Home » Track-Daily-Burn, Second Chance Edition: M30 vs Grand Am vs Pinto

Track-Daily-Burn, Second Chance Edition: M30 vs Grand Am vs Pinto

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Happy Friday! As it was a short week, I decided it was time for another Track-Daily-Burn. But looking at the week’s winners, the choices were obvious, so I wanted to mix it up a little and pit the week’s losers against each other. So let’s finalize our third contestant, and then we’ll take a second look at all three:

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Another close call, but the Volaré wins it, making this the first time a Volaré has won anything since Motor Trend’s 1976 Car Of The Year. And that means our third contestant for today’s Track-Daily-Burn is the Pinto. (I won’t make the easy joke, I won’t make the easy joke…)

Just in case you weren’t with us last time we did this, the rules are simple: You must choose one of these cars to drive daily, one to compete in some sort of motorsport event (not necessarily a traditional race track; it can be a dragstrip, a dirt oval, a Gambler event, or whatever), and one to destroy by fire. It’s like that other game, only with cars. There’s no poll at the bottom; just make your selections in the comments.

To help you make informed decisions, we’ll quickly recap each car, and I’ll throw in my two cents about each one. This is likely the most important decision you’ll make today, unless you are forced to choose between a chicken or beef burrito for lunch, and I want you to have all the information you can.

1993 Infiniti M30 Convertible

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This California-modified drop-top version of a Nissan Leopard somehow lost to a non-running Ford Bronco II. I’m still not sure how that happened. I mean, I like a good ’80s 4×4 as much as the next guy, but running with new tires surely beats non-running and yanked out of a swamp, right?

It’s a pretty nice car, except for the interior and the top, both of which are ratty but still broadly functional. The Nissan VG30E engine and Jatco 4 speed automatic have a good reputation, and even with nearly 200,000 miles, should be reliable. If you live somewhere where a convertible can be driven with the top down more than just a couple months out of the year, this could make a fun beater.

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But on the other hand, it is a cheap rear-wheel-drive car, which could make dirt-road shenanigans a lot of fun. And I’d have to check with our pal Mercedes, but I would imagine that if you showed up to a Gambler or Hooptie X-type event with a rare Japanese personal luxury convertible, you’d be kind of a hero.

But if neither of those possibilities grabs you, I understand that convertible tops are quite flammable.

1989 Pontiac Grand Am

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I felt sorry for this poor Grand Am. It got its doors blown off by a Ford Taurus SHO that’s a suspiciously good deal. Personally, I feel like this is the more honest car, but to the voting public, there was no business like SHO business.

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The ace up this car’s sleeve is that it has a five-speed manual transmission. It’s not the slick-shifting Getrag gearbox found in Quad 4-powered Grand Ams, but it’s still orders of magnitude more entertaining to drive than any automatic-equipped GM small car. You can’t expect miracles in terms of acceleration from the 110-horsepower “Tech IV” engine (the “Iron Duke” moniker wasn’t technically used after the early ’80s), but it gets decent mileage, and it’s nigh-on indestructible. This would make a good funky daily driver, and that’s how I’d use it.

I’m not sure how this car would fit into a motorsports situation. It doesn’t really handle well enough for track use, it isn’t fast, and it’s too nice to gut for a rollcage or beat up off-road. I mean, you could, but it doesn’t seem like the best choice.


1976 Ford Pinto Runabout

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And just yesterday, this little Pinto Runabout lost to a Volaré. Now that’s embarrassing. Despite this car being the better shade of green, the four-door Plymouth had the upper hand, if only just barely.

We’ll pretend, for the sake of argument, that we’re talking about this car after the massive coolant leak has been found and fixed, and the alternator has been replaced, so it’s in decent running condition. What you have, then, is a small, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive car with a tough engine and a patricularly slushy slushbox. It would have been a daily-use economy car in its day, but it’s a bit outclassed these days. It’s slow, inefficient, flimsy, noisy, and unreliable compared to anything made in the past twenty years. As an around-town low-speed daily driver, I could see it, if you wanted to be contrarian or cosplay Joyce Byers.

