Junkyard Find: 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1990 pontiac grand prix turbo coupe

The 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.

The 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.

However, 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.

This 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.

Check 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.

You’d be the Ruler of Radwood with one of these cars.

Note the futuristic typeface on the bewilderingly complex trip computer. Yes, there’s even a primitive heads-up speedometer display atop the dash.

You 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.

You 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.

The 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.

Yes, 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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3 of 47 comments
  • Bankerdanny Bankerdanny on Jan 20, 2022

    The 60 degree GM V6 is a popular engine for swaps into old British sports cars like the MGB. I am personally working on swapping in a 2.8 from a Fiero and a Camaro T5 into my '72 MGB-GT. This engine would make for a very interesting swap candidate

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jan 20, 2022

      I agree but one of the strengths of the 60V6 is parts availability and common use. Maybe the changes were minimal in this 3.1 Turbo but if they were not good luck on support when something breaks (ditto the 3.4 LQ1).

  • Tuneman1984 Tuneman1984 on Jan 25, 2022

    I don't think Pontiac focused a lot of advertising on the Grand Prix coupe in 1990 as the sedan was new. I only found one 1990 commercial for a coupe on YouTube, though the footage is from a 1989 commercial. They DID feature the Turbo Coupe in full Pontiac line-up commercials such as this one, which also features a 1990 6000 S/E! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0Iqxu_ET18

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