By on June 8, 2020

2008 Pontiac Solstice in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsQuick, what was the final new Pontiac model introduced before the marque’s demise in 2010? The G3, a Pontiac-badged Chevy Aveo (itself a rebadged Daewoo Kalos, which makes The Final Pontiac first cousin to the Ravon Nexia R3). We remember a Pontiac model from slightly earlier in the chaos of mid-to-late-2000s GM much better: the Solstice, a mean-looking sports car that showed great promise but went down with the Pontiac ship in 2010.

I saw my first discarded Solstice last year in Colorado Springs, and now I’ve found this much cleaner one in Denver.

2008 Pontiac Solstice in Denver junkyard, rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFor a brief time, it appeared that the Solstice would become something like the Plymouth Prowler or 2002-2005 Ford Thunderbird, stubbornly worshiped by devoted, patriotic owners and changing hands at high prices, and that happened… for a while. Today, I’d say the Solstice (and its Saturn sibling, the Sky) is following the same path as the Chrysler Crossfire, with the initial passion of ownership wearing off and banged-up examples selling for G3 prices. When a car like that breaks something expensive, it ends up in the cold steel jaws of The Crusher, even as nice Solstices command decent money. You’ll see the same process at work with BMW Z3s and Audi TTs today, though at a slower pace.

2008 Pontiac Solstice in Denver junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Solstice looked great, and even the naturally aspirated base model got decent power: 173 horsepower out of this 2.4-liter Ecotec (the turbocharged GXP had 260 horsepower, but I don’t expect to see any of those in U-Wrench yards for a few more years, if I ever do).

2008 Pontiac Solstice in Denver junkyard, gearshift - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSolstice buyers could choose between a five-speed manual transmission (a member of the same Aisin family that went into lots of XJ Cherokees) and a five-speed automatic. The initial purchaser of this car opted for the commute-friendly automatic, for the same reason that plenty of Miata buyers get the slushbox: you can’t work a phone and drink a drive-thru coffee while operating a manual transmission in traffic.

2008 Pontiac Solstice in Denver junkyard, wheel - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsGM might have sorted out the Solstice’s bugs, but the car died with Pontiac in 2010.

The good news in the Solstice saga is that you can get ugly ones for ’92 LeMans prices now, and then you can make cheap race cars out of them.

For links to thousands more of these Junkyard Finds, head to the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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39 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2008 Pontiac Solstice...”

  • avatar

    Not too clear WHY it’s there. Is that slight front end damage?
    It seems to be whole, could it be a seized engine or gearbox?
    Could you see the mileage, it doesn’t seem excessive judging by tire wear.

    • 0 avatar

      There is an off-warranty 2016 Chevrolet Malibu turbo sitting in my friend’s lot with expired tags and inspection. That was the year they shortened the powertrain warranty to 60K miles, perhaps because they knew the vacuum pumps they were installing in four cylinder cars have a catastrophic failure mode where the engine oil is contaminated with broken pump parts with terminal results. My friend who has the car taking up valuable real estate tells me the pump is back-ordered, but he thinks it will need an engine once the pump arrives. GM had recalls for vacuum pumps in their trucks, but this sounds worse than a hard brake pedal.

  • avatar

    #1- We gotta find a way to get mileage out of the digital odometers.
    #2- Only thing worse than the scourge of black wheels is painting wheels in the barn with home depot bought black.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      In parts of Canada keeping a can of rust paint to use on your winter steelies is a standard and often required practice.

      As to the Solstice/Sky, why did GM not continue manufacturing them, perhaps with an ‘upgraded’ interior and rebadged as a Buick?

      These are ‘neat’ little cars that as others have mentioned may have brought more browsers into GM dealership.

      • 0 avatar

        The plant closed in 2009, probably just not worth the effort of moving production for a low-selling vehicle by a bankrupt company in a recession.

        • 0 avatar

          The Sky/Solstice plant was one of the ones that there were investors who showed interest in during the bankruptcy.

          There were a few plants that I wish there had been serious consideration about selling along with the rights to manufacture vehicles under a different brand name.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Simply opening the trunk shows why it didn’t take off. The car is nearly unusable outside of just being a toy where as one can put groceries in a Miata.

        You really do get the impression that they designed the car and forgot to add a gas tank. Then someone said “Eh, just put it in the trunk”

        Also think the trunk and the top werent isolated like the Miata, but I may be wrong. But the top design was crazy, at least in the Sky. You had to get out of the car to operate it. All of those annoyances really add up

        • 0 avatar

          Yup, the Solstice top went into the opened trunk (if I remember correctly, it was also only hinged at the rear of the car). Although, as you noted, the trunk was so small that the odds of you having anything back there to worry about getting wet was minimal.

