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The Geo Prizm was built for the 1990 through 1992 as a four-door sedan and during the 1990 and 1991 model years, a five-door hatchback. For all model years, the standard dimensions of the body noted below was unchanged.
For all model years, the Prizm GSi has the same Toyota-produced 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine, known variously as the 4A-GE, “Small Port,” or “Red Top.” In GM marketing materials, the GSi engine was referred to as “High Output,” owing to its 28-horsepower bump over the standard models’ 102-horsepower engine.
In addition to the power increase, GSi models were also equipped with 4-wheel disc brakes, 14 inch alloy wheels with P185/60 HR-14 tires, sport suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, strut tower brace, body-colored side moldings, full instrumentation including tachometer, a rear spoiler, specific upholstery, and other upgrades.
Given that cars last much longer than they did 30 years ago, it’s really no wonder that a vast majority of cars sold today are some variation of beige, silver, gray, black or white. No one wants to have a garish color polluting their driveway for the next decade when a simple black makes a classy and not too brash statement. Likewise, no dealer wants to have a handful of unfashionable teal sedans languishing on the lot while the more conservatively-tinted cars move quickly.
That said, sometimes a color sneaks out of the factory. A bright red sedan. A yellow sports coupe. A magenta pickup. “Halo” colors like teal in the early 90s and copper in the following decade appeared often in marketing materials, and to a lesser extent on the street.
But have you ever wondered why you’ve never seen that bold Dark Blue Metallic on a GSi hatchback? Or why it seems like most every GSi you see is Bright Red? Simple – the Blue was a one year-only selection for the 1992 model year (a year in which the hatch was not available), and the Red was the only shade produced in all three model years, respectively.
While the very attractive Bright Red color certainly comprised a significant portion of GSi sales, there were actually at least five – and based on research, perhaps seven or more colors – available.
You’ll notice there’s no photo example of a Medium Gray Metallic car – exhaustive research can show exactly zero photos of a GSi in Medium Gray. Though, it appears that at least two more colors slipped out the doors at NUMMI:
Conclusively identifying these rogue two colors has proven difficult without any documentation. The first, a 1990 hatchback, appears to be a little lighter shade than the Dark Chestnut Metallic offered in ’90, but could simply be suffering from nearly three decades of solar radiation. The second car (a 1991) appears to be the Silver Metallic color listed for other lesser 1991 Prizm models. Of course, this is assuming that both are factory paint jobs. In any case, it is widely known that options and colors change through model years and in the time between the printing of the brochures and the actual production run – there’s even a disclaimer in the book: “we reserve the right to make changes at any time, without notice, in prices, colors, materials, equipment…”
One of the key visual upgrades of the Prizm LSi and GSi over the vastly more popular base model cars was the inclusion of body-colored bumpers and side trim. That one change not only made the car look more modern and upscale, it made them pretty simple to identify from a distance:
Also of note, base model Prizms made due with a black trim strip on the lower doors that wrapped into the black plastic bumper covers. Inset into the strip was a plasti-chrome accent that broke up the vertical mass of the doors and added a small bright highlight.
The body-color door trim of the GSi includes a similar inset strip, but the GSi stood out with a sport-themed red inset piece. Unless, of course, you had a red GSi – then you got chrome as well.
The red trim also extended to the badging, including the front globe logo badge and the side and rear model name emblems.
In the long run, these two upgrades may have done more than differentiate the LSi and GSi trims from lesser Prizms, but actually helped them look significantly less dated on today’s roads. In 1992, there were precious few cars left that still carried low-rent blacked-out bumper covers (tough appearing gray and black SUV cladding excepted). As an example, the second generation Prizm, introduced in 1993, was only available with body-colored bumpers. This distinction is minor, but an important visual key to identifying a “modern” car.
Through it’s three-year model run, the GSi was available with only one design – this 14 x 5.5 inch aluminum 5-spoke: