By on May 11, 2016

1989 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado Wrecking Yard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The N Platform-based 1985-1991 Pontiac Grand Am was sibling to such rapidly depreciating semi-sporty-looking coupes as the Buick Somerset and Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais, and there was a time when they were common sights on American roads.

Now most of them are gone, but this Iron Duke-powered, 5-speed-equipped rusty survivor showed up recently at a Denver self-service yard.

1989 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado Wrecking Yard, shifter - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

We saw this 1989 Grand Prix Junkyard Find, notable for its rare manual transmission option, not long ago. Now the very same yard has this rare 5-speed-equipped Grand Am.

1989 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado Wrecking Yard, rust - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

There’s plenty of rust, and plenty of optimistic body-filler-and-paint attempts to cover up that rust.

1989 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado Wrecking Yard, hood patina - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The car’s final owner appears to have attempted to sand, Bondo, and rattle-can-paint the hood. This didn’t work so well.

1989 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado Wrecking Yard, Iron homemade cup holder - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

A visit to Pep Boys added this handy cupholder to the dash (right in front of the passenger seat).

1989 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado Wrecking Yard, Iron Duke engine - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Iron Duke engine was standard in the ’89 Grand Am. By this time, the 2.5-liter Duke (aka Tech 4) was equipped with a balance shaft that smoothed out some of the engine’s notorious harshness, and output was 110 horsepower.

1989 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado Wrecking Yard, RH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

More than a quarter-million of these cars were sold for the 1989 model year, making it a respectable sales success for GM.

1989 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado Wrecking Yard, odometer - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

This one reached 178,641 miles before, presumably, the sound of the wind howling through the rust holes became intolerable.


Just the car for those hot nights in cities full of steaming manholes and big-haired, pastel-wearing ladies.


If you can stand it this hot …


Yeah, ya big ham. You own one hot car!

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

106 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Pontiac Grand Am...”


  • avatar
    truenorth

    TTAC, what is happening to you? You want to take me for a walk in a junkyard, to show me rust spots on a 1989 Grand Am? Are you feeling OK? How is work going? Do you want to talk about it?

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      These cars were an integral part of our roads at one time. Murilee documents that nothing lasts forever. I remember when this thing was brand new and because I was young and naive it seemed pretty high-tech and cool, especially in SE form.

      Of course, now it’s just a pile of rusty used up junk that was, in reality, not a very good car and, along with cars like the recent Celebrity Eurosport wagon, certainly contributed to the demise of GM. Cars like this one really make you realize how mortal we are and how times change.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        It is sobering. As clear as any memory I have (which admittedly is not much), I remember being in the brick downtown Olds-Pontiac-Buick dealership building (they were getting rare even then) while my dad picked up his Century for it’s weekly reassembly.

        A girlfriend of mine was told she would get one of these (in these exact colors) for graduation. They had it on the showroom floor, and I sat in it and listened to Touch of Grey on the radio, which sounded SO much better than the Delco in my old Grand Prix. I remember it having a Quad 4, as her father gave me a tour of an engine with no visible plugs, which to us was novel.

        And now they’re sticky, faded, rusty relics, if they aren’t yet dishwasher parts. Time waits for no hooptie.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          I’m sure you proudly rode around in it after she got it, basking in the new car smell and maybe even racing an IROC with the (then) mighty Quad 4. Now it’s probably sitting on the shelf of a Target as part of some made in China clocks.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    If I recall correctly, I think these had some sort of plastic gear drive in lieu of a timing chain/belt which is why they were so noisy. You don’t see many of these anymore, but they could take a beating.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      The plastic gears were the quiet ones. It’s the metal ones that were loud.

      We briefly had a black ’87 Calais with the metal ones that rattled away until it got rear-ended to death. My grey ’87 Grand Am had a GM Targetmaster replacement engine in it with the quieter plastic gears. No idea of the engine mileage as it was in there when I got it at 180k km, but the car made it to 311k km before dying spectacularly when I was hit head-on on the highway.

