Home » Re-Built Ex-cite-ment: 2001 Pontiac Firebird Convertible vs 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP

Re-Built Ex-cite-ment: 2001 Pontiac Firebird Convertible vs 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP

Sbsd 8 30 2023
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Good morning! On today’s Shitbox Showdown, we have a pair of Pontiacs, both of which need some love. One of them has a V8, and it’s not the one you’d guess by looking at them. But GM’s Excitement Division will have to wait a minute; first we need to check back in with yesterday’s blocky Swedes:

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Fewer doors, fewer dollars, waaaay more miles. But I agree; it’s the more intriguing car. And thank you to the commenters who filled me in on those wheels; I sure do like them, and I see why they’re so coveted among Volvo fans.

I may be alone in this, but I still miss Pontiac. The post-bankruptcy world of General Motors had no place for plastic body cladding and split grilles, it seems, and I say the automotive landscape is poorer for it. Unfortunately, the newest Pontiacs are a decade and a half old now, and time has not generally been kind to them. Both of these examples have had significant work done to them in the past, and both are in need of quite a bit more. They’re not exactly shining examples of the breed, but they do celebrate what I think is best about Pontiac, and often American cars in general: big dumb fun. Which one is more worthy of a new lease on life? Let’s look and see.

2001 Pontiac Firebird Convertible – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.8 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Henderson, NV

Odometer reading: 116,000 miles

Runs/drives? Starts with a jump, but needs an alternator to be drivable

I’ll admit it: I unironically, unapologetically love Pontiac Firebirds. Flashier, rarer, and somehow simultaneously both classier and trashier than its Chevy Camaro stablemate, the Firebird is one of those cars that’s probably far better as an object of aspiration than an object in your driveway, depreciating. But when it’s this cheap, and only mildly broken, why not have a little fun?

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This base-model Firebird is short a couple of cylinders from the big bad Trans Am version, but if you have to have a V6, you could do a lot worse: it’s the legendary Buick-derived 3800 V6, putting 200 horsepower through an overdrive automatic to the rear wheels where it belongs. That’s more power than any Trans Am of the late 70s or early 80s. I’ve driven a Camaro with this drivetrain before; it’s not a fire-breather by any means, but it feels sufficiently antisocial. This one was replaced with a remanufactured engine last year; the car has only 116,000 miles on it, so I imagine there was a lot of antisocial driving involved, or a terrifying lack of maintenance. It starts and runs fine now, but only if you jump it; the alternator is shot, and that means the battery is probably toast now too.

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The softer side of this Bird is in better shape. Yeah, it’s turn-of-the-millennium GM plastic and mouse fur, but at least it has held up. The convertible top hasn’t fared as well. It’s nasty-looking, so I haven’t included a photo of it, but check out the ad if you want to see. It looks like it has been down for years, and now has gunk and mildew in all the folds. It may or may not be watertight anymore, and it may or may not clean up. But there is an easy solution: just leave it down.

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The paint and bodywork looks good, but white paint hides a lot of sins in photographs. It may not look this good in person. I can’t say I think much of the aftermarket wheels, and one tire has a slow leak. Just another of the list of little things that need attention on this car, but at least it’s cheap.

2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP – $1,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.3 liter overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Schaumburg, IL

Odometer reading: 177,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Yes, but has a nasty oil leak and multiple codes

“You know what would be fun?” asked no sane person ever. “Let’s take our front-wheel-drive family sedan, and jam a big-ass truck engine in it sideways.” Pontiac’s engineers could rarely be thought of as sane, of course, and so for a brief shining moment, the Grand Prix GXP existed. We’ve discussed this madness before, more than once, but never before has this monument to torque steer been priced low enough to reach the hallowed halls of Shitbox Showdown. And this one is here for a good reason: it has a rebuilt title.

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The seller doesn’t go into details about how the title was tarnished, but they’ve owned the car for thirteen years, and know it inside and out. As such, they’re able to list everything that’s wrong with it, and it’s not nothing: the engine has a pretty serious oil leak, and it looks bad enough that they keep a sheet of cardboard under the car. Its check-engine light is also on, and the codes listed in the ad are for the oxygen sensor and the fuel pressure at the rail. There are also some electrical gremlins to take care of, but it’s a nearly twenty-year-old GM car; I’d be more surprised if there weren’t electrical gremlins.

