By on September 9, 2019

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost of the time, you’ll see examples of the Chevrolet Lumina only in the backgrounds of my Junkyard Find photographs, because the most interesting thing about the Lumina is that it replaced the even more forgettable Celebrity.

However, The General did build a high-performance version of the Lumina for a few years: the Z34. Here’s one in a Colorado Springs self-service yard.

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 in Colorado wrecking yard, decklid badge - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn 1994, Chevrolet shoppers could get a Cavalier Z24, a Beretta Z26, or a Camaro Z28. Of those, the Z34 has been toughest for me to find in junkyards; today’s car is just the second Z34 I have documented, after this ’92 in California.

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsGM made millions of 60° V6s, starting with the 2.8-liter in 1980, but all of them had pushrods except for the version you see here: the 3.4-liter DOHC LQ1 engine. Destined only for W-body cars (Lumina, Cutlass Supreme, Monte Carlo, Grand Prix), LQ1s were made for the 1991 through 1997 model years.

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 in Colorado wrecking yard, automatic gearshift - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 1994 Lumina Z34 got an impressive-for-the-time 210 horsepower from its LQ1… unless the buyer opted for the automatic transmission (which, I’m guessing, nearly all of them did). The slushbox cars had 200 horsepower, presumably to keep the 4T60 trans from scattering its guts on the tarmac. Still, this car must have provided some torque-steeringly exciting times during its long life.

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 in Colorado wrecking yard, LH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile the Z34s rolled out of Oshawa Assembly for just the 1990 through 1994 model years, Lumina production continued through the 2001 model year. After that, Impala badges replaced the Lumina badges, with production of W-body Impalas continuing all the way through 2016.


Pretty much the same car as the 650-horse NASCAR Lumina, except for a few (thousand) minor details.

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46 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Z34...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    I’ve acquired a strangely strong affinity for 80s-90s GM products, I think as a result of living in Central Indiana for 6 years now. Growing up in a college town with a family that owned nothing but old Hondas and a smattering of other Japanese brands I never gave cars like these Luminas a second thought. But these days have an ever-growing appreciation for them. I’d love a Z34 like this, or even moreso a Quad4 powered Beretta Z26 with a stick shift. Hell an old Cutlass Ciera in decent condition will cause me to turn my head in traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      crtfour

      I know right. I hated these back in the day but seeing something like this (especially in good condition) is so nice in the current sea of crossover anonymity. In fact on my commute I typically see a mid 90’s Eldorado and any early 00’s Monte Carlo, both in great condition which is a treat.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I found myself admiring a reasonably well preserved (not rusted out) late 90s red Cavalier Z24 Coupe driving home from Ohio last weekend. In a sea of flame surfaced over-detailed garbage, the old J body is a sight for sore eyes.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          I’ve only seen it twice in the past three summers, but someone in my neck of the woods has what I surmise to be (based on memory and Wikipedia reading) an ’89 Cavalier Z24 convertible. It’s not perfect, but it’s in good driver condition.

          Haters gonna hate, but friends and family had good ownership experiences with late-’80s GM products. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    • 0 avatar

      I have affinity to all 90s era cars including Japanese brands. Yes in 90s Japanese made decent looking cars believe it or not – they were not ugly. 90s style was the best period in my memory. And Germans cars too: BMW, Audi and Mercedes were superior style wise to whatever overwrought crap they produce today.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I am just the opposite. I worked for a company with an AVIS account in the ’90s when the General owned them, travelling for a living. I drove ALL of this junk, all over the country. Utter dreck from beginning to end, with VERY rare exceptions. This was NOT one of them. Decent motor, shame what they bolted it into.

      I do miss the generally restrained style of the ’90s, but even there, everyone else did it better than GM.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I never really understood the business case for the Lumina when Chevy already had the Monte Carlo and Malibu, but they sold a lot of them so I guess it didn’t matter if it’s existence made sense

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Lumina was the replacement for the Celebrity, and the FWD Malibu came along after that. If anything, the Malibu didn’t make sense.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      that and considering the 1st gen FWD Monte Carlo was essentially a 2 door Lumina

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      The business case for this car was named Ford Thunderbird.

