”

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “He pulled the shifter back with a plasticky creak”

      Ha, ha, nothing screams “Cheap!” like that plasticky creak.

      Another great story, Buddy

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I’ve never had a plastic-y creak, but I have had a shifter that was barely attached (the rivet was still going through both parts of the shift lever, but had broken off a bit at one end so only the tightness around it kept the rivet in).

        • 0 avatar
          Crabspirits

          Fortunately for you, JVC equips it’s car stereos with plasticky creak. You can now experience the charm of this car in a vehicle of your choice.

          • 0 avatar
            Eyeflyistheeye

            I’ve had every brand of aftermarket stereo in my cars, and for what it’s worth, my opinion is that JVC’s look like ass, feel like they’re going to break but sound better than anything else without an external amp. Doesn’t hurt that they still have dimmers when Pioneer and their corporate brother Kenwood took them out of everything below $300.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Ha. Reminds me of when I gave my youngest brother an older but still drivable Ford pickup when he got his license. “Uhm, thanks…”. It still sits behind my shop.

    • 0 avatar

      I just discovered this gem of a story and remind me of every obtuse bulls**t trade-in that was too mechanically good to just junk or roll through the auction for $700 minus ‘seller success fee’ but nobody wanted – like an ’87 Dodge 600 turbo w/rebuilt title, a ’93 Lumina APV van, an ’03 Expedition EB w/286k miles, a whorehouse red ’85 Ford LTD, and I can feel it again soon with a forthcoming trade-in – a 2002 Daewoo Nubira with power front windows and crank rear windows – and a stick.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I still see one of these on most days. Ironically a 330 pound guy at my place of work daily drives it.

  • avatar
    DAC1991

    Ah, the Pontiac Lemans. It was one of the most successful cars in The Netherlands ever, where it was sold as an Opel Kadett. It really is the car of my childhood. The E was literally everywhere. I guess that most people today in Holland still know at least one person who at least has owned one Kadett.

    I guess the Kadett was more reliable than the Pontiac, since it was very successful in Europe. In The Netherlands, it was the best selling car for almost three decades, especially the E, of which they sold more than 330000. Sad though that today, the Kadett here is almost as rare as the Lemans is in the US. Rust prevention was not very good…

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Most of these were sold with the base powertrain, which is too bad, as I owned the top-of-the-line model (I think it was called GSi), which had the optional 2.0L engine and the upgraded interior with sport seats. I had bought it from a bank auction, it was about two years old. I kept it about two more, and found it to be fun to drive, had great power for its class, and the speaker system pumped out great sound. But, I would guesstimate that mine was one of about maybe 20 that got sold in the entire US and its territories, judging by how many GSi’s I’ve seen in my lifetime. If they had imported all of these with that optional powertrain and interior (and had given it a different name), perhaps the story would have been different.

    Or maybe not.

    CrabSpirits, great story as usual.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    In the Department of “You’ve Got to be Fu**in’ Kidding Me” a winner of the California Lottery in 1989 boasted that he bought his first new car for cash with his millions of dollars in winnings and it was a new Pontiac LeMans. I thought the 1978-1979 single headlamp-style LeMans was bad enough (our leasing/rental company had a fleet of 100 of these) but the Daewoo makes the 1979 look like a sensible four-door Grand Prix after all!
    And the coolest Grand Prix from the 70s was the 1977 SJ.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “And the coolest Grand Prix from the 70s was the 1977 SJ.”

      Yeppers, had a ’76 SJ White over whorehouse red velour interior, a fine Pontiac with the 400cui V8 that produced a whopping 180hp, still a fine car in it’s day

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Had a blue SJ with a white interior and the 400 ci V8.

        Had much more money than brains back then (now sadly have neither).
        Traded in my Corvette for it, when I realized that driving a Corvette during the winter in Southern Ontario was not a great idea.

        The Grand Prix was actually one of the nicer cars I got new during that era, although I actually preferred my fully loaded Cordoba (the car I had before the ‘vette).

        Unfortunately traded the Gran Prix the next year for a POS Thunderbird. Probably dollar for dollar the worst of all my new car acquisitions. It made numerous attempts to kill me through random mechanical failures.

        • 0 avatar
          Roberto Esponja

          I owned a blood red with black interior and black-vinyl-topped 1975 Grand Prix SJ that I bought used in Wisconsin around 1986. Oddly, it had a “Sheehan – Florida Gold Coast” dealer badge on its trunklid, so I guess the original owner must have moved to the midwest at some time during the vehicle’s “life”. Mine didn’t look too bad on the outside, but after about three months the floor pans started rotting out something evil and I had to tear out the carpetting and pop-rivet some old traffic signs to the bottom.

          It’s a car that’s stayed on my mind and that would be neat to own nowadays in good condition, as that bright red with black combination looked good, even in its “wore out” state, and that particular car was highly equipped for its time (power everything, tilt and cruise, A/C, buckets with center console and shifter). It also had the factory “rally” wheels with trim rings. Their silver finish had gotten rusty, so I repainted the wheels gloss black, which actually made the car look better, as they matched the black vinyl top.

