If you want to find good antiques or other rarities, your best bet is to go somewhere remote. Northeastern, Indiana and northwestern Ohio are somewhat depopulated, with county seats of less than 6,000 people quite common, and I found this Lumina driving the two-lane state routes on my way from Auburn, Indiana to Columbus. Underwhelming it might be, but this is probably the rarest of my CC finds.
Commissioned by Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet in Newton, North Carolina to commemorate its namesake’s sixth Winston Cup win, these cars started out as black Lumina coupes with FE3 suspension and the “Twin Dual Cam” 3.4 liter V6. Only twenty-five were made.
Silver ground effects, tons of vinyl graphics and last but not least, headrests embroidered with the famous number three’s signature completed the package. Fully loaded, the buyer had his or her choice of a Getrag five-speed or automatic and also got a weekend at the races included in the purchase. I didn’t realize I was looking at a genuine collectible when I snapped pictures of this immaculate-but-tragic coupe, which is unfortunate because I’d otherwise have taken note of the asking price. These seem to sell for between $15,000 and $25,000 these days, so there’s apparently a market for them. Who friggin’ knew?
I was mostly excited because this was a fully-loaded W-body in reasonable shape. It seemed worth capturing since almost nobody remembers the Lumina fondly and I figured that in Z34 trim with an intact interior, this Chevy would finally have a chance to put its best foot forward on these pages. I’ll leave it those older than myself upon the car’s introduction to judge whether the sight of one in mint condition does anything to that end.
From my younger perspective, the Lumina’s styling seemed to endear it to a very specific audience. Marketing it as the huggable official car of Disney World seemed at odds with Chevy’s occasionally hormonal “Heartbeat of America” ad campaign. I remember Luminas mostly as garish looking cars in Eurosport trim festooned with spoilers and sill extensions, with loud, blatty exhaust notes; they didn’t register as dignified family transport. Sure, as with any good family sedan, you might’ve understeered into a ditch in a Lumina, but you did it on the way to the tanning salon while listening to Van Hagar.
The Lumina Z34 was ultimately like that high-school friend’s father who would so desperately brag about his rebellious youth when underneath, you knew he was a paunchy, innocuous character. That is ironically what makes this car so sensible as this limited edition collectible; to most of us, it’s a relic which broadcasts its insecurities over lost glory, but to some, it’s the ultimate tribute to a past they still very much miss. And I’ll say this much: you won’t find a Spirit R/T, a Taurus SHO or a Galant VR4 which costs five figures.