Junkyard Gem: 1980 Pontiac Phoenix LJ Hatchback


By the late 1970s, the automotive manufacturing world was eager to plunge headlong into front-wheel drive and reap the weight-saving and space-enhancing benefits of front-wheel drive designs. General Motors designed his FWD platform, a revolutionary alternative to the embarrassingly obsolete Chevrolet Nova and its siblings, which became Chevrolet his citation. His GM car division in other US markets (except Cadillac) acquired some of his X-Body action, and the Pontiac version was called the Phoenix. This is one of his first-year Phoenixes who doesn’t do a very good job rising from the snow-covered ashes at the Colorado self-service yard.

Pontiac used the Phoenix name for a luxury version of Pontiac’s version of the Chevrolet Nova from 1977 to 1979, so it makes sense to apply that name to the Pontiacized Citation. Production of the Phoenix continued through his 1984 model (the Citation survived until his 1985). To confuse everyone, the Nova name was revived in 1985 when he was named Toyota Corolla manufactured by NUMMI.

The LJ trim level was the best of the 1980 Phoenix and included many trim upgrades and convenience features.

However, even Phoenix LJ buyers had to pay extra for a 3-speed automatic transmission instead of the base 4-on-the-floor manual ($337, or about $1,291 for $2022). If you wanted air conditioning, it was an additional $564, with power steering at $164 and power brakes at $76 (total cost at $2022: $3,080). Affordable cars have never been so affordable since we started adding basic options.

Both generations of the Phoenix featured grilles inspired by early Pontiac grilles.

The base engine was a 2.5-liter Iron Duke 4-cylinder, with an optional 2.8-liter V6. In this car he has a V6 and is rated at 115 hp instead of Duke’s wretched 90 hp. Price tag: $225, or $862 inflation-adjusted $2022.

There were only two versions of the Phoenix, a 2-door coupe and a 5-door hatchback. The MSRP for this car he $6,127, is currently around $23,469.

With the Phoenix’s excellent combination of good interior space and solid fuel economy, it would have been a pretty good deal, even after paying for the option…but the Citation and its kin (Oldsmobile Omega and Buick Skylark, Phoenix) There have been extensive headlines of recalls and quality issues that seem to be endless. One of his friends from college had a nearly new ’84 Phoenix and it was the worst lemon I’ve ever had. What should have been an import slaughter victory for The General ended in great disappointment. Sales were very strong, but after a few years it fell off a cliff.

It’s hard to believe, but the design of the compact front-wheel drive sedan was real. AmericanIt drove the way Americans like to drive sedans, kept five adults reasonably comfortable, and raised gas bills. After announcing the lineup, Toyota began selling the Camry in 1983, mainly for the American market.

The X-Body Phoenix is ​​now nearly extinct, so I was happy to find this sad but important piece of American automotive history. jewelry.

Pontiac’s first front-wheel drive!

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