By on January 10, 2022

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Pontiac Grand Prix started life as a sporty hardtop coupe version of the full-size 1962 Catalina, then spent the 1969 through 1987 model years as a midsize rear-wheel-drive sibling to the Chevy Monte Carlo. For 1988, the Grand Prix moved to the brand-new front-wheel-drive W platform, immediately winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award and carrying on John DeLorean’s tradition of affordable personal luxury cars with a rakish bad-boy-in-a-suit image. Here’s an ultra-rare example of the most expensive Grand Prix available for 1990, found in a Denver-area self-service yard last month.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, trip TURBO badge - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe list price of the 1990 Grand Prix Turbo Coupe started at $23,775 (about $51,870 in 2021 spondulix), and this one has a bunch of options that must have pushed its out-the-door price much higher than that… well, unless the nasty recession that hit in 1990 forced Pontiac dealers to cut prices. In fact, the Bonneville SSE was the only costlier new Pontiac in 1990, and it cost just $220 more than a Grand Prix Turbo Coupe (the Firebird Trans Am GTA cost a mere $23,320). A new 1990 BMW 325i two-door cost $24,650, while — more relevant to Grand Prix shoppers — the 1990 Ford Taurus SHO had a $21,505 MSRP and more horsepower to boot.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, steering wheel buttons - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsHowever, those cars lacked the flashy gadgetry available in the 1990 Grand Prix Turbo Coupe; for that, you could go to the much smaller Subaru XT6, the stodgy-looking Nissan Maxima, or (for the brave) a Mitsubishi Sigma.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, seat controls - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis thing has enough tiny buttons and finicky sliders to make any driver crazy; the only car I’ve ever seen that might have more maddening controls is the Pontiac 6000 STE. Not at all coincidentally, a sedan version of the Grand Prix replaced the 6000 STE for 1990 and even got STE badging.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, radio - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsCheck out this factory CD player! Very few 1990 cars could play compact discs (the cassette tape still reigning supreme at that time), and this rig added $666 (about $1,455 today) to the cost of the car but was necessary to get into the spirit of the era. I’m amazed it managed to get through the 1990s without being chainsawed out of the dash by thieves, but perhaps the owner had a faux-AM radio disguise for it.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, radio - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou’d be the Ruler of Radwood with one of these cars.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, trip computer - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNote the futuristic typeface on the bewilderingly complex trip computer. Yes, there’s even a primitive heads-up speedometer display atop the dash.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou needed big TURBO badges on your car to be cool during the 1983-1990 period, and so The General saw fit to install a turbocharged and intercooled 3.1-liter version of the good old 60° V6 engine in this car. That’s 205 horsepower for your torque-steery adventures; not all that much for a 3,500-pound car nowadays but pretty serious for 1990. In 1991, this car was replaced by the Grand Prix GTP and its 210-horse, naturally-aspirated DOHC 3.4 V6.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou could get a five-speed manual transmission with the non-turbo 3.1-powered Grand Prix in 1990, but a four-speed automatic was mandatory on the Turbo Coupe. Grand Prix buyers rarely chose a three-pedal setup, anyway, going all the way back to 1962 (I’ve found exactly one — an ’89 with a 2.8 V6 — in a car graveyard) and so The General went Full Slushbox for the Grand Prix after 1993.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, trip gauge cluster - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe interior of this car looks so nice that it that we could be looking at a genuine 33,042-mile car here. If I had to bet, though, I’d say that it’s a well-maintained 133,042-miler.

1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe in Colorado junkyard, wheel - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYes, these are factory wheels. 1990 was an interesting year.


Excitement: built.


Pontiac promoted the first-ever Grand Prix sedan hard in 1990.


In fact, it appears that the PMD didn’t even bother to do television ads for the 1990 Grand Prix coupe, which seems strange after 27 straight years of the Grand Prix name being applied only to two-doors.


Let’s go back to 1989 for some real Grand Prix advertising.