      • 0 avatar

        Mom’s car. First car I ever topped out, on I 80 in NJ. 400 CI engine, got up to indicated 120, got scared, and backed off. Good thing too, as around the next corner was a NJ Trooper, who gave me my firstest speeding ticket, 78/55. I was grateful to get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      If you could get past its sputtering 301 2-bbl that had to schlep 4,000 pounds around with 135 horsepower then yes, it was. I would agree it was a very attractive car though. Way better than this pile of steaming c.rap. I’d like to get a crowbar and teach this thing a little lesson.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        The SJ had a 400 cubic inch v8.
        Funnily enough so did the Cordoba, not the standard 360 or downmarket 318.
        The T-Bird had the same displacement, not the standard 351.

        So all should have been comparable. The Pontiac was better at smoking its tires. The Cordoba sounded better. The Corinthian leather in the Cordoba was better than the vinyl in the Pontiac. I was just happy if the T-Bird got me there and back again.

        As for the Corvette, it really wasn’t much of a car. But, back then we thought that it was fast. And for some reason, I seemed much more attractive driving it.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          Wow you had all the personal luxury barges! It’s amazing what was considered fast back then. A 1977-80 Z28 would hit 0-60 in about 8.5 seconds and the quarter in 16.5 seconds. That was near the top of the heap and considered a real barn burner then. Today, a Chevy Volt can match that, LOL!

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        These cars were not about horsepower, but torque. Smog controls had choked them horsepower-wise, but their acceleration from a standstill was very satisfying in most cases. As for the horsepower, where you need it most is for fast highway speeds, and it wasn’t like most folks drove these cars at 90 MPH anyway.

        Personally, I’d take a high torque/low horsepower vehicle any day over a low torque/high horsepower one.

  • avatar
    Wscott97

    I remember in high school a few of my classmates got this car when they turned 16. I think it was because this car was the $1999 special at every car dealership in town. By senior year they were all driving a different car.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Yep, these were a fairly common sight in high school and college parking lots until the late 90s when they mostly evaporated. Much like the Ford Expire did about a half decade later.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I grew up in a Big 3, mostly GM and Ford, town. I started driving in 1999, and I knew no one that had one of these crapboxes. By then it was Grand-Ams, Cavaliers, Escorts, Taurii, Cloud cars, oh my.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Wow… that brings back some memories… An old boss bought these as company vehicles. They road hard and were cheap cars for random employees to drive. They didn’t last long before being traded in for Honda Civic Wagons, which were a serious step up.

  • avatar
    rjones

    I remember seeing an ad for these in the Toronto Star. A Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealer was selling these for “$1 above cost”. Still overpriced.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The 1.8 in these was quite similar to the 2.0 Brazilian and the Turbo that was in the J-Car Sunbird. It would be neat to see the turbo transplanted in one of these for a 24 hours of guess what, LeMans.

  • avatar
    Vega

    In 1980s Germany the Kadett E was a serious competitor for the Golf GTI 16V. The Golf was the better car, however the Kadett GSI 16V had the class-leading C20XE engine. 2.0l, Cosworth-engineered heads, 150hp, top speed 136mph!

    http://www.youngtimer-blog.de/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Opel-Kadett-E-GSI-.jpg

    Plus, a freaking digital dash!

    http://www.youngtimer-blog.de/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/kadett_gsi_1984.jpg

    Problem was, the south korean version imported into the US was late (Kadett E was sold from 84, the Le Mans started in 88) and was not put together as well as European Kadetts…

  • avatar
    thesparrow

    My mom had one of these when I was a kid – same exact color and everything. Purchased because she wanted something that was new, cheap and an “American brand”. It reeked of being cheaply made with horrendous interior materials quality and was painfully slow. But I have to say that in the 3 or so years we owned it I don’t recall it breaking down or requiring any major service. She eventually had to sell it because she couldn’t deal with the extremely heavy NON-power steering.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I think you need to take this car as other cars like this in the context of the time that they were inexpensive options to a used car that many could afford. These types of cars were designed as disposable. I do agree that it this car should not have been named Lemans, a name that had a history of Pontiac performance (“wide track”). There were cars that were much worse than this car such as the Yugo.

    As for taking care of a vehicle and keeping it running a long time that is just smart unless you have lots of money and can afford to buy a new car every couple of years. There are limits to how long you can keep a car made today with manufacturers shortening the time of how long they will provide many parts for a certain model. It becomes harder to keep a vehicle as it gets older as donor cars disappear and parts become much harder to get, but with the internet you can still find rare parts it becomes a matter of how much are you willing to pay. A collector car you might be willing to pay more for a part than a used up econo box that has at best scrap value.

  • avatar
    jfinftw1982

    My grandmother bought one of these new in 1991. She put 16,000 miles and sold it in 2009. I don’t think that car had a chance to get crappy.


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