          • 0 avatar

            We still have our 2007 Sky 2.4l with Hahn Racecraft turbo kit good for about 350 hp a d 400 trq with 13 psi. The Ecotec 2.4l is very robust and only needs top end changes to run more boost/power. We would regularly see 40 mpg highway with thr top up and slightly less when down. .

            The Solstice was featured in number of movies like “Transformers” and TV shows like “Bull Run”.

            The nacelle or double humps were a nice design feature that the Boxter picked up later on.

            Nacelle : the Mayan humps behind the seats. pronounced
            na·celle: a streamlined housing or tank for something on the outside of an aircraft or motor vehicle.

            While the buttresses and a single latch kept the trunk closed both the the buttresses and nacelle’s were design features. The trunk and buttresses were released with button in the glove box or remote fob. Some of us added a spring so the trunk lid would pop open.

            A single center latch inside allowed the roof to be lifted and self folded into the trunk area and the trunk to be closed. There is plenty of space for plastic grocery bags while top down and a tube-like piece luggage to further take advantage of the small cargo area. Some found that rear under floor cargo area could be expanded with fit steel box. Some went further with straight pipes and removing the muffler gained even more space.

        • 0 avatar

          I used to hike with a girl who had a…Solstice or Sky. I don’t remember which one, because she was distracting and I only saw it once. Every other time I saw her she was driving her…Escape, IIRC. It could have been any of a half dozen other CUVs, but she didn’t even drive the roadster to meet me in places of great natural beauty. I’m thinking it had something to do with the trunk being little more than a shallow channel around the gas tank that was mounted over the differential. Miatas and S2000s could be used as only cars by motivated single people, but the GM car was really a four-wheeled motorcycle in terms of utility.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed – there is something wrong with the mystery of unpowered digital odometers.

      • 0 avatar

        Worse yet is trying to score power seats out of a Cadillac with a mouse-chewed harness. Fortunately, it didn’t burn down when I hooked the jump box up.

  • avatar

    Another car that deserved so much better than the treatment it got by GM. At least Lutz was a car guy and tried improving GM the little they let him.
    I wish something like this was still being made today with the current 197 HP 2.5 or an improved 1.5 T with 180-190 HP and the LTG 2.0 turbo tied to a 9 speed auto or stick. Such a fun car.

  • avatar
    Greg Hamilton

    I always wanted one. I thought they were neat. I’m shocked that a 2008 is in the junkyard, one of my cars is only two years older and in mint condition. It would be nice to know what happened. Another GM car that could have been…

  • avatar

    I expect something $pendy went bang ~ this one doesn’t look terrible not great either .

    I still see these in Los Angeles, mostly in VGC and well tended .


    • 0 avatar

      “mostly in VGC and well tended” Yep, I’ll only see a Solstice in the wild two or three times a year, but the ones I do see are shiny and well maintained. Kind of surprising to see one in a salvage yard.

      Of note: The Solstice and Sky had a third sibling, the Opel GT. And furthering the familial relations, the GT’s predecessor was the Opel Speedster, which was a sibling of the Lotus Elise. (A German colleague had a Speedster in the early aughts.)

  • avatar

    The coupe version of this car is super rare and fixed one of its biggest problems of the convertible – lack of storage. I remember looking at one at the auto show then walking over to a Miata. The trunk in a Miata is HUGE in comparison. This car is a classic example of GM getting it about 80% right compared to the competition. I think the coupe version is really good looking car but it was a parts bin special. I believe the manual transmission was shared with a GM truck… wikipedia confirms:

    The Solstice’s other claim to fame is being “Jazz” in the Transformers movie that featured so much Bumblebee Camaro most people forgot about the small silver car that transformed from a Cadillac dealership. Seems even GM knew better then showcasing a Pontiac dealership on film.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, and on top of the usual GM unfinished product they also GMd the market positioning. Here’s a beautiful halo roadster to park right in front of the showroom and get car guys in to settle for something the wife won’t kill them for – and once they’re in there everything else is rebadged wrong wheel drive sh-t.

    • 0 avatar

      The first year Solstice shared the 5-speed manual transmission of the then Chevy Colorado.

      It worked fine, but the ratios were spaced wide, particularly between 2nd and 3rd.

