You may be unsurprised to learn that the 24 Hours of Lemons’ organizers own a soft spot for ungainly hatchbacks. In some cases, manufacturers just seemed to slap weird wagons, hatches, or other strange rear-window treatments to cars. Many different manufacturers were guilty of such things, but few did it so regularly as General Motors. So here are a half-dozen weird GM hatchbacks to add to Lemons’ Wish List.
We’ve mentioned this one on our wish lists before, but it’s worth another go. We aren’t really sure what GM was going for here at all, but they ended up with something that almost makes the Pontiac Aztek look like a Lamborghini Miura. Alright, it’s not quite that bad, but why not just make a proper wagon version that stretches back further instead of…whatever the hell they did to make that weird rear angle. While it might be ugly, the 240-horsepower Malibu Maxx SS can probably be found cheaply as an ill-handling, overpowered shoo-in for Class C in Lemons.
The first Chevy Cavaliers and their GM Platform mates (Pontiac J2000, Buick Skyhawk, and Oldsmobile Firenza) all came in an available three-door hatchback. Opinions on J-Body aesthetics may vary, of course, but this author thinks the hatch versions offered the most attractive styling of all the J-Bodies. Engine options included a turbocharged four-cylinder in some marques and maybe a V6, although few (if any) hatchbacks probably had the six-pot.
The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1976-2002 suggests that GM built nearly 30,000 of these throwaway appliances with a hatchback. We have no idea where they sold them (if they sold any at all) because nobody who works in Lemons has ever seen one. Nobody remembers the Corsica anyway (although some accidentally remember its two-door version, the Beretta) and this weird-looking hatchback never seems to jog any memories. Find one—especially one with the base pushrod four-cylinder—and become an Index of Effluency contender.
You may have an opinion on what car most looks like 1990. If that opinion is anything except the Geo Storm or Isuzu Impulse Wagonback, however, your opinion is wrong. This was General Motors’ attempt at building a hot import and while most you saw were the normal hatchback, you might occasionally have seen the small, bubble-shaped wagon version. These did famously have “Handling by Lotus” and even respectable horsepower for an economy car.
BONUS: Want some more inspiration? Check out the 1-of-1 Geo Storm Roadster or dig up one of the Storms that participated in a “Celebrity All-Star Race” in Des Moines in July 1991. Because nothing says “celebrity glamour” like a Geo in Iowa.
Yeah, it’s not exactly a “hatchback,” but the rear-window treatment on these NASCAR-homologation specials is weird enough to throw into this category. Generally speaking, these are probably worth some amount of money to the substantial G-Body following. However, even if you can’t dig up an Aerocoupe, we know plenty of Lemons teams have the ingenuity to make their own from a “regular” G-Body.
The Geo Prizm was more or less a rebadged Toyota Corolla and it was more like the replacement for the NUMMI-built Chevy Nova. If any of the Geo Prizm GSi-trim cars have survived, those were powered by the same Toyota 4A-GE engine found in the MR2 with 130 horsepower. Unlike Toyota’s legendary reliability record on the street, that engine kind of has an awful track record in Lemons, but maybe you can find a hatchback version, GSi or otherwise, that will prove the Toyota naysayers wrong.
Want more inspiration for a Lemons car build. Read on:
Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 1
Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 2
Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 3
Why Not Race a Forgettable Late-Model American Car?
Lemons Wish List, Part 4
Lemons Wish List, Part 5