Live Auctions

V6 Daily Driver? 1976 Pontiac Sunbird

Pontiac introduced the Sunbird in 1976 as a sportier version of the subcompact, Astre. However, the Astre was a rebadged version of the Chevy Vega which had a dubious track record in the early 1970s. This first-year Sunbird is the coupe model which has a V6 engine that provides a fair amount of zip for a small car like this. Other than sorting out why the factory air conditioning doesn’t work, that may be the only thing preventing this auto from being pressed into regular duty. Located in Carol Steam, Illinois, this Pontiac is available here on craigslist for $5,000. Another 1970s tip brought to us by Pat L!

The Sunbird and T-1000 would be the Astre’s successors, just as the Monza and the Chevette took over for the Vega. Styling on the Sunbird was reminiscent of the Firebird, at least from the front clip. The Sunbird was produced alongside not only the Monza but also the Buick Skyhawk and Oldsmobile Starfire, so GM had all its bases covered in the growing subcompact market. During its first year, the Sunbird shared its inline-4 with the Astre, but fortunately, that changed in 1977 with the advent of the “Iron Duke” 4-cylinder. The seller’s car has the optional Buick V6 with a displacement of 231 cubic inches and 110 hp.

I owned a 1980 Sunbird, but it was a hatchback instead of a coupe like this car. It was a decent ride although mine had some front suspension issues I never could get resolved (it leaned to one side). The seller’s car has been busy over the years, logging in 110,000 miles (the odometer has rolled over). We’re told it runs well and has been treated to new brakes, tires, and shocks. Other than maybe a spot on the driver’s bucket seats, the interior looks to be in very good original condition.

The burnt orange paint was redone several years ago and looks good except under close inspection where the seller says you’ll find a few minor blemishes. But the seller tells us it’s not a rusty relic of the 1970s and the frame and floors are rock solid. Considering what used cars go for these days, $5,000 doesn’t go too far, so if you need a second or third car that skips the occasional gas station, maybe this Pontiac would make a nice addition. But not so much a player for Cars & Coffee.


  1. JCA Member

    Don’t think I’d daily this. Underpowered, even with the V6. Maybe it gets18 to 20 mpg. Small, no utility. Rear wheel drive won’t help as a winter beater. As a collector car, not a lot of interest. GLWTS

    Like 4
    • Mitchell Shaw Walker

      Always look to the near future and meanwhile drive a fairly rare compact!!
      After 65 years of cars (100+) I can tell you don’t follow the crowd. Let them find you

      Like 1
  2. Vance

    For those of us that had to drive RWD cars, because that’s all we had, we did just fine. You just had to learn what to do.I didn’t own a FWD until 1985, and I lived in a very rural area in Southeastern Michigan. You had to know the conditions and drive accordingly. This car wasn’t that bad, and for the time it was ok, my GF at the time had one I borrowed her car once, and as I got on the expressway the timing chain snapped. I never heard the end of it, she accused me of hot-roding her Sunbird. The car is worth what someone will pay for it, maybe 3k ? Don’t see many now, but that memory still makes me laugh.

    Like 14
    • JCA Member

      Well, I had a Motorola Startac mobile phone in the 90’s. Was the best at the time. I wouldn’t use it every day now though.

      Like 3
      • James Quinn


        Like 1
    • Rw

      Vance I totally agree with you, living in rural Ky,I had a 62 Falcon 144 cu in 2 sp. auto,put tall 14in studded snow tires on best snow/ice vehicle ever,and I currently own a 4 runner and 3 Jeeps,oh yeah it didn’t have power to spin it was awesome.

      Like 1
  3. Jonathan A Green

    This car is about memories and the experience. That’s the magic of these “pedestrian” cars. To me, I remember being a kid, seeing them, and thinking they were snazzy. If I was driving it around now, my contemporaries would think it was a hoot. To my kid, it’s an antique.