      These were hot when they came out. I test drove one in Ontario—as an American, the salesman was exceedingly nice! The car had great cornering grip thru the exit ramp.

      The following year GM fixed the gear ratios.

      I considered a low mileage used turbo in summer 2018, and occasionally regret not buying it. It was a blast to drive!

  • avatar

    This car deserved more love. How do you trash a car in 10 years? My 26 year old Miata is still going strong and there is just nothing else like else like it. Front engine, balanced, rear drive 2-seat convertibles are hard to find, especially reasonably priced. Someone should have cared more.

    • 0 avatar

      I do a little bit of junkyard pickin’ now & then, and I would say 10-15 year old cars is the sweet spot. You’d be surpised how many un-wrecked German cars you see that are in good shape from outward appearances. One pricey failure, and off to the crusher. This car had a lot of faults, wasn’t really that special, an orphan car from a dead brand, and this sample appears probably rode hard and put away wet as they say. You see cars a lot nicer than this in junkyards.

      • 0 avatar

        Just so ! .

        I used to buy most of my vehicles from junkyards / tow lots because they were generally not mangled or hooptied like this poor thing was .

        I value originality over the average plodder that has wood screws in the carby and so on…..


  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I join the chorus of those wondering outloud how come this vehicle is already in the junkyard.

    The only thing I can think of is a seized transmission or engine.

    But to actually do that, even in a GM vehicle, would have required significant owner neglect. Like….never changing your oil.

  • avatar

    This is one of the dirtiest 12 year old cars I’ve seen on Junkyard Finds. This car hadn’t been cared for in a long time, so no surprise where it ended up

    • 0 avatar

      @ L2M :

      You oughta see my big brother’s Mercedes S Klasse ~ few junkyard vehicles are as filthy .

      Iit’s -so- bad, inside and out, that I no longer like to touch it, I used to maintain it for him .

      I even offered to clean the Diesel smoot off the cove and he refused .

      Some folks just like filthy I guess .


      • 0 avatar

        I keep my cars immaculate, my theory is that I wouldn’t leave the house in dirty clothes why would I drive a dirty car?

        • 0 avatar

          Dig it .

          I only have old jalopies but I try to keep them clean, especially under the hood so I don’t mind taking proper care of them and I can tell at a glance if anything is amiss .


  • avatar

    I was working at a Pontiac dealer at the time and was quite excited to see the first ones arrive. Looking at the car closeup it was just one disappointment after another. The terrible top, the craptastic interior, the build and material quality. Mazda had little to fear from this car. When the coupe debuted I thought that might be an improvement, nope, no place to store the roof-panel in the car.

  • avatar

    @redapple: I would think a simple 9 volt battery or even a “power bank” used to recharge phones plugged into the circuit/fuse receptacle that corresponds to the odo/dash would work to light the odo up long enough to get a reading. That assumes that the “stay alive” battery still has power to maintain the readings.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Like a defensive end missing their block, the Solstice and Sky rank high in the pantheon of GM almost getting it right. I had two Miatas and you could fit a set of golf clubs and a small cooler in their trunks. WITH THE TOP DOWN. Solstice/Sky owner could fit a box of tissues in their trunk with the top down. Peppy engine? BAH! Great handling? BAH! GM forgot that they were supposed to be used as, I don’t know; a car. Their was a Mazda/Pontiac dealer that had Solstice/Miata displayed side by side. A perfect example of exactly right roadster; they’ll buy this and then we’ll sell them a real car.

  • avatar

    I remember sitting down in a Solstice when they were new. The thing I noticed about the interior was that the door panels looked to made from the same hard grainy plastic as that used on my first car, a ’75 *base model* Vega (the ’76 GT I later owned included the deluxe interior, which used embossed vinyl over cardboard).

  • avatar

    The shoddy black respray surely is a symptom of something, and the smashed left rear plus the subsequent amateur bondo & rattlecan repair drove the car’s value to zero.

  • avatar

    Hit so hard it knocked the kidney snot out of its grill.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    I sat in it at the New England auto show. I could not sit up straight as the door impacted my left shoulder and kept me leaning toward the center console. It was too annoying to sit in long enough to notice any other disappointments.

  • avatar

    GM – only trying to hit a home-run when their down by 10 and it’s the bottom of the 9th.

  • avatar

    Perfect donor car for a ’71 Vega Kammback.

  • avatar
    Matt Posky

    To my great shame, I have always loved the turbocharged GM Kappas.

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