20K Miles from New: 1988 Pontiac Grand Am

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There’s a high attrition rate among entry-level vehicles of every generation. Cheap to buy and often times not subject to top levels of care and concern, they are easily disposable when wheel bearings start to fail or the exhaust rots out. So when it appears that such a car has escaped the perils of cheap ownership, I take notice. This 1988 Pontiac Grand Am here on eBay is a rare find with only 20,766 original miles, and is a throwback to the days when Pontiac built its reputation on driving excitement. 

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Built on GM’s N platform, the Grand Am was Pontiac’s affordable entry point to car ownership, albeit with an attempt to dress it up with sporty undertones. This really was a case of thinly-applied marketing jargon and rather pointless “upgrades” that didn’t do anything to change the driving experience, from side-body cladding to different instrumentation in the cockpit. Later models would incorporate more meaningful power upgrades, from the turbocharged four-cylinder lifted from the Sunbird GT to the venerable Quad 4 found across GM’s lineup.

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Unfortunately for any Grand Am fans reading, this example here makes do with standard everything – with the exception of the fun-sapping automatic transmission. While the fun-to-drive quotient was pretty low to begin with, it’s still a bummer not to have three pedals in a car like this. But as I’ve said before, automatics may very well save cars from years of thrashing they may have otherwise received with a manual transmission. The infamous Tech IV motor seen here is effectively an Iron Duke four with fuel injection, and didn’t win many fans in its lifetime.

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What’s funny to me about this listing is the seller is not pushing it as a survivor – he’s clearly selling it as a great choice for a clean, reliable used car. It’s not often that we see a vehicle someone could attempt to glamorize as the best one in existence sold as if it’s sitting on the corner used car lot. The opening bid of $4,995 is quite strong for a stripper of a Grand Am with an automatic between the seats, so I doubt this entry-level Pontiac is going anywhere fast. A GT with the Quad 4, however, would be a different story altogether.

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Comments

  1. edh

    Looking at this car makes me more upset that my 1992 Cavalier had an interior just like this and it was way nicer than my 2005 Cobalt. My Cobalt has the interior of a Hot Wheel.

    Another reason I said goodbye to GM.

  2. Kincer Dave Member

    $5000 for a car like this isn’t too bad but I wouldn’t pay any more though, these were great point A to point B cars, the Iron Duke wouldn’t bother me at all, I’ve had two Quad 4 equipped cars a 90 Beretta GTZ 5 spd and a 90 Grand Am auto and they were fun high revving cars but head gasket issues kind of put a damper on these motors, the Iron Duke will run for years with normal general maintenance.

  3. AMC STEVE

    These cars were the biggest pos junk money could buy. My wife’s grandfather bought her a 4-door in 85 and I was driving it one time, the damn turn signal stalk came off in my hand!
    She totaled it and insurance got her another two door like the one here. After a year the engine was so loud with lifter noise it sounded like a washing machine.
    Junk

    $1500 car at best

  4. Birdman

    I remember doing oil changes on these things….drain the oil..then unscrew the big cap in the middle of the pan to get to the oil filter…GOOSH!..oil everywhere!…then fight to get the filter to come out with a pair of pliers on the little tab on the tip of the filter…blah! But even at that, I’d still got $5k for a low mileage unit like this…I like these cars…

    Like 1
  5. Rando

    Ugh. Not very much “driving Excitement” there. Lots of mouse fur. An era of GM that said “I really just gave up on having a cool car”. What kills me is the preponderance of GRAY/Black interiors now. At least this one has some blue in it. And some “corporate gray” plastic pieces. Yuck. This thing is pretty hideous in my opinion. Now I’ll have that bad taste in my mouth the rest of the day… lol

  6. Terry J

    In my humble opinion Jeff, that engine was one of the best ever built. GM originally took their bulletproof Chevy inline 6, whacked off 2 cylinders, and that rugged Chevy 2 engine and it’s car and boat offspring powered vehicles for decades. May not be exciting like the somewhat exotic failed Vega or the “cool” Quad 4, but with a cast iron block and head and simple push rod overhead valves, there was little to go wrong with the basic engine. Anybody know how many were manufactured? Has to be millions I’d guess. If you counted the entire lineage including the 6’s then the #s would be astronomical. :-) Terry

    Like 2
    • Kincer Dave Member

      Agree 100%, when I was 17 I bought an 84 Fiero with the 2.5 Iron Duke, car had 37000 miles on it when I got it, I was teenager so that car was hammered on, had it about 5 years and sold it with 137000 miles on it and it ran just as good as when I bought it, yes they are noisy and sound like an old washing machine but they will take a beating.

      Like 2
  7. JW454

    These were great little cars for their time. They did exactly what they were designed to do. I drove the Buick version of the same car known as the Summerset Regal. It was fantastic on fuel and was very peppy.

    Like 2
  8. rmward194 Member

    I had a 1989 with the Quad 4 in this color, but it was loaded. I drove it about 140k miles in three years before trading it in. The paint on these cars was notoriously bad. So much so that GM would repaint the top surfaces up long after the warranty was up.

    Mine served me well, but a much better car can be found for $4,995.

  9. ClassicCarFan

    It’s certainly in amazing condition for a car of this age – and particularly a car that I can’t imagine anyone making the effort to cherish and pamper. on the other hand I can’t imagine why anyone would really want one of these now?

