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.
That’s funny, as coincidently I spotted a 6000 this morning, and snapped a quick picture thinking “I wonder if this is the last 6000 I will ever see”. I was actually driving through a Walmart parking lot in hopes of finding some curbside classics, although I didn’t have much luck. This 6000 was the only real significant find. Given its rusted roof, I don’t think it has many years left.
Pontiac chose to abandon the 6000 (it probably was seen as not fitting in with the “Excitement” theme) in favor of the W-Body Grand Prix sedan, while its siblings Buick Century and Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera continued on through 1996, by which time they had all the bugs worked out of them and they were not only as reliable but as exciting as a box of rocks.
I had one of those!! It had a ton of buttons on the steering wheel and none of them worked, not even the horn. The dang thing ALWAYS ran hot. The cooling fans didn’t come on until the metal in the engine was almost soft, then, the fans would run until the car battery would die. I hated that car!! I kissed it goodby and doomed it to the crusher jaws.
This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the AWD variant that was available in 1989 and 1990 (not sure about after that).
the blue one in the last picture is an 89 AWD
A coworker told me that he had one of those AWD versions. He sold it on advice of his mechanic. The mechanic warned him that, because they were rare and had so many unique parts versus the regular FWD 6000, when something broke it was sure to be expensive.
There are some parts that you just plain can’t get anymore. Most parts are shared however. Unfortunately the rear struts are unobtanium, so I’m sure that is something that would put one in a junkyard unless you’re willing to have the strut rebuilt.
Back in 1997, when I was a high school senior and my parents were shopping for a used car for me, the tiny Chrysler/Plymouth dealer owned by a guy my dad went to high school with had one of the AWD’s on the lot, in maroon, in great shape. I wanted it so bad – I mean, it had body colored rims. And gold trim. How awesome is that?
Sadly, it was already sold.
This was an enjoyable read. It reinforces my theory that there is a fan base for every vehicle ever made. I don’t recall the last time I heard/read anyone speaking fondly of the exhaust note of a V6 either. If you scoured the internet, I bet you’d find something to satisfy your 6000 STE car lust readily enough.
My grandma once owned a 6000. I hadn’t had my license long when she let me drive on a trip. Note that the speedometer needle is BEHIND the numbers on the gauge, instead of in front like most speedometers. This makes it appear to read higher when viewed from the passenger seat. When she looked over while we were on the highway, she thought I was speeding and started to criticize me. Based on that experience, I have a less enthusiastic view of the Pontiac 6000.
Over the years, I’ve often pondered why my Father bought a 64 Galaxie in 1969 (still has it), a 82 Crown Vic, a 96 Grand Marquis, then a 05 Grand Marquis in that order those many years apart while many of our neighbors were getting a new car every few years. I’ve now figured out that he was saving us and himself from the Ford Granadas, Chrysler Cordobas, Chrysler Minivans, the Chevy Corsicas, K-cars, and the Pontiac 6000’s of the world. We had neighbors and family that had all of those, none of which matched the durability or the ride of our big Fords.
The neighbor with the 6000 got it to replace an early 80’s Ford wagon. I don’t think that 6000 lasted a year before she got a Corsica. That 6000 was really bad based on the number of times it left her on the side of the road.
Our first truck was a 62 GMC that he got in 78, then an 80 F-100 that lasted until 97 when he gave it to a family member (who ruined it in short order), a company Silverado in 96, then his current 08 Silverado. Had it not been for that 96 Chevy company truck, there is no doubt in my mind that 80 F100 would still be on the road with him behind the wheel.
I wonder if Pontiac was actually thinking about axing the 6000 at the time they revised it for the 1989 model year so the rear end resembled the rounded rear of the Ciera and Century which were also refreshed in 1989. It is doubtful they would have sent the time or money on revising it to simply kill it off.
Notice how the Celebrity simply stayed the same from 87 to till it was killed off in 1990 with no changes. Chevy know it was to be killed off soon for the Lumina so they did not bother with changes. I like all the A body cars but I like the Celebrity a lot less then the century.
Well I do like this Celebrity convertible
I had a 1989 sedan in white it was my 1st car I wanted to find a pic of the exact type & color I had so I can show my kids one day but it’s hard. That thing was always breaking lol. Gas was .99 a gallon in 1997 & I could fit so many people in it. I would take out the keys & it would still drive….. road it till the wheels fell off. ?
Nice find. As much as I disliked 80s GM cookie-cutter design, I preferred the original roofline on the 6000. The overall shape seemed more congruent, however much it was later bastardized. To me, the 6000 was the only A-body from this generation that didn’t seem like an old guy’s car. At least in base form. Would have loved to have owned an early STE.
I agree — this is a neat find, but I much prefer the original styling. I strongly dislike “fake glass” where blank panels are made to look like DLO (daylight opening), and that’s what they did with the rear quarter windows on this model when they refreshed it. Also, the rounded roofline clashes with the squarish bottom half of the car.
