Junkyard Find: 1991 Geo Prizm GSi Sedan

junkyard find 1991 geo prizm gsi sedan

When The General began building the AE82 Toyota Corolla (actually based on the JDM Sprinter version) at the NUMMI plant in California, that car got Chevrolet Nova badges. When Toyota debuted the E90 Corolla platform in 1987, it made sense for the NUMMI-ized version of the new E90 Sprinter to join the Suzukis and Isuzus of the new Geo brand. That car was the Geo Prizm, and I’ve found one of the super-rare factory-hot-rod GSi Prizms in a Denver-area self-service yard.

The Prizm GSi was available in sedan and five-door hatchback form, just for the 1990 through 1992 model years.

It got the same powertrain and suspension goodies as the AE92 Corolla GT-S, which meant this 130-horsepower “Red Top” 4A-GE engine. If you wanted a nearly invisible sleeper sedan in 1991, this was your car.

Hardly anyone would have noticed this subdued decklid spoiler, and fewer still would have understood the meaning of the GSi badges.

Sadly, the original buyer of this car ruined it by opting for the four-speed automatic transmission. To get this transmission, ’91 Prizm buyers had to get the “Preferred Equipment Group 2,” which included air conditioning and added $1,834 to the cost of a $12,195 car (that’s about $3,940 on a $26,195 car, after inflation). By the way, the Prizm/Corolla was the last new car Americans could buy with a three-speed automatic, all the way through the 2002 model year.

It’s always good to see these New United Motor Manufacturing logos during my junkyard travels.

You didn’t see many Detroit cars with the redline marked at 7,500 rpm in 1991. These cars were good competition for the Sentra SE-R, though the Isuzu-built Geo Storm GSi was a better speed-per-dollar deal than either one.

The Chevrolet bowtie hiding inside the Geo logo was a nice touch.

This car drove just 168,121 miles during its career, which isn’t so impressive for a Toyota.

For the 1993 model year, the Prizm became an E100 Sprinter, and then the ’98 Prizm became a Chevrolet when the Geo brand got the ax. After 2002, the Chevy Prizm was gone.

This is only the third Prizm GSi I’ve found in 15 years of writing about interesting denizens of the car graveyards, after a white ’90 sedan and another red ’91 sedan. I hope to find a hatchback version someday, but even the ordinary Prizm five-doors are hard to find.

Add this car to the “rare but not valuable” file.

Essentially the same thing as a BMW 3-Series, but cheaper.

I couldn’t find any Prizm GSi TV ads (there may have been none), but at least there’s this ad for the regular Prizm rhyming “Geo” with “free-oh.”

For links to better than 2,200 additional Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

[Images by the author]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jun 01, 2022

    During the 90s there were lots of good compact and subcompact cars that were affordable. You could choose from Civics, Corollas, Escorts, Cavaliers, Saturns, Mazdas, Mitsubishis, Metros, VWs, and the list goes on. Some were better than others but most with proper maintenance would go a long time.

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    • FreedMike FreedMike on Jun 01, 2022

      @Lorenzo Adjusted for inflation that 1991 Prizm would be $26,000 today. At that price point, you still have Civics, Corollas, Elantras and Fortes, and they're probably far better equipped and quicker than a '91 Corolla/Prizm. I'd bet the house on the Civic and Corolla never going away. The Elantra or Forte? Probably a good bet they're sticking around, but you never know.

  • Kinsha Kinsha on Jun 10, 2022

    I owned a “91” GSI 5 speed with every option including an electric sunroof. Loved that car and regretted selling it ever since. These cars would scream all the way to the 7500 redine. This was the last version of the 4age motor (redtop) on top of that 4 wheel disc brakes in “91” The 4age was a wonderful motor!

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.