JUNKYARD THERAPY: Pontiac Trans Sport SE – Watch Your Head

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The minivan market was hot in the late-’80s. So GM hit the market with a design that was the most stylish – and the riskiest to your noggin.

The Pontiac Trans Sport had two siblings – the Chevy Lumina APV and the Olds Silhouette. They debuted for the 1990 model year with striking wedge shapes.

Find a Pontiac Trans Sport near you with BestRide’s local search.

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These sleek vans were produced for model years 1990 through 1998. This example is from 1994-97, when these vans’ beaks were clipped back three inches. Previous snouts were pointier, hence this van’s initial rep as the “Dustbuster.”

Outside, the laid-back windshield is dramatic…

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…but inside, the extra structure to hold up all that glass would always curve into your view – with an eye-level exposed retaining screw – and the long dash stretched far in front. Form over function, Exhibit A.

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Certainly it looked spacey as you walked up to the driver’s door…

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…but watch your head as you opened it. Here again GM had styling as top priority, and apparently for the door to sweep smoothly into the van’s B-pillar, it had to have this pointy top door edge.

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Taller people like your author were this door’s targets.

In vintage GM fashion, the solution was to press ahead with the styling and then warn users about the risks.

Warn users about he risks of opening the door, which you did every single time you drove the van.  “CAUTION,” starts the sticker text in the frame.

Which you wouldn’t see until after you’d hit your head.

Just absurd.

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The 1990 vans debuted with a mere 120 horsepower chugging through a three-speed automatic, and they felt slow and crude. The 1992 versions had the larger 3800 V6 with an ample 170 horsepower…

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…and it was another typical GM move to toss the purportedly sporty Trans Sport onto the market with a marginal powertrain, with the company later bringing it to parity, as per GM’s minimal product development budgets.

It was the styling’s job to patch over the rudimentary running gear.

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That was pretty much opposite of the contemporary Asian strategy of going big out the gate and then continuing to improve. Enthusiasts can remember how frustrating it was to see promising GM models undercut by engineering that was dated and incomplete.

Thankfully, that’s changed now. No more GM vans that will bonk you in the head.

Find a Pontiac Trans Sport near you with BestRide’s local search.

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