By on November 21, 2021

2005 Pontiac Vibe in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSeveral 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.

2005 Pontiac Vibe in Colorado junkyard, Colorado Gambler 500 stencil - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese cars are easy to spot because each organization applies a commemorative stencil. I think my influence has had something to do with this practice.

2005 Pontiac Vibe in Colorado junkyard, front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI 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).

2005 Pontiac Vibe in Colorado junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis 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).

2005 Pontiac Vibe in Colorado junkyard, hatch emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Vibe was built on a Toyota platform and was closely related to the Matrix (not to mention the Corolla).

2005 Pontiac Vibe in Colorado junkyard, build tag - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAll 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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15 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2005 Pontiac Vibe, Gambler 500 Edition...”

  • avatar

    At one end of the street I live on, at the top of a hill, is a set of train tracks. And the trains that ride these tracks have to be several miles long – mainly filled with finished cars, truck frames, and other heavy industrial parts. And when sitting for 15+ minutes waiting for the train to pass, you look at the train cars go by and you notice the designs painted on them. And I think there’s more design by Krylon on this Vibe than on most of those train cars.

    You know that dead, slack-jawed stare Beavis and Butt-head had when a Winger video came on? That’s the same look I have when trying to figure out what happened to this car. But God bless’em for sticking with a manual. They’ve earned a spot at my table…

  • avatar

    Murilee – I hope we will have a review on the Deville to the south?? Looks like a nice car. Pre 88′ the 4100 and the trans would have been it’s demise.

    • 0 avatar

      Me too! I bought an ’87 FWD Fleetwood d’Elegance with the 4100/4 speed auto from my dad’s company when it came off lease. Probably the slowest car I ever owned, but I nursed the 4100 to over 100k with zero issues and the trans held up as well. Without a doubt the plushest car I’d ever owned and for comfort, the only car that rivaled it was my ’00 740iL, which made the Cadillac look like a paragon of durability and reliability as well as low cost of ownership. Perhaps I’m just old, but I think the motoring public would relish a new DeVille or Town Car as we gravitate from autobahn burners to comfortable sleds for trips to see the kids and grandkids. And no, an SUV is not the answer to that, I have 2 and neither is a comfortable as a big sedan.

      • 0 avatar

        “I think the motoring public would relish a new DeVille or Town Car as we gravitate from autobahn burners to comfortable sleds for trips to see the kids and grandkids. And no, an SUV is not the answer to that, I have 2 and neither is a comfortable as a big sedan.”

        Excuse me sir, we have a stated policy on telling the truth which you just violated. Please come with me.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    What junked this Vibe? There is still a strong market for the Vibe and Matrix. Handy, ‘right sized’ vehicles with a reputation for durability/reliability. The primary issue appears to have been issues with clutches.

  • avatar

    If you have not done so already, please click the link for the “Hot Tub Lincoln” above. I almost spit out my coffee watching it.

  • avatar

    A friend has a Matrix, it may be the most neglected car I’ve ever seen, yet it never quits, she takes road-trips at a moments notice, has been crashed into twice (salvage-title when she bought it) it gets broken into at least once a year. She asked me what she should replace it with, I said a Rav4, she decided to get another Matrix, I think that’s the better choice actually. I almost bought a Vibe, but got a Malibu Maxx instead, I am an idiot.

  • avatar
    Greg Hamilton

    Pontiac Vibes were great cars built by union workers at the NUMMI plant as mentioned in the article. This went on to prove that if you followed Dr. Demings methods, union employees could build excellent cars. This is often lost on the less informed. The Vibe was also I believe the only domestically manufactured car successfully exported to Japan. I would still have one if not for my fear of being crushed by some inattentive driver and their huge SUV.
    It’s a shame GM learned nothing from the NUMMI experience, and Toyota learned how to de-content their cars.

  • avatar

    Best Pontiac ever made, because it is not really a Pontiac.
    266K on my wife’s, still going strong. I wish it were manual.
    I had a GT, I didn’t like the lack of torque; better a base with a
    manual like this one.

  • avatar

    I really wanted one but they were rare in the used car market unless they had a zillion miles and had been beaten like a rented mule. People bought them new and just kept them.

    • 0 avatar

      You are correct, eggsalad! I bought a very early Vibe GT the day after Christmas 2002, & it’s still parked in my garage right now, after almost 146K miles. It’s been my 2nd car since 2014, but still… The only repairs in almost 19 years were a starter motor in 2017, and another starter motor 2 years later (I think the first rebuilt was low quality). It even has the original spark plugs & fires up/runs like new (I’m sure one or more will go eventually, but now I view it as a challenge to see how long they can go ;~)). Frankly, I never want to get rid of mine if I don’t have to. It’s a very practical car too: the split rear seats fold completely flat (hard to find these days) and the backs are hard plastic, so easy to load & no damage. The front right seat folds down too, so you can put things up to 8 feet long inside this little car if you’re careful. I just did an Ikea run & put 4 full-sized bookcases, 6 bookcase extensions, a large dining room table, and 6 dining room chairs in & the Vibe still had room for a little more. The 6-speed (mandatory w/the GT) & clutch are still fine; I hadn’t heard about bad clutches in these, but the GT likely has a stronger clutch than the regular models, w/180 hp on tap (100 hp/liter & 8200 rpm redline—thanks to Yamaha—a big deal back in the day). Lots of fun to rev it up to redline, though I don’t do that much anymore. Well enough cheerleading about the Vibe, but I couldn’t resist commenting to this Junkyard Find article.

  • avatar

    Incredibly, the 5-speed in these and the Toyota Matrix was pretty unreliable.

    I looked at these/Matrices awhile back, but the choices were:
    -A somewhat underpowered and not fun automatic
    -An unreliable, somewhat underpowered, but fun 5-speed
    -A reliable 6-speed car, but those tended to be driven hard and put away wet.

    So I ended up with a 2013 Camry SE (4 cylinder). And it does just fine. Utilitarian aspect isn’t there, but we also have a 4Runner, Tacoma, and my wife has a Venza.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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