Twelve Days of Pre-Recession GM Christmas: The Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe

What do you mean ‘Pre-Recession’?

After the year 2000, but before the economic recession of 2008, GM was making some weird cars. Retro styled cars, cars with high performance trims (for seemingly no reason), cars with LS motors mounted sideways, and of course, Saabs.

Why these cars came about is complex. If somebody is willing to offer a theory, I’m all ears. However, I’m not here to explore the roots of this issue, only what fruit it ended up bearing. While many of these cars may have continued production after the recession of 2008-2010, most if not all were born of the white heat of stupidity that lost GM $82 billion before this time. I say stupidity of course, because most of the following vehicles I would like to own one day.

The Pontiac Solstice

The Pontiac Solstice was the last RWD Pontiac made in the United States. It was Bolted to a platform it shared with the Saturn Sky, Opel GT, and Daewoo G2X (a car I have literally never heard of!). It was a runaway success for General Motors after its release in 2004. GM took *seven thousand orders* in the first ten days after its release, and had to ramp up production to meet the demand. In 2006, they sold nearly twenty thousand of them.

Despite rolling off the assembly line for a paltry $250 million in development, magazines at the time liked the Solstice, and really liked it’s price tag, a flat twenty grand. To achieve this price point, steps were taken to source parts from other cars, and reduce the cost of tooling. Counter to logic, much of the Solstice was welded together by hand, to avoid having to pay for all of the expensive robots to do it. It also shared a lot of parts with a comical variety of cars.  Some of these shared parts are as follows:

  • The rear axle and diff are from the first gen Cadillac CTS
  • The interior storage bin is from the Cadillac XLR 
  • The passenger’s airbag, steering column, exterior and interior door handles are from the Delta platform (Cobalt and G5)
  • The Solstice’s backup lights are from the GMC Envoy 
  • The HVAC module is from the Hummer H3
  • The front fog lamp assembly is from the period Pontiac Grand Prix
  • The Solstice’s steering wheel is from the Pontiac G5
  • The five-speed manual transmission was adapted from use in trucks, namely the Hummer H3, GMC Canyon, and Chevy Colorado
  • The five-speed automatic transmission is from Cadillac

This may be one of the most ‘parts-binny’ cars ever made, but it actually turned out fine. A ‘base’ $20k model could be had with no power windows, air-conditioning, or leather seats, which cut the weight to roughly 2800 pounds. The base 177hp engine wasn’t going to push you back in your seat, but unlike Mazda, pre-recession GM could hear the complaints, and could do something about it.

The Solstice GXP Coupe

GM unveiled the GXP Trim for the car in 2006 at the LA auto show. It had just about a hundred more horsepower (260), a limited slip diff, and various other revisions to make it more of a performer. Also available from dealerships was a warranty-pleasing tune that pumped the engine up to 290 horsepower. 

Then, in 2009, shit got real.

The Solstice coupe was unveiled at the New York auto show in 2009. Really, it was closer to how the Corvette or 911 Targa is–the top was removable. However, that doesn’t mean it compromised any looks to achieve this. The Solstice coupe (especially in GXP trim), must be one of the most handsome, pure, and purposeful-looking cars GM has made in a long time.

Image result for pontiac solstice gxp coupe
Catcalling people is wrong, but what about cars?
Image result for pontiac solstice gxp coupe
This car’s looks do not leave much to be desired.

The bad part about this car, unfortunately, was the timing. The coupe began production in 2009, just one year before Pontiac would meet its untimely demise. Only 1,266 were made, and today, people pay a premium for them (especially for GXPs). In July of this year, one sold on Bring-a-Trailer (with 34 miles on it) for $45,250. Luckily though, most of the coupes made were GXPs (at or around 850 units).

There’s actually a surprising amount of Solstice coupes around online, but a lot of the ones for sale are either the 177 horsepower variants, or automatic. Of all the GXP coupes made, 287 were stick (according to my research).

The prices of the coupes vary, with none dipping below $20k. Some are up around $50k, and a lot of them are posted on Hemmings. If I were you? As much as the coupe is really rare, and really cool– fuck, what am I saying. I could get a 300hp Solstice Coupe. I always try to preach the benevolence and open-air majesty of the convertible, but in this case how can you resist?

Image result for pontiac solstice gxp coupe
Look at it!

It always upsets me that Pontiac had to die and we got Buick instead (if there was ever proof god is dead). However, Pontiac died as much of a hero’s death as any GM brand could have–As much as any brand could have, period. We got the GTO, a big V8 coupe from Australia, and the G8, its sedan counterpart, in addition to the Solstice.

Pontiac never had to sober up. When the recession hit, GM started shrinking down to weather the storm. Pontiac was standing outside, in its underwear, shooting at the incoming blizzard. Pontiac was making a stick shift, RWD, three-hundred horsepower coupe in Wilmington, Delaware. They pieced it together with shit they tore out of other cars so anyone could afford it, and they were rolling it off the assembly line until GM killed the brand. It was the right thing to do.

Happy Holidays, see you tomorrow.

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