Junkyard Gem: 1997 Pontiac Sunfire Convertible

Junkyard Gem: 1997 Pontiac Sunfire Convertible

For the entire 24-year production run of the GM J platform (best known for the Chevrolet Cavalier), the Pontiac division offered new J-body cars for sale in the United States. First was the J2000, followed in quick succession by the 2000, 2000 Sunbird and Sunbird. The Sunbird stuck around until the Cavalier received a major redesign for the 1995 model year, at which point Pontiac changed the car’s name to Sun.Fire, Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those early Sunfires, a top-of-the-line SE convertible with the optional big engine and manual transmission.

The Sunfire was a very close sibling to the Cavalier of the same year (by the end of the 1980s, all other US-market GM divisions had dropped their J-cars, which meant there were no more Skyhawks, Cimarrons or Firenzas), from It is very difficult to differentiate. At a glance it is a near-twin.

The base engine for the 1997 Sunfire convertible was the pushrod 2.2-liter straight-four that powered many J-bodies of the 1990s. That engine produced just 120 gunslinging, valve-floating horsepower, not much by late-1990s standards. For a mere $450 extra, however, the 2.4-liter Twin Cam engine and its higher-revving 150 horses could be obtained by ’97 Sunfire buyers. That’s what’s in this car.

It’s one of the members of the Oldsmobile Quad 4 family, though some fanatics will scoff at you if you apply that name to versions that don’t have the big QUAD 4 letters on their valve covers. This is the most powerful engine ever used in a production Sunfire.

For 1997, Pontiac offered a four-speed automatic transmission in the Sunfire convertible at no extra cost. Buyers of all other Sunfire models that year had to pay either $550 or $810 ($1,026 or $1,511 in 2023 dollars) for the two-pedal rig. That means buyers of this car really wanted a five-speed manual transmission (or were hungry for the $810 credit offered in the fine print for manual takers).

Full of free-breathing engine power, five-floor driving pleasure and open sky above. What a cool car!

It made it to about 180,000 miles.

For this car with the Quad 4 under the hood and the clutch pedal on the floor, the MSRP was $18,539 (about $34,584 today). Its Cavalier LS convertible twin with the same engine/transmission setup costs $17,365 ($32,394 now). This car has a bunch of options including 15″ rally aluminum wheels, so the price on the outside would have been higher.

The final year for the Sunfire was 2005, the same as the Cavalier. The final Sunfire convertible rolled off the Lansing line as a 2000 model.

You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

A new way of worshiping the Sun.

Let’s hope Edvard Munch’s descendants get paid handsomely for this.

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