I bought this car used from a dealer in South Carolina. It had been in a semi-minor accident in the front right which was repaired very well. It is almost not noticeable until you lift the hood. Although, I am not sure they put the radiator in correctly)
This car was a great car when I first got it. I took very good care of it, and did maintenance ahead of schedule. However, it is a very finicky engine. If you do not provide the correct maintenance it will bite you in the rear. I found this out the hard way. I began to neglect the car after the alternator died at about 75000 miles. At 99000, it came back to haunt me. Sensors began to go left a right at around 99000 miles. I have replace almost all of them.
I have not yet had the head or head gasket blow (thank god!). Although, I will be prepared if it does.
Typical problems with this car are: power windows will go bad. (Get new aftermarket ones on eBay when they break). The multifunction switch on the left of the steering wheel will go bad. Get one from a junk yard. They last about 6-7 years, and new ones are rather expensive. The alternator will die somewhere in the 60000-90000 mile range. I believe this is due to an elctrical problem somewhere in the wiring harness?
Other problems that I am aware of from dealerships and mechanics are: Head and/or Head gasket (dealerships and mechanics agree this is caused by not flushing the coolant regularly, and infrequent oil changes and then running the engine at excessive RPM for extended periods of time... racing the car with poor maintenance) Brakes wear at an alarming pace (also agreed that this is from racing the car and not replacing the suspension once it is worn out).
This is a fast car when it is young in age. Or, at least, when driving it, it feels as if it is. I believe most people really get on the engine when they drive it. Most people I have seen driving Grand Ams, of the same engine type, seem to drive it as if it were an indy car, taking turns at 40 MPH, going from 0 to 65 as fast as they can, etc. I believe this is the main cause of most people problems. I have driven mine hard, very little, and have not yet had any "major" mechanical problems. At least not ones I could not fix and could not blame on myself, aside from the windows and alternator.
I would not recommend this car to anyone who is not able to do mechanical work themselves, as a mechanic, and a dealership, will charge you a fortune for the work. An example: I took the car to a dealership when the car suddenly would stop running when I came to a stop. They said it was the Oxygen sensor, fixed it, and charged me $160.00. I later found out the Oxygen sensor cost $20.00 and the tool to remove and replace it, costs $5.00 and it is basically like changing a spark plug... a 5 minute job!
I have since learned a lot about this engine. You have to know how to troubleshoot and read the repair manual. Not a problem for me, but may be for some.
If you own one of these, take the time and money and do the work your self. I have made thousands of dollars worth of repairs for a few hundred dollars. The things that go wrong are not that hard to fix if you have the time and tools. Change the oil every 2500 miles. Change the Transmission fluid every 25000 miles (filters too!). Flush the coolant system every year. Use carberator cleaner to clean the intake every year. Replace the plugs every 18 months. When you buy some of the parts that go bad (i.e. the window regulators, light housings, etc), buy new aftermarket parts on eBay. They are a lot cheaper, and are better because generally the aftermarket manufacturers have corrected the original problems.
Overall, this car has been pretty good. Though I still can't figure out why that alternator and the windows died.