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One of the signature most popular personal vehicles of the 1960's, the Pontiac Grand Prix was also the first in a long line of posh Pontiacs this still continue today. During the 60's, luxury stood for performance, and the Grand Prix had tons of it. Released in 1962, the Pontiac Grand Prix has become a legendary vehicle that set the styling trend for the entire industry, and has continued to be popularly produced to this day. The Grand Prix has becoming Pontiac's largest automotive offering in production as of 2006. Originally introduced as part of Pontiac's full-size model range for the 1962 year, the Grand Prix name has been applied to vehicles in the personal luxury car market segment and the mid-size offering. The sole body-style available on the Grand Prix for all years except 1967 was a two-door hardtop. 1967 featured a convertible Grand Prix for one year only.
The Grand Prix featured many distinctive styling cues during this era that included 'hidden' taillight lenses and exclusive grille-work in the front. Among other various standard features, the Grand Prix was showcased in 1962 with an unadorned sheet metal exterior, concave rear window, and hidden tail lights. The inside of the Grand Prix's featured luxurious interiors with all-vinyl bucket seats that were separated by a center console with a floor shifter, courtesy light, optional tachometer or vacuum gauge, and a storage compartment.
Basically, a standard Pontiac Catalina Coupe with a few modifications, the early Grand Prix models had a full array of Pontiac performance options. A small handful of 1962 and 1963 models featured the factory-race Super Duty 421 powertrain. Head of Advanced Engineering at Pontiac, John De Lorean was a powerful contributor to the development of both the Grand Prix and the GTO.
The standard engines in the Grand Prix from 1962 to 1964 included a 303 hp 389 ³ V8 with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts, and a 325 hp version of the same engine from 1965 to 1966. Higher output four-barrel and Tri Power versions of the 389 and larger 421 in³ V8s with up to 376 hp were available as optional engines. The 389 was replaced by a 400 in³ V8 that was rated at 350 hp as the base engine, in the meantime, the larger 421 was replaced by a 428 in³ V8 with up to 390 hp.
Available transmissions included a standard three-speed manual, and optional four-speed manual or a Hydra-Matic transmission. From 1962 to 1964 a three-speed Roto Hydra-Matic was offered, an eventually replaced by a new three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic in 1965 and later years.
With a reputation for a much stronger performance than its competitors, the Grand Prix did quite well through the 1960s. Unfortunately, critics considered it a lesser model then other various personal luxury vehicles, due to its clear resemblance to the other full-size Pontiacs. Introduced as a single hardtop model, the Pontiac Grand Prix based on the 120 inch wheelbase Catalina platform, Pontiac's shorter big-car chassis.
Sporting straight lined styling, the new Grand Prix originally came with the bucket seats and console interior that was popular at the time. The sporty interior was luxurious, and had features that included Morrokide-covered bucket seats, floor shift, tachometer, rear speaker, and console. This new vehicle was a representation of a new way of thinking for exterior design, with a tastefully restrained touch, besides a lower rocker molding, the model was nearly devoid of bright side trim. Accented by a racing inspired ‘checkered flag' badge, and up close, the grille was a fine-mesh design. A new unique feature was the rear pane treatment with a full-width molding that mirrored the grille design, right down to the badge. With an option to also be fitted with Pontiac's luxurious 8 lug wheels, and showcased either three or four speed manual transmission or automatic.
In contrast to the convertible-like roofline of previous years, in 1963 the Grand Prix received its own squared-off roofline with a concave rear window, and revised sheetmetal like other full-size Pontiacs. Rated at 303 bhp, the standard engine was a 389 cid V8 4 barrel, and buyers could opt for a low compression 389 3 barrel, rated at 230 bhp, or the 389 Tri-power with three two barrel cars rated at 318 bhp, with 10.75:1 compression..
Buyers interested in more engine power, could order the 425-A Trophy V8 engines,
the only difference from lesser 389s by their four-bolt main caps, lower block reinforcing ribs, and longer duration cam. The Tri-power version carried a 348 bhp rating, while the single four barrel was rated at 333 bhp. Rated at an amazing 370 bhp, the truly die-hard fans could purchase one of the only 16 Grand Prixs built with Pontiac's 421 Super Duty Engines. 75 models may have also been built with non-Super Duty 421 engines, with a rated 320 bhp.
During the 1963 production year, a total of 72,959 units were produced. The Grand Prix shared an all-new body with other B-body Ponchos that was more modern-looking and angular than the previous year. With more flowing fender contours, and a 'Coke bottle shape', the Grand Prix experienced few changes during its second year of production. Featuring gracefully sculpted C-wheel openings, the roof was considered quite unique for the 1963 year, and housed an interesting concave rear window. The window eventually became a Grand Prix trademark through 1968. With the removal of the 62's side cove and chrome fender wind-splits, the Grand Prix now featured a special grille treatment with unique stacked headlights, along with a tail panel showcasing special full width molding that hid the rear of the decklid and the taillights.
