By on February 2, 2016

01 - 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

While it was possible to buy a new W-body late-1980s/early-1990s Lumina, Cutlass Supreme, or Grand Prix with a five-speed manual transmission, almost nobody did so. These cars have become pretty rare by now, so the chances of finding a five-speed Grand Prix in the junkyard are about the same as finding a five-speed BMW 7-Series; it’s possible, but not likely.

Here’s an ’89 coupe I found in a Denver yard last week.
07 - 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

In 1989, the manual transmission was available only in a Grand Prix equipped with the 2.8-liter V-6 engine. If you got the 3.1, your transmission had to be an automatic.

24 - 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

This one has those pop-out cassette-tape holders that were so popular in the 1980s.

36 - 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The combination lock on the Grand Prix’s glovebox probably encouraged many a thief to tear the entire dash off the car with a pry bar.

32 - 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The Colorado sun has been rough on this car’s upholstery.

From air dam to tailpipe, the ’89 Grand Prix is guaranteed to excite! Note the woman using her futuristic car phone in this ad.

Poised and precise. Swift and confident.

The Grand Prix sport sedan is “the most eagerly awaited driver’s sedan in Pontiac history.”

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63 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix Coupe, with Rare Manual Transmission Option...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    I don’t see any excitement here .

    Is this 5 speed box useful to other uses ? maybe up date some old GM plodder ? .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a small but dedicated band of Grand Am fans who’d be all over this. Changing the weak 4T45 auto in a late model Grand Am GT to a 5- or 6-speed is pretty popular.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Grand Am fans? Wow.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The sort of people who drink Mich Ultra in their garage while admiring their NASCAR memorabilia and varsity high school jerseys, obviously.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          As a former GA owner, that was my reaction too. But….a 5-speed would go a long way to juicing up the car. Enough to make it worth it? Maybe, if you have a lot of time on your hands.

          • 0 avatar

            I put 150k miles on a Grand Am GT, and found it fairly comfortable, quick enough to get into trouble and handled well enough on what passes as a twisty road out here on the plains, and it had major reliability issues. The list of stuff I replaced would make your eyes water, especially the parts that were replaced more than once.

            I had a 4×4 GMC truck at the same time, and that was an unreliable piece of junk too, and after these two I vowed no more GM vehicles. I replaced the GMC with an early Nissan Frontier and the Grand Am with a first gen Focus, and have only had to do routine maintenance on either vehicle. Maybe new-GM is better, but I’m not sure I want to take that chance, especially from the used car marketplace after the factory warranty has expired.

  • avatar
    JGMotorsport64

    That steering wheel o’buttons screams Pontiac interior nonsense.

    I miss Pontiacs antics.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    I wonder if car shredders have a bleach tray for especially grungy loads.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Naah, the cubes are shipped to China, shredded, and the biohazards are scraped off the top of the melt pot along with the plastic.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        “the biohazards are scraped off the top of the melt pot along with the plastic.”

        Ah.. future pharmaceuticals.

        • 0 avatar
          PentastarPride

          I’ve always wondered about this too, then I was thinking the friction inside of the shredder probably generates enough heat to kill any microorganisms. There’s a whole lot of smoke and steam every time I see a shredding plant.

          The plastic is separated long before the scrap hits the furnace, at least that’s how it’s supposed to be done. Otherwise, we might as well drop entire cars, refrigerators, etc. right in, skipping the fragmentation and materials separation stage. Maybe that explains the shoddy, quick-to-rust steel coming from China.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick

        …and sprinkled around surrounding fields.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Pity, better optioned this would have been a pretty cool car to own. Just for the rarity, it’s sad to see it at a salvage yard.

  • avatar
    gespo04

    I owned a ’95 Grand Prix sedan with the 3.1 and the automatic. The damn thing was probably the most dangerous car I’ve ever driven. Sure, it had a heaping helping of that big, lazy american muscle under the hood, but with shoddy brakes, hypothetical steering, and an interior that fell apart with just the thought of turning on the cassette player, it wasn’t really that good of a car.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Long time ago a co-worker had one of these. I was a Japan-only driver at the time so I was surprised how shoddy his early 90s Grand Prix was. The plastic interior rattled and squeaked like a car with over 250k miles, but the thing was only 1-2 years old.

