• Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
I spend a lot of time in junkyards. A lot of time. With all this experience, I have learned to recognize a perfect hooptie when I see one, a car whose final owner got every last bit of use out of it when its value was hovering right about at scrap value. This 1991 Pontiac Grand Am that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard a few days ago, from the final model year for the third-generation Grand Am, checks all the hooptie boxes just right.



First of all, it's a low-option coupe with the wretched and unloved GM Iron Duke engine, a rattly, gnashy, thrashy 2.5-liter four-cylinder kludged together using off-the-shelf parts from the Pontiac 301-cubic-inch V8 during the darkest years of the Malaise Era and used in cars whose buyers just didn't care.



Most of the paint has been burned off by 25 years of harsh California sun, but the car spent sufficient time in a damp, shady spot for lichens to build up here and there.



There are skeletons-with-sombreros stencils sprayed here and there, plus a big moonshine-guzzling skeleton mural painted on the hood. Goodbye, property values!



Still, someone felt some affection for this car, giving it the name "Good Ol' Snakey" and painting that name on the decklid. We can assume that the Iron Duke was a bit loose by this time, probably leaving a serpentine trail of blue smoke behind the car at all times.



So, the combination of cheapness, ugliness, menace, and who-gives-a-damn functionality make this Grand Am an excellent example of a pure hooptie. Within a couple of months, it will be crushed, shredded, shipped out of the Port of Oakland, and reborn in China as refrigerators and Geely Emgrands. Somewhere in Northern California, though, a few of Ol' Smokey's friends will remember this car fondly.


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