      The grill vents make me wistful for an early-run Taurus MT-5. So cool. So rare. So 2.5l I4 HSC

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        https://images.app.goo.gl/abE2p3DwXm48fR2t7

        Do links work?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I was always perplexed why the manual transmission was only bolted to the HSC when it had more than enough torque capacity to handle the Vulcan, as demonstrated by its eventual use in the Taurus SHO.

        Had there been a V6 MT-5, one probably would have been my first car, instead of the Taurus GL that I ended up getting.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I’m pretty sure they figured the take rate would be zero.

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          Its probably no different than why this generation Compass came with the 185hp 2.4l boat anchor, rather than the (it was in production already) 2.0t it deserves— to protect the Thunderbird/Alfa image as the ‘better’ car.

          Object/service providers are pretty petty when it comes to making things good enough to keep. Its not exactly planned-obsolescence, more like planned barely-underdelivering.

          Gotta keep it a little hungry. Almost sated, but cognizant there’s more.

          Its really frustrating. I want a 2.0t/4×4/6-Speed Manual/2+2 Compass TSi. So very badly.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Yes, that link works fine, thank you .

            “Gotta keep it a little hungry. Almost sated, but cognizant there’s more. ” ~ very perceptive .

            -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      That’s easy to explain: Lumina was American size midsize sedan, almost full size and Malibu was Euro midsizer – it was based on Opel Vectra which was similar in size to Mondeo a.k.a Contour. So it is the same relationship as Taurus/Contour. Malibu = Contour except Contour was much better car. In Europe you had Omega – Vectra – Astra. In US Omega was replaced by Lumina/Impala (Omega strangely becomes Cadillac), Vectra becomes Malibu and Astra becomes Cobalt.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        Hold your horses there ILO—

        Lumina and Malibu weren’t sold side-by-side until the 1997 model year. When Lumina appeared, Chevrolet’s sedan line-up (IIRC) was something like:

        Spectrum(was it a Metro yet?)/Cavalier/Corsica/Lumina/Caprice

        Americans have intermediate choices between classes of cars— 1/2 size increments, like we have with shoes. I’m reintroducing the word, because it is the word you’re looking for— originally, the word was used to describe not-quite full-size cars.

        My current Compass is one of those intermediate cars, I’ve always preferred them. All the Chrysler Renaissance (1993-2001) cars were intermediates. People ate them up! They fit well, feel sexy— the bodies are well-tailored, but there’s enough room for them to be comfortable.

        They’re not a schlubby British suit- not a too-tight Italian pencil. They’re not the willful splitting of the difference we see with the French— it’s an American style all it’s own.

        Don’t fully-globalize something that wasn’t yet there. It erases the very last vestiges of national autonomy we experienced as citizens of the nations of the world.

        Today, things certainly have turned into what you’re suggesting—but, I rather like remembering that period as it was. It was a magical time.

        • 0 avatar

          I am not suggesting anything, just explaining why GM did it. I agree that Malibu/Contour are too small for America. But that is what GM had available. GM utilized European Epsilon platform saving money but then for some reason Opel Omega become Cadillac which I could never understand – Opel, including Omega, was anything but luxury. It was the worst German brand IMO, everything was low grade, it never was on my shopping list. Of course along the way GM cut corners and downgraded Vectra which was not that great to begin with.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The 80s and early 90s were a weird time to be a car nut. I looked back toward the (exaggerated) high horsepower cars of the 1960s / early 1970s and thought that was going to be the pinnacle of power.

    When the LT1 came out for the Corvette / F-bodies with a whopping 300 hp, it was mindblowing. That and the Japanese cars – the 300ZX, Supra, 3000GT, etc And 200hp for a Lumina? That would have been a real performance package for some middle-class driver.

    Hard to believe now in the day of the 300hp Camry.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Seeing that cam cover and timing belt cover loose, I’m guessing the engine grenaded, and that’s the reason it ended up in the junkyard.

    I wonder what became of the hood vents? Were they transplanted onto something also sporting a crappy wing on the back?

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I once took a look at one of these in black. The door mounted belts and the sketchy reliability of the 3.4 DOHC made me wary so I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.