    Maybe it’s just me, but the Grand Prix owners – at least around here – seem to be the most aggressive drivers around. But as the Pontiacs rust away the V6 Charger seems to be replacing them.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Funny that the manual was only available with the smaller engine. I drove a manual Lumina Z34 of the same vintage. I would think the Grand Prix GTP stablemate would have also had the option. Or maybe it did, I’m sure the B&B will know.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The 3.4L DOHC versions were offered with a manual. The 3.1 was available with a manual after 1989. The turbo and Quad4 were automatic only.

      IIRC, no manuals were offered after ’94.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Although you could get a manual transmission Quad 4 in the Cutlass Supreme W-body in those early years. Given that the Quad 4 was originally an Oldsmobile Engine, that made some sense. Interestingly the manual trans Quad 4s made more power than if you ordered an automatic.

        • 0 avatar
          Willyam

          Ah yes. I remember when my quite spoiled girlfriend in our Senior year was gifted a new Grand Am in 2-door/Quad4/Grey over grey. I had sat in one at the Pontiac dealer listening to “Touch of Grey” on a nice factory stereo for the first time, and thinking how nice it actually was. (This was a SMALL town, the dealer still in the small brick main-drag building from the forties.)
          She was angry that she couldn’t talk her Dad into a Prelude. Looking at how this vintage of GM has aged…I have to agree she had a point.

          • 0 avatar
            sfvarholy

            The Prelude would have been gone 10 years ago after succumbing to tin worm.

            It’s been at least that long since I’ve seen a anything other than a final generation prelude in the wild.

  • avatar

    I like the looks of these cars. Pontiacs had clean styling up until the mid-90’s when they heaped plastic body cladding on all their models.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I bought an ’88 new. I purchased that cassette deck shown and installed it myself (estaba hecho en Mexico, esta bien hecho)as it was an option not on the car at the dealership. The only manual cars available were higher-end models, above of a poor sailor-with-a-family’s price range. Not a bad car, returned really great mpg’s (around 30 on the highway), pretty good performance for a guy who’d owned air-cooled VW’s for the previous 15 years. I cannot forget the headlight boxes – they were a glass box painted around the back, top and sides with black paint that flaked off freely and created an underhood light show with light going everywhere through the exposed transparent areas. I traded it off for a new Cheyenne 1500 extended cab after a year – transmission lock-up torque convertor stopped unlocking and kept stalling the engine at each traffic light.

    • 0 avatar
      JREwing

      Definitely a common condition on GM vehicles of the era. My 2.8L V6/3-speed Corsica suffered from failed solenoids in the lockup torque converter a few times. Made launching from a stop interesting; nobody’s expecting a pedestrian-looking Corsica to roast tires from a stop sign.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Q: Which is harder to find, 89 GP with 5-speed, or 89 GP with car phone still intact?

    I feel like the Pontiac buyer of 89 wasn’t quite classy or well-heeled enough to spring for the car phone.

    Q2: Was a car phone available on any Buick models at the time? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.

  • avatar

    I love General Motors for the wackiness of the 80s and 90s.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I liked Pontiacs of this era, they reminded me of the Space Shuttle with their styling.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Family friends had the 2.8+5spd combination in their ’87 Corsica. I recall being really impressed with how hard that car pulled from a stop light on a wave of torque relative to our smallbore Honda.

  • avatar

    I used to LOVE these commercials. In 1988 or so, MTV did some big thing called the Museum of UnNatural History, where advertisers set up product kiosks in shopping malls. The Pontiac kiosk showed a version of the video below on a huge theater-type thing that was 4 screens high and 4 screens wide. Parts of the video utilized the whole thing full-screen, while other parts showed different scenes on different screens at the same time. I stood there and watched it on endless loop, mesmerized.

    https://youtu.be/ZgQMIaF-PRo

    Don’t judge me.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    I had one of those. A 1989 with SE trim, the 3.1 V6 with auto. I’d been driving econo cars up to that point and decided I wanted a cruiser. I rented a Grand Prix, liked it and bought one. The other car I considered was the Nissan Maxima, which was priced several hundred more. (I had a brace of motorcycles to satisfy the other urges.)

