Today is the day I begin bringing my 2003 Pontiac Sunfire GT back to life after croaking, left for dead over a year ago.
I’ll be the first to admit, I find it hard to part with cars that I own. Also it seems that the worse a car is, the more attached I am to it’s stupid face...it’s like I want to “save them all” versus sending them to a scrap heap.
Now this car I bought back in 2015 with 130,000 miles on the odometer. It is an ‘03 Pontiac Sunfire GT with the Ecotec 2.2 4 cylinder mated with a 4 speed slushbox. I paid $2500 for it and it served me well. It has roughly 190,000 miles on the odometer now and all I’ve had to do to keep her roadworthy was just replace the alternator, swap in some new spark plugs and replace the fuel pump.
Now I did do some personal aesthetic upgrades to it to suit my tastes. The 2003-05 Sunfire was an in your face design that was polarizing to say the least. I toned it down a notch by plastidippin’ the OEM grill mounted turn signal indicators and changing their location to the foglight openings. The new round amber lenses were taken off a 2001 sunfire. I like it, it really makes the Sunfire Cat Eye headlights pop, but ditto for my foglights.
As you’ve probably already noticed, it has clearcoat issues with the hood and trunk already stripping away with the roof already completely dull. She used to be really shiny, a fine roadworthy dirigible that has ever set foot on tarmac. The Sunfires have also had that weird rear spoiler that I pay no attention too. Kinda like an SN95 Mustang, it just looks “off” without a rear spoiler tacked on.
I even took the Sunfire autocrossing once on street radials. The auto isn’t too shabby, it’s quick to upshift/downshift and works well with the engine’s powerband. It being the GT model, it does have the firmer suspension and bushing equipment over the base...very predictable handler that telegraphs what it’s going to do with plenty of lead time.
The GT also came equipped with a chrome tipped dual exhaust setup. Now it’s not really a true dual exhaust as it splits right where the rear torsion beam sits.
The GT interior has some unique fabric pattern to it not found on peasant base models. The seats are awesome since they have a built in 3M scotchguard coating from the factory which makes them very easy to clean...liquids don’t really soak through the material.
...which works out nicely. Here we have a 2.2 ohv engine block from my Chevy Beretta that fit perfectly in the passenger seat. Back in the day, I bought a new motor for it and brought this puppy back for a core return. It was a short 4 mile trip to get there.
And we can’t forget a hallmark Pontiac design, 3 spoke aluminum alloy wheels! The car has the stock 15x6's in the back and Chevy Beretta Z26 16x7 sawblades up front. There’s no rhyme or reason for that, all I can say is that I’m working on it.
The plan of attack is quite simple. I don’t want to spend anymore than $650 on this project to put her majesty back in service. All I have to do is gut out the bad motor and put in a newer used one that can make the magic happen. I’m super familiar with the older GM 2.2 ohv blocks but have never worked on the newer Ecotec DOHC models. So I figure I’ll poke around the engine as I’m freeing her to learn it’s ways as I go, disassembling way more than I need to for a simple engine swap.
So far, it’s been pretty easy sailing taking her apart. It really is a beautiful engine in sheer simplicity.
I still have my hands full with my Chevy Cavalier, so this Sunfire is a side project that I hoping to be done with by end of summer. More to come later.