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45k Mile Survivor: 1978 Pontiac Phoenix

The Phoenix was the nameplate successor to the Pontiac Ventura, a derivative of the Chevy Nova. Introduced in 1977, it employed rear-wheel-drive until a redesign in 1980 ushered in front-wheel-drive (as did Chevy with the ill-fated Citation). This 1978 Phoenix is a one-family car that comes with few frills and only 45,000 miles. Though located in Lancaster, New Hampshire, it was never driven during winter months (when salt was on the roads). The Pontiac is available here on craigslist for $11,500. Thanks to Dennis House for the V6 tip!

These cars were as solid as the Nova they were based on. We had a ’77 Phoenix for several years and it was a reliable automobile. It had the same 231 cubic-inch V6 engine that was provided by Buick as GM was cross-pollinating its powerplants from one division to another. With an automatic transmission, it was hardly a barn burner but provided reasonable gas mileage for the era. Given that not many options were installed on this Phoenix, it was probably intended as just basic family transportation.

As the story goes, the seller’s mother bought this Pontiac new in 1978. Apparently, she didn’t like driving in snowy weather, so the car stayed in the garage during the winter. That should explain a lack of rust on what may be its original Roman Red paint. We say that because Dad dropped something on a front fender that produced a small dent that was never repaired. The matching interior is sparse but in equally nice condition.

We’re told the Phoenix runs and drives as it should, thanks in part to newer tires, shock absorbers, and exhaust. The seller believes the car is rare because it’s the only coupe like it in Hagerty’s database, but that’s probably optimistic since more than 26,000 of the 2-door sedans were produced in 1978. But I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these cars (we sold ours in 1983), so perhaps the surviving population is rather limited after all.


  1. Tbone

    11,500? Good luck. It appears to be in great shape. And its rare. The missing piece is that its not very desirable.

    Like 34
    • Jonathan S Devens

      I honestly don’t know where some of these “asks” come from….. $11,500? Seriously?

      Like 1
  2. Bob C.

    BOP used the Buick V6 in their versions, while the Nova retained the inline six until the end.

    Like 19
  3. Michael Chan

    I thought 1978 was the year GM debuted with the introduction of their X-body Citation, Phoenix, Omega and Skylark FWD compact sedans. That said, I vaguely recall working on, and driving a customer’s Ventura (also Nova body based but likely an earlier model year) that was equipped with a Chevy inline six (not sure what the displacement was, possibly 250?) and a three on the tree manual transmission. I was actually impressed with how relatively smooth and peppy that car drove. I thought the 231 V6 engines were the base engines for the Buick and Oldsmobile versions of the Nova based sedans (don’t remember the names). I never knew they were used on the Pontiac version as well.

    Like 3
    • Nostromo

      The X-Bodies debuted in the spring of ’79 as 1980 models. I worked in a GM Fisher Body hardware plant that made functional and decorative moldings for all of GM’s vehicles but the X-Body program was enormous. We started producing parts for a pilot run of X-Body components back in the summer of ’78. Just the new boxes of roll-forming tools took up half of our department’s rolling mill area.

      We added six new rolling mills that summer and even used our so-called ‘tryout’ mill for overflow production in very-early-1979. A few engineers used some colorful language in protest of that; but not to the plant’s management directly. They appealed to Division and we were sent two brand new 12 pass Tishken rolling mills with one being our new tryout mill and one for additional production overflow. We were somewhat busy through the recession of ’79-’82 (or so) when the J-Body program was rolled out. It was really something to see. The GM Fisher Body plant where I worked also made all sorts of vehicle hardware like vent windows, door handles, seat adjusters, encapsulated glass and other items

      Like 17
      • Judd 😀

        Did not care for 231 V6.. a lot issues with oil circulation

        Like 0
    • Derek D Trieglaff

      Buick Apollo and Oldsmobile omega. Fun fact, if you take the first letters of all the brother and sister cars based on the nova, it spells nova…

      Like 15
  4. John C.

    I had a 79 Buick skylark, same color interior and body color as this Pontiac, same engine too, ran like a champ. Paid $2000. for it in around 1983.

    Like 6
  5. DW

    Ever notice the nose on these and the LeMans of the time looked similar? Nice car, if I owned it I would be hard pressed not to swap the original engine/transmission for an LC2 Buick turbo V6.