    The photo here of that wrecker’s interior, that’s a pretty good summation of what happened to my Pontiac’s interior. Luckily I married a gal who got in there with her sewing kit and made it right. The funniest part of the interior was the brace of levers on each side of the steering wheel, which, combined with the orange gauge lights, made a real Flash Gordon set-up. Everyone commented on it.

    I actually liked that Grand Prix. It was not heavy — 3,300 pounds, if I recall. After I replaced the Goodyears with better tires, it went haring through California’s coastal mountains with decent dispatch and resolution. For all the limitations of FWD, it was fun. Then I drove it across country and it got better than 30 mpg. The only issue was a bit of blistered paint, which GM had redone gratis. Replaced the alternator. The thermostat, too. The brakes needed attention. That was it for for 100k.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    So the car was for cheap 80s hookers looking for gravelly excrement?

    “Pontiac: We Build Excrement”

    That diddy would have driven me bonkers had I been cognitively aware at the time.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    In GT, or whatever the top level trim was, this was a good looking car.

    Not that this means anything, but it was the 1988 Motor Trend car of the year.

    As an 12 year old, I really wanted my folks to buy one instead of a Honda. How so wrong I was…

  • avatar
    n_tesla

    I had a Citation X-11 with a manual from this era. The shift feel was like stirring a bucket of nuts and bolts with a golf club.

    • 0 avatar
      sfvarholy

      Backed my X-11 up in front of the transport truck driver. Engaging reverse was coupled by a loud “CRUNCH!” He looked at me. I smiled and told him “they all do that!” That loud crunch brought back memories of my first car.

  • avatar

    I’d still have one of those GTP McLarens.

  • avatar
    Nick

    Seeing how appallingly dated those commercials looks, and realizing I was already in college when they were aired, makes me want to cry.

  • avatar
    wispons

    Pontiac’s haven’t really interested me my dad owned a Grand Prix similar to this and he just sold it after he had many issue’s that I can’t remember personally I like the 60’s 70’s and 50’s so yeah that’s just how I feel.

  • avatar

    This was motor trends car of the year for 88. They thought this was the best of the W bodies.

  • avatar
    Allan850glt

    Besides the manual trans, the other rarity of this GP is what a “stripper” it is. I noted the lack of power windows, locks, etc. I had a “thing” for these cars back in the early/mid ’90s and in having viewed and driven several, I had never run across a coupe lacking the PW or PDL. After obtaining a nice white ’96, my “thing” for these cars expired rapidly. As rapidly as the the POS degenerated from a shiny new car into a worn out pile of crap with under a hundred thousand on the clock and its second transmission, entire suspension and steering ready to let go at any time. I guess I really can’t complain for eight years of service but for a car that was exceptionally well maintained it just couldn’t hold itself together. Those interior plastics (blue in my case) degraded quickly, looking oxidized and brittle. Squeaky dash syndrome was omni-present. Clear coat delamination was a big issue with these things as well. The stupid VATS pass key also added fun when turning starting the car into a ten to fifteen minute procedure. Damn chip would wear out or just be “dirty “. I was not at all sad to see my GP go to a new home when the time came.

  • avatar
    Joe Alsko

    Ok folks, I actually bought a brand new 1989 Grand Prix base model with the 2.8L V6 and manual transmission.
    I was a young sergeant in the United States Air Force in Oklahoma and I wanted a sporty car but this was all I could afford.
    I was naive and the Pontiac salesmen took advantage of me. I picked out a good color (silver/gray) and they proceeded to rake me over the coals with the price and loan.
    After several hours of “negotiating” I finally closed the deal on my first brand new car and they handed me the keys. I walked out to my new car only to discover that it was light blue. Light blue??? I told them that the car I bought was silver/gray!!! They looked at me and said that this was the very car that I test drove (they were actually truthful at this point).
    Then it dawned on me that I was wearing my brand new “blue blocker” sunglasses when I first saw the car, which made the it look silver (instead of “blue”).
    Aaaaaarhg! Well, it was too late to back out I thought, so I drove the car away and was still amazed at my first new car even though I paid to much for it.
    Several years later, I received orders for Keflavik Naval Air Station (yes, the Air Force had a radar site there), so I made arrangements to ship the car there for my two year tour. After the car arrived, an Icelandic government agency offered to buy the car from me for cash, so I gave in and sold it to them.
    I’m sure it’s in a landfill by now.
    I miss that car.

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