  • avatar

    After my senior year in High school I took a job at a local auto group (mostly worked for their used car and RV divisions) One of the managers for the used cars was a young guy who was promoted from being a mechanic. He had one of these, with a flowmaster exhaust a custom tune and a bunch of bolt on’s with a manual. I rode with him a few times to move cars around. It made a ridiculously good sounds for a GM V6. Was really comfortable as well. Cheap but roomy interior.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “It made a ridiculously good sounds for a GM V6”

      All the older 60 degree GM v6s sound good to my ear, something about the rasp of an old 2.8 or 3.1 taking off from a stop or climbing a hill. The sound of my highschool years.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        There’s something different about the DOHC 3.4 sound. Not sure I can put my finger on it but it got my attention every time, even though when these came out the streets were littered with GM 60 V6s eveywhere.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a 2.8 in a XJ at the time. It sounded fine but the 3.4 with that exhaust sounded much better.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        …All the older 60 degree GM v6s sound good to my ear, something about the rasp of an old 2.8 or 3.1 taking off from a stop or climbing a hill. The sound of my highschool years…

        The GM 60 degree V6 engine family had the best V6/I6 exhaust note of the era. Just like you said, can’t put my finger on it, it is raspy, deep but not throaty, it doesn’t scream like a V8 but still said, “Hey, I’ve got some power.” It was this great combination of a burble and rasp without being overly loud or harsh. It was also very distinct.

        I would say today the Ford Coyote V8 has the best factory exhaust note money can buy.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          The 3.1+ engines, IMHO, sounded way too “forced.” That exhaust note wasn’t fooling anyone.

          Of course, the sting of the problems my Dad had with his 1986 Century with the 2.8 liter 2-bbl carburetor was probably still pretty fresh. OTOH, that 3.8 motor in the top-trim Century models didn’t need a tuned exhaust note, but let the power do the talking!

          If my Dad had listened to my 16-YOA pleas to try to obtain a Century with that 3.8, perhaps our transition into a Honda family might have been delayed, even despite the ‘84 Sunbird 1.8 OHC costing me a bunch of college-commuter-student-working-at-the-Golden-Arches money!

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    It doesn’t look like that full bra prevented much damage from occurring on the hood. It definitely protected the paint on the bumper though.

    I had a bra on my 1990 Pontiac Sunbird. If you had asked me back then I would have claimed it was to protect the paint but it was actually more of a fashion statement at that time – like just about ever modification compact car enthusiasts did in the mid 90s.

    I would have loved a Z34. I was a big Earnhardt fan and a Chevy fan. Later, I desperately wanted a Grand Prix GTP – basically the evolution of this car. Probably fortunately, I never actually got my hands on either.

  • avatar
    millmech

    Wearing a bra for too long can cause a rash.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    the 3.4-liter DOHC LQ1 engine…

    Can any of the B&B name a friend or family member who had direct significant experience with this engine and it DIDN’T EAT a head gasket?

    My Uncle Tim (a bit of W-body freak if I gave you his ownership history) had a 35th Anniversary Cutlass Convertible (one of the basket handle models) in a fetching green and tan combo with the DOHC 3.4. Bought gently used, owned it many years, pampered it, and eventually it started to drink coolant. Ended up selling it to a cousin of his who promptly dropped a 3.1 V6 in it.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Almost everything back then with iron block/aluminum heads had somewhat short head gasket life. Even the aluminum block original Viper V10 ate them every 30,000 miles or so.

      that became a thing of the past once multi-layer steel gaskets hit the market. That’s what fixed the Neon, those would have fixed the Ford 3.8, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        That was the likely cause of the head-gasket issue on the Sunbird I mentioned above.

        When did Dexcool enter the picture? Late ‘90s, say, 1997 or so?

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          about that time. Dex-cool itself wasn’t the problem (GM still uses it to this day, and every other OE long-life coolant is similar to Dex-cool) rather they didn’t do enough testing to make sure it was compatible with the materials it touched in the cooling system. And, it would go bad quickly if the owner dumped in some conventional silicate (green) antifreeze.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      Yes, I can report that I NEVER had a blown head gasket in this engine. But the list of other problems is long. Here’s my story: My daughter always has had a thing for out of the ordinary cars. She presently drives an Accord with manual shift. When she was in college she decided she had to have a Z34 and she found a low mileage 94 for sale in town. It was black with the gray interior as shown in this junkyard find. It was also an automatic.