It’s amazing how the dashboard of the 6000 and Celebrity seemed like throwbacks to the early-1960s, when bone-straight dashes were de rigueur. The same could be said about the entire FWD C and H-body lineup of the same era.
In that light, the late 80s Ford interiors (save for the Crown Vic) were a revelation.
The Celebrity dashboard always reminded me of the mid-60’s full size Ford dashboard, with the freestanding rectangle sticking out at the top, housing the insturments.
I always liked the 6000’s nose–the early ones which looked for all the world like they had three lamps per side due to the wide, clear-lens signals, and then these later ones with the wide composites. Definitely the sportiest-looking A-body variant, for what that’s worth. Though I really hate the wheel covers on the feature car–yes, they’re factory, but they always irked me as a knockoff of some of the Pontiac-specific alloys. Other than that, it’s rare to see any 6000, let alone one in this good shape. Here’s hoping it beats the odds and finds a caring owner who doesn’t run it into the ground!
Thanks for the memories, my wife and I bought one of these when my first daughter was born in 1987. It was a 1984 model, dark green on green with GM’s “clink chink” wire hubcaps. I picked it because of the exhaust sound (2.8 v6 with the amazing veri-jet 2 bbl carb) over the 1984 Camry my wife wanted. I traded my blue 1984 Daytona Turbo for it. We had very few problems with it during the 6 years we owned it. A far better car than the Daytona but that is for another day.
As I remember these were the pride of many rent a car fleets. As they aged and were auctioned off the used car market was flooded with these. Decent used cars at fantastic prices due to the large inventories available.
I always liked these cars over the redesigned Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera’s and Buick Century’s and never understood why the Pontiac 6000 didn’t sell as well as the other two cars, several years ago I worked with someone who owned a Pontiac 6000 of this era and it had the 4 cylinder engine, I do feel the redesign models of these cars looked better than their original designs except for the Chevy Celebrity.
My best friend’s aunt had a 1987 6000 LE with the 2.8 V-6. It was dark blue with matching interior. I remember reading the odometer and thinking, wow – these cars are durable! At the time – around 1996 – it had 176,000 miles. She had it for a few more years, in fact I think it went well over the 200k mark before she had it junked because the transmission was slipping and the body was full of rust. For some reason, I remember 6000s and Celebritys as being the worst of the A-bodies for premature rust. The Centurys seemed to be pretty good, as well as the Cieras.
I always liked the later 6000s as they took on the look of the earlier STE model. I saw a white one not too long ago, and sadly it was looking very tired. You can never mistake that fake GM exhaust growl that the V-6’s of the day made – my mother-in-law’s 1988 Firebird had the 2.8 V-6 and it made that ridiculous growling sound. That car was so underpowered yet that growl made it seem to go much faster than it actually was. You could hear her coming for miles LOL!!!
I recall when these cars first came out, reading an article in one of the car magazines where they compared a host of midsized cars. The Pontiac selected for the comparison was a 6000LE…. I will never forget the author of the article calling it a “GOOOLE” !!!
Since then, every time I was behind one at a red light, I would look at the nameplate and laugh !!!!
Da Goolie! I came here just to call it that.
My roommates girlfriend was looking to buy a cheap daily drivet on Craigslist and pulled one of these up. I spotted it over her shoulder and immediately yelled OHHHHH SHEEEIT YOU GONNA GET A GOOOOOOOooooolie! She just stared at me like I just walked up and dropped a dead squirrel on the keyboard.
Saab 900 se = goose
I have been wondering about workaday ’80s and ’90s cars a lot lately. Once these rare surviving examples die out at the hands of their last owners… will the base, mass-market models simply become extinct? In the year 2025, will the Tempos, Escorts, Corsicas, Acclaims, and Celebrities of my childhood be nothing more than Wikipedia pages?
Obviously the Cadillacs, Mustangs, etc will be preserved by someone. But what about cars like this? The white, cloth seat, plastic hubcap, 4-door sedan? Many people on websites like this and others show interest in scooping up and preserving cars like this, but none of us have the time/money/space to actually do it. I can’t help but think that some day they will all be completely gone.
Brendan’s comment “I wonder if this is the last 6000 I will ever see” really sticks with me, in a sad way… not because these are excellent, memorable cars or anything, but because it seems like no one will ever have the motivation to preserve the everyday automotive history of that this time period. I suppose there are worse things to worry about, but it is a bit weird to think about.
I can completely relate. A few weeks ago, I blurted out in such excitement–while driving on the freeway–because an Eagle Vision (albeit very tired-looking, sadly) passed me. By my reaction, you’d think that a McLaren F1 passed me or something. Out of all the Chrysler LH cars–my most favorite of ALL cars–these are the rarest of them all it seems.
My girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat when this happened, spilled her cappuccino in surprise, because up until that point the trip was pretty quiet and uneventful. I just kind of yelled, “Wow! Look at that!” without thinking. She socked me in the shoulder and called me crazy for getting all excited over an old, “crappy” car.
In all seriousness though, I wonder when I’ll see another Eagle Vision alive and in use?
I did a CC on one a couple of years ago, you can find it thru the index. There is another that seems to belong to an employee at a nearby fast food joint, it is always parked out front. The Vision was always my favorite of those LH cars too.
It is a throwback from another era, but not far back enough. Still FWD. The GM A-body cars were fraught with problems left over from the X-body cars. Back in the day we had a huge number of them in fleet service, and they were literally falling apart. The engines would fall out due to broken engine mounts. They rattled so badly you needed ear plugs to drive one. I would not even buy one of these for cheap transportation. Even when they were brand new I would be afraid to take off across the country in one.
I do have a crappy 4 door transportation car. I maintain it meticulously. But I don’t wash it, other than the windows, mirrors, and lights. I don’t consider a 4 door car worthy of being washed and waxed and detailed. Maybe a quick trip through a car wash once in a while, just to make it presentable. This type of car does not evoke any emotion at all from me. It’s strictly transportation (and the A-body was not even very good at that) I maintain it mechanically because I want to get as many miles out of it as possible. Then it will be scrapped and replaced. For me, these cars have no desirability, they are not future classics, and the sooner they are crushed the better.
OTOH, I remember spending hundreds of enjoyable hours washing, waxing, and detailing cars like my former Challenger, Camaro, Corvette, and Fiero. I now have arthritis so bad I am no longer able to do that sort of thing, so I refuse to own such a car, since I can’t give it the care it deserves. I have 2 “patina” cars and a hot rod/drag racer, which I do at least wash (with the brush at the local coin operated car wash) and the aforementioned transportation car.
Yes I know I tend to be hard on this type of car, but I really can’t see why it is necessary to dress them up and put anything on them that does not aid in the only practical I see for them. To transport a large number of people from point A to point B. To me they are the equivalent of a taxicab, only you get to own and drive them yourself. One step up from a bus.
And I promise I won’t say this anymore, as everyone knows by now how I feel about it. It is my opinion only, and I do not present it as being either right or wrong.
Now how about a 1991 Trans Am. In white.
Thanks for sharing your opinion, and now here’s mine. I come to this site for exactly this type of car. Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, Firebird…. they’re overexposed and done to death in other places. Not that I don’t like those, but I like seeing the forgotten underdog cars we get to see here. To me, the 6000 is about 6000 times more interesting than the Trans Am I’ve seen 6000 times in its every iteration. Is it a collectible? If someone thought so and collected it (or wanted to), then it is, like it or not. And I’m interested in hearing about it and seeing it, whether it’s my personal favorite or not.
Good point. I´m totally with ya on this one!
Thank you sir. I totally agree and relate.
I’m with these guys.
I have a 1990 Pontiac 6000. I have owned it for 7 yrs. Second Owner. Never had to do anything to it. It only has 81,000 miles. Would n’t take anything for it.
“And I promise I won’t say this anymore…”
You sir, are a liar.
Always one of my favorites…. As an auto insurance adjuster back in the 80’s, I had a company vehicle, and got to order my second one in 1983 – a Pontiac 6000 4-door. I paid a few hundred extra for a few options – power windows and locks, front bucket seats, and a console with a floor shift. It turned out to be a wonderful vehicle, and I loved driving it. Very comfortable with the cloth buckets, and rode very nice.
Nice find! Long time since I saw one too.
My only firsthand experience in one of these was as a passenger in a station wagon owned by a client. I have but a single recollection of that car – the way the dash vibrated and shook when the car hit potholes. Not tight, shall we say.
That said, I think I like the looks of these better than any of the other variants, with the possible exception of the Buick. I also remember the snarl of those GM V6s – I thought it was a cool sound too.
I remember renting a brand new 1987 6000 with something like 9 miles on it. I did enjoy the week we spent with it. Very roomy and comfortable. We even considered buying it from the rental car company.
Articles like this make me wonder about rarity as being somewhat relative to where you are and how well a car sells/cared for by owners. I still see these Pontiac and their Buick counterparts fairly often. Most of them are fairly used up but nice examples periodically turn up in traffic with an either an elderly or very young driver behind the wheel. One of my former co-workers and her husband are on their second one of these cars as the first one had enough body damage they got the second car and used the first one for parts. They are young with kids and the husband longs for a 1960’s-early 70’s small American car that’s easier for him to fix and maintain. They’re not exactly fond of these FWD cars, but it’s what they know for now.