Considered to be the first ‘true' Grand Prix by fans, even the 1977 Pontiac dealer catalogue incorrectly listed the 1963 model as the introductory year of GP production. Round signal lights set off with a single horizontal chrome strip within the grille cavity helped differentiate the Grand Prix from the Catalina. With the option of 3-speed, 4-speed or automatic, the base engine continued to be the 303-horse 389 engine. The two 389-425 A Trophy engines were discontinued and replaced by two regular production 421 cid V8s. Rated at a whopping 370 hp at 5200 rpm and an amazing 460 lbs.-ft of torque at 3800, the top street engine was the 421 HO Tri-Power. Out of three individual Grand Prix models that were built with 421 Super Duty engines, one came with the 421 Super duty 390 bhp NASHAC four barrel engine, while the other two came with the 421 Super Duty 405 bh dual quad car engine, and aluminum front ends.
With a design style credited to changing the look of Detroit offerings for the next few years, the 63 Grand Prix was a very significant and desirable vehicle. Production for this year leaped to more than double the previous year's total. Covering the quarter mile in 15.1 seconds at 94 mph, the 1963 Grand Prix clicked off a 0-60 mph at 6.6 seconds for the Motor Trend road test.
In this same year, Pontiac constructed another X-400 Grand Prix show car. Featuring many similar customizing tricks as its predecessor, including wire-mesh headlight screens, wood-rim steering wheel, exhaust ports in the quarter panels, and a fiberglass top boot, the X-400 was painted an extreme wild Pearl Yellow. With a 4-71 blown 421 with four Corvette side-draft carbs, the new version was equipped with a three-position exhaust bypass lever, and a dash full of accessory gauges. The interior featured four custom buckets seats along with a full-length console that extended all the way through the rear buckets.
Showcasing only a slight redesign from the year before, the 1964 Grand Prix sported a cleaned up look that would make the Grand Prix 'look' in the future. A logical styling progression, the main updated with the headlights frenched into the fender and bumper, rather than cutting sharply into the body like the previous 1963 model. The only interior updates included some minor trim and appointment revisions. Updated with a fine horizontal slat arrangement, the grille treatment also experienced a slight redesign, while the large chrome support bars were deleted. Still 303 bhp with automatic, the base 389 increased to 306 bhp when merged to the manual transmission, and meanwhile, the economy 389 carried over.
Super Duty engines were officially taken off the market with the GM pullout from racing in January of 1963, leaving more time for Pontiac engineers to focus their efforts on the street engines. While this loss affected racers of Pontiac Catalina's more than Grand Prix's, this pullout signaled the beginning of Chrysler dominance in racing. The 421 Tri-Power was available in two forms, the first was rated at 350 bhp, featured the standard camshaft and exhaust manifolds. The resilient 421 HO was able to reach 370 bhp, and was the featured top engine at 5200 rpm and 460 lbs.-ft of torque at 3800. This was a ruthless engine, especially when coupled with a 4-speed manual transmission and performance rear axle ratios. The 421 4-barrel engine had a 10.5:1 lower compression ratio, and the horsepower dropped from 353 bhp to 320 bhp. Production on the 1964 model dropped about 10,000 units to 63,810. This drop may have been due to the introduction of the Catalina 2+2 sports coupe/convertible that rivaled the GP in terms of price when heavily optioned.
For the 1964 show season, the X-400 was updated massively, and was a strong vision of what the look would be in the future. The front-end styling carried over almost intact to the 1966 Grand Prix and GTO, and was painted a dark burgundy that was quite a hit at the International Auto Show in NYC in 1964.
The second generation Grand Prix continued to be built on the shorter Catalina platform, though it was larger and weightier than the 1962 through 1963 original models. Gaining an inch in wheelbase and 1 to 2 inches in all other dimensions, the 1965 GP came with standard fender skirts now. Based on an all-new 121 inch-wheelbase chassis, which once again shared with the Catalina model, the 1965 GP was a completely new design body that was still instantly recognizable. Increasingly being shifted from performance, and more towards luxury, the Grand Prix kept the same flowing 'coke bottle' styling that was featured on all full-size Pontiacs during this time. Even more prominent on the new car, the Coke-bottle sides were more distinct and truly striking. With a large look like the Bonneville sedan, a bench seat could be ordered in place of the buckets and console. Like the 1962-1964 models, the Grand Prix had a concave backlight, and kept a somewhat more formal roofline than the Catalina two-door hardtops.
The 1965 Pontiac Grand Prix had a total production span of 58,881 units. Only a total of 1,973 manual GPs were sold, as the new automatic version was a tremendous improvement over the old model. The Grand Prix was becoming more main-stream at this point, though not quite as sporty as it used to be. The grille-mounted turn signals, hidden taillights, the stacked headlights and the signature concave rear window were familiar, yet interpreted in a new way. Similar to the ‘63 design, the headlight treatment featured an angular headlight bezel that once again cut sharply into the front fender. Beginning in 1965, the Grand Prix was available with a no-cost option bench seat with folding armrest as an alternative to the console and bucket seats.
Primarily due to new cylinder head designs which changed the intake manifold bolt pattern, the power was increased in the ‘65 model. The 389 4-barrel engine was standard, and was rated at 333 bhp manual, and 325 bhp with the automatic transmission. The manual version used the more exciting 067 cam, while the automatic transmission version used the milder 066 cam. Both engines shared 10.5:1 compressions, while the low-compression 389 was rated now at 256 bhp, and the optional Tri Power was increased to 338 bhp. 421 engines were also improved and had increased power, the 421 4-barrel now put out 338 bhp, and the two Tri-Power versions put out 353 bhp and 376 bhp. Replacing the original ‘Slim Jim' 2-speed Hydramatic, the new M40 Turbo-Hydramatic 400 was the main transmission of choice for the ‘65 Grand Prix. Introduced the previous year as the as a Cadillac exclusive, the Turbo 400 was filtered down to other GM divisions by 1965.
As most of Pontiac's attention at the time was focused to promoting the GTO, the X-400 line of show cars was discontinued for 1965 and any other year after that. Other than regular production vehicles, no 1965 Grand Prix show cars were known to tour the shows.
Refined and restyled for 1966, the production span for the year reached only 36,757 units, while sales continued to decline and only 917 GPs were sold with manual transmissions. Considered to be ‘cleaner looking' than the previous model, the '66 Grand Prix was designed simply, and with taste. New frenched headlights now replaced the chrome 'eyebrows' from the previous year, and the front end featured blacked-out plastic eggcrate grilles and turn signals located in the same cavities, much like the '64 X-400 show car. Similar to the ‘66 GTO, both the grille and signals curved toward the sharp pointed nose. The taillight panel sported chrome trim ribs, which gave the impression of full-width taillights with the inside blacked out in between, though the lights were conventional in side, hidden between the ribs at the end.
Except for the deletion of the 338 bhp 289 Tri Power, the 1966 engine line up remained similar to the year before. The final year for Pontiac's Tri-Power engines, the larger and simpler of the two was chosen rather than having two engines with identical power rating.
The Grand Corniche show car was debuted at the 1966 show season. The Corniche was s chauffeur-driven town coupe modified from a 1966 Grand Prix. Without the center bar, but in the same manner as in a T-top, the front of the roof was cut out, finished in a Pearl Aqua, and came with a matching Cordova vinyl top. The Grand Corniche disappeared without a trace after show duties.
The third generation was once again restyled in 1967, and new design becoming bigger and more massive-looking than ever before, besides the unchanged wheelbase. The same bumper that was on the Catalina was still being utilized, but the front end was entirely new and improved. An integrated grille now held both disappearing headlights, headlight doors with integral grille, rather than having stacked headlights like the Catalina. A louvered front fender extension panel was now placed where the top headlight would have been housed. Hidden behind three small, horizontal slots were new parking lights. The newest feature showcased on the 1967 GP was the hidden windshield wipers. A new one-piece side glass with GP initials frosted on it was featured on the hardtop coupe, while twin pinstripes decorated the fender tops. The Grand Prix convertible model was introduced for one year only.
A bore increase of 4.12 inches was updated to both the 389 and 421 engines, which resulted in new engine displacements of 400 and 428 cid. The block also received new cylinder heads with totally updated ports. The valve diameters were also increased to 2.11 inches for intakes, and 1.77 inches for exhaust, and to make room for the increased valve sizes, the distance between the valve stem centers was updated to 1.98 inches from 1.82. The new heads increased airflow from 30 to 35 percent, and were notable for a more superior design, even more so than that of Super Dutys.
A 400 cid V8 engine was used as the base with 10.5:1 that was rated at 350 bhp, while a low compression 400 cid V8 265 bhp economy engine could be substituted at no expense. Now available, was a new 428 cid V8 with 360 bhp, with an option of a Quadra Power 428 option with 376 bhp. The transmission options encompassed the column shifted three-speed manual, three-speed manual with floor shift, four speed manual with floor shift, and the Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission. This was the first year without the legendary Tri-Power induction system. A much simplified spread-bore Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carb in place of the triple 2-barrel system that was equal in performance to the Tri-Power, though easier to tune and maintain. Sales unfortunately declines as performance buyers chose to turn their interest towards smaller vehicles. A total of 37,125 hardtop coupes were sold, while 5,856 convertibles were sold in the 1967 model year, which made the increase in coupe production a minor 368 units. .
The two 428 engines were improved, while the two 400 cid engines were carried over as normal. The final year that the Grand Prix would be based on the B-body, four-speed manual transmissions were now limited to 428 cid engine vehicles. The standard engine for the 68 Grand Prix was a 350-horse 400 4-barrel with 10.5:1 compression. A no-cost option was the regular-fuel 400/automatic combo. An amazing 376 hp was achieved with the 'Quadra-Power' 428. The second version of the 428 was a 360-hp 4-barrel.
A dual master cylinder, optional disc brakes, collapsible steering column and side marker lights were considered technical advances for the 1967 GP. A very small, unknown number of 'brass hat' GP convertibles, that can't be considered production vehicles were built by Pontiac in this year. A collector piece today, especially if the 428 HO powerplant was installed, GP ragtops were produced by Pontiac in a small number of 5,856 units. In 1967, the only Grand Prix show car was a convertible named the St. Moritz. A ‘paint and upholstery' show car, no modifications were made to the body or drive-train, and featured a snow skiing motif, set off with custom pearlescent Ice Blue paint. Matching ice blue leather and Swiss ski sweater cloth was sported inside the interior of the vehicle.