I’ve documented many discarded Grand Prix (yes, that’s the plural) since I started writing about junkyard vehicles in 2007, and I think today’s is my favorite one.

For links to nearly 2,300 of my junkyard posts (I just added many more), please visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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43 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe...”


  • avatar
    woodywrkng

    There’s definitely a zero in front of that 33,042.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Ugghhh!! These were once so hot. Now it is sitting in a junkyard all used up and dirty. So dirty. No restoration pending. Soon it’ll be a Chinese dryer.

    A 1970 GTO in this exact ssme state would fetch 25 grand easy. This should dispel any argument that a new muscle car boom of ’80s and ’90s iron is on the right on the horizon, as some have been saying since 2003 or so They have interest through the Radwood movement, which is good, but the dollars are just not gonna be the same.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      The 1990 era equivalent to a 1970 GTO isn’t a W body though, it’s something like a Turbo Supra or NSX. Check prices on those lately?

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        This would be the 1990 equivalent of a 1970 GTO. Almost to a tee. The 1970 equivalent of a Mk IV Supra Turbo and NSX would be an LS6 Chevelle and Hemi Road Runner.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          To each their own, but to me the equivalent of the LS6 or Hemi is a Diablo or Testarossa.

          No one ever said a Supra or an NSX was the fastest or best performing car in the world. They’re a clear step down from the top dogs, like the GTO was.

          • 0 avatar
            Superdessucke

            They built over 40,000 1970 GTOs. I would say this is more like a 1970 GTO Judge then. The regular 1970 GTO was, and is, common. Valuable due to demand, not exclusivity. This GP has little demand, so here it is.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “This would be the 1990 equivalent of a 1970 GTO. Almost to a tee.”

          Nah. This is the equivalent of a ’73 Grand Am.

          “They have interest through the Radwood movement, which is good, but the dollars are just not gonna be the same.”

          I do agree with this point though.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Biggest difference between Radwood and the Boomer muscle cars is the disparity between the top alphas like the Supra, NSX and Integra Tyoe-R, and all the others. There’s a massive gulf, which in a way is predictable with our income disparities now. That gap exists with the Boomer muscle cars but even the average ones are worth a lot of money. You’d be lucky to get a plate of hash brownies for a nice one of these Turbo GPs!

  • avatar
    Rboz

    I believe it is “Grands Prix” in plural form.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I had a ’94 GP SE as my first car, and while I recognize the white on gray button scheme, pretty much nothing else about the interior would tell me it’s the same model. That steering wheel doesn’t even seem real.

    These were solid cars but GM might have been just a tad optimistic with the pricing on this one.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      Agreed, a friend from college had a red 94 SE coupe which looks nothing like this on the interior. It had dual airbags, different seats, radio and no buttons on the steering wheel.
      I’d say the 94-96 interior was a big improvement over previous years.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I bought an ’88 Grand Prix when they first came on the market. Not a bad car at all but had the typical GM first edition niggling issues – I specifically remember the blackout paint on the glass headlight boxes rapidly peeling off leaving light leaks that looked like a laser light show at night. Mine was the previous 2.8L engine and performed pretty well (great sound under throttle) and returned 30mpg on the highway. But, as I said, new GM model, and I unloaded it less that 2 years later when the tranny started failing to unlock the torque convertor when pulling up to a stop with only 22k miles on the clock.

  • avatar
    MitchConner

    Not sure when Goodyear quit making Gatorbacks in that size — but it has been a pretty long time. Therefore, I’d be inclined to say that’s a 33K mile car instead of a 133K one. Has a matching set of them, too, and they weren’t cheap.

    If that was a high mileage beater — it’d have newer rubber on it — possibly from some bottom feeding Chinese brand like Linglong, Smoking Panda, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or whatever.

    While those were always cheesier than a 5 pound block of Velveeta — it’s kind of sad to see a performance car like that in the boneyard before it’s squashed and sent to car heaven as a frisbee.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “This thing has enough tiny buttons and finicky sliders to make any driver crazy”

    Besides cost-cutting, this is one reason why mfrs have gone all touch screen. But some moderation would be nice.

