General Motors Corp. is recalling nearly 300,000 1996 and 1997 cars because of a defect that may cause the vehicles to backfire and lead to engine fires, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The recall could cost GM as much as $10 million, mainly in dealership labor.The recall of 292,860 cars includes some 1996 Pontiac Bonneville sedans, Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight and Eighty-Eight luxury cars, Buick Park Avenue, LeSabre Riviera and Regal models and some 1997 LeSabre sedans that have 3.8 liter engines, all built before May 1996.

The problem starts when the cars backfire, causing the upper intake manifold to break in some instances. That sometimes prevents the cars from starting and in some cases results in engine fires, GM said.

GM said it is not aware of any accidents related to the problem but did warn owners in its recall notice not to start the cars with the hood open.

GM told owners to take their cars to dealers for free service to correct the problem.