Hindering sales rather than encouraging them, the newly renovated Grand Prix that was introduced for 1968 was much heavier and cumbersome looking and had a total production run of 31,711 units. As it was becoming obvious that the Grand Prix's market penetration had dwindled seriously, 1968 was the slowest-selling year for this line. The concept of a B-body GP, a full-size luxury performer was obviously not winning the public over. The market was focused more on the flashy intermediates than on the size of the GP, even as attractive as it was.
The 1968 GP featured a new peripheral front bumper, and a huge pointed nose dividing a split, cross-hatched grille, hidden headlamps, and a GP badge on the left hand side. Massive horizontal tail-lamps were displayed at the rear, inside the bumper rather than hidden behind the grilles or slats, and parking lights were now exposed at the corners of the gravel pan. Once considered a classic Grand Prix design, the sharp trailing edge around the rear side window was dropped. Both pencil-thin whitewall tires and new wheel discs were introduced, all with new GM safety features that were included as standard equipment. These features were Deluxe wheel discs, fender skirts, dual exhausts, padded Morrokide buckets seats with contoured backs and armrests, center console, three speed manual transmission with floor shift and a 400 cid V8.
Featuring more rounded features than previous years, the available 'halo-style' Cordova vinyl top treatment look uncomfortable and out of place, and seemed to exaggerate the lower half's size even more than previously. Though heavy, the GP was still a very capable performable, and in 1968, the powertrain was excellent. The low-compression stayed at its 265 horses, and the standard 400 remained at 350 hp, while both 428s improved in power. Just one horse shy of the previous year's HO, the standard 428 was up to 375 hp in 68, while the 428 HO had leapt to 390 hp, picking up a full 14 horses on the way. This was the final year for the B-Body GP.
Beginning the model year on a whole new platform, the 1969 model began the fourth generation of Pontiac Grand Prix's. Appealing to the public shift of interest to the mid-size luxury/performance vehicles, the 69 GP featured a new design that was both modern and elegant. It also carried the distinct achievement of being the first successful downsizing of an American vehicle.
The 69 model had a refocused attention on performance, with increased installation percentages for manual transmissions and engine options up to the 390 hp (290 kW) 428 HO. Originally on the Catalina's 121 inch wheelbase prior to 1969, the model was relocated to a brand new 'A-special' platform, with an exclusive 118 inch wheelbase, that was eventually dubbed the G-body. This year's GP was based on an extended A-body chassis with a long nose/short-deck styling theme, with special emphasis on a 'beaked radiator' style grille, and 'Coke bottle' sides. The combination of all of these features, along with slotted taillights, gave the 69 Grand Prix a ‘Duesenberg' look.
Focusing on the similarities, Pontiac product planners offered the Grand Prix in only two trims as a hardtop coupe, the Grand Prix 'J' model, and the ultra luxurious 'SJ', which offered usually more standard power, and cost $316 more than the J model. There was talk, even as late as 1966, about offering the Grand Prix on the B-body platform once again for 1969. This may have been just a precautionary consideration, in the event that the G-body was unavailable at the time.
Utilizing the standard engine and transmission from the current standby 350-horse 400/3-speed manual with the regular-fuel 400 2-barrel/automatic combination, as a no cost option, Pontiac once again did what worked best. Optional on the J model, the SJ model featured the 370-horse 428 that was standard. As either an automatic or close-ratio 4-speed, both models had an available 390-hp 428 HO.
Innovations introduced on the 1969 Grand Prix included a concealed radio antenna, which amounted to two wires in the windshield; an optional built-in rear window defogger and side-impact beams inside the doors. Probably the major selling point for the 69 Grand Prix was the unique dash that innovatively curved around the driver in 'fighter pilot' fashion, and was dubbed the 'Command Seat'. The futuristic dash featured controls and gauges all placed within easy reach of the driver. Available upholstery options for this vehicle were standard all-vinyl, cloth and vinyl, or an additional-cost leather trim.
This redesign was met with enormous public enthusiasm. The new all-better handling was more improved than any other Grand Prix since the introduction of the 1962 original. Sales increased a whopping 350 percent as a total 112,486 units were produced for the 1969 model year. Pontiac seemed to have found the single focus that had originally represented the Grand Prix models, no longer a ‘main-streamed' vehicle, it was instead an ultimate road machine rather than a bulky, overweight barge.
The success of the 1969 model unfortunately encouraged Chevrolet to produce and feature the very similar Monte Carlo in 1970, which ultimately cut into Grand Prix sales.
No Grand Prix show car was built for 1969, possibly due the major success of the newly featured model. Though a very unique model was converted by GM Research Labs and utilized steam powers. This was the first steam vehicle that offered full power accessories that included air conditioning. This was a one of a kind vehicle that was never meant to be marketed and today still remains with General Motors. Weighing 450 to 500 pounds more with the addition of a steam engine, the vehicle only provided about half of the standard 400's power.
The basic 1969 body-shell continued until the 1972 model year with a major facelift in 1971 but only minor detail revisions in 1970 and 1972.
A total of 65,750 units were produced in the 1970 model year. Sales plummeted more than 40 percent, mostly attributed to the newly introduced Monte Carlo and Cutlass Supreme. The Cutlass shared the Grand Prix roofline with its own lower sheet-metal and 116-inch wheelbase. The Monte Carlo, considered a G-body, also shared the GP's roofline, though it didn't share any other sheet-metal and utilized a 116-inch four-door A-body chassis, which was 2 inches shorter in wheelbase than the Grand Prix's. Together, the combination of these models took a significant portion of the Grand Prix's sales.
Replacing the horizontal bars of the '69 models were now vertical grille inserts. The 'Grand Prix' nameplate was moved from the lower cowls to the rear C-pillars, while the vertical hash-marks from the C-pillars were moved down to the lower cowls. Replacing the optional 428 ³ V8 that was rated at 370 and 390 was a newer 370 hp 455 in³ V8. The interior of the 1970 model also received slight revisions that included the addition of a bench seat with center armrest was available as a no-cost option to the standard Strato bucket seats and console. GP's that were equipped with bench seats received a steering column-mounted shifter with the automatic transmission, along with a dashboard-mounted glove-box that replaced the console-mounted shifter and glove-box of bucket-seat vehicles. In 1970 power front disc brakes became standard equipment.
The Cielo del Sol, or Sky of the Sun, was a Grand Prix show car built for the 1970 season. Another paint and upholstery vehicle, the Cielo del Sol was painted a pearlescent Champagne color, and featured an electric sunroof, leather interior and a vinyl top.
A special Hurst SSJ version was newly featured for 1970. The SSJ was a semi-custom conversion with Hurst shifter, gold-colored wheels and an electric sunroof. A total of 272 models were painted either Cameo white of Starlight Black and started out as J models built by Pontiac before being sent to a Hurst plant located in Southfield, Michigan.
Moderately restyled, the Grand Prix came into the 1971 model year with a crisper, slightly 'boat-tailed' rear deck, and an additional 2 inches in overall length. Not wanting to 'mess with a classic', manufacturers decided that the Grand Prix would not have a complete redesign for 71. The updates to the G-body made its styling a bit more consistent with the other full-size Pontiacs, as well giving it a more formal look. Single headlamps replaced the dual headlight arrangement, and a separate bumper that ran across the grille was the significant styling cues for this model year. The grille tied in comfortably with the twin-tiered bumper, and a sculpted motif was also placed in the same place. A total of 58,325 Grand Prix units were produced for the 1971 model year.
Now the grille itself featured vertical slats along with vertical hash marks that were on the front fenders and located just behind the front wheels. The bench seat was reintroduced in 1971. New trim patterns for cloth and vinyl upholstery patters were added for both the bench and bucket seats, while the leather interior option was discontinued.
Two engine options were available for the 71 model year, the optional four-barrel 455 in³ V8 that was rated at 325 hp, and the standard 400 in³ V8 with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts that was rated at 300 hp. Compared to the 10.25 to 1 compression from the previous year model, both of these engines received substantially lower compression ratios; 8.4 to 1. This was due to a GM-corporate edict that required engines to use lower octane regular leaded, low lead or unleaded gasoline, beginning with the 71 model year.
The available transmissions offered were initially carried from the previous year, and they included the standard three-speed manual, or optional four-speed stick or Turbo Hydra-Matic. Halfway through the year, Turbo Hydra-Matic became standard equipment while manual shifters were dropped. Also made standard equipment on 71 models was variable-ratio power steering. No longer needing water refills, the SJ model received a sealed Delco X battery halfway through the model year.
Continuing for 1971, the Hurst SSJ version was available with an option to replace the Rally II wheels with either gold honeycomb or American mag wheels. Hurst accessories were now available and included an Auto-Stick shifter for automatic transmission only, A Roll Control device, and a digital computer which calculated speed and elapsed times in the quarter mile. A few 157 Hurst SSJ's were ever sold.
The final year for the John DeLorean long hood/short deck design, the 1972 Grand Prix was introduced with a minor bit of new styling. Partially due to the year's economic recovery, a total of 91,961 units were manufactured for the 1971 model year, a sharp rise from previous years.
An egg-crate grille with multiple fins between the main bars, triple-segment tail-lamps, and available finned wheel-covers were several of the design enhancements for this model year. A new cross-hatch grille was installed up front, along with triple cluster taillights in the back in 1971. A new teakwood design and upholstery trim patterns for both vinyl and cloth selections were revised for both bucked and bench seat offerings, and replaced the burled-elm trim.
Following the industry standard, GM began to rate all of their engines in SAE net horsepower, which end resulted in a significant drop in power ratings, though true engine power remained relatively unchanged. The standard 400 in³ V8 with four-barrel carburetor was rated at 250 hp, while the optional 455 in³ V8 with four-barrel carb was rated at 300 hp under the new net horsepower system. .
Halfway through the year, Pontiac released a radial tire option for the Grand Prix which improved and increased the wheel diameter from the standard 14-inch size to 15-inch. Supplied by the division's usual tire suppliers, the radial donuts included Firestone 500s and B.F. Goodrich Lifesaver T/As. This was the first actual time that Pontiac featured a radial tire option which actually evolved into a reality. This option was announced by Pontiac in 1968 for the GTO, but was quickly discontinued due to production difficulties.