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Cosmetically, It’s all right, but not great, both inside and out. I mean, for a sub-$2000 car, you can’t ask for much, and you won’t be disappointed. On the plus side, it looks fairly rust-free for a Midwestern car, and from the sounds of it, it has been well-maintained.

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But honestly, who cares about any of that? The seller calls this a “ridiculously fast car,” and I believe it. With 303 horsepower on tap in a car that typically has two-thirds of that, this car is built to get you in trouble. Consider it cheap thrills. Just stomp on the right-hand pedal and giggle until the transmission breaks.

All in all, now that I think about it, maybe Pontiac’s demise was for the best. Sure, we got some bonkers fun machines like these, but towards the end we also got a whole lot of boring rebadged Chevys. Remember the G5? Yeah, neither does anyone else. But at least we have the memories – and the shitboxes. Which one excites you?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
9 months ago

Awesome showdown Mark!

As a ’94 Trans Am GT owner, this one has me leaning to the Grand Prix. 6cyl F-Bodies always just make you wish you had something more.

They’re the tapas restaurant when you really want a Golden Corral.

Zelda Bumperthumper
Zelda Bumperthumper
9 months ago

The real answer is no to either of them. The Firebird should be the easy choice, but it has the wrong engine, wrong transmission, wrong color, wrong wheels (barf), and it’s a convertible, which for me is another strike. I have some beef with the final gen Grand Prix, but I could make that interior shine, and it’s got a V8 baby! Wrong wheel drive burnouts from every stop sign from now until the transmission explodes. Which will be about 75 miles from now.

Masterbuilder
Masterbuilder
9 months ago

While I love me some Grand Prix, this one is Bird all the way.

New pedal box, 455, M22. Done.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
9 months ago

Another white 90s GM convertible with some aftermarket wheels. And paired against a red GM stablemate (that one’s a bit of a reach).

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Firebirds too. Not so much for this particular one, and I’m not sure if it’s any one thing. But even if that GP were in better shape I wouldn’t go for it – I can play apologist for a lot of GM products, but I never cared for the final GP and saw it as a step backwards compared to the gen before.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago

Even though the roof will undoubtedly be a leaker, and the Engine is definitely weaker stock, I have always wanted to see if a GNX/TTA motor could be fit into one of those 3.8 V6 F-Bodies. This one looks like a good candidate for that old college try.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
9 months ago

This isn’t even a contest. The Firebird is the obvious choice, all day, every day.

A Firebird with a 3800 is a great starting point. Add a supercharger and it’s more fun in the corners than a Trans Am. The convertibles are always a little mushy, but the V6 models are noticeably less so.

And in the unlikely event that the supercharged V6 blows up, you already know that a cheap V8 transplant is in the nearest junkyard.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
9 months ago

!00% Firebird. An alternator on a 3800 costs less than a ham sandwich and takes 4 seconds to swap out. Batteries are easy, and tops for these are fairly common and available.
I like the idea of the big V8 Prix, but this one’s been rode hard. And any car from within 500 miles of Schaumburg is probably too rusty for even Mr. Tracy. Make it a LaCrosse Super with no rust, a clean interior, and lower miles and I’ll pay 5 bills all day.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago

It is probably not even the alternator, the grounding plate on the coils is notorious for failing and is a really simple fix.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
9 months ago

I was down with the Firebird until you got to the top. Aside from not owning a garage, that’s just too big a deal on a car that already needs some work. I spent a summer driving the Camaro version of this (it was a rental while my almost-totaled Jetta was in the shop), and it was fun, but not so fun that I’d want to dump a bunch of cash into it.

Cerberus
Cerberus
9 months ago

Firebird. I think the motor and transmission matches the more cruiser character of a convertible, but a V8 swap isn’t going to be too bad, I imagine. I’m not a convertible person, but the GPs never did much for me, either, and this one has a lot of issues, and a transmission made of glass. Also—while I’m not an anti-FWD snob—this is decent RWD vs bad FWD, so it’s not even close for me. If I lived where a topless car made more sense more times of the year, I wouldn’t even bother fixing the Firebird, but would rip the whole mechanism out and make a kind of speedster out of it. Maybe even weld the doors shut.

World24
World24
9 months ago

A convertible or FWD V8?
Might be a pain in the ass to work on, but eh, the Grand Prix will always be cooler to me.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
9 months ago

They all need alternators, and $2000 is a good price for a 4th gen, so I voted for the white car.

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