5-Speed Survivor: 1997 Pontiac Sunfire Convertible

Going into the late ’70s, GMC was facing some stiff competition from foreign auto manufacturers. In an attempt to fend off these invaders, they released some smaller and more affordable models. One of those was the Pontiac Sunbird, which was a badge-engineered Monza. While several redesigns kept the Sunbird relevant into the early ’90s, by 1994 it was starting to show it’s age. So, a new model was created, the Sunfire. While it lacks the kind of grunt you’d find in say, a Firebird, these were actually fun cars to drive if properly optioned. And I think this example might be perfectly optioned for some fun warm weather driving! You can find it in the Barn Finds Classifieds with a $3,395 asking price.

The Sunfire was offered with a fairly long list of options for a cheap car. In the case of this one, there were 3 key boxes that were checked off that should make it a very fun driver. The first option is an easy one to see, the convertible top. Since this was a budget-minded car, it wasn’t a popular option when new but it definitely ups the fun factor. The other two aren’t as easy to see from the outside but are just as important to the fun factor. Whoever ordered it, decided to also check the boxes for the 5-speed manual and the LD9 2.4 liter twin cam engine!

You could get one of several 4-cylinders in the Sunfire, but the one to get was the Twin Cam. It was essentially the old Quad 4, but with a new cylinder head and balance shafts. While horsepower stayed the same as the Quad 4 at 150, torque increased to 155 ft-lbs and the engine was a much smoother running unit. You do need to keep up on the maintenance, as they were known to have issues with the water pump and timing chain. This one looks to have been extremely well cared for, so just stay up on routine maintenance and it should continue to be a fun driver!

While it isn’t our typical type of find, this is now a 23-year-old car and will qualify as a classic in a few years. Plus it actually looks like it’s a really well cared for find! If you are looking for a nice weather driver that’s ready to go, this would be a great option. It has cold AC and has already had all the consumables replaced, so you could start enjoying it right now. The seller, Jim L, would keep it but since he’s moving it just doesn’t make sense to bring it along. So, be sure to take a closer look and make him an offer!

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Comments

  1. Mark C

    I’ve never really been a fan of GM “J” body cars, and after seeing this car, I’m still not. However, this one looks well cared for, and with the manual and better engine, should provide somebody some cheap fun.

    Like 4
  2. Major Thom

    What is it about a car making it to the 25, or 30, year mark that transforms it from just an old car, into a “classic”? Seems like the term can mean whatever you want it to mean…like “muscle car”: “Yeah, I’ve got a classic muscle car…it’s a 1990 Olds Cutlass Calais 442 Quad 4.”

    Like 2
    • CCFisher

      Technically, a “Classic” is a car officially recognized as such by the Classic Car Club of America. The list is very specific, and contains nothing built after 1948. The term has been hijacked by popular use to include just about anything with mild enthusiast interest (or very mild, as in this case). This Sunfire has nothing in common with grand machines like a Cadillac V-16, a Packard Twelve, a Cord 810, or a Mercedes-Benz SSK.

      Like 3
      • Torqueandrecoil Member

        A lot of states use 25 years old as a threshold for classic or historical license plates

        Like 4
  3. Geoffrey Mcallister

    I had a 1995 Sunfire, not a convertible though. It was a fine car for what it was, though by no means fancy or refined, and got phenomenal gas mileage. I remember taking a trip from NH to Washington DC and back on less than 1 tank of gas.

  4. charlie Member

    An ideal car to pull behind your big retirement RV. Light, easy to tow on a dolly for the front wheels, and fun when you get there. And four people can fit when you are taking friends to supper from the RV park in Arizona in January, or in Maine in August.

    Like 3
    • Ralph

      I sold several of these when new for just that purpose, they were great for towing behind a motorhome, even the 4 speed automatic could be flat towed too.

  5. Claudio

    Bought one 5 years ago for my girlfriend 2000 gt auto topless and loaded
    Paid $1200 canadian dollars and had about 60 k miles
    Has been very reliable
    Did a good brake jod when first bought , repaired the loose rear window that was stupidly replaced and nothing since
    Still running the same battery and tires as they were new from previous owner
    So i think this is too expensive but even if paid at this price you get good clean cheap fun

  6. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    We had one. A 99 I believe. It was a base coupe, black with the base 4cyl. It looked like it was going fast just sitting there, but man it was pretty anemic. I found the interior comfortable and it really did look nice. We parked it for 8 months with under 50k on it. When we started it up the catalytic converters glowed Orange., turned into a $600 repair. This car seems worth the price of admission.

  7. Rudy Samsel

    I’m proud to admit I bought one of these brand new in 1997. I had the dealer locate one with the Quad 4 connected to the five-speed manual like this car. Mine had the base gray tweed cloth which wore much better with two small kids and their car seats.

    MSRP on the car was just under $20K, but between GM’s “Recent College Grad” $2K discount, a $1K factory rebate then in play, $5K in GM Card points (anyone remember that credit card?) and a partially restored ’64 Falcon Futura I had just sold for $1,500, I now had a brand new convertible for $10K that I enjoyed thoroughly for six years. Now I wish I had both cars back!

    While the shift linkage was too rubbery for my taste, the ratios were right to get the most out of that Quad 4. At the time, GM teased everyone with upcoming speed parts for these cars that never materialized. A huge missed opportunity at the time as was when the V-Tech Honda scene was coming into vogue.

    What you may not have noticed was not only the truck space decent for a convertible at 9.9 cubic feet, the rear seat folded flat with a trunk pass through.

    Like 1
  8. Stevieg

    Although the 2.4 was a lot more fun to drive than the 2.2, the 2.2 was by far more reliable. The 2.4 was prone to not only water pump & timing chain issues, but also head gasket issues.
    Either way, this looks like a cream puff & I feel the asking price is very reasonable. Ya can’t go wrong for a fun summertime daily driver.

  9. Marko

    I would rather have this car with a 2.2 litre and five speed. It is a 6 hour job to change a water pump in the Quad engine. Had a 2002 Sunfire coupe with that combo, one level short of the GT, and was a very dependable car. Very easy to fix and repair.

    That said, this car would be terrific for a summer cruising car, and they are pretty nimble on scenic mountain two lane roads.

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