Originally scheduled for 1972, an all-new Grand Prix model was due to be released. Unfortunately due to a 67-day corporate-wide strike at GM during the late 1970 year, (also dubbed ‘the infamous autumn 1970 strike') the 71 model introduction was set back, pushing further the 72 model production plans. The new A and G-body vehicles planned for 1972 were also delayed for production by one year, and pushed to the 1973 model year.
The Edinburgh Grand Prix show car was introduced for this year. Once again, a 'paint and upholstery' show car, the Edinburgh was a dark color with a dark interior. Varying little from production models, the light-colored pin-striping, wire wheel-covers and contrasting light-colored interior piping set it apart.
Updated and restyled once again, the 1973 Grand Prix showcased a fixed-pillar 'Colonnade' styling, which featured fixed rear opera windows. The styling on the front end stayed the same from the previous year, with the headlights remaining set in square bezels, turn signals cutting into the leading edge of the front fenders, and a large vertical slatted grille. The rear of the 73 model remained unchanged except for the taillights no longer remained set in the bumper. Not as large as they were 1-2 years before, the slim bumpers now jutted ahead of the grille. The chassis was now shared by both the 116 inch Monte Carlo and the Grand Prix and all A-body four doors, a total decrease of two inches. The length had now increased another 3 inches to an overall length of 216.6', at the same time the weight increased 125 lbs on base models, and up to a massive 500lb increase on the fully loaded SJ model.
Limited to two engine choices, the 72 Grand Prix had the option of a 400 cid 4 barrel V8 that was rated at 230 bhp (net), or an optional 455 4 barrel V8 that was rated at 250 bhp (net). Rumors circulated that the legendary Super Duty 455 engines would be offered in both the Grand Prix and GTO's, but this never happened, and were only available to the '73-74' Firebird Formula and trans Am. Through all of this, sales actually increased to an amazing 153,899 units. No special Hurst prepared SSJ models were offered this year. 1972 is considered to be the end of the performance of the Grand Prix's, though production would continue to present day.
For the 1973 model year, all A-bodies were completely redesigned. A larger and heavier generation, this was due to the federally-mandated 5 mph (8 km/h) crash bumpers. Performance was now on the decline to yet another federal standard, a new emissions control system, although large V8s were still available.
The biggest update for this year was the fixed opera window which now replaced the previous disappearing rear side glass. Also the move from the pillar-less hardtop design to a pillared 'Colonnade' hardtop with frameless door glass was Pontiac's response to proposed federal safety standards in regards to roll-over protection, a mandate that fortunately never materialized. Often referred to as 'Colonnade hardtop coupes' or 'Colonnade hardtop sedans' were the 1973 through 1977 GM intermediates with their pillared hardtop design.
Evolving from the 71 and 72 model look, the 73 Grand Prix featured a vertical-bar nose grille and single headlamps. The rear styling of the vehicle now showcased a revised boat-tail-like trim with square-taillights above the bumper. Continuing the cockpit theme of previous models, a new instrument panel was installed and featured new African Crossfire Mahogany facing on the dashboard, console and door panels. Brand new Strato buckets seats now featured higher seatbacks along with integrated headdress in either Morrokide or scivy cloth trims. Optional recliners and adjustable lumbar support with a notchback bench seat was also offered as a no-cost option.
Consisting of the four-barrel 400 ³ V8 that was rated at 230 hp and the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was the standard drive-train of the 1973 GP. Power steering and power brakes were standard in this model. Included with the 'SJ' option, a four-barrel 455 in³ V8 was optional on other models. This also added a rally gauge cluster and a radial tuned suspension with front and rear sway bars, Pliacell shock absorbers and radial-ply tires.
Still the third best selling year to date for the Pontiac Grand Prix, sales dropped in 1974 to under 100,000 units from the previous year's record of around 150,000 units. This was primarily due to the new competition in the intermediate personal-luxury car market from a new upsized Mercury Coupe XR-7 coupe. With the installation of a revised split grille with vertical bars that was entirely placed above the bumper, the 1974 Grand Prix came with the federally-mandated 5 mph bumper that somewhat softened the boat-tail effect on the rear. The tail-lights were revised for this year, and the license plate and fuel filler were relocated to above the bumper.
Not much of the interior was updated for the 1974 model year. Standard seating choices included Strato bucket seats with center console or notchback bench seat with armrest and cloth, or Morrokide upholstery. The bucket seats were featured with optional adjustable lumbar support and recliners.
The same engines from the previous year were carried over, and included the 400 in³ V8, which was standard on the J Model, and the 455 in³ V8, which was standard on the SJ model, and optional on the Model J. Standard equipment on both models was the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission, variable-ratio power steering and power brakes. The Model SJ also had the addition of a Rally Gauge Cluster, specific 'SJ' identification, and a radial-tuned suspension that was similar to the Grand Am. A new option that was featured in 1974 was Radial Tires.
