The 1991 Chevrolet Lumina Z34, a Practical High-performance Coupe


In 1991, consumers could purchase one of several affordable midsize coupes of low-medium equipment, low-medium quality, and upper-middle levels of style.

Let’s talk Lumina Z34.

The Lumina was a new model in Chevrolet’s lineup, introduced in 1990 to replace the dated and extra boxy A-body Celebrity that was on sale since 1982. Lumina was larger in every dimension and more suited to its midsize car mission than its predecessor. Utilizing the newer W-body, Lumina was produced alongside the Buick Regal, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. All four cars went head-to-head with the sales monster that was the Ford Taurus.

But the Lumina was no single-car replacement at GM; there was a larger plan at work. Lumina also absorbed the market share of Chevy’s Monte Carlo, which saw its last model year in 1988. Monte’s sporty customers chose the two-door coupe, while Celebrity types opted for the four-door sedan. Monte Carlo was reintroduced for the ’95 model year, which coincided with Lumina’s second W-body generation. In that guise, Monte Carlo was not as much its own design, but more a new Lumina coupe. The Lumina name also extended to a minivan – the APV – which was the Cadillac of Minivans when it donned Oldsmobile Silhouette costumery. The APV was a replacement for the Celebrity wagon; GM saw the Nineties writing on the wall as wagon sales entered a nosedive.

First-gen Luminas were available with inline-four or V6 engines. A 2.2-liter I4 was available only in 1993, while the 2.5-liter Iron Duke from the Celebrity was available from 1990 to 1992. V6 power arrived via a 3.1 (’90-’94) or 3.4 (’91-’94). Transmissions were three- and four-speed GM automatics, or the rarely chosen five-speed manual from Getrag.

Newly available for 1991 was a high-performance Lumina variant, the Z34. The Z34 trim was offered only on the coupe, and was always fitted with an FE3 sports suspension package, and used the largest 3.4-liter engine shared with the Euro trim sedan. Standard was a dual exhaust and four-wheel ABS, as well as a five-speed manual. The automatic was optional on Z34 and usually selected. Even in automatic guise, the shifter was floor-mounted, in contrast to more common Lumina trims. Z34 sported 200 horsepower, which meant a 0 to 60 time of just 7.2 seconds with a manual transmission, and a top speed of 130 miles per hour.

Outside, the Z34 showed its sporting intent via different fascias front and rear, lower side skirts, louvers in various places, and a spoiler. Paint colors were limited: red, blue, white, black, silver, and gray. Inside, drivers grabbed a three-spoke sports wheel and sat on overstuffed bucket seats.

The Lumina was immediately successful, and in 1990 racked up over 300,000 sales. Around 278,000 of those were sedans, and nearly 46,000 coupes. At the end of the Lumina’s first generation in 1994, over a million had been sold. The Lumina Z34 faded away after that year and was replaced by the aforementioned Monte Carlo Z34 in 1995.

Today’s Rare Ride is in spectacular condition and goes up for auction tomorrow. With a five-speed manual, it has just 17,000 miles and has been in the same collection for the past 28 years.

[Images: GM]

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