COAL: 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix – Opportunity Knocks

If there’s one thing I can say for certain when it comes to the wonderful world of vehicles, it’s that you really just never know what kind of opportunity will fall in your lap one day, and this 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix is no exception.

For this story, we need to rewind the tapes back to the spring of 2007… actually, no. We need to go even further back, to the early, cold, snow-filled months of 2004.

Back then, I was an energetic go-getter, working away at a company that I had been dedicating most of time to for a couple of years and was responsible for setting the path for my future. I was working hard, feeling fulfilled and successful, making good money and enjoying all the great things that the bustling city of Calgary had to offer me in my young life, which included an opportunity to get myself into a decent vehicle for the first time in years.

I found myself on the lot of CMP Classic GM in Northeast Calgary, lured in by the offer of a one year old 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix SE in bright white for the paltry sum $15,995. While it did already have 30,000 km on the clock after one year of service, it was an immaculate car all around and the basket of goodies that came with it were plenty enough to satisfy my 24 year old needs. A quick tour on the roads, a round of paperwork in the business office and a handover of keys from my basic ’99 Cavalier and I was on the way. I felt proud driving off the lot in a near new car, and interestingly enough, at just one year old, it’s the ‘newest’ vehicle I have ever owned and still holds that title today.

That Grand Prix was such a suitable fit. A decent amount of power from the entry level 3.1L V6 under the hood, great fuel economy for what, to me, was a much larger car than I was used to driving, a very smooth ride and all of the creature comforts that I needed to keep me happy. I enjoyed a couple of years of perfect service from that car, opting to trade it in for an even more substantial vehicle in the GMC Yukon I later acquired, but that story is for another day.

For now, we’ll move along to the fore-mentioned spring of 2007, when I found myself once again on a dealership lot in search of vehicle, however, this time it was not for myself, but for my longtime best friend Matt, who was looking to get into a more well-appointed vehicle for himself, moving from a base model subcompact as well, only in the form of a Sunfire instead of a Cavalier.

His interest was in a 2004 Pontiac Vibe that was being offered at Stampede GM in downtown Calgary. While it was not an overly substantial move up in the vehicle world, it did offer the creature comforts he was looking for and lacking in the Sunfire, so we grabbed the keys and took the Vibe out for a spin. It ran great, drove well, had the options and obviously would return great fuel economy and reliability given its roots as a clone of the popular Toyota Matrix. He was sold.

That said, I wasn’t 100% sure. I mean, sure, the Vibe had the package of goodies, it was a good looking little hatchback and would serve well on the streets of Calgary, but it still *felt* like a subcompact and reminded me a lot of my Cavalier and his Sunfire that we both decided were too basic and plain for our likings.

When we returned back to dealership after the test drive, I noticed a trio of what would be the final generation (2004-2008) Grand Prix’s that were lined up against the back fence. I told Matt that we should explore them, given my experience with the 2003 model I have already covered, with my expectation that these units could be had for a great price, once again, just like I had experienced a few years prior. A quick inquiry with the salesperson churned out a familiar story: one year old Grand Prix’s being offered at $15,995.

Just as in the story with my 2003, these 2006 models all had around 30-35,000 km on the clock after one year of service and were being cleared out, cheap. We grabbed the keys to the lowest mileage unit in a sharp green-blue finish and took it for a spin. I was immediately taken by the sharp new interior of this new generation as it was quite a transition over the interior of my ’03. I don’t think we got even a block and Matt was sold, he liked it a lot more than the Vibe we had just driven, that throaty and capable 3.8L V6 delivering a lively demonstration, and in the same fashion as I laid out before, a bit of paperwork and the car was his.

From there, it went into active service as his daily driver and was an enjoyable car around town and on the long road trips from Calgary back to our hometown of Smithers in Northern British Columbia.

The summer of 2010 was one of change for both of us. I was busy with my young family as Jackie and I were blessed with a beautiful baby girl two years prior and it was feeling like we needed to make a big change in life and get away from the hustle and bustle of city living. At the same time, Matt felt that it was time for a change, too, and he departed for Edmonton. We sold our house, packed up our stuff, and moved out to Vancouver Island to start a new life in a completely new place.

The Grand Prix carried on with Matt in the new city and benefitted from a ‘commute-less’ career where he was able to go to work quickly without the need to drive, so it had a lot of downtime in an underground parking garage where it was able to become and then remain a low mileage example. After a few years in Edmonton, another change saw a relocation out to Saskatchewan, with the Grand Prix continuing its duties as reliable transportation, even approaching 10 years of age. A couple years after that, it was a return back to Edmonton with the car coming along again to continue its duties back in a familiar place.

Matt has always been a very caring vehicle owner, keeping maintenance up to date, keeping the car clean and tidy and committing to long term vehicle ownership and outside of the routine maintenance and replacement of wear and tear items, the Grand Prix was always very reliable and durable. It was in the summer of 2019 that it needed its first major repair, replacement of the power steering rack that had gone faulty after 12 years of ownership and 13 years in service. He had the rack replaced at a local shop in Edmonton and carried on from there.

Unfortunately, that repair didn’t last 6 months as he discovered all of the power steering fluid leaked out during the cold days of December in Alberta. He decided at that time that he wasn’t going to proceed with further dealings and repairs and rightfully treated himself to a newer vehicle. That left the question of what would happen with the Grand Prix and obviously given its low mileage and pampered life I raised my hand in interest and picked up the car from him. I ended up towing it back to my home in Red Deer so that I could get my mechanic on top of the repairs it needed and it has entered into another portion of its life with me.

The steering rack was replaced again with another of the same and that unit, too, failed a couple months later, signaling an obvious quality problem with the aftermarket racks. I was fortunate to have the shop who did the original replacement source another brand and replace it again, so it now cruises around on its fourth rack in just over a year and my fingers are crossed that is the end of that matter. It is still very much an enjoyable ride, the 3.8L V6 is still just as lively as ever and with an upgrade to 18” wheels and tires, I do get compliments from others out there as well. It’s always been a very handsome car.

In the end, I am appreciative of the opportunity that I have had to take ownership of this car so many years after we first met. It’s almost unbelievable that it’s been 13 years since that day we stumbled upon it at Stampede Pontiac in Calgary, that dealership now just a memory. I give it the same care that Matt did for so many years, love telling the story and look forward to it being around for a while… and who knows what might fall into my lap next!