      I liked that car and have more good memories tied to that than any other vehicle in my life. Most of the 130k km I put on it were in the form of highway road trips. It was reliable, the engine was torquey, the 3-speed auto was responsive, it had very little body roll, and the stereo I installed sounded great with all those soft cardboardy and carpety interior parts. It also steered and rode like a new car, since I replaced the struts and front end components shortly after acquiring it. The little 195/60R14 Cooper Cobras I installed looked goofy but improved acceleration and handling over the sort of 195/70R14 tires you’d typically find on a vehicle like that. Plus, it actually was really fast, due to all the speed holes where cladding was once attached.

      It got a lot of compliments from passengers. I think they were surprised by the nicely-kept, clean, quiet, and comfortable interior; its composure during cornering and at fast highway speeds; and the fantastic stereo. It looked so much junkier from the outside.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    In 1991, I got an ’89 Grand Am with the Quad 4. It had style, but wow, what a sloppy assembly job, with gaps and seams (mostly noticed around the headlamps/grille/the filler panel between lamps and bumper) and structural creaks and groans. Engineering? Whoa…floppy suspension (13″ wheels), trembling engine, odd steering. But damn, she was pretty. After a total-loss fender bender, it was replaced with a visually identical (but Iron Duke equipped) 1990 Grand Am. Of course, the ’90 suffered the same sloppy assembly, cheap interior. Surprisingly, this raspy and grumbling little beast was more enjoyable than the faster-feeling ’89. Drove it 50000 miles, in my last two years of college. Lots of memories, and I actually miss it.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I had an 87, aside from eating fuel delivery/emissions equipment, the suspension was so mushy it would just bounce and float everywhere. Coupled with the SUPER BASS stereo, I would put on an Ice Cube tape, crank the bass and pump the brakes at stop lights to get the front end humpin’ and the party started. Yes, I was a [email protected], might still be one.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I went to the dealership with a friend when she bought a similar Grand Am, same four banger, same manual transmission. She drove it for many years to good effect. My mother had one as well, drove it to 160,000 miles, until the oil pressure light came on and some dope in a gas station told her it would be OK to drive it to the repair shop like that.

    Those commercials, oy, I’d forgotten how dopey they were.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “…some dope in a gas station told her it would be OK to drive it to the repair shop like that.”

      Ha ha ha! Aren’t they all? Regular Rhodes scholars…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Ahh… the Poncho Grand Am – the yuppie’s first BMW!

    These things were like flies – EVERYWHERE in suburban St. Louis back then before we moved to Ohio. It seemed every college grad with an MBA had one.

  • avatar
    pbr

    I worked with a guy who married into one of these. He took it over when it developed a knock in the bottom end. Drove it that way for a couple of years before they could afford an unforced upgrage, it was still running and knocking when they traded it in.

    These things were everywhere back then. I thought they were wretched, but looking back they’re not even close to GM’s worst effort. Hard to think of a current model that’s as depressing …

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      I’d argue that most modern CUVs are a lot more depressing. This thing had its faults but at least it looked good, was fun to drive in its own way, and had character. The tall cushy riding kidney beans that everybody drives today can’t say any of that.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        There’s nothing wrong with CUVs, and the average CUV will run laps around this thing in pretty much any performance metric as well as overall driving dynamics. This car was a complete turd.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          CUV will run circles around it in objective data measures. But it is an ugly big jellybean with no soul and all the excitement of a golf cart.

          • 0 avatar
            PolestarBlueCobalt

            I wish I could like your commetns. I’d drive any 1989 Grand AM over damn near any CUV that exists today. I despise crossovers. They’re like flip-flops with socks. Crocs. Awful.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            What’s wrong with CUVs? They have (relatively) good visibility, good cargo space, good step-in height, and are only getting better MPG and a better ride with every new model. The average consumer doesn’t care about driving dynamics.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            I disagree – there are a number of distinctively styled CUVs out there. On the small end you have the CrossTrek, Q3 and Sportage.