The part of Kentucky where I live uses a ridiculous amount of salt and in spite of that there are still a fair amount of these 80’s-90’s FWD American cars running around that I see in various numbers. Acclaims, Tauruses, K-cars, first gen Neons, first and second gen LH cars, all kinds of FWD Buicks, Pontiacs etc. But then, I almost never see J-body LeBaron coupes anymore, and fewer convertibles than I used to. I haven’t seen a Chrysler Laser or early Daytona in a long time. I see more actual K-cars than I do the Sundance/Shadow cars that replaced them. Now and then an Omni/Horizon car turns up but not in the numbers I used to see them. Never see a Citation or its sister cars, Still see a fair amount of Cavaliers, but rarely an Escort. You get the idea.
As far as future curbside classics go, in my area, there still dozens of second gen LH cars and for every new Dart sold, there were ten Avengers. I see the Avengers every where I go. They’re almost as common as the Volvo 240s I still see daily. Having said that, there are all kinds of factors for why your sighting experience may vary. 🙂
Is it just me or do these cars strongly resemble the Commodore from earlier today? Especially the Corsica version. Or was it the Celebrity? Especially with that “Euro” appearance package you used to see occasionally.
Rest assured, there’s still a few of these around in Eugene. I expect it will be a while before the last one disappears.
Weren’t these 6000s (or a subset thereof) all the rage at Car and Driver?
Yes, STE was the second coming of God in the form of a mid sized Pontiac, at least for the CD editorial team.
For an American car junkie like the teenaged me, it meant I at least got to see some Detroit iron in that particular mag without Brock Yates sneering all over it.
The 2.8 V6 was specifically tuned to sound like that. The rags at the time reported that GM used sound engineers to get the precise exhaust note. I never did like it, but I like the A bodies: nicely trimmed, roomy, right size for a mid-size.quiet and a good ride.
My father’s Oldsmobile, a Ciera, made me a fan of GM for quite awhile.
BTW: Motor Trend even compared the 82 Celebrity to the 55 Chevrolet. But then again, the Vega and Citation were their Cars Of The Year at certain points in time.
I kinda like the gurgling sound of GM V6s, although I suspect the sound has more to do with it being a 60 degree V6 than any sound tuning program at GM.
And, I hadn’t thought about Pontiac 6000’s in years, can’t remember the last time I saw one. Like a lot of cars they were everywhere, then gone.
No it was certainly done on purpose because that same engine did not make that same sound in all of the vehicles it was placed in. For example the S-trucks, Buicks and Olds did not gurgle like the Chevy and Pontiac cars. I’m surprised that the S trucks didn’t because truck.
Love me some A-body! (Some here would call that a mental condition, but I’m OK with that! 😉 )
When I first met my wife, she had an ’86 6000LE, similar to the gray one in the article, but without the roof rust. She had gotten it from a buy here pay here lot. High mileage, but still holding together OK, even with the Iron Duke. She drove it for a little over two years before the head gasket started weeping coolant.
We replaced it with a $1,500 ’86 Celebrity wagon, which gave us about 8 years of good service. Another couple more for my in-laws too, before succumbing to the tin worm.
During this period, my in-laws also had an ’85 Century. This one, IIRC, did blow the engine, but my FIL & I replaced it in his garage. Keep in mind that these were all $1,500 or less cars with multiple previous owners. Once sorted out, they gave us lots of comfortable, worry free service.
These are very thin on the ground here in central Ohio rust country. I can’t remember the last time I saw a 6000. Makes me kinda sad. 🙁
There are still two around here, where the A-body is as frequently seen as it ever was. In fact, I was riding back into town earlier when I first saw this article; looking up I spotted the red 6000 that I see periodically.
Regional preferences and environment play a huge role. As I have mentioned here before, seeing a Camry or Accord more than ten of years of age is exceedingly rare where I live.
This was the news car fleet at my first station in Nashville. They were all about 6 years old by the time I got there. One caught fire and one was rammed through a chain link fence. All were driven at speeds of up to 300 miles an hour on a daily basis.
They were replaced with ovid Taurus wagons. I thought the Pontiacs looked so much better.
When the First 6000 STE’s were released, they were impressive.
Even the carpet was unique. If you parked the STE next to another 6000, it was amazing how many details were different. Look at the body moldings for example and the rear speaker covers. etc, etc.
They were loaded with all the features. Stuff like 4-wheel disc brakes and rear air shocks with an accessory trunk inflator. The first one delivered to our dealership was green and had the windshield and roof damaged in transit. I was very fond of the first STE’s because they were well detailed inside, nice exterior trim detail changes, fun to drive and classy.
Car & Driver sure liked them then. Read on….
83 10 Best:
Dad had one of these back in the 90s, an ’84 model wagon. Crap brown paint and crap brown interior with a strange kind of tweedy cloth seating. The front seats were loosey-goosey and the armrest on the split bench seemed like it was hardly attached at all! It drove ok but had high mileage and seemed clunky. Neither the best car nor the worst, the cargo area was immense. What I really hated: the bright orange-red lighting on the instrument panel, it really hurt my eyes at night. “We build excitement!” – not!
