Junkyard Find: 2001 Pontiac Sunfire

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 2001 pontiac sunfire

The GM J Platform, best known for being the basis of the Chevrolet Cavalier, was built for a full quarter-century before being axed in 2005. The last J-Body Pontiac of them all was the Sunfire, a Cavalier sibling. Here’s an ’01 with a racy-looking hood scoop I recently spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard.

The engine was gone, but I checked the VIN and learned that this car came from the factory with the 2.2-liter version of the “122” engine that powered J-bodies starting all the way back in 1982. 115 horses plus the added 50 generated by the hood scoop. Naturally, the car has an automatic transmission.

A U.C. Davis parking sticker plus several decals representing 1990s California pop-punk bands (e.g., Blink-182, Green Day) tells us something about this car’s final owner. This Sunfire made it to age 15, which is not bad for a J-Body. These cars tended to lead hard lives.

Just the car for escaping your boy-toy’s enraged mother. The remote door locks enable a quick getaway.

To you, it’s a traffic light. To the Sunfire driver, it’s a root canal.

The panic button seemed pretty futuristic back then.





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  • R129 R129 on Dec 28, 2016

    Weren't these particularly popular in Canada?

    • Maymar Maymar on Dec 28, 2016

      Yes, on account of the relatively strong Pontiac-Buick-GMC network GM Canada had built up, and that network's rather strong influence on ensuring they always had cheap cars to compete with the Chevy dealer up the road.

  • JREwing JREwing on Jan 09, 2017

    By the time 2002 came about, it got the L61 Ecotec 2.2L 4-cyl and 4-speed automatic. In the rental Cavalier I drove it in, it was pretty enthusiastic - so much so that I got nabbed for an 85 in a 60 on I-55 on the west side of Lake Pontchartrain. It didn't hurt that it had 10 hp and 20 lb-ft of torque extra over my 2002 Focus. It didn't hurt that there was nothing substantial to the Cavalier. The far-more substantial Cobalt I later purchased with the same engine (and a stick!) never quite had this Cavalier's enthusiasm; more car to haul around. Typical of GM, the engine/transmission were winners, but the rest of the car actively mocked your financial sense in purchasing it. My 2002 Focus was a much nicer car despite the less-energetic engine.

  • Kat Laneaux Wonder if they will be able to be hacked into (the license plates) and then you get pulled over for invalid license plates or better yet, someone steal your car and transpose numbers to show that they are the owners. Just a food for thought.
  • Tassos Government cheese for millionaires, while idiot Joe biden adds trillions to the debt.What a country (IT ONCE WAS!)
  • Tassos screw the fat cat incompetents. Let them rot. No deal.
  • MaintenanceCosts I think if there's one thing we can be sure of given Toyota's recent decisions it's that the strongest version of the next Camry will be a hybrid. Sadly, the buttery V6 is toast.A Camry with the Highlander/Sienna PSD powertrain would be basically competitive in the sedan market, with the slow death of V6 and big-turbo options. But for whatever reason it seems like that powertrain is capacity challenged. Not sure why, as there's nothing exotic in it.A Camry with the Hybrid Max powertrain would be bonkers, easily the fastest thing in segment. It would likewise be easy to build; again, there's nothing exotic in the Hybrid Max powertrain. (And Hybrid Max products don't seem to be all that constrained, so far.)
  • Analoggrotto The readers of TTAC deserve better than a bunch of Kia shills posing as journalists.
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