            I think that what bothers me more is that the Grand Am (and Grand Prix and Firebird…) were everywhere in the mid-late 80s…they owned the young professional non-Euro market in the Houston area. And now Pontiac is gone, all due to lack of guidance and vision by GM. Sure, the bankruptcy may have been the most expedient way out of the morass, but Pontiac could have survived as a boutique label in a GMC-Buick dealer, with maybe 2-3 distinct vehicles. Pity.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “there are a number of distinctively styled CUVs out there. On the small end you have the CrossTrek, Q3 and Sportage”

            Don’t forget the poor Aztek. It was distinctively styled.

        • 0 avatar
          Whatnext

          There’s nothing wrong with CUV’s…if you don’t mind showing to the world that you’ve compromised, care little about performance or styling. Pretty much the automotive equivalent of wearing sweatpants to work.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            CUVs are some of the FASTEST cars on the road. Seriously. As far as police are concerned you don’t exist. Speed Limits need not apply. Total anonymity.

            Try that in a red Corvette…It’s a one way trip to ticket city.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            >implying the world cares what you drive

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            “The world” doesn’t even see a CUV. It’s just a car. In fact at this point it’s the default car.

            The automotive equivalent of wearing sweatpants to work is anything with unfixed body damage.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            And the Corsica-Grand Am-Skylark-Olds-whatever name-they-had-at-the moment didn’t paint you as compromised? It just said you didn’t have the money for a Japanese or Euro brand. By then there was no doubt that Toyota and Honda especially made a far superior product that sold for MSRP+ and retained their value.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The build quality on the N-body is terrible, but there is some good stuff going on here.

      Big greenhouse, under 18-inch wheels, a roofline providing actual rear headroom, somewhat functional bumpers, a reasonable sized center console, a trunk opening bigger than what you get with a current 7-series, and a front end that isn’t inspired by a gaping whale shark mouth.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      They never changed, good ole’ depressing Pontiac. I married into a ’95 Grand Am sedan. It ran well, in spite of itself, but when you turned the A/C on the dash would shrink and all the gauges would vibrate up and down. No kidding. Plus, the kidney shape made the rear doors into Arabian Scimitars when open. You leaned in to get groceries…BAM right in the temple.

      The last experience I had was a gorgeous red G6 sedan with a black interior. I knew better but it was SO cool. While it looked marvelous, it dropped parts like breadcrumbs.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    This car probably made a couple of cousins very happy while it still graced the dirt driveway of their double-wide, parked between the trampoline and the dog on a chain.

  • avatar
    319583076

    It seemed like half of the girls in my high school drove Grand Ams. I think nostalgia for those days is the most positive contribution these cars made to our collective experience. Empirically, these were typical GM products – poorly designed, poorly executed, après garde transportation.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    “steaming manholes”

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’ll have to add this about Pontiac in its final decades: The King of cladding.

    Unfortunately, for the most part, that is the only distinguishing feature that set it apart from its GM cousins.

    • 0 avatar
      operagost

      I swear the cladding caused these distinctive rust spots in the doors somehow. I had a Skylark on the same platform and it didn’t rust like that. The only thing I didn’t like about that car was its undersized front discs (in stop-and-go driving, I had to replace the pads every 17,000 miles). At least, until I got water in some bad place in the engine trying to wash it off, and it proceeded to eat its own ignition coils repeatedly until I traded it in. It had that one-off Quad 4 DOHC the year before they went to the Twin Cam.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I thought that myself looking at this; the salt and grime gets trapped between the cladding and sheet metal, and rust city!

        Kind of like the infamous rear-fender cancer on Hondas because of how the rear bumper intersects the fender.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    In my first year in college in the late ’90’s I had an iron duke powered, manual trans ’88 2-door Grand AM that I bought off my cousin cheap when it wouldn’t start and he was sick of fixing it (turned out to be cheap/easy fix: a starter solenoid). It was burgundy with gray cladding, era appropriately modded with GTS headlight blackout covers, glasspack and Bosal 4″ tip, polished 16″ GT wheels off a ’90’s era Grand Am GT, and some 12″ subs in the trunk.

    It did it’s job, but then I drove a ’91 mk2 GTI, and fell in love with the little hatchback. Saw the Grand Am years later and it looked much like this one… huge rust holes through the doors under the cladding.

