Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac Sunbird SE Coupe
Even by the standards of the far-flung General Motors Empire, the J-Body was found everywhere, from the Vauxhall Cavaliers of Great Britain to the Isuzu Askas of Japan to the Daewoo Esperas of South Korea. In the United States of the 1980s, the Chevy Cavalier was the J-Body King, but its Pontiac-badged sibling, the Sunbird, was a not-so-distant second place in the J sales race. Today's Junkyard Find is a sporty Sunbird coupe, found in a yard just south of Denver, Colorado.
In 1988, five members of the J-Body family were available in the United States: the Cadillac Cimarron, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza, Pontiac Sunbird, and Chevrolet Cavalier. That year was Peak J here, with the Cimarron and Firenza getting the axe prior to 1989.
Like the Cavalier, the 1988 Sunbird was available as a two-door coupe, a four-door sedan, a convertible and a station wagon. You could even get a GT Turbo version.
1988 was the first year of the second-generation of the J-Body Sunbird (the name had been applied to the Pontiac-badged version of the Chevrolet Monza before that), and it had substantially restyled front and rear bodywork.
The SE and GT Sunbirds for 1988 got these partially concealed headlights with retractable "eyelids."
This car got a thick coat of white house paint over its original white paint, with a faux bra sprayed in black over that.
This engine is a SOHC 2.0-liter straight-four, rated at 96 horsepower and 118 pound-feet.
The only transmissions available in the 1988 Sunbird were a five-speed manual and a three-speed automatic.
This car has the five-on-the-floor, a wise choice given that the slushbox cost $415 (about $1,096 in 2023 dollars).
The interior is done up with industrial-grade crypto-velour. This back seat doesn't look so comfortable.
The final mileage total was an impressive 268,392 miles. Nope, there's no tachometer.
The MSRP for a 1988 Sunbird SE Coupe was $8,599, or about $22,719 in today's money. Its Cavalier counterpart listed at $8,120 ($21,454 now).
There's no air conditioning, but this car does have the $145 rear defogger option.
Hear the distant thunder, the call of the road.
No time to wonder, you've gotta go!
In the 1990s, fun will become the exclusive province of the rich… or maybe not, if the Sunbird has its way.
[Images: The Author]
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