    The entire experience of actually putting a key in the ignition, turning the key, making sure that you didn’t flood the engine, having to crank windows, turn on the lights, having a little button on the floor for the bright lights, turning a knob and having a “click” when you turn on the radio, and pushing a button (with effort) to get to a radio pre-set? Using a key to unlock a door? No AC? It’s the craziest thing they’ve ever seen!

    This thing is fun.

    Like 37
    • Tony Primo

      Finally someone that speaks the same language as me. This car would be welcome at any of the local car shows that I attend. You just don’t see these cars around anymore.

      Like 14
    • James Quinn

      I tell people the car (67 Cougar and 69 C-10)I drive is a “Personal Responsibility” car. You have to do everything. It’s not going to lock itself, turn the lights on for you or warn you that they are still on.

      Like 6
    • JCA Member

      I remember seeing them, driving them, working on them, and realizing they weren’t as good as for example the VW Rabbits that I could buy as a winter beater for the same price or less. Some of the Rabbits also had no a/c, manual windows, and no creature comforts. But with a light body and a manual trans it felt fast. Had great utility with its hatchback. Front wheel drive for the snow. Better gas mileage. So a better “Pedestrian” car then this car then and now. That’s the reason a base Rabbit is worth more than this car is today and is actually collectable. That said, the question posed in the title asks if it’s a good daily driver. My answer is no, it’s not.

      Like 4
  4. Big C

    This thing will run forever, with basic upkeep and a mild climate. These were good little cars.

    Like 7
  5. Psychofish2

    The Chevette/T-1000 were never replacements for the Vega Astre.

    Stop saying this.

    The GM T-Body based Chevette was in a completey different segment than the Vega. It replaced nothing in the lineups. GM never had a domestic car in that segment before.

    It’s market was the mini segment with the Corolla and B-210.

    The Vega/Astre were sub-compacts. The NOVAs, compacts.

    Vega>Monza>J Body

    Chevette>Geo Metro.


    This notchback Sunbird is one of GM’s most under rated designs, best in Sunbird drag and without a stupid vinyl top or “Opera Window” option.

    Nice to see. Motor Trend’s manual V6 Sunbird test car got decent gas mileage.

    Like 9
  6. Ricky

    My Gawd, that’s an ugly car!

    Like 2
  7. W72WW3

    Frame? Really????

    Like 1
  8. Paul

    The Sunbird is NOT a rebadged Vega but a Monza with Pontiac styled grill and tail lights. With the small V6 it was a great small car but the vinyl top was always an eyesore IMHO Also no frame as these were unibody cars.

    Like 4
  9. Kirk

    One of my sisters had a boyfriend who drove one exactly like this other than the color ,his was a light green. I was still to young drive at the time but was car nut all about the power and hot roddin so whenever they would get in a fight and the parents were away he would tear the tires off the car leaving which I thought was pretty awesome and would be ready and waiting where I could get front row seat to the show . Also we lived on a very long hill and his sunbird had a 305 or 350 with a manual so it took a while for him to leave most times. Always wanted one of these or a monza but never came across any worth buying living in the rust belt. This seems like a great deal for a rust free antique car from the 70’s .. 5gs is the new 1500

    Like 3
  10. JMG

    If it had the red corduroy interior that MINE had in back college, I would be taking a road trip to ILL right now! LOL. In the early 90’s, the interior is what everyone loved. Mine was also the hatchback, which added lots of utility for a college kid. Black p’leather is not my thing.

  11. joenywf64

    13″ oldsmobile sport wheels added.

  12. Bick Banter

    A lot of opinions here so I’ll not join. It is what it is, as they say. I’m only wondering, though, is this car more ’70s than the ’85 Corvette just above this is ’80s?

  13. karl

    Someone’s monkeyed around with the quarter glass /vinyl roof area . When these cars were equipped with a vinyl top, the rear glass was a small opera window . The non vinyl roof coupes had the larger glass. Most times the glass was the same piece, the factory just put a plug over half the glass and glued the top on, I’m thinking the top may have been replaced at one time, and the plugs were removed .

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