    These were everywhere around Lansing MI where I lived as a child in the ’80’s, as they were assembled in Lansing, at the same cite that now churns out ATS’/CTS’ and new Camaros (though the buildings have changed). GM employees, GM discounts, and GM loyalty still ran strong.

  • avatar
    SavageATL

    What was so wrong with these cars that they elicit the “poorly designed” comments? They were space efficient, ran from sporty to luxurious depending on trim and options, GM kept the powertrains updated, handsome, reasonably priced, and a step up from the J Car without being as stodgy as the A car. Consumer Reports stated they were competitive and tested well and only didn’t recommend them because of reliability scores, which were on par with the domestics of the time. Someone clearly got their money’s worth out of this one. They survived long enough to be the first car of many, many teenagers and were relatively reliable and sporty. Compared with Ford’s urky Tempo and Chrysler’s stodgy K cars, for a domestic product this was a really nice car. Even compared with Accords and Corollas, this was a pretty nice car. We had a ’91 Calais which was very nicely trimmed inside even though it was a base model and felt fairly luxurious and well made. Due to the formal roofline, it was spacious inside for four adults given its exterior size.

    Our jaundiced view of these tends to be the result of the ultimate owners, the trailer park folks. But anything that survives long enough to take a trailer park beating has to be a good car.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Funny you mention the Tempo. My mom went from a Tempo to a 93 V6 GrandAm 4-door, she loved that thing. It was no hooner, but perfect for her. Small enough to handle and park easily, big enough to carry friends and family, and with the V6, not a bad highway cruiser.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Look at all the qualifiers in your own writeup.

      “only didn’t recommend because of reliability”
      “on par for the domestics of the time”
      “for a domestic product was a really nice car”

      These cars are relics from the era when the domestics they were clearly banking on misguided patriotism and habit to keep customers from defecting to superior competition.

      They are emblematic of the D3’s habit of underestimating both their customers and their competition, and thinking that “eh, good enough” would keep the lights on indefinitely.

      The fuel crisis, emissions regulations, and Japanese competition knocked the domestics back on their heels; this *should* have served as a wake-up call to them. The late 80’s were their chance to respond with cars that were as good as or better than the competition, win back credibility and customer goodwill, and continue to dominate their home market.

      Instead, they opted for “good enough”.

      I had a 1987 Calais Supreme with the Buick 3.0 V6. It was an adequate car, in an era where ‘adequate” was no longer competitive.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      As usual with GM, the concept ranged from okay to inspired, but the execution was absolutely terrible. These were designed so that poor fit/finish and durability were inevitable. Then substandard materials were used and assembly was poorly done. If you got one without major issues it could run for a long time, although it would rust and the interior would fall apart. If you got one assembled on a particularly bad day it would be in the junkyard with five-figure miles.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Could have sworn that CR actually had these on their “Recommended” list, and the black dots didn’t start appearing in the charts until a few years into the run. (The Quad-4 taking some of the blame.)

  • avatar
    Shiv91

    These were SO common in Buffalo NY. The other N’s were too, even the Calais. In fact the later Grand Ams (’99-’05) are just starting to dry up here.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    A small detail I liked about these. the center vents had two up/down deflectors for a total of four so you could point some up and some down.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    This was the new for ’89 front and rear updates and they were notably cheap in their design and fit and finish, even for GM. You could easily fit your fingers in the gaps between the grill, headlights and trim below both. The ’88 looked dated with its sealed beams and upright grill but was much better quality.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My girlfriend had this exact car in the 90’s in light blue and drove that car all through college and back and forth to her first job as a financial person at a bank. It was very reliable mechanically featuring the same Tech IV and 5 speed stick as this car. It was equipped with A/C, a cassette player, tilt and cruise and manual windows and locks. The one area she had issue with was that light blue paint. One day at a car wash the paint on the hood started flaking off exposing the factory primer. Being in the car business we knew Gm was having issues with this color of paint and brought it in to our local Pontiac dealer. They re-painted the car for free under a silent TSB and the car looked as good as new once again. Never had any issue after that and by 220K miles she was not only ready to move on to a larger vehicle but also moved on from me to her current husband with 3 kids.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Good grief it’s depressing.