      Within days of buying it the alternator went out. They are nearly impossible to access. The right wheel and axle shaft has to be removed. So I let the Chevy dealer do the work. It was expensive but the dealer provided a “lifetime” Goodwrench warranty for parts and labor. Good thing because it went out again 2 years later. The fix was free but I
      had to get it from her college 100 miles away. I drove it back with her following in my pickup. Watching the volt gage
      drop, we would stop and I would attach jumper cables and charge the battery for 30 minutes. We made it back to the
      dealership.

      Other problems included failure of the lower intake gasket, causing the engine to not be able to idle. I fixed this twice over a period of several years. There was a bad oil leak at the top of the engine that I fixed. Twice I paid to have the rubber timing belt replaced. The second time was because of a tensioner failure.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        More of the story: My daughter bought a different car after college so I decided to keep the z34. It was my daily driver for another year and a half. It had about 110,000 miles at this point. The transmission began to act up and the suspension was beginning to sag. But the engine still ran well with no head gasket issues. I traded it in on a new 07 Impala.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I pinky swear I made my Twin Dual Cam comment in the other thread before I saw this story.

    No doubt this car was killed by some sort of engine failure which it would have cost a ludicrous amount to fix.

    But the engine did sound very nice when it was working.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Just another example of how racing technology directly benefits street cars.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Sorry I have to laugh at some of the nostalgia here.

    These cars were total crap at the time. They’re still total crap.

    Couldn’t care less that a heap like this ends up in the junkyard.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Oh Lord I was one of the first to buy one, right off the truck in 1991. Yes it was fast and I won some stoplight races but way too many issues. Paint, alignment, electrical. Had to sell it at 35k before the warranty was up.
    Yes the hood vents were factory but they were sealed on the inside
    No ABS, door mounted belts, and that tinny exhaust.
    I moved up to an MN12 cougar v8, which had its own issues
    I have enjoyed Accords ever since

  • avatar
    geo

    I love GM cars of this vintage, just before the massive cost-cutting started (the Lumina was showing the first signs of this).

    The GM drivetrains were great, the exteriors were well-designed, and the interiors at least showed promise. Judging from the designs of this era, GM had the talent and engineering prowess to do great things, but was usually stymied in some way.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Anecdotally, I feel like ’88-’89 was a sweet spot. Foreign competition had rightfully put a huge scare into the company, and at least for a time and with certain models they did some things right. I’m an admitted fan of the V6 front driver/upgraded suspension recipe.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    I had a silver one of these for a couple of years. I remember blowing the power steering and it cost $1,000 to fix. I also remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger would have had a struggle getting the car to turn without it. I got rid of the car shortly thereafter.

    Good looking car for its day. I bought it because NASCAR. One of my favourite stock cars to this day was the Kodak Lumina driven by Ernie Irvan.

  • avatar
    SavageATL

    I had a 1993 Olds Cutlass Supreme Convertible with this horrible engine from 1997-2001 and bought a Cadillac Omega to replace it (talk about frying pan into the fire.) I never had a head gasket problem, but the list of things that went wrong with that car were extensive and expensive. Someone else mentioned the alternator, it had an oil leak, the air never worked, it had consistent electrical problems, the door handles broke frequently, the power steering hose broke, it was built overall poorly and a lot of parts fell off. It was fun, stylish, roomy, and very luxurious and if it had been better built with better quality components it should have been a winner for GM. One problem for the Cutlass was the LeBaron was almost as big, almost as stylish, a lot better made out of better components and much, much cheaper. GM got quality right towards the end of the 80s on the older cars but with the 90s and Jose? Inaki cheaped out on a lot of parts and assembly. The Lumina was the least appealing of the W bodies with a cheap, dated interior and overall boring. I’m astonished this made it this long before ending up in a junkyard.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I lusted for 1 of these or a 2.8l Beretta v6 5spd. I worked at Chevy dealership as lot boy in ’87-92 , and the v6 5spd was a blast to drive and look at and also wash. So much more fun than hosing off an S10 which sold probably 1000 to 1 at our store in rural MO.


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