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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is an article that I wrote for the National Pontiac Magazine. ( www.poci.org )

An abbreviated version of the article was published in the Oct 2017 issue.



There is history here that can be found elsewhere on the forum, but now it is in one place for
non-Solstice-owners ( and maybe even new owners ).

- - - -

Good Things Come in Threes

As a member of the South Jersey Pontiac Club, my story is a little different from other members of the club. Most of the cars in the club are “classic” or “vintage”. I believe that my cars are the “youngest” in the club, just waiting to become classics. I have a Pontiac Solstice sitting in my driveway – three of them as a matter of fact.



The Solstice stable currently consists of a 2008 convertible GXP and two 2009 hardtops, which the Solstice community calls “coupes”. One of the coupes is a GXP. A ‘base’ model Solstice uses a naturally aspirated ( commonly abbreviated as NA or N/A in the community ) 2.4 liter Ecotec engine. The GXP model uses a 2.0 liter turbo charged engine. From a simple visual inspection, we can see that the NA model has silver grills on the front bumper of the car while the GXP has black grills. In the rear of the car, the GXP will have a dual exhaust while the NA has a single exhaust.

My story begins in April of 2006. My boss at the time had a Honda S2000 convertible. I was looking at it enviously. Gasoline prices had just crossed the $3 / gallon line for the first time. I was driving a 1997 Dodge Intrepid at the start of 2006, but had recently picked up a 2004 Toyota Matrix in response to the horrendous gasoline prices. The Matrix was functional, but not fun. I asked the boss if I could sit in his car. That never happened as I simply could not put my 6’2” body into the front seat of that car.

Subsequently, I began to look at convertibles. Call it what you wish: mid-life crisis, buyer’s remorse, whatever. I had two sons approaching college-age. My theory at the time was that I might be able to get a car ‘now’ ( 2006 ). However, once the college invoices started to arrive, there would be no way for me to get a car.

I test drove a Mazda Miata, but the car was as small as the Honda S2000. Next, I checked out the Chrysler Crossfire. It was costly and had bad gas mileage ratings. While web surfing one afternoon, I discovered the Pontiac Solstice forum (www.solsticeforum.com - aka ‘the forum’ ). Here was a car that was supposed to get 25 MPG and have a base price under $20,000. I got interested real fast. Trouble was, there were not many cars on the road at the time. I had no way to determine if I would fit in the car.

In the summer of 2006, I saw my first Solstice up close & personal at the local Pontiac dealership. I don’t remember the color of the exterior, but the interior had tan accents. The car was beautiful and I was able to successfully sit in the front seat of the car! I was hooked. Immediately I began to investigate how I could buy one.



There is a book about how the Solstice came into being. In the book, there are design goals mentioned as well as tricks that were used to keep the price of the car down. One design goal was for the car designer to be able to fit into the car. The designer was 6’2” tall. How lucky for me!



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( continued )

Is it a rule, or an old-wives tale? “Never buy the first year of any car.” This statement made sense to me. I spent the next couple of months trying to figure out how I could afford to buy a 2007 Pontiac Solstice. (The actual model years for the car were 2006-2009, with an additional 30 or so cars having VINs indicating a model year of 2010.)

Pontiac marketing was a little different for this car with the Solstice first appearing on the TV show ‘The Apprentice’. The car appeared in dealer show rooms in the Fall of 2005. There was excitement all over the internet regarding ordering of a Solstice. ‘The forum’ was all a-buzz about how, exactly, to order a car. It seemed that ‘everyone’ was trying to get one of the first 1000 cars. People in the northeast portion of the USA, including New Jersey, were upset that they had no way to order a car as the ordering program did not know how to deal with postal zip codes that began with a zero, like 08060. Of course, eventually this got fixed, but it was too late for those seeking a ‘first 1000’ car.