    However, Pontiacs of this era need a few things and they can look super awesome.
    -Directional alloys
    -Color-key alloys
    -Mesh gold alloys with
    -Gold emblems

    So what I’m sayin’ is, Pontiac wheels were the most important quality of the car. But these people should work harder and get a Trofeo.

    And my Cadillac has the exact same hood release lever. It doesn’t feel very solid.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      I submit for evidence of your wheel theory…the Grand Prix GTP. BMW-inspired black mesh wheels MADE that car (well, that and the red heads-up display, which was oh so cool).

      Girls loved riding in it, but ripe-on-the-vine time was short. Within a scant few years it marked you as not sponge-worthy.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Yom yom. Older one with gold mesh.

        http://media.caranddriver.com/ez/images/reviews/hot_lists/high_performance/features_classic_cars/hold_the_excitement_pontiac_killed_by_gm_feature/hold_the_excitement_pontiac_killed_by_gm/1991_pontiac_grand_prix_gtp_1/2146117-1-eng-US/1991_pontiac_grand_prix_gtp_1_cd_gallery.jpg

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Its proud Park Avenue neighbor will lead by example for junkyard dignity. Look at the lovely wrap-around wood tone, complete with passenger side adjustable climate control switches!

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    I learned the hard way not to date the ladies with the grand am coupes

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think it is cool that the final owner of this Grand Am did a full gauge swap with a 2015 Cadillac ATS.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    For their faults, the Grand Ams weren’t bad cars.

    The last generation ’99 to ‘0-wow-were-still-making-these?’ models were a good option for the financially challenged American faced with choosing a used Corolla or Dads hand me down Buick.

    No serious mechanical defects besides the endemic GM intake manifold gasket problems affecting their V6s . You weren’t in danger of impressing the nouveau riche set with the interior, sure. But nothing GM made in those times would do that anyway.

    At that price point you’d need a VW to get a truly nice interior-catch was you’d be seeing a lot of it whilst waiting for tows.

    For what it was, the N body cars weren’t as bad as the critics claim. I find it funny the zeitgeist says a compact sized GM car is “crummy” for not having a luxury car interior or beating a 3 series BMW , yet it’s perfectly OK for Audi to screw up their oil pumps on legit luxury cars.

    Wonders never cease it seems.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Haven’t seen rust holes like these since I lived in Wisconsin back in the mid 1980’s. Not even when I later lived in NJ did I ever see anything so badly corroded.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    The assembly line should have ended at the junk yard. Those were steaming piles of crap as soon as they were built. I can’t believe how many people purchased them. The Fisher-Price controls and interior should have been a clue. Sad thing is, all Pontiacs of that time had those horrid plastics. No wonder they were killed off, after decades of junk!

  • avatar
    redliner

    My oh my how rooflines have changed. So very, very upright, uptight and formal. I’m sure it had great headroom, great visibility and horrible aero.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a running Grand Am in the wild that wasn’t built in the last 15 years.

    I’ve seen the Celebrity in the wild, just saw a Corsica a couple of weeks ago and other 80’s GM irony, but the Grand Ams seems to have all turned to dust years ago.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Are those cupholders inside the glovebox? It’s like this thing was made to go to the drive-in, because any attempt to use them while moving would result in disaster. Reminds me of my mom’s ’88 Tempo with the built-in countertop. Different times.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Many GM cars have featured that beverage indentation inside of the glovebox lid since the 1960’s. I assume they were originally designed for resting your Diet-Rites when stopped at the local drive-in or the Burger Chef.

  • avatar
    Nigel

    I had a new ’90 Olds Calais with the Quad 4. At the time it was a pretty hot little number with over 150hp. The engine was rough but she moved out, and had decent ride and MPG. Fit and finish for modern times was poor, but compared to a modern Jetta S the interior trim bits were not too bad. The four cassette tape slide out tray bin was consider a killer high-tech feature at the time. If I drove it today I would probably hate it, but I have fond memories.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “Quad 4. At the time it was a pretty hot little number with over 150hp”

      True. For a car under 3000lb curb weight, that was a lot of get up and go in 1990 when the prior generation in that segment had about 100-120.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    There’s nothing Grand about it!

