Junkyard Find: 1994 Pontiac Grand Am SE Sport Coupe

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Thirteen years after the final Grand Am rolled off the assembly line, examples of Pontiac’s N-Platform-based sporty commuter remain very easy to find in American wrecking yards. For the second-generation N-based Grand Am, which debuted for the 1992 model year, the wretched Iron Duke engine went away, replaced with various pushrod 60° V6s and the Oldsmobile Quad 4 engine.

Here’s a ’94 SE Sport Coupe, complete with single-cam Quad 4 and five-speed, in a Colorado wrecking yard.

The Pontiac Division marketed the crap out of the Grand Am, and I caught this panoramic black-and-white shot of a Los Angeles ’93 Grand Am billboard on one of the many road trips I took in my ’65 Impala Hell Project.

This one reached the 200,000-mile mark, just barely. The car seems fairly clean, so its owner or owners took good care of it over the decades.

Most Quad 4 engines had the twin-cam setup, but this one is an SOHC “Quad OHC” engine, displacing 2.3 liters and rated at 120 horsepower. The DOHC version in 1994 made either 160 or 180 horses.

The SE was the cheap trim level, though this one has the Sport interior package and thus qualifies as a Sport Coupe.

Such wheels!

This car scaled in at just 2,736 pounds, so the 120 hp engine would have been sufficiently fun with the five-speed transmission. Even the single-cam Quad 4 was eager to spin.

The best reason to buy a 1994 Pontiac Grand Am is… it’s only $199 a month! Note the suspiciously ZZ Top-ish music in this Phoenix dealership ad.

So much cheaper better than the Camry and Accord.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • TrstnBrtt89 TrstnBrtt89 on Jul 30, 2018

    My Mom had a 1992 Grand Am with the Quad 4, same body style as this example except it was a 4 door, appliance white with a red interior. Very 90's. She begrudgingly drove that car for years until I got my license and I inherited it. By the time it was finished with my 17 year self it was a wreck, partly because of my justified hate for it. It was always running out of gas because the gauge didn't work properly and partly because I was too stupid to track my own mileage, the heat didn't work in the dead of a Canadian-Prairie Winter, I was constantly locking my keys in it because of it's unpredictable Power Door Lock behaviors (I was too stupid to just take my keys too) every time something needed fixing on it it was stupidly expensive to do (I remember the water pump being like $800 with install). The only reason I wound up with it was because my Mom was tired of it leaving her stranded and wanting something more reliable (that's exactly what you want to give your new, just learning to drive son, right? An unreliable car that will always leave them stranded?). It was a surprisingly quick car with the Quad-4, but it also got gas mileage equivalent of a 6 cylinder- which you could also get on the Grand Am. My only good memory of that car was that my friend's and I switched the "A" and the "M" on the emblem because that made it spell "Grandma" - which is what it was, a Grandma car. A terrible, terrible Grandma car. Eventually a guy with a 5-speed Alero (another car I despise) backed into it and the repairs were more than the car was worth and it was toast. Good riddance to that and every other Grand Am, but those cars are the automotive equivalent of the cockroach. It'll be around long after the nuclear winter, with their mix-matched body panels and mullet sporting drivers wading along miserably in the left lane, tailgating the innocent car in front of them.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Jul 31, 2018

    I worked at a Pontiac dealership back then. The early Quad Fours had up to 190HP and were a blast to drive. But, yeah, they gobbled timing chain guides like crazy. A typical GM deal where they have the engineering chops, but just can't get their act together on the quality side. The rest of the car was horrible. Again typical GM when it came to chassis tuning, too stiff on small bumps, wallowing on the bigger ones. Man, for such a POS, they sold tons of them!

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