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Junkyard Find: Pontiac Aztek 2004


When the Pontiac Aztek concept SUV was unveiled in 1999 it was a little weird but no more so than Isuzu’s VehiCROSS. It looked angular, low and menacing, which is why many Americans wanted their truck vehicles. When the production Aztek appeared as a 2001 model, however, some changes had been made.

The Aztek that appeared in Pontiac showrooms in late 2000 was a bulbous, overgrown monstrosity full of weird slits and misplaced mutated nostrils. Aztek production ceased in 2006, and GM filed for bankruptcy several years later.

Despite its ugliness, the Aztek has proven to be a very useful vehicle for people who like to do outdoor activities. It sold well in the Mountain West, and I found this ’04 at a drive-in yard in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

It is a front-wheel-drive Aztek base model, which had an MSRP of $21,275 (about $34,022 in 2022 dollars).

The Aztek was based on a shortened U-Body minivan platform, making it the Pontiac Montana’s first cousin. Its closest relative was the (somewhat) de-uglified Buick Rendezvous aztek sibling that managed to stay in production until 2007.

One of the coolest features of the Aztek was a center console that doubled as a removable insulated cooler (as usual, the one on this Aztek is missing). I own an Aztek cooler (which I use to picnic my Honda CR-V folding table) and was surprised to learn that it fits exactly five 12 oz beverage cans. Michigan residents tell me that it makes perfect sense for their state, because a still drinks a beer on the six-pack between the liquor store and the car. Come on, Detroit!

Speaking of Michigan, that’s where this Aztek was sold (although it was built in Ramos Airzpe, Mexico). There is still a dealership on the Riverside Pontiac-Buick-GMC site, but now it’s called Young Buick GMC.

Only one engine/transmission combination was used in the Aztek: a 3.4-liter pushrod V6 bolted to a four-speed automatic.

The Aztek would have been laser-targeted at the Gen Xer demographic, whose members would have been between the ages of 19 and 34 in 1999. I’m a Gen Xer myself, and I remember being horrified by Aztek production in 2000 (when at the time I had a fleet of a CRX, a Civic hatchback, and a 1965 Chevy Impala sedan that ran mid-13s in the quarter mile, so maybe being that my vehicle priorities differed somewhat from those of my generational peers).

This appears to be the entry level AM/FM/CD audio system for the ’04 Aztek.

If you could tolerate the looks of the Aztek, it was a nice camping machine.

I want to work hard, stand out and play big. I have to say, that’s not a sufficiently cynical Gen X slogan.

Sarah and Jake look even more repulsive than their Aztek.

Sam and Kate become Mango Monsters in their Aztek. Then they carve sushi. This is not the right way for Gen Xers to get sushi.

[Images by the author]

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