Among the many weird factoids about the ugliest American car ever, the Pontiac Aztek, one of the wackiest is the fact that GM offered a tent option to turn the versatile SUV into a camper. The accessory is quite rare so when a Jalopnik reader managed to find one in a junkyard he had to save it. Then, on the way home with tent in tow, he had a brilliant idea.
Baldwin, Maryland-based Jalopnik reader Nick Belkoff was at the LKQ junkyard in Edgewood, MD looking for parts for his friend’s 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee when he spotted this red Pontiac Aztek:
There’s nothing particularly special about this red Aztek over, say, that red Aztek that my coworker Kristen and I found at my local Detroit-area junkyard, except for one thing: This one has the tent.
Yes, that tent. The one offered by General Motors as an official accessory for the Aztek. This one:
Realizing the glory of what he was looking at, Nick sprung into action.
“I bought it because I like Azteks and I knew how rare the tents are, especially in good, complete condition,” he told me over Instagram messenger. “I guess the thinking was to save it from getting crushed. I figured I could send it on to an Aztek enthusiast.”
But that’s not what Nick ended up doing, because on the way home from the yard, he hatched a brilliant plan. “It honestly wasn’t until the drive home that I wondered about fitting it to [my 1998 Jeep] XJ. Me and a buddy spent a solid hour trying to figure out the best way to mount it and ended up finding a pretty darn good solution.”
Nick was kind enough to film a little video of his brilliance, and I agree: He and his friend got the rare Pontiac Aztek tent set up on that Jeep beautifully:
The self-proclaimed “redneck” and Jeep-fan also installed the tent in a WK2-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee. That seemed to work well, as seen in Nick’s album below. (He also told me he tried installing it on a Toyota Sienna, but that didn’t work out so well).
Nick tells me that the tent doesn’t really seal very well. “When installed on an Aztek, the edges are supposed to be tucked into the rear doors and sealed when the doors are shut,” he told me. “On the Cherokee, it’s just some elastic wrapped around the side so you have gaps where the windows meet the body because the window is inset.” (See the Aztek image above to get an idea of how it should seal ahead of those rear side windows).
In any case, Nick says it’s still useful, and that it’ll keep wind and rain out, though “small insects could crawl in through the gap unless you like duct-taped it to the Jeep body all the way around.”
This is a beautiful thing we’re seeing here: an official Pontiac Aztek tent plucked from the cold, brutal hands of the junkyard for a mere $13. Nick saved an incredibly quirky piece of auto history from demise and adapted it so that it can continue serving its function.
Car culture remains intact.