The 1975 Grand Prix featured a revised grille with even fewer vertical bars and updated tail-light lenses. The addition of GM's High Energy electronic ignition and a catalytic converter that now mandated the use of unleaded gasoline was the main mechanical update for the 75 year. Standard on all models now was radial tires.
Positioned between the base Model J and the sporty SJ series was a new luxury LJ model that was added to the lineup. This LJ model included pin-striping along with a luxurious velour interior trim. The interior trim was updated with the real African Crossfire Mahogany trim on the instrument panel replaced by a simulated material, though the ‘real stuff' remained on the door panels and center console. Along with speed readings in kilometers being added, Speedometers were revised with numerals now topping at 100 mph instead of the 120 or 140 mph readings found in previous model years.
The end of dual exhaust pipes due to the addition of the catalytic converter was marked in 1975 and detuning of engines. Standard on J and LJ models, the 400 in³ V8 was dropped from 230 to 180 hp, while the 455 in³ V8, which was standard on SJ and optional on J and LJ models were now detuned from 250 to 200 hp.
Setting a new record of over 226,000 units during this Bicentennial year, Grand Prix was second in sales only in its market segment to Chevrolet's Monte Carlo in 1976. The Grand Prix now featured a new split vertical bar 'waterfall' grille and quad rectangular headlights in front, along with revised taillight lenses out back. The three model designations, J, LJ, and SJ, continued for 1976. The LJ and SJ offered the same trim and equipment levels as the previous year, with the only exception being the SJ downgraded to a standard 400 in³ V8.
Undergoing several content changes to cut the base price by about $500, the base Model J needed to be more competitive with other mid-sized personal luxury vehicles. A smaller 160 hp 350 in in³ V8 as the base power-plant was one of those changes. Some downgrading of interior trim was also done, and included a new notchback bench seat made standard equipment and the Strato bucket seats/console were relocated to the 'option' list. The LJ and SJ continued to include Strato bucket seats as standard equipment, but custom features such as a cushioned steering wheel and custom pedal trim plates were moved to optional on the J model, while remaining standard on LJ and SJ. All models received a new simulated rosewood trim for the dash, console (with bucket seats), and door panels, which now replaced the African Crossfire Mahogany trim of previous model years.
Choices for upholstery included cloth or Morrokide vinyl bench or bucket seats on the Model J, velour buckets on the LJ, or Morrokide buckets on the SJ. A new extra-cost option available with the Strato bucket seats and LJ and SJ models was leather interior trim. The LJ and SJ models both came standard with a 180 hp 400 in³ V8 that was optional on the Model J. Optional on all models was the 200 hp 455 in³ V8. To commemorate Pontiac's 50th anniversary, numerous special edition Grand Prix models painted gold were produced in 1976. These special editions featured removable Hurst T-tops, Rally II wheels and various distinctions, though these models were mechanically similar to the regular models.
Reaching an all-time high of over 270,000 units for 1977, this was the final year for the 1973-vintage body-shell. This sales high was reached even in spite of competition from a newly-downsized and lower-priced Ford Thunderbird which was introduced in this same year, and a restyled Mercury Cougar whose body-shell switched to the T-Bird this year from the Ford Torino/Mercury Montego, which was discontinued.
Offered in 49 of 50 states, each of those engines were Pontiac-built units as in the years previously. Since Pontiac's own V8 engines could not meet the more stringent California emission standards that were set for 1977, all Pontiac models (including Grand Prix's0 were sold in California powered by Oldsmobile-built engines. These engines included Lansing's 350 in³ Rocket V8 for J and LJ, and the 403 in³ Rocket V8 standard on the SJ and optional on the other two GPs in California. Because of a shortage of Oldsmobile 350 engines resulting from record sales of Cutlasses and reduced production of that particular engine due to a plant conversion to build a Diesel V8 in 78, a limited few Grand Prix's that were destined for California reportedly came off the line with a Chevrolet-built 350 in³ V8.
The 1977 Grand Prix featured revised grille work with fewer vertical bars, a stand-up hood ornament and updated taillight lenses with 'GP' logos. Continuing over to 1977 were the three models, J, LJ and SJ, with engine revisions. The base model J received Pontiac's new 135 hp 301 in³ V8 as standard equipment, which was too small and underpowered to propel a 4,000-pound vehicle. Standard on the LJ and SJ models was the 160 hp 350 in³ V8 or 180 hp 400 in³ V8, which were optional engines on the J model.
About a foot shorter and 600 lbs lighter than the previous model, the 1978 Grand Prix brought along with it a downsizing of the GP and other A-bodies. Eventually, this version of the A-body would also receive some sheet-metal revisions in 1981. With an overall length of 200 inches, the 78 model had a 108-inch wheelbase.
A V8 engine was not standard equipment on the Grand Prix for the first in GP history. Following the 73-74 energy crisis, in order to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) mandates, a Buick-built 231 in³ V6 was now standard equipment on the base model and two versions of the Pontiac 301 in³ V8 were now optional. The three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic was optional, while a floor-mounted three-speed manual transmission was standard equipment with the V6 on the base model. With either of the optional V8 engines, the Turbo-Hydra-Matic was standard on LJ, SJ and base models.
