Rare Rides: The 1991 Chevrolet Lumina Z34, a Practical High-performance Coupe

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1991 chevrolet lumina z34 a practical high performance coupe

In 1991, consumers could purchase one of several affordable midsize coupes of low-medium equipment, low-medium quality, and upper-middle levels of style.

Let’s talk Lumina Z34.

The Lumina was a new model in Chevrolet’s lineup, introduced in 1990 to replace the dated and extra boxy A-body Celebrity that was on sale since 1982. Lumina was larger in every dimension and more suited to its midsize car mission than its predecessor. Utilizing the newer W-body, Lumina was produced alongside the Buick Regal, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. All four cars went head-to-head with the sales monster that was the Ford Taurus.

But the Lumina was no single-car replacement at GM; there was a larger plan at work. Lumina also absorbed the market share of Chevy’s Monte Carlo, which saw its last model year in 1988. Monte’s sporty customers chose the two-door coupe, while Celebrity types opted for the four-door sedan. Monte Carlo was reintroduced for the ’95 model year, which coincided with Lumina’s second W-body generation. In that guise, Monte Carlo was not as much its own design, but more a new Lumina coupe. The Lumina name also extended to a minivan – the APV – which was the Cadillac of Minivans when it donned Oldsmobile Silhouette costumery. The APV was a replacement for the Celebrity wagon; GM saw the Nineties writing on the wall as wagon sales entered a nosedive.

First-gen Luminas were available with inline-four or V6 engines. A 2.2-liter I4 was available only in 1993, while the 2.5-liter Iron Duke from the Celebrity was available from 1990 to 1992. V6 power arrived via a 3.1 (’90-’94) or 3.4 (’91-’94). Transmissions were three- and four-speed GM automatics, or the rarely chosen five-speed manual from Getrag.

Newly available for 1991 was a high-performance Lumina variant, the Z34. The Z34 trim was offered only on the coupe, and was always fitted with an FE3 sports suspension package, and used the largest 3.4-liter engine shared with the Euro trim sedan. Standard was a dual exhaust and four-wheel ABS, as well as a five-speed manual. The automatic was optional on Z34 and usually selected. Even in automatic guise, the shifter was floor-mounted, in contrast to more common Lumina trims. Z34 sported 200 horsepower, which meant a 0 to 60 time of just 7.2 seconds with a manual transmission, and a top speed of 130 miles per hour.

Outside, the Z34 showed its sporting intent via different fascias front and rear, lower side skirts, louvers in various places, and a spoiler. Paint colors were limited: red, blue, white, black, silver, and gray. Inside, drivers grabbed a three-spoke sports wheel and sat on overstuffed bucket seats.

The Lumina was immediately successful, and in 1990 racked up over 300,000 sales. Around 278,000 of those were sedans, and nearly 46,000 coupes. At the end of the Lumina’s first generation in 1994, over a million had been sold. The Lumina Z34 faded away after that year and was replaced by the aforementioned Monte Carlo Z34 in 1995.

Today’s Rare Ride is in spectacular condition and goes up for auction tomorrow. With a five-speed manual, it has just 17,000 miles and has been in the same collection for the past 28 years.

[Images: GM]

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  • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Mar 06, 2021

    You coulda had a Taurus SHO with the wonderful, conservatively-rated at 225 HP, Yamaha 3 liter DOHC V-6 instead of this. I bought a '92 and kept it 10 years. The engine appeared to be bulletproof; the clutch had some throwout bearing issues. Like most domestics of the era, it was under-braked. Replacing the stock front discs with higher-quality ones from, IIRC, Germany cured the chronic warping problem.

    • See 3 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Mar 08, 2021

      @geo It transaxle, no truck applications. Other than the SHO, just small FWD cars with around 90 HP, including Mazdas, but definitely not Hot Rods.

  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Mar 06, 2021

    I remember a Patrick Bedard article (it could have been his column) in Car and Driver about this generation of Lumina. He wrote about the panels that comprise the top of the dashboard, and how they don't really align with each other. This was done intentionally by GM to ease assembly. His thoughts on the subject (wording approximate): "Do you really want, after you've spent $15,000 on a car, to have a daily reminder of how easy it was to slap together?"

  • Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.
  • Kwik_Shift A manual bug eye WRX wagon (2001-03) would interest me more.
  • El scotto Ferrari develops a way to put a virtual car in real time traffic? Will it be multiple virtual players in a possible infinite number of real drivers in real time situations?This will be one of the greatest things ever or a niche video game.
  • El scotto It's said that many military regulations are written in blood. Every ship's wheel or aircraft joystick has a human hand on it at all times when a ship or aircraft are under power. Tanks, APC's and other ground vehicles probably operate under the same rules. Even with those regulations accidents still happen. There is no such thing as an unmanned autopilot, ever. Someone has to be on the stick at all times.I do not think MB understands what a sue-happy nation the USA is. The 1st leased MB in a wreck while this Type 3 "Semi-Autonomous" driving, or whatever it is called, will result in an automatic lawsuit. Expect a class action lawsuit after the 1st personal lawsuit is filed. Yes, new MB owners can afford and ever are lawyers.Mercedes Benz; "The best wrecks or nothing!" Oh and has anyone noticed that Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura, the gray suit with white shirt and striped tie, automobile companies have stayed away from any autonomous driving nonsense?
  • Merc190 Very streamlined but not distinctive enough for a Mercedes. And besides, the streetcar of the early 20th century seems a far more efficient and effective method of people moving in essentially an autonomous manner. A motor car is meant to be driven with proper attention to what's important in every situation. To design it otherwise is idiotic and contradictory.