In some respects, Finland is kind of like a small America. In other respects, it’s the polar opposite. Even if we have a deep affection for American cars, the model portfolios do not make it here complete. We got the Corsica, we got the Beretta, we even got the Trans Sport with a bowtie badge. But the first generation Lumina is a unicorn on our roads.
It’s a confusing car, this. Despite being called the Lumina Euro, it was never imported here when new. Despite being sold with the titular slogan, it was built in Ontario. But then again, it says 3.1 on the tin, and this 1990 Chevrolet Lumina coupé indeed has the ubiquitous multi-port V6. It’s for sale in my town, and having caught a glimpse of it on the supermarket parking lot I really wanted to take a closer look.
Perhaps a little back story is required here. A couple of weeks ago, I sold my beloved Sapporo to a car collector. Since I’m now saddled with a decidedly appliance-like white BMW with zero equipment, I’m looking for a cheap coupe to keep as a summertime car. The BMW is only cool and exciting in the winter, and in the summer it’s hot and slovenly. I need cruise and A/C.
Since I’ve been talking Luminas with a friend, Edvin, and both of us have declared our fondness for ’90s FWD American iron, this two-door Lumina came up in my search results pretty quickly. The Rover and Cadillac driving guy I know, Pertti, knows the Lumina’s seller, and vouched for its rust-free condition. It was only a matter of time, really, before I picked up my phone and enquired about it.
I don’t think there’s another one like it in the Nordic countries, let alone Finland. The newer generation Lumina was imported here, and a number of corresponding Monte Carlos have swam over here as well, but this light blue 1990 car is the first of its kind I’ve seen. It was shipped here from Florida by the first owner in 1991, and driven by him until 1998. Then it was sold to a co-worker of the current seller, and this family got the car in 2005. The history’s pretty clear, and the maintenance records are up to date. Recently, it had only gotten summertime use.
The car has valid inspection until December. The current owner has kept good care of the car, replacing parts whenever anything has started working less than perfectly. There are new components like a new A/C compressor, and the ECM brain has been replaced a couple years ago as the car had developed running issues. The 1998-onwards owner had overheated the engine at 44k miles, necessating an extensive rebuild and probably fixing a lot of parts and seals that would’ve given up anyway at some point. Right now, the odometer read 101k and change.
The interior was probably as good as they come, with the cloth clean and unripped. The dash grimaced a little from above the steering column, but was uncracked. No-one had smoked in the car, and the headliner was intact. The original Delco stereo was present and functional. I was given the keys and told to start it up.
The V6 awoke with a turn of the key, and the growl brought a smile on my face instantly. I’ve grown accustomed to humdrum fours, and anything with more cylinders is sure to entertain me just by doing what is asked of it and nothing more. The engine ran well, and seemed to have a good amount of useable torque. The four-speed, column-shift automatic wasn’t a hindrance to it but rather complimented it perfectly, shifting gears smoothly without a hitch. I also liked how the overdrive dropped the revs comfortably low, as the car sailed along on the freshly laid pavement. I was surprised to find the steering a lot more alert and responsive, too, than I had imagined.
The only actual fault with the car was that the fuel gauge wasn’t operating, but showed full all the time. It’s probably an easy enough fix, but the one thing the seller hadn’t gotten around to fixing properly. The A/C, recently charged at the time of the compressor replacement provided a relaxing breeze. I even liked how the car drove on smooth asphalt, as it sort of just glid along the way with no detectable annoyances. Despite facing a wall of derision when I revealed I was going to look at a 1990 Lumina, I found myself at ease. Even if the damned thing has leaf springs in the back. How do you develop a 7 billion dollar automotive platform and end up using lolsprings?
I seriously didn’t expect to like it this much, and compared to the Sapporo it even felt a touch more sophisticated. I had brought my girlfriend along, and unlike with the 850 she gave a full thumbs-up to the Lumina. The couple invited us in for a cup of coffee and some rhubarb pie with whipped cream, as I looked the service papers and the hefty service manual over. One of the nicer tire-kicking afternoons.
The seller asked a firm 3500 for the car. It’s a tough price, and for the money I could get anything else, or two. That’s why I didn’t sign my name this instant; if the seller was to drop the price I’d definitely reconsider.
I’m reconsidering as we speak, as the car really was better than expected and would really stand out here. Imagine a world without Luminas, and then imagine a coupe Lumina introduced into that world. Imagine a place where a Lumina is more exclusive than a Porsche 924. And on that note, you’ll kinda guess what I’ll be looking at next.