In August 2006, I convinced my wife that we could afford to buy a Solstice. I formally joined the Solstice forum, and snagged an order sheet for a 2007 car. The forum member named ‘Small Dealer’ had a wealth of information to share, and was able to provide valuable insight to all of the forum members. My wife and I discussed the options for the car. Despite visions of “less than $20,000” in my mind, the reality turned out to be less than $25,000 ( and about $26,400 after tax and tags ). The hardest option to choose was the exterior color. Red was popular. Black was wonderful to look at, but really hard to keep clean. Colors for the Solstice had special names based on emotions. I’m sure there is a story behind the reasoning, but I have not found it. Below is a table which cross references color names to emotions:



We finally chose a newly introduced 2007 color – yellow / “Mean”.



Now, the next item on the list of things to do when ordering a car is to find a dealer that will actually order the car the way you want it for the price you want. In this stage of life for a newly produced and desirable car, it was common for dealers to “mark up” the price of a car beyond the MSRP value. I visited a couple of dealerships and discovered an average mark up of $3,500. The forum discussed that there were dealers not doing the mark up game – you just had to find one. I created a list of 25 Pontiac dealers within driving distance of my home and started making calls. Will you have an allocation for a Solstice to allow me to order one? Can I buy it without a mark up? On my 4th phone call, I found a dealer that met my requirements.

On August 24, 2006, I met with the dealer, and using my order sheet, my car order was placed. The price the dealer computed matched exactly what I had anticipated. (Thanks Small Dealer for all of the tips! ) The dealer suggested a Christmas-time delivery for the car.

The wait began. At the time, the forum was very active in tracking everything related to these cars. Once an order was placed into the system, it was tracked. Each stage of an order had a label or code. Below are the codes related to the life of an order:




When ordering a car, then or present day, the codes will not necessarily occur in numerical sequence. A code might also occur multiple times, such as 4b00 (Bayed). An order will have this code each time the car is stored during the transit from factory to dealership. Everybody will get an 1100 when the order is placed. 3300 is the next important code – ready to produce! Finally, code 5000 is what everybody waits for - you will be going to the dealership to pick up your car.



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( continued )

On December 12, 2006 I got the call to pick up my car. I remember leaving work at lunchtime to get it. This car was equipped with the 2.4 (NA) engine and manual transmission. The dealer (and the forum) told me that the price of the car had increased twice since the time of my order. However, I had all of the correct paperwork in place to guarantee the originally agreed upon price. It was a great day. This was the day the “perma-grin” began! :cool: (You know – that smile on your face when you’re having fun driving your car!)





In 2007, people knew that the Solstice, along with the Saturn Sky, was being produced in the GM Plant in Wilmington, Delaware. The plant name was ‘Boxwood’. One of the forum members, “Just Mike”, became very friendly with the people at the plant. After over a year of trying, Just Mike was able to set up a tour of the plant while the cars were being made. The tour turned out to be similar to a tour at the Corvette factory in Bowling Green, Ky. However, the Boxwood plant was not setup physically for such tours. A lot of “hoops” had to jumped through by the plant management, the workers union, and the forum members to make this happen. In May 2007, the first tour occurred. The number of people allowed on the tour was limited, and unfortunately, I missed out. The comments about the tour were outstanding. The owners of the cars and plant employees got along wonderfully. The workers were amazed at the enthusiasm of the car owners. Here is a YOUTUBE video that discusses the enthusiasm:
. The workers did not build a car, they built owners’ “pride and joy”.

Consequently, Just Mike was able to arrange another tour in May of 2008. I was lucky enough to attend. What a party! It was a rainy day, but the turnout was amazing. At the registration desk, there were give-aways and T-shirts. The workers had created a “TLC” tent where we could get little things done or corrected on our cars. The painter was even doing touch-ups. Oh yes, and the tour was nice too. During this tour, there were coupes/hardtops spotted in the parking lot. Production of prototypes had begun.



The TLC Tent above...
Two coupe prototypes below ( This photo was taken before the first real coupe was produced )...



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In May of 2009, a third party, I mean plant tour, was held. The same wonderful atmosphere was felt on a much warmer day. I was able to attend this event. We saw real production coupes that day, and the workers demonstrated how the soft top could be installed onto the coupe. The TLC tent was up and running again, and the lines for it were long.

