Lean, Mean, ‘n Green


Adam’s late. I’m talking to him today about his Pontiac. Usually, there wouldn’t be much to do while I wait for somebody to arrive for an interview, but today there’s a huge flock of gulls hanging out in the middle of the park. One text to Adam later and I walk over. There, I get a better look at the gulls crowded around a bridge over the pond. They stand around menacingly. I snap a few pictures of them and hurry back.


Upon arriving back, I find that Adam has finally shown up. The deep shiny green of his Bonneville, which I and several other friends of Adam refer to as the Bonerville, is about as conspicuous as the president’s hair in this quiet parking lot. We sit down after I take pictures of the large green sedan from a defunct automaker. I already know how he got the car. There’s not much mystery there for me. He bought it from a college friend who was upgrading to something better. However, I do admit that I was surprised when he bought the now 21-year-old car. Adam already did have and still does have a daily driver, which I will hopefully get to talk about here some other time.


So if Adam already has a car, why buy this old Pontiac? Simple. It’s a project car. The car has an engine that was very common in GM vehicles of the 1990s, the Buick 3800 V6. What interests Adam about this particular engine is that it was very commonly sold with a supercharger back in the day. The Bonerville is not one of those cars unfortunately, but Adam does plan to install a supercharger once he has the time. Though he hasn’t had time to work on the car himself, he has had both the engine and transmission replaced due to a well-known design flaw with the normally reliable 3800 engine involving the intake manifold gaskets.


In fact, what forced Adam to get a new engine was that he didn’t realize anything was wrong with it. He was driving to school one day after getting the transmission replaced when the car developed rod knock(a condition that occurs when not enough oil gets to the cylinders in an engine and wears down the connecting rod that attaches the piston to the crankshaft). The car practically limped down the road for 10 miles and eventually died outside the parking lot at Adam’s school.


The car hasn’t been locked away for fear of it breaking down a second time, though. Adam has been renting it out to a friend for the past few months. While it may seem like a no-brainer to just store the Bonneville until there is free time to work on it, there is some merit to letting it be driven around. For one, the friend renting the car hasn’t been driving it around very much. About 8,000 miles have been put on the new engine since it was installed. Also, it’s just good practice to keep the fluids in the car circulating so that there’s less to worry about when it comes time to install the supercharger.


Overall, the ease of supercharger installation is the most significant factor that Adam considered in buying the car, but it isn’t the only one. His father owned a 1996 Pontiac Grand Am when he was a kid. Adam grew up riding around in this car all the time and became quite fond of it. He’s had a soft spot for 90’s Pontiacs ever since. When explaining this attachment to this particular era of Pontiac, Adam claims that the cars are very American in a way that many modern American cars just can’t touch. He even goes so far as to say that the Pontiacs of the mid to late 90s were much better than most of the other vehicles that General Motors was making at the time. The way they look is very unique to behold and the way they drive is just right.


While his fanboy biases may be showing very clearly here, it’s very clear to see why he likes it. He already has fond childhood memories of another Pontiac of the same era, and the large sedan is the perfect change of pace for Adam, whose daily driver is a Fiat 500 Abarth. Adam loves the Abarth, but he is a fan of domestic automobiles through and through. Gearheads love to rip on automotive subcultures with strong brand loyalties, but being a fan isn’t always negative or toxic. Sometimes you’re just a perfectly reasonable person with a strong preference and that’s okay.