Rare Rides: 1978 Pontiac Sunbird Safari Wagon

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

From the most malaisey part of the late 1970s comes a model which would have been a Rare Ride sooner, had your author known about it. It’s a little Pontiac two-door wagon with sporting pretensions.

What awaits you is a Pontiac Sunbird Safari Wagon from 1978. Prepare your polyester jacket.

Part of the last gasp of the General Motors H-body, this Pontiac cousin to the Chevrolet Vega and Monza was originally known as the Astre. Pontiac was finished with the Astre name by 1977, but wanted to continue offering the station wagon variant.

So, for the 1978 and 1979 model years, the Astre wagon became the Sunbird Safari Wagon. GM didn’t want to let Ford’s Pinto wagon go unchallenged in those last couple years of its life.

Three engines were available during those two years, including the 5.0-liter Chevy V8, a 3.8-liter Buick V6, and the 2.5-liter Iron Duke, which is Principal Dan’s favorite engine. Our example today has the 3.8-liter V6, the same one as in this Junkyard Find from 2012. Murilee Martin tells us it has 105 horsepower, which isn’t very many.

This particular example has some extra bits added to the basic sporty wagon shape: Side pipes, front spoiler, metal window inserts — all cobbled from other vehicles.

This Sunbird is well-equipped, featuring a rally gauge package, tilt wheel, sunroof, air conditioning, and a three-speed automatic transmission. However, this example does not appear to have either of the two rare options packages — the Firebird Redbird, or Sunbird Formula.

A commodious and private rear cargo area allows room for many different activities. And the owner has provided some Kleenex, as well.

Superb Pontiac snowflake alloys are present, which can make almost any vehicle look great.

The excellent personal plate should not go without a mention. WIDETRK, indeed. All in all, it’s a tasty and seemingly rust-free find from a forgotten and short-lived model variant. It’s yours in Minneapolis for just $8,200.

[Images via seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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3 of 58 comments
  • El scotto El scotto on Oct 25, 2017

    This should be on a pedestal at Toyota or Honda's North American headquarters. The signage should read: "Thank You GM".

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Oct 25, 2017

    I want to see Wayne Carini crack open a garage and find one of these behind it.

    • Syke Syke on Oct 25, 2017

      The immediate look on his face would be worth it.

  • FreedMike Needs MOOAAARRR POWER.
  • Mgh57 I should just buy an old car where everything is analog.
  • FreedMike You mean, the "Hellcat all the things" plan failed?
  • Fred I've only had it for about 7 months and I like it. Mostly because I have a hard time seeing my phone screen. So even tho my Honda's screen is 6" it's a lot easier to see than my phone.
  • Cha65697928 I'm 48. Both our cars have it, I'm never going back. Being able to activate calls, messages, music, nav, opening/closing garage doors all via voice command is awesome. Now if Audi would just allow Google maps to mirror in the middle of the driver's display instead of only allowing the native nav...