    Pontiac led the way with raspy V6 (and I4) exhaust notes, which were cool at first but got annoying as the novelty wore off.

    A personal note: As a young engineer, my first job was at a small machine/engineering shop that designed and built the equipment which finished the front door weatherstripping on this car. The machine was amazingly complex, and quite a learning experience for me. It was my only professional intersection with the automotive world, thankfully.

  • avatar
    jwzg

    Those are Gatorbacks on that car, which makes me think that 33000 miles is legit.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Going to make an assumption here but based on the MSRP, how this was optioned, the low mileage and the condition of the interior, would it be safe to assume that this was purchased by an ‘older’ GM loyalist, as a ‘retirement (or similar) gift to them self? Someone who wanted a GM form of performance and luxury, rather than purchasing a Ford or some vehicle built by a company in a country we (he?) fought against in WWII? Remember that in 1990 some WWII vets were just turning 63.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Coulda got a Seville STS.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        For an STS that year T prices started at $36,320. 1990 STS production totaled 2,811 vehicles. (Both figures from Wikipedia) So a totally different price range.

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      I’ve known a lot of WW2 vets and, with the exception of a couple of Jewish vets, did not come across the idea that they wouldn’t buy German or Japanese car based on being a former enemy. The “enemy” idea fell away quickly after the war with West Germany as an ally and base and Japan as ally and base during Korea. So other than a few Porsche’s, it was more a matter of habit since there weren’t really good options until the 80’s and they just always bought American. I did know one that had a Cressida now that I recall. Today the only political bias I see consistently is that Chinese green card folks avoid Japanese cars. I think their official education curriculum makes sure everyone is educated on what happened.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        @Stanley – LOL! You just reminded me of the Jewish mechanical engineer I worked with at a plant operated the largest German chemical company where we manufactured OEM automotive coatings. He’d say, “If my relatives knew that I was working for these German pr**ks they’d disown me.”.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Stanley, Agree with much of what you posted, however I knew and even worked with a number of vets who would not drive vehicles from either nation. At the organization where I worked for 20 years, vehicles from German manufacturers could not be purchased/leased as company vehicles and if privately owned were relegated to the back lot. That rule was changed less than a decade ago. Then of course there are media stereotypes such as Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, etc who disparaged foreign cars for either that or other reasons.

        • 0 avatar
          Stanley Steamer

          Well it only takes a few in position of authority to make decisions for everyone else, but phew!! sure sounds like an infringement on the freedoms they fought for.
          All I’m saying is that patriotic buying is different than boycott buying, and our vets were bigger than that – the not buying from a country they fought against idea. They’d just rather buy American, that’s all.

      • 0 avatar
        JEFFSHADOW

        I remember seeing a Mazda 929 with a “Pearl Harbor Survivor” bumper sticker in 1992!

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Love the pre-airbag steering wheel of many buttons.

