No GSE – 1992 Pontiac LeMans

In about 1982, you might have thought the Opel by Buick was the final straw in GM’s long line of captive European imports. Pontiac itself had imported Vauxhalls briefly from 1957-62, but back in the 1980s they went looking for another import to throw their badge on so they could appeal to Americans looking for better fuel economy combined with driving excitement (and while they were at it, improve their CAFE numbers). And hey, why not throw their name on it? Everyone else was doing it, with the car variously sold as the Opel Kadett, Vauxhall Astra, Chevrolet Kadett, Chevrolet Ipanema, Passport Optima, and about 40 different models of Daewoo. Moreover, this car had won European Car of the Year in 1985 for its sharp aerodynamic looks, which in retrospect are indeed pretty smart. After Hyundai’s Excel debacle in North America, you’d think Pontiac would have chosen to source their LeMans from Opel, but instead they went to Daewoo in Korea. Equipped with a 74hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder, and later a 95hp 2.0-liter four, they had a guaranteed winner on their hands. However, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and now there are very few LeMans remaining, among them this 1992 Pontiac LeMans Aerocoupe for sale in Lake Stevens, WA for $1900.

1992 Pontiac LeMans left side

From the side, you can see what won the original ECOTY award from a design perspective. Finding one of these for sale with a manual transmission was hard enough, but the real catch would be a GSE. Sadly, Pontiac denied America the joy of the 150hp Kadett GSi/GTE, something that would have been much more in line with a brand that was trying to sell driving excitement. The owners of this particular car could only withstand 78,000 miles of driving the thing, so that leaves lots of excitement for you.

1992 Pontiac LeMans interior

The car is said to have much recent work, including replacement of the radiator, water pump, timing belt, head gasket, and battery. The speedometer is non-functional, which calls the mileage into doubt – look at the car closely to get an idea of whether 78K is close. The interior looks decent overall, needing just some light cleaning, although the driver’s seat looks like it was used by a rather corpulent driver.

1992 Pontiac LeMans right front

All straight from this angle too. While this car is not ordinarily something you’d expect an enthusiast to care for, it is interesting for being a mostly-forgotten chapter of GM’s now-extinct division. But GM wasn’t done yet – stand by for a feature on the Saturn Astra, right here in 2030!


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2 Responses to “No GSE – 1992 Pontiac LeMans”

  1. steve in podunk Says:

    These are terrible, terrible cars; Hyundaii Excel Terrible!. I can’t believe there’s one still rolling around under it’s own power.

  2. Tony Says:

    ’89 LeMans (sedan, 1.6 auto, ex-rental) was my first post-carless-in-NYC car in 1991. The engine/trans was reliable enough if a total dog, but EVERYTHING else on it felt cheap and flimsy and occasionally fell or broke off in my hands. I had gone for a sedan because it looked more mature, but the trunk proved to be a useful repository for pieces of trim.

    When I went to trade it in on a new ’94 Civic (sedan, again, but 5-speed. Lasted me 14 years and 230k miles before going to a Honda Fit 5-speed – no more need for a notch to look grown-up, my bald spot takes care of that) I was quoted such a lowball trade-in that I ended up selling the Lemons to my grandmother for $1 plus access to family recipes previously reserved for the female line.

    It lasted almost another decade of church on Sunday, supermarket on Tuesday, bridge club on Friday, never over 40 mph and no runs more than four miles apart from the occasional doctor’s visit. But every time I visited her (often, same town) I wound up screwing something back onto that car. But I still cook those recipes.

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