Junkyard Find: 2005 Pontiac Vibe, Gambler 500 Edition

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Several hooptie-centric road rallies take place every warm season in Front Range Colorado, including the 24 Hours of Lemons Rally, the Rocky Mountain Rambler 500 Rally, and the Colorado Gambler 500 Rally. Teams will build crazy stuff— say, a Lincoln Continental Mark IV filled with three tons of engine-heated water or a gutted Volkswagen R32 converted to a doorless post-apocalyptic Astroturf nightmare— or just acquire some random cheap car, decorate it, and beat it half to death on Rocky Mountain fire roads. As you’d expect, many of these cars go right to the nearest boneyard when the rally is over, and I find quite a few of them during my junkyard travels in northeastern Colorado. Here’s the “Good Vibes” Pontiac Vibe, found in Denver over the summer.

These cars are easy to spot because each organization applies a commemorative stencil. I think my influence has had something to do with this practice.

I couldn’t find any online information about the Good Vibes Pontiac, so I can’t say how well it did in the rally (presumably in 2020).

This is the base front-wheel-drive version with five-speed manual transmission; the Vibe GT had a more powerful engine and an available six-speed manual, but nearly all Vibe buyers got the automatic. Note the 115VAC power outlet, which Pontiac believed would induce millions of laptop-addicted youngsters to buy Vibes (it didn’t).

The Vibe was built on a Toyota platform and was closely related to the Matrix (not to mention the Corolla).

All Vibes were assembled at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, which is now the site of the Tesla Motors Factory. Production ran from the 2003 through 2010 model years, and the Pontiac Division sold new Vibes until the bitter end (however, the final NUMMI-built car was a red 2010 Corolla, not a Vibe).

The Vibe is getting around… fast.

A Toyota-badged, right-hand-drive version called the Voltz was exported from Fremont to Japan, where it was marketed to facially-pierced Tokyo skateboarders and their robot friends.

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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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  • Vibe Vibe on Nov 23, 2021

    I do miss my 2005 5 speed manual transmission silver 2005 Vibe dearly just like the one here without the striping. When it was totaled in accident (not my fault as I was rear ended), it had over 190K trouble free miles with the original clutch and regular maintenance (brakes, tires, radiator fluid changes, battery, etc.) Sorry to see it be totaled as it being replaced by a Mazda 6 speed manual transmission CX5 now with over 145K miles with regular maintenance and the original clutch. The Vibe was a rugged little car for my family and me. The CX5 is great too.

  • PlannedObsolescence PlannedObsolescence on Nov 29, 2021

    I had a 2006 Vibe GT that I put over 300K miles on before we got rid of it a couple of years ago. It still ran and drove well, but needed a new clutch and the rear main seal was leaking. The odometer stopped at 299999, which is apparently a known issue on the Vibes and Corollas. That car was the perfect size for us, and I loved the 6-speed, but the clutch always was a little touchy - the amount of pedal travel between no engagement and full engagement wasn't as much as you expected.

  • John The awesome Infiniti G series saved this company 20 years ago, but they are right back on track to obsolescence. (yawn)
  • Teddyc73 White with black wheels, I'm so sick of. Or dull grey and black wheels. Just stop.
  • ToolGuy T2 was 1967 to 1979 (I'm told).My uncle had one of these (at a time; I think he went through 2 or 3) and a lot of kids.At extended family gatherings when it was time to leave (but not really), he would make a pronouncement to 'load em up' and his kids would have to go sit in the 'bus' but the adults would keep jawboning for a quarter hour which left us (the other kids) standing around awkwardly looking upon our imprisoned relatives.Story time over.(Later he worked as a new car salesman and then a service writer. Make of that what you will.)
  • ToolGuy If you spring for one of these, how about don't get that blue color in the first picture. lol(the 2023 colors shown on the mbusa website are much better - only took me 2 hours to navigate the site)
  • ToolGuy If a tree falls in the forest and Alan wasn't personally there to witness it, did it really fall?...Zen chime...