    I dunno if there’s anything Am about it…but there’s definitely nothing Grand.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    The original 1973 Grand Am, in spite of being born at the beginning of the malaise/colonnade era, was still a car worthy of some respect.

    It’s a disgrace that Roger Smith et al at GM thought a turdlet like this was a worthy successor.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    This was the third car I ever owned. It was a 2-door just like this one and had a 5-speed. However, mine was the LE trim line and had the Quad-4 engine (150 hp). When new I loved it. I was still in the honeymoon phase when things started going wrong. When I remember how many things…I’m surprised I “loved” the car for as long as I did. I own it for nine years and ~ 120k miles. Here is a list (just the highlights):
    – At ~3,000 miles, power steering hose blew on the way home from Vegas to CA. Spent the last 200 miles building up my “Popeye” arms trying to steer the thing home.
    – The plastic cladding around the opera windows cracked. (replaced under warranty)
    – The driver’s insider door handle broke – twice (one under warranty, one not). To get out of my car I had to roll down the window and use the outside handle – especially fun if it was raining.
    – The on-board computer lost its mind – twice
    – The catalytic converter ate itself
    – The steering wheel started to come loose from the column
    – The entire car was repainted due to GMs paint issues of that time.
    – The driver seat bracket broke. Went to a salvage yard and bought a replacement seat.
    – The head gasket failed causing a top-end rebuild and was failing again when I finally sold the car.
    You know a lot of repair shops will advertise a service where the special price is available “on most cars”? The Grand Am was not “most cars”. The transaxle used special oil that cost twice as much. “McPherson struts, $99 installed!” No, no, no…not this car, $400 for the pair.
    My next car was a beater Geo Prizm (Toyota Corolla) that went over 200k miles with very little going wrong with it.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    A good friend of mine had one configured EXACTLY like this in college. Iron Duke: loud, slow, durable pile of crap as usual. Interior: falling apart. Stick shift: felt like moving a wooden spoon through a vat of pork fat. Back seat: surprisingly not bad!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nothing says excitement like a formal roofline /s.

  • avatar
    rpm1200

    Was there a version of the Grand Am that had a two-line alphanumeric LCD “Systems Monitor” under the radio (next to the lighter, instead of the storage pocket)? I assume the tachometer and LCD odometer would go where the pictograph/odometer is in this example. The “Systems Monitor” would indicate doors open, etc.

    I have memories of riding in one and being impressed by that feature. (Hey, I was young!) Or was it another Pontiac model? (Definitely not the Grand Prix with the gigantic compass and trip computer, but maybe a Sunbird or LeMans.)

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Are you sure that wasn’t some Chrysler vehicle?

      http://car-from-uk.com/ebay/carphotos/full/ebay689654.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        I think he might have been riding in a Dodge 600 or a Plymouth Caravelle. It also sounds like the 1984 E-Class we used to own.

        • 0 avatar
          rpm1200

          No guys, it did not have a picture, just two lines of text. In Pontiac Dash Illumination Orange of course.

          Thanks for the try!

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            A friend’s Grandmother had a Cutlass Supreme(International, even) with that display in Olds blue– it was fantastic. I love a travel computer.

            I’d think the vehicle you’d be thinking of would have been a Bonneville or Gran Prix, the Grand Am wasn’t nice enough to get the premium electronics.

    • 0 avatar
      eamiller

      You and I are kindred spirits. My Dad’s friend had an 89 Grand Am SE fully loaded, white. I remember seeing that electronic systems monitor and loving it.

      It took a bit of searching, but you can see it here (not active unfortunately) http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/g/grandam34.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        rpm1200

        Yes, I think you found it, eamiller! I agree that it would be cool to see it all lit up but I’ll take what I can get.

        Thanks!

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          Nice! This is what I get for thinking in a modern way– my first mind has been programmed to expect to need a bigger/better car for what I’d perceived as the ‘newer’ technology.

          I’ve bought my last two cars for their trip computers, I love them so. The Dart has the fanciest one ever!