    Like 6
  6. FredG

    My first car, bought the summer before my senior year of high school, was a ’77 Ventura. Not sure when the name changed, but mine was definitely a Ventura. Very simple, reliable car. Equipped like this one, with automatic, power steering, and not much else. Wish I’d kept it longer, but needed cash and sold for $1500.

    Like 4
  7. Zen

    Nice car in great shape, but not desirable because of the weak engine and no A/C. It’ll take a long time to find someone willing to pay big money for it.

    Like 9
  8. John

    Over twice as much as it cost new for a ho-hum car? Low mileage or not, that’s ridiculous.

    Like 9
    • Jeff

      Actually in today’s messed up market it’s not. A relatively rust free vintage car of any kind, costs this sort of money now.

      Like 8
  9. Joe

    Pontiac would have done better to use the 250 instead of that anemic V6. Interesting to look at but will leave it at that.

    Like 5
  10. Todd Fitch Staff

    Thank, Russ, and thanks to Dennis for the tip. I also owned one of these, my second car, black two-door with red pin stripes and this red color interior except with the console and bucket seats. It looked great, but not much power with the 231 and auto. I traded it in Florida for a sunburned ’76 Skyhawk 231 5-speed that was not quite as nice inside but much more fun to drive. One fun fact: The turn signals have two large bulbs each, so if multiple cars were in line at night, the Phoenix turn signals were dominant in the reflection on road signs, etc. Nobody could say they didn’t see my turn signals. Thanks for the memories!

    Like 6
  11. Reg Doyle

    The price might be attainable if it had a V8 engine and A/C, cruise control, etc Nice car tho!

    Like 4
  12. lewis

    nice car ….$11500 is VERY optimistic

    Like 5
  13. Jon

    I love it…these cars are simple and economical cars…and with this low mileage you could drive it…parts would be inexpensive and easy to get…

    Like 2
  14. Harry

    I like it. I really like it for the $6000 it’s really worth. I love it with zero outside changes and a tuned 5.3 LS and an O.D. automatic.

    Cool car with blase’ design that begs to be a great sleeper.

    Like 6
  15. BA

    Yes nice car to make a sleeper out of but doesn’t make sense at the current price. So what is the value of cars anymore ? A 500.00 beater is now 10 grand? Somehow we skipped from 1500 dollar beater to everything is 10 grand? My paychecks definitely didn’t jump triple or more so not sure what valuations are driven by apparently some fools that pay whatever you ask

    Like 9
  16. Robert Levins

    Fully Loaded versions of all these Nova based mid – sized models are a “night and day difference “. I love these Pontiac versions the best because of their design and styling – especially the dashboards. Would I pay $11,000.00+ ? Yes I would , for a fully loaded one. Anyone who looks on “Pinterest “, can see that you really get what you pay for on a fully loaded model. Throw a 350ci V-8 in and they are really nice “medium size “ luxury car! This one is a cool car for sure but only around $5,000.00 – ish. Nice article!

    Like 3
  17. Fred

    The car has to have an exhaust leak because the seller thinks it’s worth 5x the book value, drive only with the windows down to prevent dilerium

    Like 5
  18. Jeff Davis

    Had a 78 Chevy Nova Cabriolet with a 305 C.I. V8. Great car. Wish i still had it.

    Like 0
  19. Stephen R Macke

    Had a 79 Phoenix three in the tree factory no radio brand new put a Hurst shifter on the floor that 231 was fast off the line I could get some faster cars in the 1000 ft. long as I kept the Rs up shame it got T boned by a 72 225 lots of memories

    Like 0
  20. Frank

    Buick Apollo and Oldsmobile omega. Fun fact, if you take the first letters of all the brother and sister cars based on the nova, it spells nova…
    Apollo. Add Seville to for NOVAS. Seville

    Like 0
  21. Todd

    I rather drive a pinto because there all ugly but rather push a ford then drive any GM OR CHRYSLER PRODUCTS!!!! FORD FORDS CRAZY ABOUT A MERCURY !!!!

    Like 0
  22. Jonathan Devens

    If you don’t want a stupid “low-ball” offer….. don’t start with a stupid “high-ball” price!

    Like 2

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