The Detroit station wagon was fast losing sales to minivans and trucks as the decade of the 1980s progressed, but Pontiac shoppers still had plenty of choices as late as the 1988 model year. A visit to a Pontiac dealership in 1988 would have presented you with three sizes of wagon, from the little Sunbird through the midsize 6000 and up to the mighty Parisienne-based Safari. Today’s Junkyard Gem is a luxed-up 6000 LE, complete with “wood” paneling, found in a car graveyard in Fargo, North Dakota.
Confusingly, the “Safari” name in 1988 was used by Pontiac to designate both a specific model — the wagon version of the Parisienne/Bonneville— and as the traditional Pontiac designation for a station wagon. That meant that the wagon we’re looking at now was a Safari but not the Safari in the 1988 Pontiac universe.
The 6000 lived on the GM A-Body platform, as the Pontiac-badged version of the Chevrolet Celebrity. Production ran from the 1982 through 1991 model years, with the A-Body Buick Century surviving all the way through 1996. The LE trim level came between the base 6000 and the gloriously complex 6000 STE (which wasn’t available in wagon form, sadly).
I visited this yard in Fargo after judging at the Minneapolis 500 24 Hours of Lemons in Brainerd, Minnesota, last fall. Up to that point, I had visited 47 of the Lower 48 United States, with just North Dakota remaining, so I made a point of doing a Fargo detour in order to check that state off my list. I’m pleased that I found such a good example of the 1982-1996 GM A-Body in this yard, because the most famous of all the A-Bodies is the 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera driven to Brainerd by the inept Fargo-based kidnappers in the film “Fargo.”
This Minnesota-plated 6000 had some rust, but just negligible levels by Upper Midwestern standards on a 31-year-old car. The interior looked very good, with the original owner’s manual still inside. The 6000 LE boasted “redesigned contoured seats and London/Empress fabric,” which sounds pretty swanky.
Something less swanky lives under the hood: an Iron Duke 2.5-liter pushrod four-cylinder engine, known as the Tech 4 by 1988. The Iron Duke was, at heart, one cylinder bank of the not-quite-renowned Pontiac 301-cubic-inch V8; while fairly rugged, the Duke ran rough (typical of large-displacement straight-four engines) and made just 98 horsepower in this application. Pontiac offered a couple of optional V6s in the 6000 in 1988, but no Quad 4.
A rare wagon in unusually good condition, but not many enthusiasts seek out Detroit front-drive cars of this era, and it had little chance of rescue once it came here.
What more did you need in a wagon back then?