Junkyard Gem: 1996 Pontiac Grand Am SE Coupe

The Grand Am

was the best-selling Pontiac model in the United States for every year of the 1990s, and it outsold most of its N-Body platform-mates (including the Chevrolet Corsica/Beretta) during nearly all of that decade. A sporty-looking compact with two or four doors, the Grand Am offered true 1990s radness—and, in some cases, respectable performance — at a good price. Today’s Junkyard Gem is a nicely preserved example of the facelifted 1996 Grand Am, found in a Denver-area car graveyard.

This is an SE Coupe with base engine and transmission, the most affordable Grand Am available in 1996. List price was $13,499, or about $26,523 in 2023 dollars.

The factory-issued Monroney sheet for this car was still inside, so we can see that the original buyer got the car at Bob Ruwart Motors in Wheatland, Wyoming (about 175 miles up I-25 from this Pontiac’s final parking spot), and paid a total of $16,054 ($31,543 in today’s money) after the cost of options and the destination charge.

The ’96 Gr and AM SE buyer had to pay extra for cruise control, air conditioning, power windows, rear glass defogger and other features we now take for granted on new cars.

The base engine was the 2.4-liter Twin Cam four cylinder, a member of the screaming Oldsmobile Quad 4

family. This one was rated at 150 horsepower and 155 pound-feet. A 3.1-liter V6 with 155 horses and 185 pound-feet was an option.

If you got the V6 in your ’96 Grand Am, however, you couldn’t get a manual transmission. This car has a proper five-speed manual, which made for fun driving with the high-revving Twin Cam engine in a machine weighing just 2,802 pounds (which is quite a bit less than what the current Honda Civic


It traveled just over 160,000 miles during its 27 years on the road.

The body and interior were still in fairly good condition when the car arrived here, so we can assume that some expensive mechanical problem doomed this car. Perhaps the original clutch wore out and the owner didn’t consider it worth replacing. After all, a mid-1990s Detroit two-door with a transmission most people can’t drive isn’t worth much these days.

Though nobody knew it when this car was new, the Grand Am would be gone in nine years and Pontiac itself would get the axe five years after that.

It makes the ordinary extraordinary.

Husbands and wives would argue for 12 hours over who got to drive the Grand Am, if we are to believe this ad.

Proud sponsor of the 1996 Olympic team.