Shortly after the third plant tour, GM’s decision to terminate the Pontiac brand hit the newspapers.
Just Mike was able to arrange a “farewell tour” at the plant. On July 27, 2009 the final tour was held. Many car owners turned out for the event and I was able to attend. This did not have the party feeling. The workers were happy to see us, but many were sad and anxious about their future. The rules for this tour were relaxed, and we were able to take some photos and videos. A billboard was created to hold photos that the owners had taken over the years honoring their cars. We were fortunate to see the last convertible being built. Someone took a video of the plant tour and it can be found on YOUTUBE:
. My wife and I appear in the video at the 6:10 mark. We are in the background wearing yellow( “Mean” ) clothes.

( again, some of this history is elsewhere on the forum )







The last Solstice being created ( below ) - a convertible going to Texas

 

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(continued)

My “perma-grin” continued until June 2010. It was a Saturday. I was driving with my son as he was scheduled to get his driver’s permit. It was a beautiful “top down” day. As we were driving in the Solstice, we observed something in the road ahead of us. However, as the Solstice is a low-to-the-ground car, I could not drive over the debris. Plus traffic prevented us from swerving around it. The only choice was to stop the car. I did. The car behind us did not stop. CRASH.



Fortunately, my son and I were unscathed. However, a few days later, I was informed that the car was totaled. The insurance company was good about the whole event. I received $18,000+ for the car.

After discussing things with my wife, I began the search for another Solstice. I discovered a “Heritage Edition” car near the Jersey Shore. I thought I might be able to get a good price for it.



The dealer was asking about $30,000 for this car, and it was not even a turbo. So, I turned to the internet to begin a search of the East Coast of the USA.

Eventually, I found a used car in Maryland at a Chrysler dealership. It was a 2008 GXP (turbo) and it came with a manual transmission and chrome wheels. I still have this car today. The car only had 1275 miles on it at the time of the purchase ($21,000). The “perma-grin” returned! Interestingly, the car paperwork was signed on the Summer Solstice – June 21, 2010. A picture of my car is currently included in the solsticeforum webpage banner, but you have to open your web browser to be double-screen-wide in order to see it.



Life in our household continued on, as normal as possible, until October 2013. This was the moment in time when it was realized that my second son was going to need a car. My first son was driving the Matrix. I had picked up a Kia Rio5 for my non-Solstice car, but my second son was going to get this Rio. What should I buy?

Concurrently, the talk on “the forum” wandered to finding statistics surrounding the Solstice Coupes. Someone with inside GM information created a list of all 1,266 coupes including information such as VIN, color, ‘stick or automatic’, and ‘GXP or NA’. Someone else on the forum was tracking the location of the coupes, and their owners. I became interested in finding ‘coupes for sale’. Call it a hobby. My wife called it an obsession.



As you can see from the color table, Aggressive, Cool, Wicked, and Mysterious are the top four colors chosen for coupes. In October, 2013, these four colors were also the most frequently observed to be for sale. Through the summer, three NA coupes were being sold in New Jersey and the near-by area for $23,000 each. So, I believed this to be the ‘going rate’ at the time.
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In early October 2013, a blue/Deep NA coupe with automatic transmission was discovered for sale in New Windsor, New York, a town off of Interstate 87. And this 2009 car only had 1,040 miles on it. I called the dealer and offered him $23,000 for the car, but dealer wanted $28,000. Even after sharing the going price of similar cars, the dealer stood firm on his original price. I told the dealer that $23,000 was as high as I was willing to go, and my offer would be valid to the end of the month.

Three weeks later, at the end of October, I noticed that the car was still listed for sale on the dealer’s website, so I called. Again I offered him $23,000 for the car, and he finally accepted my offer. My wife and I drove to New York to get the car the first weekend in November. (Of course we had to pay taxes once we got the car to New Jersey.)The only change I’ve made to this car since the time of purchase is to install chrome wheels. A set of chrome wheels was found on the forum for just $400 total. I was able to sell the painted wheels to a forum member for $300 total. … love the forum…



In the spring of 2016, my older son graduated from college. By August he had some money in his pocket from his new job, and he was getting tired of driving the Matrix. Interestingly, he was taking every opportunity to drive the ‘blue coupe’ for his ‘around town’ errands.