I’ve had only limited experience with any of these GM A-bodies. My parents-in-law bought a new Buick Century back in the 80s, thinking that a Buick would be something a bit special. Well, it did have dual temperature controls for driver and passenger, and that was about it. It jiggled and quivered down the road, trying to be soft and cushy but coming off as poorly controlled instead. A friend of theirs bought a 1990s Cutlass Ciera to replace her worn-out 1973 Buick Regal. It was competent and unmemorable. Sadly, she didn’t get to drive it a lot because her health deteriorated badly.
A choir director I worked with back in the 1990s had for several years a 6000 LE; I never rode in it, but he was glad to get rid of it when it turned badly unreliable on him.
I just never could get interested in any of these cars. They were just so uninteresting. Still see lots of them roaming around Arizona, and they don’t look any more interesting.
Look at that schnozzola overhang. Looks weird now, but back then it said FWD and was a sort of off-kilter bragging point for some people. I like the 6000. Might be part of my kind of ego that I, too yawn at the sight of a beautiful ’70 Challenger, just because it’s so popular.
if you look at cars now, and square the front ends off, you’ll still see the long overhangs on FWD cars.
Yep. My Mazda 3 grinds the overhang pulling out of parking lots in my town.
Looks exactly like one around here
Pontiac 6000: GM’s version of BMW, GM’s answer to BMW, GM’s cheaper alternative to BMW.
I often wonder back then why GM didn’t build a better BMW, price at a small premium over BMW. And so desirable that people lined up to pay more.
Decades later, I got my answer: GM didn’t know how to do that.
I think Pontiac kinda tried with the second-gen Grand Am, but the market wasn’t buying it. I remember Car and Driver were especially enthusiastic about it, but said something about customers lined up “none-deep”.
Let me ask a question:
I wasn’t around when these were introduced. I’ve always thought of Pontiacs as being “cheap” and “chintsy”. Of course, my father had a Tempest ages ago- that was surely a different animal.
What was Pontiac supposed to be? I’ve always wanted to know more about their positioning during this time.
Was Pontiac supposed to be the “Import Fighter”, or was that just the Bonneville? Was Pontiac supposed to have a sportier version of the GM stable? Were they just a way to attract a younger audience?
In GMs mind, what was the purpose of the Pontiac Division at this time??
Hey Matador, since your question hasnt been answered yet and I thought it was quite interesting, I looked up what has been written about Pontiac on Wikipedia. Since the entries for German and English are different, I copied out the section where the Pontiac branding has been summarized perfectly – yet its unfortunately in German. So maybe you (because I´m too lazy to translate) have the time to use Google translate. Here you go:
In den folgenden 25 Jahren vertrat Pontiac im General Motors-Konzern die bürgerliche Mittelklasse. Damit war Pontiac oberhalb von Chevrolet positioniert, wo die preisgünstigen Einstiegsmodelle angeboten wurden, aber unterhalb der gehobenen Marken Oldsmobile, Buick und Cadillac. Mitte der 50er Jahre geriet Pontiac unter Druck, als Chevrolet luxuriösere Wagen und auch erstmals einen V8-Motor anbot. Ein Ausweichen nach oben war nicht möglich, dort saßen schon die Konzernmarken Oldsmobile und Buick.
Pontiac wurde daraufhin als die Sportmarke von General Motors positioniert. Die Modelle Bonneville (1957), LeMans (1961), Grand Prix (1962), GTO (1964) und Firebird (1967) zeigten schon durch ihre Namensgebung den sportlichen Anspruch.
This is the translation:
In the next 25 years, Pontiac took the bourgeois middle class in the General Motors Corporation. This Pontiac was positioned above Chevrolet, where the cheapest entry-level models were offered, but below the upscale brands Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac. The mid-50s Pontiac came under pressure as Chevrolet’s luxurious cars also offered a V8 engine for the first time. An upmarket movement was not possible, there were already the Group’s brands Oldsmobile and Buick. Pontiac was then positioned as a sports brand from General Motors. The models Bonneville (1957), Le Mans (1961), Grand Prix (1962), GTO (1964) and Firebird (1967) showed by their very naming the sporty ambitions.
That makes sense for the time. By the 80s though, Pontiac to me seemed to be too diluted to be much of anything.
I fail to see how this was “building excitement”. So, my guess was that for the late 80s, Pontiac was supposed to be an entry-level sporty car??
Pontiacs were not “cheap” and “chintsy” any moreso than any other GM car, from the cheapest Chevy to the most expensive Cadillac. The quality was the same. More expensive models may have been bigger, fancier, and had a lot more features, they may have had leather where a cheaper model had plastic or cloth, etc. But mechanically, a Pontiac 6000 was the same quality, and used many of the same mechanical parts as the most expensive Cadillac. I know, I worked on GM cars for a living for 25 years.
Yes, certain models had “design” issues that made them more trouble prone, like the Vega and Citation. But the build quality was no different from any other car.
