Rare Rides: The 1983 Pontiac 2000 Sunbird Nobody Remembers

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1983 pontiac 2000 sunbird nobody remembers

Today’s Rare Ride is an oft-forgotten little J-body, designed and built right at the end of the unfortunate Malaise Era. This excellent condition example also comes from a confused time in GM’s naming of Pontiac small cars.

Come along and explore 2000 Sunbird.

Those of you with keen memories will recall this isn’t the first Sunbird-branded vehicle featured here at Rare Rides. That honor goes to this Sunbird Safari Wagon from 1978, which is really worth checking out if you missed it the first time. The wagon comes from the first generation of the Sunbird, which was rear-drive and produced for the 1976-1980 model years. Said generation was not available as a cabriolet: Coupes, hatchbacks, and the wagon above were the only options for this generation. But all that changed for 1982.

That fateful year was the first for GM’s new front-drive J-body, bringing Cavalier and company to market. Body style options increased, and included a two-door coupe, convertible, three-door hatch, and a four- and five-door sedan and wagon.

The Sunbird shrunk a little to become a subcompact, and was also no longer called a Sunbird. For ’82 only, all versions of Pontiac’s small car were known as J2000. Next year the “J” was dropped to help show consumers how the 2000 was 1/3 as good as its larger brother, the 6000. “Sunbird” returned to trunklids for ’83, but only on convertible versions of the 2000. In 1984, names were reshuffled again, and the entire lineup was called 2000 Sunbird. From 1985 to the model’s death in 1994, all versions wore a singular Sunbird name on them. At that time the little bird got lit, and called itself Sunfire.

A small list of engines powered Sunbirds over the years, all with 1.8 or 2.0 liters of displacement. Both sizes were offered with old school overhead valves or technology-centric cams, and in naturally aspirated or turbo guise. Manual transmissions had four or five speeds, but the automatics were all of the three-speed variety.

Today’s Sunbird has one of the more sophisticated overhead cam engines (with fuel injection!), which I’m going to guess is the 1.8-liter version. Mated to an automatic transmission, the owner(s) throughout history only saw fit to drive their bird about 27,000 miles.

She’s well equipped with air conditioning and power windows, and still has the nice historical touch of faux-spoke wheel covers. Located in rural Pennsylvania, the present owner wants $10,000 for his little red bird.

[Images via seller]

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2 of 63 comments
  • Wait... I thought the 2.0 was '84+? Weird that the '83 convertibles had "Sunbird" attached to them, when that year was strictly "2000"... I guess that steering wheel doesn't lie though. The '83 convertible is weird...

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on May 18, 2018

    I always thought the J-body convertibles were good looking little cars, especially the later years of the square cars. And the 3.1 must have been sprightly in the later cars. Much like the 87-93 Fox body Mustang, these cars were the cars of my youth and they were everywhere in Pittsburgh. At 40, I find myself wanting a touchstone to that time to share with my kids that won't break the bank. The Mustangs are getting insane in price, questionable runners are 5k, decent cars are 15k+ but these cars are not. I'd probably do 5k for this, because it's got to be one of a handful of these cars left, especially in this condition. They weren't great cars, but I wouldn't mind picking up a cheap but decent one, slapping some classic plates on it and taking the fam for ice cream in it or whatever. See also : Lebaron convertible ( square or swoopy)

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.