Boosted Bird: 1989 Pontiac Sunbird GT Turbo

This bad, boosted bird is a 1989 Pontiac Sunbird GT Turbo, giving your bird a little extra little bird seed for your daily flight into town. This is yet another one of those vehicles that falls into the category of you’re just sort of glad that it exists in this outstanding condition, whether you’re a fan of them or not. It’s on Craigslist with an asking price of $4,500 which seems very reasonable for such a perfect example of a very desirable version of the Sunbird. It’s located in Redmond, Washington.

I know what some of you are thinking, this is nothing but a Chevy Cavalier with a different grille and Pontiac badging. I have to admit, the first photo of the fascia/grille is very intriguing and interesting, much more so, I think, than its Chevy Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, or Cadillac Cimarron siblings. And, there’s the “Turbo” badge on the RF fender. That little badge is showing others at stop lights that this isn’t a basic 100 hp 4-popper under that vented hood.

This car is basically in almost like-new condition. Again, I know that this isn’t a mind-blowing muscle car or a European exotic that was hidden away for decades and just uncovered. But, it’s a high-option, specialty car with a very special option that gives it 50+% more power than a regular Sunbird and it’s in almost like-new condition for under $5,000. That is just a grand slam in my world. This car has just over 39,000 miles on it and it shows.

There are no overall interior photos and, get ready to cringe, there are no engine photos at all! ARRGGGGG! I know, for a mint condition car, with a turbo, we’re dying to see this engine! But, the interior photos show a clean, tidy, and seemingly well taken care of car. And, yes, it has a 5-speed, not an automatic, definitely a bonus! It also has power windows, power locks, and AC and has had new tires put on in the last 500 miles and also has a new battery.

Pedal wear, or a lack thereof, seems to prove the low mileage claim, but I really want to see what’s under that dash pad and especially what’s under that louvered hood! This car has GM’s LT3, a 2.0L turbo inline-four with 165 hp! Hey, that’s a good amount of horsepower for a 2,700-pound car in 1989. The regular engine would have had either 96 or 110 hp and that extra 55 hp really helps this car move out. The turbo option was dropped in 1991, replaced by the Cavalier’s 140 hp 3.1L V6. I’m all over vehicles priced under $5,000, I almost don’t care what they are just so they’re at least a couple of decades old and are in perfect condition like this Sunbird GT Turbo is in. This will be a collectible car someday, with these options it’ll be one to watch for in the next decade or two. Have you ever driven a Sunbird GT Turbo?

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Comments

  1. Jeff Staff

    Scotty, I think you need to own this.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      I’ll second that! And I’ve been rear-ended by one (and it was a Turbo)…does that count?

  2. Tony S

    Yes had a ’90 Sunbird GT – slightly different headlight doors and grille, better body side cladding design.

    2.0 SOHC turbo Brazilian made inline 4 cyl, GM designated “LT3” with bright red engine accents. See wikipedia for pics.

    1 yr only body/drivetrain combo.

    These turbo J-cars are “factory tuned” :-)

  3. Kevin Wernick

    Good God, another piece of sh-t from the 80s. Lol. I’d be more interested in the old Dodge pickup in the background

    Like 1
  4. dirtyharry

    Gm certainly hit some rough spots on the “Value Train.” From the late 80’s, I can buy this Sunbird, a C4 Corvette, Pontiac Fiero, Buick Reatta and a Cadillac Allante for (maybe) less than 25k for all of them. For all the complaining about the ridiculous prices of cars, there are some good buys and these cars are all fun. I am with you Scotty, bring on the bargain basement good times. I bet with some tuning, you could get 200hp on the little bird, and surprise a few 356’s.

  5. Coventrycat

    No matter how they dress them up I always see a Cavalier. Those AC Delco sound systems were pretty nice, though.

  6. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    Worth every penny! The car has been well cared for and it shows. If I did not live in the southeast and have to ship it, I would make a run for it. I’ll bet it’s already gone though as Craiglisters are bad about forgetting to remove their listings.