It was not always that way. Back before the early ’70s, some parts of more expensive models were better. Remember the scandal back in the early ’70s when GM got caught putting Chevy engines in Buicks? From then on, all their advertising carried a disclaimer in fine print saying that GM vehicles may use engines built by other GM divisions.
Older Cadillac engines were highly sought after for their quality. The block and heads had a higher nickel content than Chevy engines. Many of them made it over 500,000 miles. But back in the ’70s, GM started cutting corners to increase their profits.
In one particular case that came up recently, the Pontiac Astre WAS better than it’s sister, the Chevy Vega, solely because it use a better engine, the bulletproof Iron Duke instead of the Vega’s crappy aluminum powerplant. That is what the Vega should have had as well. It’s reputation would have likely been a lot better.
Another case where Pontiac distinguished itself was the ’84-’88 Fiero. I owned a bought new ’87 for 3 years. Excellent car, even though it used both Citation and Chevette parts. The body/frame construction and mid engined design were unique, and I believe it was of superior quality than a regular steel body.
And before they were dropped, Pontiac did it again with the Solstice. A car I would love to own. Like the Fiero, it disappeared from the market far too soon. Nothing wrong with Pontiac. They were my favorite GM brand for a long time. Of course they made some cars I didn’t like, but so does every other brand. Many Pontiacs had a “flair” that other GM cars lacked.
I knew a customer of the boat shop I was working at in the early ’90s and he actually had an ’84 6000 with the 4.3 diesel in it. Eeeeek. Tried to get me to work on it. Not gonna happen.
I didn’t know that these were available with a diesel in them. Maybe they never sold them in Canada. I met someone once (waiting in line at the diesel pump) with an S-10 pickup with a 4-cyl. Isuzu diesel in it. He said they were never sold in Canada and his was imported form the US.
I live on the north central island. Since my town has quite a large elderly population, I commonly see obscure 1st owner cars from 80’s and 90’s drive past all the time. I seem to see quite a lot of cutlass ceiras around town.
And I’m gonna vent. I hate these cars. And the FWD X cars these crapmobiles were spawned from. Really hate these cars. Worked on so many of these when I moonlighted at the used car lot as a mechanic, owned by a friend, since 1955, (Tigard Motors). Worked there from 89-96. You could put one in front of my face with 3 original miles on the odo, and I would turn it into money in my pocket via the scrap metal yard, just to make sure NOBODY has to be exposed to this dreck. And I’m not kidding.
Funny we still have customers asking for these types of cars, especially with a V6. To each his/her own.
The STE model was as different from the rest of a 6000 line when it was introduced in 1983 as much as the Grand Am was from the rest of the restyled LeMans A-body Pontiacs in 1973. Like the ’73 Grand Am, the ’83 STE (and certain later STE’s) have an element of collectability today.
Great analogy. The STE was really the 80’s version of the first Grand Am, in spirit anyway. The first GA’s were just too soon to really catch on.
I still see one (86 or 87) STE in my area. The guy works at my local Chevy dealer. Not sure how many miles it has on it because the digital odometers in those don’t go past 199,999 miles.
I’d love to ad an 84, 88 or 89 to the fleet. Been a long time since I’ve seen one worth even considering.
There’s a Buick Century – beige, of course, sitting across the street where I live – one of the kid’s cars inherited from Grandpa, now with bashed-in front end!
I tried to like these, but just never could. The interiors felt more cramped than our K-Car, and those half-way down back windows – typical of GM’s offerings since the 1977 full-sizers really aggravated me.
The later aero-styled models were nicer, but the ugly door window frames remained.
Apparently, the Buick models became very reliable according to CR, buy horribly outdated. No sale for me.
Looking at what GM (and others but to a lesser extent) did to their cars turned me to Chrysler for many years, only back in GM’s camp since 2004.
A K-car’s rear windows went all the way down? That has to be one of the few smaller sized domestic car’s that did that. I also thought the K-cars were pretty cramped in the rear seat and that solid cheap front fixed back bench was horrible and we had numerous customers that insisted on a bucket seat K-car which was rather rare or they wouldn’t buy the car.
No. In fact, for the first year or two, the rear door windows were sealed and had slightly moveable vents like the late 1970s GM mid-sizers.
When Chrysler modified the back glass to roll down, they rolled down approximately 2/3, and slightly more when the divider bar was moved a bit farther to the rear to make the proportions better.
At least it was better than half-way, which was one of my biggest beefs with GM aside from the X-cars and other junk, save for the B Bodies.
Ahh the 6000…
I miss my 86 6000-STE at times. It’s boxy shape belied a spacious interior and a large trunk, great for hauling an entire dorm room full of junk back and forth to college. the one I owned was a 13 year old 90,000 mile gem, that had a bad Maaco paint job, and a very very tired and worn out fuelie 2.8 that threw a rod 3 days after I bought it.
