CC Capsule: Passed On The Left: 1994 Pontiac Sunbird Convertible – Just Like Mine, Only Turbo-less


Last Thursday I found myself needing to pick up some parts that were in Minneapolis, which is a little more than an hour away from here. My faux Touring Sedan was looking a little schizophrenic in its unfinished state, but mechanically it was sound enough to drive – so I decided to kill two birds with one stone (put it through its paces / take advantage of its fuel efficiency) and take it on its first out-of-town trip.

As I was doing the slow-and-go on eastbound 694, I spied this blue ‘bird slowly working its way through traffic alongside me. So I grabbed my camera.


Unfortunately a side-shot wasn’t possible, but I was able to get this close-up. It looked and sounded a little rough, but it was still chugging along – gotta give credit where credit’s due. (Curiously enough, the lot that sold it was once a client of mine. I vaguely remember seeing a car like this in their inventory around 2006 or so – perhaps the same?)

Seeing this car reminded me of a similar one I once owned…


Some vehicles (like the Cherokee) I buy with plans – or hopes, at least – of hanging on to. Others (like the Cutlass Supreme) I buy with the intention of using for a few months, then selling for a profit. But once in a while, there’ll be a car I buy strictly to resell. Something which I have absolutely no use for, but that is undervalued by its seller. Perhaps it’s being presented incorrectly, or offered by a seller that doesn’t understand it, has unrelated issues causing them to need it gone, or what have you.

This would be one of these cars. It was a 1994 Sunbird convertible. It had two owners, zero rust, 61,000 miles, and one other interesting feature the blue one above lacked: a turbocharger.


The red powdercoat finish on the valve covers, and the long red pipe feeding the intake, are dead giveaways.

In all my days of scouring the junkyards, I’d only seen two other 122 turbo fours – one in a earlier Sunbird ‘vert, the other in a 1990ish Grand Am – so I knew it had to be uncommon. And when I saw how nice everything on it was, right down to the tires, I couldn’t pass it by. Sure, the vinyl top was in tatters – but who cares? I gave the man his $500 and went to fetch my trailer.

After getting it home, I proceeded to clean it up and take a few pictures. This was clearly a car which had been parked winters and garaged when not in use for most of its life. The more recent owner had parked it outside, though, which had been the cause of most of its problems. But even so, it did clean up reasonably well (Yosemite Sam floormats notwithstanding).


Arrest-Me Red + raised white letters + the whirr of a turbo. Tempting, but it’s still a Sunbird.

Convertible Sunbirds and Cavaliers were a pretty common sight in the local boneyards, so I put a new top on my shopping list ($75 if I could find a decent one). I figured if I found one by the time the new title arrived I’d ask $1500-1600; if not, I’d just put it out as-is and ask $1000. Keeping it any longer than that was not an option, as I had to give up precious garage space to keep the rain out of this roofless wonder in the meanwhile.


Interior after a light cleaning. The gray cloth reminded me of what they put in third-gen Firebirds.

At about the three week mark the title arrived. I had been unable to find a top that wasn’t ripped in that time, so I ended up punting it for $1000. It was scooped up within hours of my advertising it.

But as always, Murphy’s Law was in full effect. It was only three days later when a 1994 Cavalier with an almost-new parchment colored top arrived at the local U-Pull. I sent a note to the buyer informing him of such, but he must have had other plans; the potential donor was crushed a month later with top intact.