  7. Kevin Wernick

    lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Cubs win

    Nightmares from the 80’s

  9. Gunner

    Good buy. My first new car was a 91 Grand Am with the Quad 4 HO 5-speed, right off the showroom floor. I had a lot of fun in it, and it looked decent for what it was, until the Ex wrecked it. This is a well cared for 1-Owner car, and for around 4500 you won’t have a car payment. Good or bad, you have a respect a car that has been loved. I do. :-)

  10. CowboyChris

    Why in the world is this even on here POS

  11. G.P. Member

    I had a plain Jane one, I always liked those headlight covers.

  12. Rustytech Member

    They were fast for a 1980’s 4 banger, maybe even for a V6. They were rather crude, the engine was noisy, and torque steer was atrocious. They handled decent, and were fun to drive though. A buddy had one for years, we used to run it in road derbies around the local reservoir and had a ball with it. This is a great start for someone looking to get into the collector hobby on a budget.

    • grant

      Gotta respectfully disagree. This isn’t a collector car. This is a way for someone to get into the used car business, if they can get the price down. $2500 tops. It’s still an 80’s GM.

  13. Car Guy

    I had a new black on black one of these for a time as a company car when I worked for Pontiac. I ordered black because it hid all the black fender welting and body side mouldings you can easily see on this one. With the 5-speed there was not much of anything in a small performance coupe that could hang with it at that time. I suprised quite a few base Camaro’s, Firebirds and Mustangs too.

    The turbocharged OHC engine came with port fuel injection. It would easily rev to a 6500 rpm redline. This little car would scoot. The Turbo GT also came with an uprated suspension, and full instrumentation including boost gauge. I don’t recall problems with torque steer. I believe they came with equal length halfshafts. It nice to see one that has been taken care of all these years. Most of them were probably beat on pretty hard.

    Like 1
    • ACZ

      Anyone that had the opportunity to drive one of these would never knock it. Fast, fun, and cheap. Hard to beat that combination.

      Like 1
    • Clinton

      Pretty sure the upgraded cluster with boost gauge used in this is shared with GMC Typhoon and Syclone.

  14. rmward194 Member

    We sold the sh*t out of these when they were new, the base model. The dealership I worked at sold both Chevrolet and Pontiac. The Cavalier was really popular and no incentives. The Sunbird had $500 on the hood making it cheaper than the Chevy and it looked better. IMHO

  15. Skloon

    A friend had one of these, a combination of turbo lag and torque steer am definitely for an interesting drive especially when combined with lacklustre quality control

  16. Larry K

    Always thought these looked feminime.

  17. MathieuB Member

    A friend of mine had a white one. He beat that car till the end…
    This one seems clean and I agree witht the price.
    Fun to know about the brazilian engine, this was THE major difference with the orange glow cluster to differ from the Cavalier.

  18. Howard A Member

    Kevin, welcome aboard,,,,now get lost ( or change your tune). I, for one, don’t care for your derogatory comments. It’s not why most of us are here. We love cars, ALL cars, and the founders here are nice enough to let you air your views, but you’re bummin’ us out.

  19. Howard A Member

    Ah, the 80’s “turbo” era. Car makers hung a “turbo” on just about everything, including Tim Taylor’s lawnmower. ( grunting) By 1989, people were pretty much adjusted to 4 cylinder( or V6) ideals. But being an American, we still wanted more power, and a “turbo” was the easiest way to give the public more power. I had a ’89 “turbo” Plymouth mini-van, and the “hair dryer” added 50 hp. The downside, is it used a lot of oil ( quart/day), so don’t give me that Vega/oil stuff, they ALL burned oil. It also suffered fuel economy, as it was fun to drive ( aka, foot to the floor) To me, these were always the Vega( Sunbird) on steroids. I thought this was a nice car for the late 80’s.