Lo and behold – what did we find? A “Mean”/yellow GXP Coupe was for sale for $17,000 in Groton, Connecticut. The car only had 9,500 miles on it. My son said “Let’s buy it!” We drove to Groton that weekend to pick up the car.

Once we arrived in Groton, the owner/seller shared all of the car’s paperwork with us. He was the original owner and had added many extras to the car including GMPP performance equipment and an engine tune. Additionally, the purchase included the much-sought-after soft top. All totaled, the owner put $42,000 into this car, and we were getting it for just $17,000 (before New Jersey taxes ).



( The Solstice Stable below... )



My second son has not yet graduated from college. Will the Solstice stable grow? Time will tell…

:party::party:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
( again, a LOT of the information in this article can be found in the forum.
Thanks to all of the number-crunching people that provided data to the forum. :thumbs::thumbs:)
 

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sirwm, thanks for writing this article, I enjoyed reading it and remembering the memories. While we were late to Solstice ownership (2009), I had been stalking the forum (shhhh, at work) in the early days of its creation and remember the initial excitement of the members through the daily posting of threads. It really was an amazing time here.
 

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Nice writing Sirwm. You have sent me lots of good information, over the years, to update the coupe registry.
 

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Really enjoyed your article. I also enjoyed meeting you in person at the hose wash at the Lexington Nationals. I was washing and waiting to wake Norm up at 7am to installl my recessed grilles on my Coupe.?♠?
 

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Three ? How about letting the rest of us be able to buy one. No wonder I paid over the retail value.

just kidding, great write up.
 

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Plant tour

WOW! I can never remember not being fascinated by cars. From push cars we built as kids to all the great production cars of my time I always had a passion for cars. But, I never been able to get inside a car manufacturing plant. Use to drive by the Ford plants around Chicago, Chrysler plant in Belvedere, AMC in Kenosha/Racine. Made my parents nuts as well as my wife with all the cars I would bring home. As a youth (pre-legal driving age) I would get my neighborhood buddies to help me push my car purchases home. Days later I would come home from school to find my dad sold the cars. We lived a block away from the local authorities and they knew me well. By the time I acquired my permit my mom gave up on me as she hollered out the back door " don't take that car outa the yard". My life evolved around cars. But to have a plant tour. Well, that I never been able to accomplish. That wonderful you were able to.
 

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A great story and fantastic collection. Lucky you!

I have three also and enjoy each of them differently. But enjoy the looks, the questions I get about them more.

Thanks for sharing sir!
 

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Superb piece!!! Well done...

Thank you for sharing this on the forum. I've been a POCI (Pontiac Oakland Club International) on and of since gifting myself with a 1954 2847 (Super Deluxe two door hardtop) on my 40th birthday back in 1986. I learned the heart can cloud the rational eyes of the mind, but love happens, as do straight eights. I also learned, from attending car show with dedicated and moneyed Pontiac enthusiasts, no car will ever be "good enough" for all people. Whoa, production line chassis marks missing and the paint looks like it came from the factory...! My car is for me, not the next person who may or may not share a dedicated stewardship.

Your well written and documented personal story of a relationship with a dream that became a reality, albeit for a fraction of the time it's production life deserved, is a pleasure to read. The photo of you in the driver's seat with the sunglasses would put George Clooney to shame. A lot of us know how you feel. It is good. We may also know the pain of seeing one's machine damaged, as in the crash and success in the following search. I put a scratch on my GXP's pristine body by removing the passenger seat to dry the carpet after Irma. Was tired and neglected to cover the flank with a soft moving blanket. I know that scratch is there.

Glad to see your dream continues and good things do happen, with a bit of a good deal thrown in to sweeten.

Take care and may you enjoy many good days and pleasant miles ahead!

Richard Snipes (care taker for "Elsie", the Little Car)
 

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