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Love all the nostalgia stories about this car. I worked at a Pontiac dealer in this era and drove quite a few Grand-Ams. I believe the Quad-4 got up to about 180HP at one point, and I don’t believe they had traction-control. Grand-Ams gave us very little grief, beyond Quad-4 timing chain guides. With a Tech-4 or 3.1 they were bullet-proof. And, with all the cladding weren’t that bad looking.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    At least around here, the Pontiac Grand Am seemed to have many owners who thought their car was the fastest thing on the road. That, and the Grand Prix, were on my hated list for a long, long time. Now they’re just disappearing.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Grand Ams really were EVERYWHERE in that era.

    I thought they were decent cars for the market they targeted. I remember wanting to buy one.

  • avatar
    geo

    Girls loved Grand Ams. My wife used to have one. Actually it seemed everyone’s wife had one at one time. Women loved the inviting interior, the aura of sportiness, the dash lights.

    I hated the looks of this generateion once they went to the raked front clip treatment — it looked like a kid with a bad underbite. The Grand Am always seemed like a pretty good car, or at least a step up from an Escort, Tempo, or K-Car. Owners seemed to like them and accept their flaws.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    My only direct exposure to this generation of N-body was my aunt’s ’87 Calais sedan with an automatic inexplicably mounted on the column and (presumably) the Tech IV. At the time I thought it was a decent looking car, but it felt like a cheap, unrefined turd compared to my mom’s dimensionally similar, strippo 2nd-gen Camry.

    Oddly enough, both cars were replaced by 5th generation Accords within months of each other.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I never had one of these generations of GMs but I know a lot of people that did and they were satisfied with them. It is very easy to sit back in you arm chair and compare today’s newest cars with more performance, efficiency, and safety to cars of 20 and 30 years ago. The same thing could be said back in the late 80’s to early 90’s about cars from the 70’s. The same thing will be said about today’s cars and cuvs in 20 years. “Can you imagine people use to have to drive a car themselves, they could not sit back and relax.” “How about a switch to operate your windows and a button to turn accessories on, no voice commands to do those things for you.” “Can you imagine offering tan interiors, grey and black go with everything.” Everything is a matter of your perspective.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think when autonomy takes over, while the exteriors of the cars will become more similar there will be greater interior distinction and choice. If you’re not driving, may as well have nice furnishings to look at, and a wood floor.

    • 0 avatar
      laserwizard

      So correct – when I think about the old adage, “they don’t make ’em like they used to”, I remember my first car – a barely running 1964 Ford Falcon with “only 64,000” miles on it.

      Dad bought that car for me and proudly drove it home and within 2 miles the engine started knocking. Then he turned to me and said, “and now you will learn how to fix this car.”

      Cars from the 1960’s were a really sorry lot IMHO – oh, yes, I love me some Detroit iron from that era with those V-8 engines, but there were some primitive pieces out there and that Falcon was primitive. But I learned how to change the inline 6 out, how to do valve jobs, how to change a rear axle and a full exhaust system on my own. The simplicity of those cars was truly endearing even if 170 cid six cylinder in that car was build to last 50k and anything else was gravy. Oddly, the 250 and 300 cid straight sixes of that era were bullet-proof – but the entry level ones were garbage.

      I contrast that with my 1997 Ford with 170k and how well it has held up and how the engine just is wonderful – delivering 50 mpgs on the highway and continuing to purr. Interior is great and exterior is still shiny.

      We can thus judge the good old days harshly, but those were also times of $2k cars and 30 cent gasoline with real lead in it.

      With that said, no new Honduh or Toyoduh is an improvement on my 1997 Ford.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    “Big-haired, pastel-wearing ladies”. That’s who drove these in the suburb of NYC where I grew up. Fresh out of high school or college. Just a notch above a J-car but still affordable, reliable and American made. In blue, white or maroon with the obligatory Bon Jovi or Journey cassette in the player.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    “Big-haired, pastel-wearing ladies” sounds a lot better than tattooed women with streaks of bright blue, orange, red, or green hair, pierced noses, and wearing halter tops and jeans with holes in them driving old Toyotas and Hondas. I’m older enough to remember tattooed women were only seen in the circus. Never thought I would say that I miss the 80’s and 90’s.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      As I’ve said, I should have gone to dermatology school instead of becoming a computer programmer, as you’ll be writing your own ticket within the next decade!