  20. CCFisher

    I had an ’84 Sunbird SE/Turbo hatchback in college. It had the 1.8L version of this engine. It was fun, but troublesome. The exhaust manifold was was of welded, rather than cast, construction and mine blew through (literally) two of them in about 18 months. I would certainly track down a spare or two for this car, assuming it uses a similar design. The pipe on the turbo outlet refused to remain connected, no matter how tight I made it. So, under hard acceleration, I would hear a “FOOOMP” and a clunk as the outlet tube blew off and hit the underside of the hood. I was two months from graduation when the head gasket failed at 75,000 miles. Fortunately, I had a job lined up, so I was able to get myself a new Mustang LX 5.0. Never looked back.

  21. irocrob

    Well unlike most here am a fan of GM 1980s cars. A good looking car to me and gm sold tons of them. I would sooner a 3.1 6 cylinder but think this car is neat and hey.when is the last time you saw a good one ?

  22. CelestialGryphon

    Pretty sure everyone here knows I’m a fan of weird ass esoteric designs. This checks alll the boxes in my book.

  23. Cary Dice

    To digress, my wife had a 1980 Sunbird with 4 speed stick and Iron Duke motor. No problem with mechanicals but did it drive like a POS. Any groves in the pavement would send it wandering towards the guardrail. Scared the crap out of me. Replaced it with a Mitsubishi Mirage. Like butter……

  24. Cary Dice

    To digress, my wife had a 1980 Sunbird with 4 speed stick and Iron Duke motor. No problem with mechanicals but did it drive like a POS. Any grooves in the pavement would send it wandering towards the guardrail. Scared the crap out of me. Replaced it with a Mitsubishi Mirage. Like butter……

  25. JRATT1956

    I had an 88 Sunturd and it was gutless. I purchased it for $2500 in 1994 from a friend after he replaced the timing belt or chain, at 78,000 miles I do not remember which one. But it always had valve clatter noise. At 6 months of owning, I totaled it in an intersection crash and my insurance company paid me $3800. The best place for this model w/o turbo is the junkyard.

  26. Neal

    I don’t know about sunbird turbos, but I had a low mileage ’85 Subaru turbo wagon back in the early 1990’s. It had been lovingly cared for and maintained. I continued to care for it, religiously letting it idle for over a minute as instructed each time before turning off the ignition to ensure proper cooling and lubrication of the turbo bearings. They should have never added a turbo to that engine: it had a habit of cracking the aluminum cylinder heads from heat and boost. I actually fixed it TWICE and then I gave up and sold it to a person in the know about that model, white coolant smoke trailing and all. I wanted to keep it forever, but poor engineering made me plan otherwise. And I swore off turbos and other hopped-up vehicles, and Subarus specifically.
    Now, if the right Scout with an intercooled 4BT comes along someday, I might change my vow…

  27. Tom S.

    This article really makes me appreciate all of the Spitfires that you’ve been showing.

  28. charlie Member

    80’s and 90’s cars are at the bottom of their market. In the 70’s you could pick up a nice ’55 Chevy for a song, how many of us wish we had kept that 50’s car that only needed a rear spring, ball joints, tires, brakes, and had pitted chrome, but we sold it for $50. So if you have 20 or more years left to fix and enjoy what will be a relatively rare car, and not a lot of money, this is your way in to the hobby with a car your spouse won’t be upset about, that you can enjoy, and, will probably do as well as the stock market. And as I have noted before, my ’81 Cimarron was used to commute into Boston from NH for several years, and was ideal for the job. Fast, agile, comfortable, easy to find a parking space, and reliable. 5 on the floor.

  29. Richard Rivera

    I think it looks great — Inside and out..

  30. KILLER

    Our first new car as a married couple was a 1985 sunbird Wagon, 1.8 and 5 speed. 38mpg, room for 5 adults, functional roof rack. Drove that car for 13 years putting 129,000 miles on it in Michigan winters, and it still looked and drove like new when we sold it when the family grew. I currently have an 89 Sunbird GT Turbo convertible that STILL hugs the road with original FE3 suspension, STILL looks like NEW, STILL can blow the doors off many cars, STILL gets thumbs up, and STILL attracts attention at car shows. Those that say they don’t hold up probably never drove one, or didn’t take care of them if they did have one. MINE IS A CARED FOR KEEPER!!!

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