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97 Grand Prix winter beater, fix or replace

I still have my 97 Grand Prix which was my first car 9 years ago. 2 years ago I purchased my dream car (exotic supercars not included), a 2005 GTO.

I’ve been keeping the Grand prix as a winter driver, while the GTO sits in the garage all winter. My GTO is free of rust and low mileage, and I’d like to keep it that way. It also has summer-only tires on it.

I’ve fixed or replaced everything under the sun on my Grand Prix, Suspension, brakes, even dropped in a new engine and transmission. And I know the car inside and out, and every single problem with it. Recently, the forward drive band stopped engaging and the car won’t move in d, or 3. The band is an $8 part, but it’s the second to last piece you pull out in a full rebuild. Of course this happens right as winter is setting in, not during the summer when I could take my time in making a decision.

As it sits right now, I could outright sell the car for maybe $500, rust is everywhere, and there are tons of little problems everywhere, the car has 180,000 miles on it, and the engine/trans have 150,000. I could part out the aftermarket suspension, exhaust, wheels and tires for far more, but it would take a long time to sell everything and then I don’t know how I would dispose of a car with no wheels.

A friend has a transmission he would sell me for $150, I just need to swap the differential between the two (not too hard of a feat). I’m tempted to go this route, as I could accomplish this in a weekend. My only holdback is that I still have a car with weird intermittent electrical issues, waterlogged floorboards (due to rust everywhere and leaks), and a close to failure power steering pump.

I just need a vehicle to get me through the winter, If I parted it out, I could possibly buy something cheap for $500 or so, but I feel I’m opening myself up to a whole world of unknown issues on a car I’m not familiar with anymore. If I replace the trans, I could maybe sell it for more in running condition when the winter is over, but I’m still stuck with a car with all the issues above.

I’m torn pretty much 50/50 between the two options. I wanted to post here as all the enthusiast forms unanimously conclude I should replace the trans. I was wondering if someone had a less biased opinion.


I think it is time to junk the '97 winter beater and look for another winter beater. There will be unknown problems, but likely less of them than the “known” problems you have now. I just don’t think it is worth anymore time and money put into the '97, you have a low likelihood to recoup your resources so the ROI (return on investment) just isn’t there.

You have a good head on your shoulders. Most people think that “parting out” a car is easy and profitable. People that have never tried it, that is.

The one thing that scares me is the body rot. If there’s truely “rust everywhere”, I’d dump it. A unibody with serious rot is unsafe.

I guess I should clarify, None of the rust is structural. It’s the model of Grand Prix without the plastic rocker panel covers, and the outer side of the rocker panels have some pretty big holes.

My biggest issue is financing. While the GTO is payed off, My work is seasonal, and as I wait for my winter job to start up, I have pretty much Zero money to spend on this.

“weird intermittent electrical issues, waterlogged floorboards (due to rust everywhere and leaks)”
“It’s the model of Grand Prix without the plastic rocker panel covers, and the outer side of the rocker panels have some pretty big holes.”

No disrespect meant, but are you SURE none of the rust is structural?

Do you have an auction house near you that auctions Salvation Army cars? Perhaps you could pick up a similar GM for a song and move the good engine and (your friend’s) tranny into the auction car, resulting in something roadworthy.

Get rid of the GP and drive the GTO until you have the money for another car. If it happens this winter, the make sure the GTO is washed well before you put it away.

I also think it’s time to part company with the Grand Prix. Find another vehicle or drive the one you have until you can find a good vehicle.

if it gets too close to winter and you haven’t found a car, invest in a cheap set of 4 rims and get winter tires mounted on them for your GTO.

Even if you keep the car, this would be its last winter in all likelihood. For $150 plus a good chunk of your time, you can get it running, and possibly make it through the winter. For about $1000 plus less of your time, you could find another beater with uncertain problems, but you sound skilled enough to avoid any major lemons. Honestly, it’s a wash, depending on what you value your time at. It sounds like right now you have a bit of spare time and not much money, which would make me lean towards the tranny swap.

Just drive the 2005 GTO with winter tires. Wash the salt off and the undercarriage. It is a 2005, already 8-9 years old, saving it for when?

Thanks for all of your input, it gave me a lot to consider and think about. I just wanted to follow up.

This weekend I decided to pull the engine/transmission (Easier and cheaper than dropping the subframe to get just the trans out).

I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I figured when I pulled it, it would let me get a good look at the overall state of the cars mechanical condition and make my decision. If I was going to get rid of it, I’d pull the eng/trans anyway to sell and then scrap the body/frame.

Brakes, suspension, and subframe are still in good condition, and all of the rust is cosmetic so I’ve decided to purchase the trans and make it run through the winter. Come spring, it is going to be sold first thing.

I figured it’s better to look for a car when I’m not in a time-crunch to find one instead of rushing into something I’m unsure of. I would put winter tires on the GTO and just drive it, but it only has 40k miles and not a speck of rust. It is in nearly show-car condition, and I want to keep it that way for as long as I possibly can. Also, if I were to drive it in salt, I’d have to wait until the temperature was above freezing to wash off the undercarriage.

It may not be the most rational decision, but Cole’s Law’s response resonated with me the most. I’ve got far more time than money right now. My work is seasonal and I’ve been cut to 20 hours a week. I’ve got a second part-time job lined up that doesn’t start until late December, but I also have a 3rd interview (Last round!) with a company that would actually use my engineering degree and pay 3x as much as my current position. Either way, I’m going to need something to drive for winter, and fixing my Grand Prix is still cheaper than buying 4 new tires for my GTO.

Thanks again for all of your advice/opinions, I think I’ll stick around this forum, you guys are great!