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On the other hand, it’s a small, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive car. As such, it has seen duty in all sorts of motorsports: SCCA, IMSA, drag racing, and countless dirt ovals. You can stuff quite a large engine in place of that Lima 2.3 liter four, and a simple solid rear axle can be set up in just about any way you can imagine.

And – sure, what the hell – it is a Pinto. They burn pretty well, if you really can’t think of anything better to do with it.

So there they are: Our three runners-up for the week. Choose one to turn into a race vehicle of some flavor, one to press into daily use, and one to immolate utterly, and post your choices in the comments.

And just a quick note for Autopians in the Portland, Oregon area: I’m going to be at the All-British Field Meet at Portland International Raceway tomorrow with my MGB GT. Feel free to stop by and say hello if you’re nearby. It’s $10 to get in, which includes not only the show, but vintage racing on the track (not just British cars) and access to the paddock as well. If you’ve ever wanted to see a 1954 Swallow Doretti up close and personal, or watch a Rolls-Royce Corniche go through a slalom course, or hear (and feel) a dozen big-block Corvettes and Mustangs go thundering past on the track, this is the event for you. Hope to see you there!

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43 Responses

  1. Daily: Grand Am & Infiniti: With the Infiniti, the seats can be re-upholstered for not a whole ton of money, and the top could be replaced (although that would be pretty pricey relative to the cost of teh car….but if someone really wanted a convertible, and didn’t have the budget to get a modern model, I guess this is one way. For a summer car to run errands in on a nice day, this isn’t too much to pay. The Grand Am is the winter ying to the Infinti’s yang: its 100% ready to go as is as a winter weather driver. Throw some high quality winter tires on there and combined with the manual…and when the white stuff falls, you are ready to go.

    Burn: the Pinto

    Track: Not my thing.

  2. Track: Pinto, either swap in a V8 or slap a turbo on the Lima 2.3 and go run 1/4 miles

    Daily: Grand Am, just not much of a Nissan fan and I feel I could tolerate it

    Burn: M30, just not my thing, someone who picked it as their daily or track car can pick it up before it combusts IG

  3. The Infiniti is getting burnt regardless. The major exception of Z cars aside, the only thing I like less than a Nissan is a Nissan with delusions of grandeur.

    The other two are a toss-up. The manual means the Grand Am would be preferable to daily in its current state. I don’t know that any modifications exist that would make me feel safe in a pinto on open roads, but if we’re talking swaps, let’s sidestep the expected immolation mode and do an EV swap. Just make sure to put LG Chem batteries in to maintain the sense of danger, haha. In that case, the grand am can see out its days on some sort of inappropriate off-road event

  4. Pinto: Manual swap, start autocrossing it while working it towards a Lemons build.
    Grand Am: I guess I’d daily it as my freaky little 3-legged rescue dog can’t be trusted not to jump out of the convertible.
    Infinity: gets burnt by default I guess. Not a big fan of the sun since I spend a fair few days in it on roofs. If this were manual hardtop, I’d daily it for sure

  5. Daily the Infinity because it’s the nicest and most drivable
    Burn the Grand Am but bring kindling because it doesn’t do anything well
    Race the Pinto because it’s the lightest

  6. Daily the Infiniti, I’ve always really liked the M30 and while I’d prefer a coupe I wouldn’t turn down a convertible either.

    Track the Pinto. It’s rwd, light, and has plenty of options for turbocharging so it could be made to be pretty fun without all that much effort

    Burn the Pontiac. I don’t care if it’s a manual, late malaise era FWD GM products do nothing for me

  7. having owned 8x Pinto’s and 2x Grand Am’s…

    Track the Pinto – we used them for 1/4 mile circle track, both asphalt and dirt
    Daily the Gran Am – cheap and easy to work on, comfortable, decent mpg
    Burn the M30 – I bet it leaks like like a sieve and will leave you stranded some random day.

  8. Daily the Grand am – It will make it there reliably for the most part.
    Race the M30, it is already sort of fastish, and you can reduce weight by just taking the already useless top off completely
    Burn the Pinto…..all you have to do is tap the back bumper anyway.

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