1982 Pontiac Phoenix LJ: Still Fiery After All These Years

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It’s been more than 35 years since General Motors unleashed the X-car, with its world-beating design and defect-ridden execution. This 1982 Phoenix is a well-preserved example of the breed.

April 1979 is when the X-cars – the Chevy Citation, Pontiac Phoenix, Olds Omega and Buick Skylark – first hit the pavement, and as of September 2014, this 1982 Pontiac Phoenix was still traversing Northern California with very low miles, just over 15K. The owner reports day-to-day reliability, with weekly 100-mile trips being no sweat.


This senior who owned this particular Phoenix kept it in a garage that eventually fell down around it, which tore off the missing rocker-panel trim that has proved to be a challenge to source. From that conflagration, a local mechanic pulled it out and has undertaken the process of making it a runner again.


This Phoenix was bought new by an elderly gal who was known around town to drive this distinctive red hatchback. The surrounding Northern California townfolk welcomed it back to the road when the mechanic who un-rubbled it got it rolling again. It’s not just an X-car that gets noticed: it’s the one that is owned by a nice person that gets embraced.


But it wouldn’t take someone nice to make this car something to see. Phoenix is a bird that rises from the ashes, and all through this boxy car are colors that evoke fire. The Phoenix LJ trim adds different shades of ‘80s velour, and the overall effect is entrancing.


Entrancing, and dramatic. 


Just the basics from the instrument panel. 


The Iron Duke four-cylinder rang out with its usual clang and clatter. Down the road, this low-mile Phoenix felt tight. It hadn’t had time to come undone, apart from what the collapsing garage had done to it.


The most current update is that the owner now has three Jaguars aside from this Phoenix, a 1957 MK1 and a couple of ’80s V12s. Which goes to show that in the automotive world, there really is no accounting for taste. The time spent trying to understand it is better devoted to figuring out which goofy car you’d like to have next.