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Pontiac of the Month

PontiacStrong65's 1965 Tempest Station Wagon

2023 November
of the Month

The 89-90 Turbo Gran Prix

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The Pontiac Grand Prix received a redesign in 1988 and also transitioned from a RWD to a FWD platform. At this time Pontiac was #3 in US Auto Sales and the Fiero was recently cancelled. This was truly the high water mark of the 80s ad campaign which stated "we build excitement". Pontiac decided to make a limited edition high performance version of the Grand Prix. The Turbo model was introduced mid year 1989 and only 751 were made, in 1990 it had a full production year and 3714 were made. Sadly after only two years of production the factory forced induction model of the Grand Prix was discontinued and would not return till a next generation model would come many years later.

The cars started life as regular Grand Prixs but not completed, final assembly took place at ASC McLaren the same folks who built earlier GM supercars such as the Buick GNX and the Pontiac Turbo Trans Am. The cars recieved more than just a hot motor there, the paint was applied by hand and is a much higher grade than other Grand Prixs and other GM cars of the era. For the engine it received a special built 3.1L V6 that was unique to the Turbo Grand Prix run through a 4T60 4 speed automatic with overdrive. This was not a "corporate" engine as the regular 2.8 and 3.1 V6s of the time which were used in other versions of the W-body such as the Lumina, Buick Regal, and Olds Cutlass Supreme. None of the other makes offered a turbo model. The engine developed 205HP and 225lb ft of torque. This may not seem like much today as many four cylinder engines far exceed that but for 1989 this was a marvel of modern engineering. Keep in mind for example the top of the line 1990 GTA Trans Am with a 5.7L V8 only made 225HP. Differences over the normally aspirated 3.1L engine do not stop with the factory Garrett T-25 turbo. The iron block iron was added with 20% nickel content to improve strength, very small amount of tin for same, both additions unique to the VIN V code engine. The compression ratio was also lowered to 8.78:1, forged rods were used, strengthened crank, special oil pump, unique intakes, aluminum heads, stainless steel exhaust and of course factory intercooled.

Performance didn't stop with the amazing engine. These cars also were among the first to offer a HUD (heads up display). To put in perspective many cars today, even luxury cars do not offer this feature yet. The interior featured 10 way power adjustable leather seats. The Turbo Grand Prix also got the 16in cross lace aluminum wheels painted in gold similar to that of the GTA Trans Ams of the era. It also sported the Y99 Rally Tuned Suspension.

Performance figures were also impressive considering the weight of the car which was a hefty 3491lbs with the huge 16.5 gallon tank full. Zero to 60 was done in 7 seconds flat and the quarter was run in 15.3 seconds (many owners have recorded times solidly in the low 14s, others with prom chip modifications and race gas have run well into the low 13s ). All of this performance and the car still made an EPA rating of 19/27 for gas mileage. This did not come cheap though as the ASC/ McLaren Turbo Conversion Option (Y92) was a 10% markup and drove the price to $28,981. By today's standards that would be about a $48,000 dollar car. Even a brand new G8 GXP fully equipped comes in far below that.

As amazing as the car was like all good things it came to an end in 1992 when a new high tech 3.4 DOHC V6 which produced an even higher 215HP, the name was changed to the GTP designation which remained as the top trim level model until the Grand Prix's demise and before ultimately the demise of Pontiac as a whole.

How has time treated these cars? Sadly not very well at all, many have ended up in salvage yards being cannibalized for hobbyists with other GM applications which used the 2.8/3.1 V6. A similar car of the era from Pontiac such as the 1989 Turbo Trans Am can easily be found on Ebay at any time. Doing a similar search on almost any online used car website for a Turbo Grand Prix will leave you searching for months. At the time of this article there is currently one for sale for $7000USD that's in near mint condition. Other than this particular example there's not a a single one for sale currently.

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