Clean and Solid: 1977 Pontiac Astre Wagon

It can be very easy to dismiss volume selling cars from the 1970s, and not consider cars such as this 1977 Astre Wagon as potential classics. However, there are two factors to consider before any of us do that. The first is from a pure statistics perspective. In 1977, US new car sales topped 11 million vehicles, but the Astre Wagon only accounted for 10,300 of those sales. The second measure is to consider how many of these cars that you see on our roads today, which isn’t many. Barn Finder Jack M referred this ’77 Astre Wagon to us, so thank you for that Jack. It is located in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner has set the sale price for the Astre at $8,500 OBO.

The Astre is not a bad looking car, and this one looks to be quite a straight example. The Sterling Silver paint is definitely looking tired, and it would benefit from a refresh. Rust doesn’t appear to be a problem, and apart from the paint, it is really only minor detail items that are needed to bring the Astre back to its best. The wheels could probably benefit from media blasting and powder-coating, while two of the center caps and beauty rings are also missing. The thing is, these are all only minor items, but they make a world of difference when it comes to the presentation of the vehicle. Otherwise, the external trim, chrome, and glass all look to be in good condition.

The interior presentation of the little Pontiac also isn’t too bad, especially when you consider what the primary role of cars like this was. These were actually a relatively inexpensive family run-around and daily driver, not a luxury car by any means. They came from an era of planned obsolescence, and Pontiac probably never envisaged them kicking around for more than 40-years. However, that’s what this one has done, and it appears to have done it fairly well. Apart from a set of aftermarket gauges hanging under the dash, the rest of the interior appears to be original. The upholstered surfaces all look to be in good condition, and miracle of miracles, the plastic trim hasn’t all given up the ghost. In fact, if you look at the cargo area of the Astre, it actually looks to be in good condition. Due to the nature of interior trim items from this era, they can deteriorate, and any form of abuse or careless ownership can really show inside these cars. The general condition of this interior suggests that the car has been treated with a reasonable level of care and dignity. The only real flaw that I can identify is that it appears that the plastic lens of the gauge cluster has started to become opaque, but it is actually possible to polish these back to an “as new” condition. Luxury features are pretty sparse, but this Wagon does feature air conditioning.

There are no engine photos, but what we do know is that the Astre is powered by the 151ci Iron Duke 4-cylinder engine, which is backed by a 4-speed manual transmission. The Iron Duke is a pretty robust bit of gear, with the major weakness being the fact that they can break a tooth on the timing gear occasionally. Still, this is a fairly easy fix and doesn’t usually result in any peripheral engine damage. Otherwise, a healthy engine will produce 87hp, providing the Astre with acceptable levels of both performance and fuel economy. The good news is that the owner says that the Astre runs and drives like new, which is another box ticked for this car.

The Astre Wagon is not a particularly exciting car, but a competent vehicle that was designed to perform a specific role. As I said at the beginning of this article, sales of the Wagon accounted for a fraction of overall new car sales in 1977, and they aren’t a car that you see terribly often today. They rarely come onto the market, because as essentially disposable items, the majority have now found their way to the crusher. When they do appear for sale, they actually command surprising prices, with good ones fetching anything up to and beyond $9,000. This one looks pretty decent, and it won’t take much in the way of time or money to make it sparkle again. That might make it worth considering as a potential investment, especially for a person looking to buy their first classic car.

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Comments

  1. Fred W

    Can’t believe this still exists. Not many Vegas are left due to proclivity to rust, and I’ll bet one Astre was built for every 10 Vegas. Add the fact that it’s a wagon and you have one rare beast.

    10
  2. rmward194 Member

    That’s an automatic transmission in this one, not a manual. With AC it’s probably slower than a turtle. $8,500 seems like a pipe dream.

    13
    • Jwinters

      perhaps they put an extra zero in the price

      1
  3. Rock On

    You don’t see many of these economy cars with a/c. Perfect candidate for a small block Chevy swap to give yourself a chance to keep up with today’s crazy drivers.

