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Starting the hunt for a 91 Grand Prix GTP


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Hello!  Sort of an introduction - I live near Vancouver, BC.  I don't have a W-body, yet, but I think that's about to change with your much appreciated advice!

I am looking for a 91-93 GTP, similar to the 91 my father had brand new when I was just getting my drivers' licence.  His was black with grey leather, had a 5 speed manual, and I think the wheels were gold.  To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of it when I was a kid - he traded in his beautiful 88 Thunderbird Turbocoupe which I absolutely loved (but was having repeated mechanical issues).  The GTP felt kind of like a downgrade in some ways, especially the rattling interior.  It sounded badass, but it wasn't very fast at all, something that kept getting hammered home every time I picked it up from the dealer after servicing - the dealer was a family friend who loaned us his personal 91 Trans Am every time the GTP needed something.

Anyway, fast forward a couple of decades and one pops up on craigslist.  Could never get hold of the seller, but it was just like my dad's except white.  I then remembered my Dad's more, especially all the buttons inside (!!!) and reading and watching videos made me really kind of want a GTP again as a fun/project car.  I think over the years I've come to appreciate it more as the unique car it was. Plus almost 25 years after Pontiac closed shop I'm really missing the whole brand.  Those 'heat is on' commercials were constantly on my TV back then.  My Dad passed away last year and my memories of learning to drive with him in it and the happier times of the early 90s are in my head now.

This era of GTP (before they refreshed the interior - I think around 94?) seems to be pretty rare these days generally and especially where I live.  I was trying to search for production numbers on the forum here to get a sense of what might be left out there but strangely the search engine reports 0 instances of 'GTP' across the entire forum even though I can see it plainly in various posts.  I was hoping someone here had posted production numbers.

There are two GTPs for sale right now near me.  One I think may be a bit of a basket case.  No rust (this is why I love the PNW). It is blue with grey leather, 'well loved' and apparently the brakes are shot.  In this video the seller revs it and to my ear it doesn't sound too healthy and the oil pressure looks like it's high.  It has 220k km and he's asking $2000cdn - it's been for sale for 6 months, I think maybe $1000 or less would be reasonable, but you guys let me know.

The other is 150km from here, it's a 93, doesn't have leather (meh), but it is in excellent shape with only 140k km and could qualify for collector plates.  

Both cars are automatic.  I was really hoping for a 5 speed but finding one out here may be impossible.  I had thoughts of maybe buying an automatic and converting - it's not a money issue for me but I'm thinking scarcity of parts would be a big problem.  If I had an idea just how many or few 5 speeds were produced that might guide my thinking.  Or might just make my peace and live with automatic.

As it's been a long time since I've bought a used vehicle (we just re-lease our Toyotas every 4 years), I was looking for advice on what to watch out for specifically with these cars, ie. things that might be broken that indicate you need to pass on this particular car.

I'm kind of leaning towards going cheap to start, just to scratch the itch, because I don't know if this nostalgia wave will last once imagination/memory becomes reality.  I think I'm almost in the market for something to literally just sit in and reminisce about Dad.  But it might become a passion project too.  Like I said, I really miss Pontiac.  Anyway sorry for the long post!








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Great backstory, I think it captures why many of us still love these cars.

So you covered a lot of ground I'll try and hit on some points, not to scare you off but to inform.

If you encounter a 1991 with ABS, don't walk, RUN. That was the last year the old PowerMasterIII braking system was offered in these cars. It was troublesome 35 years ago and in my opinion totally unsafe to use today, and its a massive headache to get rid of. Just spend some time reading here and you'll see. 92/93 had a far more reliable however underwhelming performance of the Teves IV ABS System. 

the "high oil pressure" is likely nothing more then a bad sending unit, when they start to fail they will read all over the place, $20 for a new one no big deal

A 1992 will have the highest possibility of being a manual, not sure on production numbers but 1992 was the most common year for manuals, again still very uncommon but highest chance.

As far as automatic vs manual, I've done both flavours of the 3.4 DOHC, the 5 speed is more fun but its truly a hateful gearbox to live with on a daily basis. I'm  good with it for a few days before I get sick of it, your mileage may vary. 

There is also the reoccurring problem of these cars in the 5 speed manual, no parts! you can get axle seals, clutch sets, sometimes clutch hydraulics and not much more. Shift cables are another issue they don't break often, and you can repair the main shift cable when the rubber bushings fail. But the cables themselves, they are unobtainable now.

And lastly Timing belt components are getting harder to come across, specifically the timing belt tensioner actuator, its been discontinued by GM and you're basically scrounging old stock or used ones at this point. Literally no idea what I'll do next time I need one. Probably have to get creative. 

The video of that 91' you posted sounds in a pretty sorry state, could be something simple. Can't really tell from the video.

Of the 2 you are looking at the white one with cloth looks better taken care of. 

That said, If you do want one try and hold out for a nice one, at least around me these cars are just gone from junkyards so replacing broken pieces could be a challenge.

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Many thanks for the detailed reply!  

I think ABS was just becoming a thing in the early 90s.. I can't remember if our original GTP had it.  The seller of the blue GTP says the brakes are 'unsafe' to drive, so..  

The white GTP sold in under 24 hours, so that's off the table.

Parts are definitely something I've had to wrap my head around.  I think as your sense of time kind of freezes up - the early 90s are 30+ years in the rearview now but I still feel like they should be considered 'modern' and parts ought to be plentiful.  I had 2 Edsels to go along with my 88 Thunderbird at one time and I had an easier time finding parts for those.  So that'll be something I guess I need to think about, not that I anticipate putting more than 1000km on a future GTP annually.  Honestly I'd be okay with just having one to sit in, run the radio and transport myself back to being 16 again for a few moments.

The 5 speed is something I do kind of want just because it's how I remember our car.  I do also remember the anxiety I had with that car as I was a brand new driver with all the angst that entails PLUS having to deal with things like hill stops.  The GTP was not too forgiving as I recall with the clutch, I remember stalling it a lot.  

I'm having a think about the blue GTP.. if I could get it for less than $1000 then I don't really care if it ends up being a failure, it's surely worth that in parts - it could become a donor to a future, better GTP.  Plus, although I think the Pontiac nostalgia will last, I think the same might not be said for the GTP once reality collides with the imagination.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here are some 5 speed stats for you.  


I think finding the cleanest car body wise you can auto or 5 speed would be your best bet.   

even if it needs mechanical work, that can be done overtime.  


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