I rebuilt the engine, and polished that turd brown car back to its beautiful maroon anytime it got wet (it would oxidize back to turd brown after it dried – so in essence, I was polishing a turd!) it had a bunch of other issues, but was always such a fun car to drive on a winding road. I also learned the hard way about lift-throttle oversteer in a FWD car, and slid it into a ditch sideways, up on two wheels and caved in the rocker panel.
The dash was cool, and like others said, the digital dash only read to 199,999, and the speedo only read to 199 as well – I got it to read that once at its redline limited top speed of 125mph, it had more go left, but it was rapidly running up past the redline. Which was good I rebuilt that engine with some X11 speed tricks as I spun it a few times up to 7,000rpm… stock heads and cam, and the tuned port intake don’t breathe at that speed so it made noise, rather than power.
0-60 took about 9 seconds, and it was fast enough in the quarter to beat my friends 383 powered El Camino at the strip – I think it ran a 16.5, it’s been 15 years since I last had it.
if I can find another one, I’d get it in a heartbeat!
I bought a bunch of these at the impound auctions in Birmingham, AL many years ago for practically nothing & loved them. All of them had well over 200K except an ’86 STE — its digital odometer stopped at 199,999 just like yours did 🙂
The F.I. 2.8 engines were quite the little screamers and robust considering the hell most have been put through.
I don’t own any of these anymore & wish I had been able to keep them. The white feature car would be just perfect. Maybe I’ll find a restorable base model with 2.8/3.1 one day. The cheapest models didn’t have that wide body cladding that will soon be extinct and unobtainable. Just that rotting rubber will prevent any of these cars from being restored in the future.
Two words for you:
…never thought of that!
Maybe Rubbermaid or WeatherTech in years to come will find it profitable to reproduce rubber/plastic exterior trim pieces, bumpers, and such in the event that there ever exists an enthusiast community for cars like this.
In all this commentary on these cars I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the fragile headlight/turn signal/windshield wiper/cruise control/turn signal switch they were cursed with.
I bought a new 1984 6000LE. On paper it seemed like the perfect family car – modern, efficient, FWD, nimble, roomy and sensibly sized. In the flesh, not so much.
Custom ordered it from the factory and it arrived with at least a half dozen problems, from a power window that didn’t work to mysterious scratches on the speedometer. Later, computer issues led to all sorts of driveability problems and constant engine lights. For some reason brakes constantly needed replacing. The cloth bucket seats also had the annoying habit of attracting every piece of lint around. Oh yeah, the paint also totally delaminated in four years, typical of many GM products of the time. At least I got the dealer to repaint.
I did like the styling and the dash was great, with full gages (yes, that’s how Pontiac spelled it) and tach. It was also surprisingly good in the snow.
But all in all this vehicle is what started the end of my lifelong love affair with American cars. When the Bonneville that eventually replaced this was no better, I switched to Acura and never looked back.
I’ve owned 11 GM vehicles (only 2 new, an ’87 Pontiac Fiero and a ’93 S10 Pickup) and had good luck with all of them. The A/C in the S10 quit working, and was newer properly repaired. Apparently it had a tiny leak they couldn’t find.They kept recharging it until the warranty ran out. I had the Fiero for 3 years and 80,000+ miles, and cannot remember even one problem with it.
My current 2001 Malibu has over 200,000 miles on it, and the only serious problem with it was caused by GM’s use of Dexcool. The previous owner never changed it, and it plugged up the radiator, heater core, thermostat, several hoses, the overflow tank, and the water pump. I replaced everything but the heater core. It has very little heat, and the engine tends to overheat here in the summer. I rigged the cooling fans so I could turn them on and off manually, and that helped a lot. While it was not properly maintained before I got it, this wouldn’t have happened if GM had used regular coolant. I now refuse to buy another used GM car.
I have been contemplating whether to replace the Malibu with a new car or another used car. The only 2 new GM cars I can afford are the Spark and Sonic, and I keep reading negative reviews on them. I have my doubts about either one being able to make it to 200,000 miles. I am now looking at used Toyota Corollas, Nissan Sentras, and Mazda 3s. I’m not a Japanese car guy, but reliability is a must. I average 30,000 miles a year, all over the country.
I always liked the Pontiac 6000, and owned a couple of sedans years ago. Rare sight around here (Alberta, Canada) these days as most have long rusted away, but the odd sedan still appears. I aways liked the wagons too, and (incredibly) managed to find an ’84, which was the first year for the wagon, that I acquired in 2013 with only 192,000 km on it – very low for it’s age. It’s about as plain as they came – not even an LE trim package, which in reality means less troubles in a car now over 30 years old. I finally got the few repairs done and licensed it last week. I wonder what kind of reception it will get at the local car show…. no doubt some will wonder why anyone would save one.
