When GM built a Mazda Miata fighter.
The Pontiac Solstice is the very definition of too little, too late.
Pontiac had been struggling for relevance within GM's large brand lineup even before GM's bankruptcy in 2010 that put the final nail in the coffin for the "excitement division." Though there were some within the company that at least tried to save it. One of them was former vice president of product Bob Lutz.
Known as "Maximum Bob," Lutz is a true car guy, even in retirement today. The former marine was a seasoned veteran of the industry before his arrival at GM. He had stints at BMW, Ford, and Chrysler, making him one of the rare executives to serve at the top of America's Big Three automakers. He knew Pontiac needed some attitude if it had any chance long term. Two of his projects came from Australia: the G8 sedan and reborn GTO. Both were V8-powered and rear-wheel-drive.
But Lutz wanted something else that not only cost less but could compete directly against one of the best sports cars of all time, the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The Pontiac Solstice (and its Saturn Sky and Opel GT corporate siblings) were revealed in 2004 and hit the market the following year.
The Solstice was Pontiac's first two-seater since the Fiero, which was discontinued in 1988. Much to Pontiac and GM's delight, the Solstice was an immediate hit with both the media and the public. Among other awards, it was nominated for the North American Car of the Year award. In its first 10 days of availability, around 7,000 orders were placed. GM originally only planned to build that exact amount of units for first-year production, but high demand made the company increase production to 10,000.
On paper, the Solstice has everything going for it: a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive architecture, a standard five-speed manual transmission (a five-speed automatic was optional), and a decently powerful engine, a 2.4-liter inline-four with 177 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque. The roadster weighed just under 2,900 pounds, though its NC generation Miata competitor tipped the scales at about 2,500 pounds.
In 2007, Pontiac launched the Solstice GXP, powered by a then-new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four with 260 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Pontiac claimed a 0-60 mph time of less than 5.5 seconds. The base engine model did the sprint in a reported 7.0 seconds. Along with the new engine, traction control and a limited-slip differential came standard, as did 18-inch summer rubber. Dealers were even authorized to perform an ECU tune that saw power boosted to 290 hp and 340 lb-ft.
Pontiac finally had the sports car it so desperately needed, and in 2009 the Targa-topped variant was launched, though Pontiac simply called it the Solstice Coupe. It was offered with both engine options. Unfortunately, the removable hardtop did not fit into the trunk, though this wasn't a problem for the optional cloth top. Despite this, Solstice coupes are fairly rare because the production line in Wilmington, Delaware was shut down during GM's financial meltdown. Just 1,266 coupes were made.
A Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe, therefore, is a very rare bird, and we've found one for sale on Bring A Trailer. This 2009 example is finished in Victory Red over black leather. A few options include a Monsoon 7-speaker sound system with a 6-disc CD changer and aluminum pedals. The only downside is that it lacks the manual gearbox, though it only has 34,000 miles.
As of this writing, it had a top bid of $10,000 but this is definitely a collector's car so expect that figure to increase before the bidding ends over the weekend.