12 hours ago
GM’s migration to fwd began in 1979 with the ill-fated X-cars, led by the Chevy Citation. GM extended the treatment in 1981 to the smaller J-cars (May, 1981) and the larger A-body mid-sizes (Nov. ’81-Jan. ’82). Many of the painful lessons of the X-cars made these later cars better, although they still came in for lots of criticism, fair and unfair.
Unlike the X’s, which started strong and ran headlong into a buzzsaw of quality, design, and PR problems, the A’s (Century, Celebrity, Cutlass Ciera, 6000) had a slow start and were low-profile. Early sales lagged in part because #GM was hesitant let go of the older rwd A/G cars and sold them alongside the fwd A’s for the first few years - fwd A-body #wagons did not appear until 1984 as a result. The last G sedan, the Cutlass Supreme, wasn’t retired until 1987.
The biggest criticisms in the early days of the fwd A’s were that the base engines - the 4.3L Diesel and 2.5L “Iron Duke” four, were rough and weak and that the cars looked too much alike - one of the many “old GM” rules often broken in the 1980s. Pontiac’s 6000 was the only one that ever really got much attention from the enthusiast press - mostly good attention.
The top-spec car, the 6000STE, beat the Saab 900 and Toyota Cressida in a Road & Track comparo in 1984 and made Car & Driver’s 10-best list three times in a row. The STE used GM’s HO 2.8L V6 (135hp with FI added in 1985) and a tighter suspension setup than the other A’s that drew positive comparisons to Audi and Saab. The lesser 6000s were more pedestrian, but the car was a good seller. “Old GM” product cycles were historically 4-5 years - but at Roger Smith’s GM, the 6000 soldiered into 1991.
What was nice in 1984 was dated by 1990 - and the Iron Duke, tough but rough, was still there drawing no comparisons to Saabs. To keep it fresh, at least visually, the 6000 got a more “aero” look and monochrome schemes through plastic cladding and cool rims. Best of all was the 1988-1990 6000STE AWD - GM’s first AWD car and one of GM’s best 80s cars, but the slow-selling AWD was sedan-only and $5-7K pricier. 6000s are rare today, and even rarer are monochrome look cars, which came late in the run.