Here I am amazed…back in 1985 when the then new cars of 1986 were just coming out I went to a car show and sat in over 200 of the new cars that year. It was the first time I was ever going to buy a new car. I sat in the 1986 Pontiac 6000 and it fit me like a dream. I went onto sit in many other cars but I knew which car I would get and I did. But like this article said you couldnt turn around without falling over them on the street. They were everywhere so my idea was everyone cant be wrong about this roomy comfortable car. I had my 1986 Pontiac till around 1997 when I sold it with around 180,000 miles on it. Then my neighbor had one and I told her if she ever wanted to sell hers she should sell it to me which she did. Hers was a 1991 Pontiac LE with only 63,000 miles on it. I still have this car and its sits proudly in my garage with about 220,000 miles on it. She still runs good and gets 25 mpg. I need to sell her but it is with a heavy heart that I do as this Pontiac has been my constant companinion on many a road trip for almost 30 years….and thats why I absolutely love the Pontiac 6000. Oh yeah just 2 yrs ago I almost bought another Pontiac 6000 but unfortunately the deal fell through. It was also a 1991 Pontiac again with only 63,000 miles on it. So Ive got one for sale if you love em like I do. Rosenpearl@hotmail.com Happy driving!!!
Hello, we are currently owners of a 1987 Pontiac 6000. Driven daily. Living in Maine. My wife is looking to sell it, we just sank over $1,000.000 last year to pass inspection. We had the car for almost 5 years. We are the 3rd owners. We currently had it painted a rare blue with sparkle nail polish mixed with the paint. It’s a Beaty. Well thank you for reading. Hope to hear from anyone.
I love my 6000LE! It has the 3.1 and 43 thousand miles on it. Everything on it works and is a sweet old cruiser!
In 1998 my sweet grandmother unfortunately passed away. She left all of her jewelry to my sister, her home to my mother, my brother’s got my grandfather’s music instruments he passed away 10 years before, but she left me her 1987 Pontiac 6000 Le. The same car I would sneak out of the house and drive around the block when I knew everyone was asleep. I lovingly named it the Super-Dupe-ghetto-hoop or just ghetto hooptie for short. I tinted out the windows all around with 5%, replace 6×9 in the rear and the 4×6 in the front, 2-15 s in the trunk and a Clarion CD player. The inside of that car was so comfortable, and easy to drive. I love my first car and still do. I have it to this day it’s parked in my garage mint condition 89000 miles. If there was a Pontiac 6000 car club I’d be in it. But it wouldn’t matter what kind of car I had, its the memories that were made in it that made the Hoop special. Beach trips, going to the lake with my best friends, Cross country road trips and getting road head lol. It was the only thing that was mine back then, my get away and my place to think. I don’t think I’ll ever sell it.
Reading this made me feel both happy and sad, especially at the end. Melancholic, maybe. Every person in this world deserves to be in the car of their dreams, no matter how crazy those dreams might be, and what that dream might end up looking like. I was surprised to hear you mention the Chevrolet Citation, a car I’m currently restoring (anyone reading this probably thinks I’m crazy, and that’s okay) but I understand where you’re coming from the more I read your story and hindsight about the Pontiac 6000, because that’s how I feel about Chevrolet Citations. Strangely enough, I’ve been looking for one as well, the STE model specifically, but for one reason: ripping the dashboard out and swapping it into a Chevrolet Citation. Having found out the X and A bodies were directly interchangeable was a revelation to me that I couldn’t believe at first until I had seen other people doing exactly what I only imagined; Pontiac 6000 STE dashboards inside Citations. The moment I saw a Pontiac 6000 STE’s dashboard, I knew that had to be the one I wanted. Even more so when I found out that I could actually fit it into the car I want! Finding a junked one just for that dashboard has become painfully difficult though. Found plenty of LE’s in junkyards, but yet to find an STE.
As for that running, functioning 6000, I really do hope you find that elusive Pontiac 6000 STE, and even if it’s old and junky, if you’re true to yourself about what this car might mean to you, it would be worth restoring it. Not even to true, original stock spec if that’s the case since there are so many improved after market parts to make the car run, it would mostly be a matter of improving and even updating the interior, exterior and making it a little more safer if that’s the case. I only speak in this regard, because like I said, I’m currently restomodding a 1980 Chevrolet Citation, but mostly making it into something that no one has ever seen before. And strangely, there was a time somehow people recall that the Citation was a redundant sight on America’s roadways, but have become pretty rare to see, and in most cases, even when they do appear, most people tend to ignore them as just “another old car” probably running on witchcraft and tuned by a miracle. That voice inside you that says to ‘do it’, you should listen to it, because I did, and even though I’m not quite there in operational form and function, I know it’ll all be worth it in the end.
Chase your dreams friend, because eventually, you will catch up to them and that’s when really positive, crazy things happen in life.
I had always assumed that when they stopped making the Celebrity after 1990, that the 6000 disappeared with it. I had no idea that the 6000 was available for the 1991 model year. You learn something new everyday, no matter how trivial it may seem to some.