Junkyard Find: 1984 Pontiac 6000 STE

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The General built cars based on the front-wheel-drive A-platform (no, not that other GM A) platform for model years 1982 through 1996, with the deeply immemorial Chevy Celebrity as the most numerous type. Of all the millions of these A-Bodies that graced American roads, the most interesting was the Pontiac 6000 Special Touring Edition, a sports sedan version designed to compete with the growing threat of fast German and tech-packed Japanese machines. I managed to find an extremely rare early 6000 STE in a California cemetery in December, so let’s take a look.

1984 Pontiac 6000 STE in California junkyard, emblem - ©2022 Murilee Martin - Truth About CarsThe Pontiac division was on a roll in the mid-1980s, recapturing some of the old burst of youthful performance it enjoyed during the height of John DeLorean’s reign in the 1960s. This was a time when an assembler of transmissions Ypsilanti could become a Knight Rider star and then feature in a cheesecakey Pontiac calendar, and it seemed possible that Pontiac would soon strike fear into the hearts of businesses from Yokohama to Munich.

1984 Pontiac 6000 STE in a California junkyard, HVAC and radio controls - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOf course, it all fell apart soon enough, and the Pontiac Division spent the 1990s becoming increasingly irrelevant, finally ending up in The Crusher in 2010 after a long downward spiral. But the 6000 STE, for all its shortcomings, was a fascinating machine. Its dash bristled with dozens and dozens of impossibly tiny buttons and switches, and the instrument cluster looked like something out of a video game. To take that, Nissan Maxima and Mitsubishi Tredia! Better yet, Pontiac ignored complaints from confused customers who couldn’t understand the controls for the first 6000 STEs and doubled down on even installing After buttons to newer models. Even the very strange Subaru XT couldn’t top the sci-fi 6000 STE of the late 80s!

1984 Pontiac 6000 STE in California junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - Truth About CarsThe interiors appeared to be from futuristic orbiting palaces built by a superior intergalactic civilization… i.e. a superior intergalactic civilization that favored Michigan petro-velvet and a color palette ranging from beige to burgundy above all another consideration. This one features beautiful gold and plum upholstery and trim, which has held up very well after 37 years of California sunshine. Naturally, the 6000 STE came standard with air conditioning, full electrics, a good sound system, all of which cost more in most Detroit sedans of the time.

1984 Pontiac 6000 STE in California junkyard, left view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - Truth About CarsWhile it had the gadgets and plush thrifty interior to rival Nissan, Subaru and Mitsubishi, the 6000 STE’s true rivals came from Europe. To beat BMW and Audi, the 6000 STE needed power and lots of power. For 1984, that meant the high-output version of the 2.8-liter V6 engine, rated at a pretty decent 130 horsepower. The BMW 528e had only 121 horsepower that year, while the Audi 5000 Turbo had 130. Of course, the General’s 60° V6 had pushrods and – for the 135 horsepower 2.8 – a carburetor, but horsepower is horsepower (to be fair, the 528e wiped out the 6000 STE on torque, with 170 versus 145 lb-ft). The 6000 STE also has a stiff suspension, quick steering ratio, and sticky 195/75R14 radials, and I’m just sad that the Audi 5000 vs. Pontiac 6000 STE chase scenes haven’t become a staple of crime TV shows ( the 5000 did become a staple of the television news).

1984 Pontiac 6000 STE in a California junkyard, dashboard - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsUnfortunately, many BMW and Audi buyers insisted on three pedals at that time, and the only transmission available on the 1984 6000 STE was a decidedly antiquated three-speed automatic. Later, the 6000 STE received an optional four-speed automatic and even optional all-wheel drive, but the primitive powertrains hurt sales just as much as they did with the Buick Reatta, Oldsmobile Troféo and the Cadillac Allanté.

1984 Pontiac 6000 STE in California junkyard, right rear view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - Truth About CarsOf all the 1984 GM A-Body sedans, the 6000 STE was by far the most expensive. The Celebrity sedan was listed at $7,881, the Olds Cutlass Ciera Brougham was at $9,712, the Buick Century T-Type was at $10,674…and the 6000 STE was $14,428 (about $39,805 in 2022 dollars ). Meanwhile, a new 1984 Nissan Maxima was $11,399, an Audi 5000S $16,480 ($22,250 with turbocharger), a BMW 528e had an MSRP of $24,565 and, if you were willing to live with two doors instead of four, a new Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe and its 145 overhead camshaft horsepower listed at just $12,354.

1984 Pontiac 6000 STE in California junkyard, emblem - ©2022 Murilee Martin - Truth About CarsThese cars have a small but maniacal following today, so I expect this one to have been stripped of STE-specific goodies by the time you read this.

For links to over 2,200 additional Junkyard finds, please visit the Junkyard Home of Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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