You remember Geo. Geo was that time in the late 1980s when General Motors threw up its hands and said, “If you can’t beat em, join em,” when it came to cheap economy cars. It was basically a rebadging effort in partnership with Toyota, Suzuki and Isuzu, in which GM slapped Geo badges on cars designed by their competitors and sold them at low, low prices at Chevrolet dealers. The most memorable Geo models in the U.S. were the subcompact Metro, the little Tracker SUV, and the Prizm, which was just a Corolla. There was also the Spectrum and the Storm, which were both Isuzu-based and pretty short-lived.
Geo came and went in the U.S. as a venture of bad timing, since the 1990s were a time when small, cheap cars were going out of style in favor of SUVs. The remaining Geo models in the final model year of 1997 were rolled into the Chevy brand — and before long, there were no survivors.
However, the story of Geo was a little different for our neighbors to the north. Canada got the Geo brand after the Asüna budget brand folded, but they also had Geos branded as Pontiac models that we never saw here in the states. I assume the reason for this is because the dealer network was different up there and GM Canada wanted its Pontiac dealers to get a piece of the Geo action. Since Geo was technically a subbrand of Chevrolet, there were all just sold at Chevy dealers here on the homefront.
The Pontiac version of the Tracker was called the Sunrunner, and the rebadged Metro (itself a rebadged Suzuki Cultus) was called the Pontiac Firefly. I want to pause here and say that Pontiac Firefly is one of my favorite car names I’ve ever heard. It was in a time when Pontiac was really into using “fire” in its names, presumably to show its genealogy with the Firebird, and I think Firefly is just the cutest name for a little baby Pontiac that wants to grow up from a Firefly into a Firebird someday. Isn’t it precious?!
Anyway, the Pontiac Sunrunner was pretty much identical to what we know as the Tracker (except it never got the 4-door body), but there was something special about the Pontiac Firefly. The Firefly, along with the Canadian market Geo Metro, was available with a turbocharged version of the 3-cylinder G10 Suzuki engine that powered most Metros. This turbocharged engine produced a blistering 70 horsepower and 79 lb-ft of torque.
Those might sound like laughable performance numbers, but the fuel-injected nonturbo version of this engine made 55 hp and 58 lb-ft of torque. That’s a 27% power gain and a 36% increase in torque. If you’ve ever driven a Metro, you know that any extra power you can get would go a long way. The turbo Firefly also got a cool appearance package, which included a weird rear spoiler in the middle of the hatch and an asymmetrical hood scoop.
We actually did get this engine with mechanical lifters in the U.S. under the hood of the Chevy Sprint, but only for model years 1987 and 1988. There was another version with hydraulic lifters which was, for some reason, available exclusively in Canada from 1989 to 1991. Since nobody bothers to preserve old Metros/Fireflies, a clean turbocharged Pontiac Firefly is a very rare find today, and I would absolutely love to import one.
Eventually, the Pontiac versions of Geos had the same fate as the Geo brand and didn’t make a big dent in automotive history. However, to me, the turbo Firefly is a true gem, and I really hope there are a few examples out there of this obscure hot hatch (yeah, I said it) being preserved. Find a Geo for sale