SEMA-built Pontiac Vibe may be the coolest Corolla wagon ever
A former SEMA show vehicle is crossing the auction block on Bring a Trailer. This customized Pontiac Vibe “GT-R” was shown by General Motors at the 2001 SEMA show, previewing the production 2002 Pontiac Vibe and highlighting some of the upgrades that could enhance the mini wagon’s looks and performance.
The most noticeable modifications to the Vibe’s exterior are its unique body kit: aggressive fascia, new wheels and tires, no fewer than two rear wings, a set of tinted headlights, and the addition of a ram-air scoop positioned on the driver side of the hood. These modifications are rather tame compared to some of the wild builds for which SEMA is known, and 21 years later, it has aged quite well. Inside, you’ll find red MOMO bucket seats up front and a custom subwoofer enclosure in the back. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder is mated to a six-speed manual transmission and breathes through a custom intake that draws air through the aforementioned hood scoop. An exhaust from APEXi also helps the inline-four churn out a bit more oomph.
Kit aside, though, what exactly is this thing?
The Pontiac Vibe was a rebadged Toyota Matrix/Voltz that used the same platform as the Corolla. It was built in the Fremont, California, factory that now cranks out Teslas. Because of its Toyota roots, you probably won’t find too many Pontiac fans clamoring to own it. The fact that it appears to be a pre-production model that didn’t get a full VIN also means it’s not viable as a daily driver because it can’t be registered for public roads. That explains why there are fewer than 1000 miles on its odometer.
We can’t help but wonder what will a future owner might this thing for. Will it remain as-is, keeping the history of a SEMA show vehicle? Our thoughts immediately turned to a race car conversion, since it’s not suitable for the street. If the buyer is from the Pontiac camp, perhaps they’ll consider swapping in one of the strangest front-wheel-drive powertrains Pontiac used in the brand’s final decade, the LS4, the only transverse application of a GM LS V-8. It might be fun trying to scratch for traction with a mighty V-8. If, however, they’re a Toyota fan, maybe they could adopt the all-wheel-drive system that came shortly after the Vibe’s launch and lean into Toyota’s rally legacy and Celica GT-Four heritage.
While the build may be a niche piece of Pontiac and Toyota history, the auction hasn’t yet eclipsed $8000 despite opening on July 3, so this may yet prove a bargain for the buyer. Our silly racing daydreams aside, this Vibe is a time capsule of SEMA customization where OEM meets aftermarket.
My 2009 black AWD vibe is my daily driver. I can see no reason to buy something else. Car has 115k miles and stays in our garage most of the time.