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Once again GM’s fabric of choice shows little wear – aside from cockroaches, I believe this vintage GM interior fabric would survive even a thermo nuclear war!

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Bought an 86 Tech Iv Olds Calais with 21,000 miles on it in 1992. Three alternators, AC system, brakes every 20,000 miles, heater core, headliner sagging all in the 30,000 miles I had it. Torque converter switch went out and simply disconnected rather than another $500 to replace it.

    Fixed everything that was wrong with it, painted it and gave it to my parents.

    Parents gave it to my little brother who is still driving it and fixing it up. A rare sight these days.

    Lots of interior bits have gone wrong: glove box latch, door handles, rapidly deteriorating weather stripping along the lower doors,lock failures, mystery leak from the cowl seam in the interior that turned out to be a common problem on the Ns. But the upholstery looks like new.

    Still rides and handles well. Even my Mother, after 40 years of driving said it was the first car she ever felt she had under control.Could be why they were so popular among young ladies and the elderly.

    The Iron Duke/Tech IV was an engine that seemed to sound different in every car and could be identified a block away. There’ve been three of these in the family. Two of them blew head gaskets. One of them twice.

  • avatar
    wantahertzdonut

    A friend from high school had one of these in dark blue with the 5sp. It was the fastest in our group but the competition was my 79 Suburban and another friend’s 86 Voyager. I remember it had a nice sounding stereo but two 12″ sub’s were added later. We spent a weekend installing padded tape under every exterior plastic piece so the car didn’t sound like it was being shaken to pieces when he upped the volume. I think he traded it in with no oil and a hole in the engine on a Lumina. I learned to hate GM because of that Lumina.

  • avatar
    jb2980

    First car was a 1988 Grand AM SE — came with the 2.3 Quad4 and 5-speed (and obligatory 1980s “Fuel Injection” labels everywhere). When I got my license in 1997 I wanted a Mustang GT (have one now) but they quoted me over $3000 per year for insurance for a 5.0 being driven by a 17 yo male. I probably would have killed myself in it anyway. Plan B was for something sporty but with more affordable insurance. The original plan was for a Z24 cavalier but came across the GA from a private seller. Looked semi-mean with the plastic body kit and was “quick” with the 16v motor (by 1988 standards), and it had low miles, and snuck under the insurance radar if it wasn’t a turbo. Looking back it was a decent first car and we had fun with it but the build quality was awful. Everything broke on that car, not sure if the Buick V6 which was an SE trim option fared much better. Didn’t even make 100k and the head gasket blew and aluminum head warped. We forget how far we came in 25 years.

    By comparison my commuter is a 2011 Fusion Sport AWD (purchased new) — 150k and still going strong. Nothing but Mobil-1 oil every 5k and general maintenance. Wish it came with a stick option like almost every car did in the 80s tho. I guess you take the good with the bad.

  • avatar
    CaseyLE82

    When I was a kid my parents bought me a used 1996 Cherokee…but they couldn’t swing the payments and it was repossessed after about a year. So, in 1999 I purchased a baby blue 1989 Grand Am just like this one. It was so dangerous and scary then that my boyfriend at the time refused to ride in it with me! It blew black smoke out the back and white smoke out of the hood. I couldn’t take it into enclosed drive thrus for fear of asphyxiation.

    I loved that car. That car was MINE. That car was my first taste of freedom. That car was ghetto as all get out.

    About a year later I saved up for the down payment on a 1999 Dodge Neon and I sold the Grand Am for $50 more than I paid for it. I miss it.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • JohnTaurus: Very nice Corey. Depending on when you were near Little Rock, I wasnt far away as I was working in Pine...
  • Corey Lewis: The dealer pics had a filter on them which made it look more flat white. I was pleased to see the level...
  • FreedMike: I like that color too, particularly with the bone-colored leather. Very nice.
  • Corey Lewis: Wonder how I would find that out. A5 Sportback super rare! Only seen one.
  • Corey Lewis: Gah, you’re right. A320. I do that a lot with plane numbers.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States