    4
    • Angrymike

      Was thinking the same, but I was thinking a 455-HO would be nice and cozy in that engine compartment. Does anyone know if there’s a kit out there for such a swap ?

      • karl

        I think the 455 may be wider than the Astre ! lol ; just getting a small block in there requires a shoe horn .

        3
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      With the performance available from more current 4’s a great swap need not be of the V8 variety. People get stuck in a rut sometimes, and miss some of the fun. The car would likely handle a lot better without the big lump in the front too.

      What can be done with a 4-banger? Try this one:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zu2oh1hFYA

  4. local_sheriff

    It’s shocking it’s still alive, and considering it’s a Pontiac rather than a Vega even more so. Kinda sad PMD didn’t put more Poncho specific headlight bezels on it, the kink in the middle is more a Chevy featuture. Are those bezels indeed identical to Camaro bits?
    Interesting survivor; however considering asking is close to what I recently paid for a 64 Bonnie Safari in similar condition there’s no wondering what I find to be the best buy… It’s well worth preserving though

    3
    • don

      Pontiac probably didn’t want to put too much into this body style ; it was an older Chevy body style and I don’t think it got much promotion from Pontiac at all – I think it was a stopgap car to get economy minded buyers into Pontiac dealerships until the 1978 Sunbird debuted

      2
  5. Brian Geever

    This is fantastic, that it still exists. Kudos to the current caretaker of this rare ride…

  6. Fireman dk

    Though it does not have a Vega engine, it still is not with out problems supposedly…. Had this not been a problem , and if GM had put this in the Vega from the get go, we might actually see more Vega’s around …. I had two… other than the engine, they were not such bad cars and certainly looked better than Pintos.

    “Problems with the Iron Duke
    The timing gear has a tendency to crumble a tooth anytime after 80,000 mi (130,000 km). The cam gear simply shears a tooth at startup and the engine won’t start; because of the non-interference design of the engine, no further damage occurs. When the cam gear loses a tooth, the camshaft and distributor stop rotating during engine cranking. Replacing the gear requires heating the new gear in hot oil and quickly installing it for a shrink fit on the cam stub. One upgrade is the use of the aluminum camshaft timing gear from a Chevrolet 250 inline six with the Iron Duke’s crankshaft timing gear. Inspection (and replacement, if necessary) of the MAP sensor, and its accompanying vacuum hose, is often a solution to many driveability problems. This sensor largely controls the engine’s driveability. Stuck EGR Valves are also very common on the Tech IV.”

    3
  7. Doug

    The fact that it’s a Pontiac rather than a Vega is probably why it is still alive – the Iron Duke engine was a strong, reliable engine, and was a favorite among midget racers for a long time – they’d do a small amount of machine work and fit a 327 Fuelie head, making it a crossflow engine. I’ve seen them built out to 183 cubic inches with no issues. There was a guy at Hot August Nights in Reno, NV a couple of years ago with one in a Ratrod – dual Weber sidedrafts and a header-
    sounded absolutely wicked !

    6
  8. Peter K

    This would be a nice car to build a sleeper out of. The asking current price ? Way too much.

    3
  9. DRV

    That V6 in the Chevy Monza a year later ran like crap when it ran. My sister’s couldn’t even be driven from new for how much it broke down .
    I think this is the best version of the cars that used this platform.

    2
  10. Brian

    Yeah.. a cool project car . Lower it a little bit, with a v8 or LS swap and that will be a fun little car to drive.

  11. Jay

    These cars are quite rare, especially in this trim. I couldn’t even think of doing anything but driving and enjoying it.

  12. Stevieg Member

    I had the Sunbird version with the 3.8 v-6 & a 4 speed. What a slug! I also had one of these just like this with the iron duke & slush box. Made the 3.8 & hand shaker even more miserable lol. That little iron duke had more torque than the 3.8 & better gas mileage. I would actually buy this & use it daily if I weren’t paying off my 2018 Hyundai. I like this little Poncho!

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