    Funny you mention the manual transmission. I drove a Lumina V6 Z whatever it was with the manual transmission. Was pretty zippy for a car of that era, considering the weight. Weirdest thing was, since the auto transmission was a column shift, it had a bench seat in the front. Always had the image of some crazy person in the middle seat gripping the gearshift like a WWI figther pilot.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I can imagine the meetings within GM at this time.
    We have a fresh and new platform for our new family hauler.
    We are grossly over budget and will lose money on this project.
    The Taurus, K-car family, and Japanese sedans are reliable, affordable, and especially the Japanese models, drive smoothly and comfortably.
    The boomer generation is just starting to enter peak earnings and have their 2.3 kids with a home in the ‘burbs and the dog out back. So, let’s do this. We are already millions over budget so we need a big hit to show that these will sell. I know…let’s make them 2 doors only! YES!!! Because nothing says family car like having to get in and out just so your kids can exit the back seat. And we can save a lot of money by getting the nastiest, hard, rattle-prone plastics from the cheapest supplier. And air bags? What are those? Just slap the door belts on that no one uses correctly. So what if you fly out of the car if the door opens in a crash. We’ll save even more money!!!
    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a big reason why GM lost the plot and sales. They missed the biggest market ever – baby boomers with small kids – because they didn’t know or care to read the room. Turbo or no turbo, more useful cars like the Taurus, Camry, and Accord took GM behind the woodshed and whooped them good.
    And I can vouch from personal experience – those steering wheel buttons have a pretty short lifespan. I loved the little trick where volume controlled seek and other buttons just worked when they wanted to.
    And it was too much to ask for memory power seats. With all of those controls, all it takes is a hyper 8-year-old to play with each button, lever, and switch and you will NEVER get comfortable again. We had an Oldsmobile Touring Sedan with similar power seats. When the youngest was playing with the seats, they decided to break on us. No one could ever get comfortable in the front passenger seat ever again. Torture racks had nothing on that seat.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “And I can vouch from personal experience – those steering wheel buttons have a pretty short lifespan”

      If we are doing anecdotes, mine worked for at least 26 years and they were compatible across many different radios GM offered.
      The power seats worked for at least 26 years too.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I liked these cars when they were “late model” in the 90’s.

    $51k though in today’s dollars is damn expensive for something like this, basically an economy car with a little hotter engine. I remember in like 2018 getting a firm quote from a dealer for a new Lexus ES350 for under $40k. These cars aren’t even in the same universe.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Over the years starting in the early 60’s GM experimented with turbos, bolting them on the Buick/Olds 215 aluminum V8 in the F-85 Cutlass and the Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder.
    Then in the late 70’s Buick offered them in the Regal/Century on the 231 V6 and in the 80’s Pontiac’s 301 V8 turbo Trans Am. It’s as if GM had fits and starts with turbos until this special edition Grand Prix or they didn’t think that they would be reliable as the 3800 SC and pan out.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    When this car was built I was 25 and probably should have been drooling over the looks and performance but even then the design of this, the Bonneville SSE and the 6000 STE just looked too silly. It was as if it was designed to appeal to a 14 year old doodler in math class but priced for someone in their peak earning years.

    The comment on CD player thefts caused me to recall that around this time I had an Alpine aftermarket CD player that mounted in a sleeve in the dash. Every night I would dutifully pull the CD player out of its sleeve and bring it in the house. Aftermarket stereo theft was a plague back then.

  • avatar
    randy in rocklin

    I think the nicest GTO ever built was in 1966 and 67. My fav is 66 and a 67 convertible.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Sitting behind the wheel of a 1985 6000 STE at the Seattle auto show, my 9-year-old self just thought this steering wheel was the most desirable feature that had ever been installed on a car.

    By five years later I knew better.

    Separately, what could possibly go wrong if you took an engine that was already known for gasket issues despite making not much power, and then turbocharged it? Sounds like a plan.

  • avatar

    Nice copy of the cool at the time BBS basket weave wheels. I had a set on a VW, and these were a royal B to clean.
    The 88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe we are tearing apart to convert to a Lemons car has an equal number of switches, and once you get the panels off in the mostly analog era, the size of the wiring runs is amazing-there are digital boxes in this era of cars but they are discretely wired up. Hundred of wires, three massive harnesses…I’m sure this car is the same.

    • 0 avatar
      jeanbaptiste

      I love these wheels. Not so much on the grand prix but on the trans am. https://www.carscoops.com/2020/03/special-edition-1989-pontiac-trans-am-turbo-invites-you-to-get-your-groove-on/

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I started driving in ’92 and would have KILLED to drive this in High School. Alas, it was a ’78 LeBaron that wouldn’t run in cold rain for me.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    I purchased a new 1990 silver Grand Prix that had a paint peel problem. GM (and other carmakers) went with a primerless paint system, with the finish coat applied directly over the E-coat. In 1993, still under warranty, the paint was starting to come off the hood, roof, and trunk horizontal surfaces.

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