There was a time where one couldn’t turn around without tripping over a GM A-body, regardless of the location. The Pontiac 6000, alongside it’s badge-engineered corporate cousins in the Chevrolet Celebrity, Buick Century & Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera were such dominating sights on every street, parking lot and car dealership that giving one a second glance would have been reserved for the most diehard of domestic, mid-sized car enthusiasts (do these even exist?) or the budget conscious car shopper and even then, it really would have been about price.
I spotted this throwback from another era sitting in an almost forgotten position at the very back of a bargain hunter’s paradise: a run-of-the-mill used car lot. While the purpose of our visit was just that, seeking out a ‘new-to-us’ econobox for commuting, that familiar squared front end immediately caught my attention.
First thought? Wow. A Pontiac 6000.
Of coure, when was the last time I had actually noticed a Pontiac 6000 on the street? Vancouver Island is one of those few places around where there are still an abundance of vehicles on the road approaching 25+ years of age and active service, while staying in what seems to be reasonably preserved condition. I regularly spot late model K-cars, Tempos and an assortment of imports that seem to have defied the test of time and regular life expectancy these vehicles would see elsewhere, such as back home in Alberta.
The 6000, for me at least, has been the rarity. I can recall seeing the occassional Celebrity, Century and Ciera in my daily travels, even in their early quad sealed beam & Iron Duke or 2.8L V6 form, passing by on the streets and highways of the mid-Island, but the 6000 has been elusive. I would dare to say that the 6000 had the best styling of the bunch (whatever that means) with it’s abundance of interesting trim levels, color combinations and option packages.
I started driving at age 16 in 1995, at a time where the affordable, ‘first car’ vehicle choices included a myriad of domestic ‘first time’ front wheel drives: Ford Escorts & Tempos, GM’s various offerings and the K-cars. Our new found freedom came at a price, usually in the form of a CV joint, tie-rod or alternator replacement occuring on a routine basis. We all know the level of quality and refinement of domestic cars built in the 1980s, but the latest crop of new drivers may not recognize the ongoing expense of keeping one of these machines mechanically sound.
This particular last model year 1991 LE, with it’s 3.1L V6 power and simple options package, reminded me of the one occasion when I motored one of these cars in days past. It was in late 1995, not long after I had began cruising the streets in a not-so-old-at-the-time 1990 Chevrolet Sprint. My Dad, in a rare moment of ‘mind elsewhere-ness,’ backed into the car with his ‘89 F-250. The gentle love tap, unfortunately for all involved, crumpled the hood and left front fender of the Sprint like the recycled Pepsi can it seemed like it was made of. Dad felt terrible about the whole thing and insisted it be repaired right way, at the most budget conscious of body shops, of course!
The Sprint travelled a short distance out of town to spend a few days undergoing a hood and fender replacement to bring it back to it’s former glory and I was presented with a somewhat rusty, medium brown colored ‘84 6000 as a loaner. While it was not something of a beauty, that first start up and audible gurgle of the carbed 2.8L V6 caught my youthful attention. A few stabs of the accelerator to replicate that sweet note and I was hooked. While it sure didn’t look so good, it sure sounded good!
The drive back home gave me an opporunity to see wht it was all about and forgetting that I was powering a pop can equipped with a gerbil-on-the-wheel type of engine, the responsiveness of the 2.8L was delightful while it gurgled along, sipping fuel at a much more accelerated pace than the Sprint. I recall it having minimal gauges and options, but comfortable seating, a good amount of leg room and great traction in the snow of the roads in Northern British Columbia where I lived at the time.
I had to spend a lot more of the few dollars I had putting fuel into that car, but I was left with a reasonably positive impression of this variant of GM A-body, so much that I started to take note of other 6000s on the road and all of their ‘cool’ trim levels. Those late 80s/early 90s top level STE models, in their single tone color schemes and adorned with a plethora of interior gagdets, suddenly became a car of interest, though their price tags, even in the mid-90s, were out of reach for the young teenager that I was. Someday, I thought, someday.
Someday never did come. I ended up with a similarly spunky 1983 Citation a little later on which delivered the gurgling exhaust note of the 2.8L V6 and similar road manners and performance (it was the platform the A-body would spin from, of course), but I moved through the years and many other vehices without ever acquiring that “I gotta have it” 6000 STE I had desired to own.
I took a few moments to enjoy this 6000 and the memories of days past, being glad to have the chance to see one again, in reasonably good condition and very low (174,000 km) mileage for it’s age. It’s obviously one that spent the vast majority of it’s time with the same owner, likely an older couple, making brief trips to the grocery store and other such places during it’s now 24 years of service, before being scooped up for a few $100 bills, to be flipped one day for a bit of profit and almost certainly running out it it’s last days as a daily driver that will never see an oil change or a car wash bay again.
Unfortunately, the number of enthusiasts who would give this car a retirement type life of weekend waxings and pampering are very few and even I could not be tempted to do so, even though deep down inside there was a part of me meaning screaming ‘do it!’
Perhaps one day if that elusive late model STE comes around, I’ll take finally take the 6000 plunge. Perhaps.