The Only Good J-Body Was This IMSA Pontiac 2000 Race Car

Well, “good” is subjective. But it was a race car, once, and now it’s for sale.

byJames Gilboy|
Racing photo


Initially marred by its association with badge engineering, GM's J-body has since redeemed itself in part by proving surprisingly reliable—if anything but high-performance. Outside of a 24 Hours of Lemons car or two, J-body cars like the Cavalier have shown themselves to be as much of sports cars as the Cadillac Cimarron was a luxury car. That, however, didn't stop racers from putting the J-body through the ringer that was IMSA, where at least one team campaigned the Pontiac 2000 seen here.

Claimed by its Facebook Marketplace seller to have been built for one Bobby Brown, a driver of seemingly little historical significance, this comrade of the Cavalier competed in the second-to-last season of a little-known IMSA category called the Champion Spark Plug Challenge. A descendant of Baby Grand category according to an IMSA historical blog, the Champion Spark Plug Challenge was meant to be a budget series for compacts and subcompacts, requiring street-legal tires, minimal chassis mods, and near-stock powertrains. In the case of this Pontiac, that would've probably consisted of the 2.0-liter, overhead-valve LQ5, which produced a paltry 86 horsepower in 1983, this car's model year.

With said LQ5 absent and its transaxle in unknown condition, this Pontiac is ripe for an engine swap—our very own Peter Holderith would tell you to "put an LNF in that jawn," and he'd be absolutely right. That is, if the chassis is worth saving, as despite the seller's claim the cage is in "awesome" shape, flecking paint reveals rust on its tubing, not to mention everywhere on the unibody.

Not only does it look like it could crumble if it cornered too hard its comically out-of-place, its Trans Am-like face is missing, having been traded out for the front clip from its J-body fellow the Buick Skyhawk.

So while it may not have a drivetrain, or its giggle-worthy factory front end, it's absolutely worth its asking price of $800, provided it has the chassis integrity to be safely raced. Showing up in this to the 24 Hours of Lemons would make you an instant favorite of the judges, no matter what you hid under its hood. Better start shopping for LNF Ecotec long blocks.

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h/t: Rafi Ward