    “best 1988 Grand Am out there” sounds a bit like “tallest dwarf”.

    they might be waiting a while for that first eager bidder….

  10. Poppy

    These N bodies were decent cars with upgraded suspension a Quad-4 and 5 speed. My first new car was an ’88 Olds Cutlass Calais International Series, loaded with leather interior. The Olds and Buick varients were a lot less “plasticky” than the Grand Am on the inside. Unfortunately, it was totaled 4 years later. I really enjoyed that car while I had it. 0-60 in about 7 seconds and 36 highway mpg – great combination of performance and economy.

    Like 1
  11. jim s

    i think making the seller an offer is the way to go on this car. car still has live left in it and would make a driver. nice find.

    Like 1
  12. grenade

    This is EXACTLY why I think GM is Junk. Well, they are, but this is proof. GM owners that think 140K miles is a lot? Yeah, there’s the problem. Toyotas, Hondas, even Fords and a few Dodge marks, run 250K before you can scrap ’em. Some run into the 300’s before you start to doubt them.
    GM lovers, look around, this stuff was and IS crap. Clever marketing got you snowed? Yeah, keep making those payments and being loyal to the useless brand…
    If it won’t run reliably into the 175K mark- you’re loyal to the wrong brand.

    • rmward194 Member

      My 140k mile Grand Am actually ran over 235k miles for the next owner. It was still running well when they traded it off. GM cars of this era aren’t the best, but Toyotas and Hondas aren’t the best cars either.

      Like 3
    • Poppy

      I have 4 daily drivers for my family – all GM. All are between 15 and 25 years old and all of them have between 105K and 185K miles on them. I would drive any one of them across country today. Meanwhile my neighbor is asking what he should do with his Civic that has a cracked engine block at 80K miles and my dad is trying to decide if he should spend the $2500 for a new CVT for his 2004 Civic Hybrid with 60K miles on it. Oh, did I mention I don’t have to worry about changing a timing belt…EVER?

      Like 3
  13. Rob

    It should have rotted away with the rest of them. That being said, I’m sure someone will be very happy with their purchase. Until they go to get the carb or anything else worked on.

    • M-Logan

      Hate to bust on your automotive smarts, but it has no carb.

  14. Mark S Member

    I have a sad story to tell with one of these grand ams in it, our next door neighbors had this exact car including colour they were a nice couple aged fifty. One day in 2000 they were on the highway returning there 22 year old niece to her home. They approached a 4 way stop, and when they thought that they were clear to go they proceeded.unfortunately their view was blocked of an up coming semi truck trailer approaching on their right side. The trucker blew threw the stop sigh at an estimated 100 kph ant Tee boned them. Their car was pushed down the highway for over 300 meters before coming to rest with the truck on top of them.the truck caught fire and burned all 3 of them well beyond recognition. No knows if any of them survived the impact but it is not likely. when I viewed pictures of the wreck I noticed that the A pillar on the right side of the car was about 5″ away from the left A pillar. To this day I am haunted by this wreck every time I see one of these cars, I could never own one.

  15. Terry J

    I have owned lots of cars, foreign and domestic. I’ve never found any brand or country of manufacture to be “Gods Gift to Mankind”. Japanese cars are usually excellent, but at least in Oregon a $5,000 driver level car from Toyota/Honda/Nissan is listed as “low mileage” if it has less than 200,000 miles. Susie’s wonderful Lexus 400 we bought with “only” 125,000 mi. for $8500, had great documented dealership care, but only got to 175,000 mi. before the engine and tranny were both tired. I sold it cheap with a full disclosure of all known flaws. My little ’77 Datsun B210 only has 84,000 original miles and the drive train will probably outlive me. But though fun, it is a crude,noisy & slow way to get around. I like that little Grand Am. Looks like it will make someone a nice ride for years to come. :-) Terry J

    Like 1
  16. Jorge Sandoval

    I actually made an offer on this car… I offered $3k and seller wouldn’t budge a bit. As a matter of fact, he even seemed rather offended and replied with a snarky comment. I followed the listing for a while then it disappeared. Other than myself, It seems difficult to believe there’s another ’80s Grand Am enthusiast as obsessed as I am, so I’m guessing the seller must have just shelved the vehicle.
    The reasons I like this car are part nostalgia, part obsession with anything ’80s, and also overall car obsession. It can’t be denied that this was a sort of “hey day” for pontiac -characterized with a unique ride quality, sportiness, power, oh-so-cool Star Treck-ish environments as well as a decent amount of ride comfort, this truly was a unique Pontiac branding strategy that flowed throughout its entire lineup.
    Now, I understand the disdain that some people feel for this car, but I also think they don’t fully understand the aesthetic. Clearly, if I were to go to the art museum, wearing only my modern art glasses, it’d be easy to discount the value of the classical, abstract, and pop art styles. It’s impossible for one car brand to embody perfection from an industry that is more diverse than any other art form.
    Since high school, I’ve owned BMWs, VWs, etc., and yet nothing compares to the excitement and joy I feel when I get into my six cylinder, 1987 grand am LE. I’m instantly taken back in time to my youth with a similar flare as must be felt riding in the Delorean from Back to the Future. The feel of the steering wheel, plasticky interior, duo toned colors, overly padded seat cushions, throaty rumble from the exhaust are incomparable. There’s a time and place that people hold dear to their hearts …and the ’80s Pontiac Grand Am is certainly an artifact that has left a lasting impression for many. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be talking about it.

    Like 4

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