The base Grand Prix came with standard notchback bench seat with either cloth or Morrokide vinyl, the LJ featured a pillowed velour cloth notchback bench seat, and the SJ model had Strato bucket seats in either cloth of Morrokide. The base GP offered Strato buckets seats as optional, while a 60/40 split bench was optional on both base and LJ models. SJ models also had available viscount leather upholstery with bucket seats.
The LJ luxury model was available standard with the 135 hp 301 V8 with two-barrel carburetor, and the sporty SJ was powered by a 150 hp 301 V8 with four-barrel carburetor.
Various minor appearance changes occurred on the 1979 Grand Prix, these were limited to a new crosshatch grille and revised taillight lenses. The LJ and SJ continued as before, and along the basic engine lineup remaining the same, including the 231 cubic-inch Buick V6 standard on base & LJ models. Optional on both of these models was the 135-horsepower 301 cubic-inch Pontiac V8 with two-barrel carburetor, while the 150-horsepower 301 V8 with four-barrel carburetion was standard on the SJ and optional on other models.
Remaining the same, transmissions continued as before, with the three-speed manual standard the V6 engine on the base model, and offering automatic transmission as an option. The LJ and SJ models had standard automatic transmission, and when a V8 engine was ordered, all models received this. Still not available in California, Pontiac V8s were replaced by Chevy 305s that were rated at 140 and 160 hp. A new four-speed manual transmission available with the 301 four-barrel V8 on all models was offered for one year only.
Returning to a vertical bar grille, and featuring new taillight lenses with 'GP' logos, the 1980 Grand Prix was introduced. Standard on all models, the transmission was automatic and the two-barrel 301 Pontiac V8 was replaced by a new 265 cubic-inch V8 that rated at 125 hp. The Chevy 305 V8 was again available in California, and the Buick 231 V6 and the four-barrel version of the Pontiac 301 V8 was carried over from the year before.
To improve aerodynamics, the 1981 Grand Prix went through a bit of slight re-skinning of the sheet-metal. This year also featured a new grille design along with revised tail section. This year the sporty SJ model was taken off the market, to make room for a new ultra-luxurious Brougham series that became the flagship of the Grand Prix line. Showcasing a plush cloth interior, standard power windows, along with other features, this new series was similar to the full-sized Bonneville Brougham.
Remaining the same, the base and LJ models were unchanged for the 1981 year. The 265 cubic-inch Pontiac V8 was featured as an extra cost option, while the Buick 231 V6 came standard on all models now. Replaced in 1981, the 301 V8 was discontinued and the new option was the Oldsmobile-built 350 cubic-inch Diesel V8. Unfortunately the Diesel V8 was know for poor reliability, and also had a high cost of around $700.
1981 was the final year that the Pontiac Motor Division would offer its own V8 engine. A GM corporate engine policy was in the process of being enforced, and determined that Pontiac would build only 4-cylinder engines, Buick would be restricted to only V6 engines, meanwhile Chevrolet and Oldsmobile would build V8 engines for the majority of GM cars and trucks. Cadillac would unveil its own aluminum-block V8 in 1982. All V8-equipped Pontiacs from 1982 on featured Chevrolet or Oldsmobile engines.
Basically a virtual re-run of the previous years model, the 1982 Grand Prix didn't feature any appearance changes. Leaving only the standard 231 cubic-inch Buick V6, the larger Buick 252 cubic-inch V6, and the Olds 350 Diesel V8, no gasoline-powered V8 engines were available during the 1982 model year.
The 1983 Grand Prix did not have any significant appearance changes for this model year. The 252 V6 was dropped, and the gas-powered V8 returned after one year absence. It was presented in the form of a 150 horsepower Chevy 305. This year was also the final year for the LJ series.
The 1984 Grand Prix came with new grille inserts along with minor revisions to the tail section. The LJ series was replaced by the all new LE model. Meanwhile, the base and Brougham models continued as before with no revisions. The engines stayed the same and included the Buick 3.8 liter V6, Chevy 5.0 liter V8, and the Oldsmobile 5.7 liter Diesel V8. New for the 1984 model year was a new option, the Turbo Hydra-Matic 200-4R four-speed overdrive automatic. Available with the 305 V8, it improved highway gas mileage.
The Grand Prix continued on the same rear-wheel drive platform, now under the name 'G-body', at the time w hen most A-bodies were moving to a new front-wheel drive platform in 1982. Remaining as a coupe, the Grand Prix sedan version was the short-lived mid-size Bonneville. The Grand Prix continued as a rear wheel drive vehicle until 1987, while the Bonneville went back to full-size on the GM H platform.
On January 12 1988, the Pontiac Grand Prix introduced the first front-wheel drive W-body coupe. Manufactured in Kansas City, Kansas, this new generation was unveiled. Available in three model designations, the base, LE, and the SE were introduced. LE models came with standard air conditioning, power locks and windows. The SE models came with the 2.8 L V6 engine along with other various amenities like the 'AQ9' 14-way pneumatic power seats, sport gauge cluster and a driver information computer located in the center console. 1988 named the Grand Prix the Motor Trend Magazine's Car of the Year.
Replacing the 2.8 L engine with a 3.1 L multi-port fuel injected V6 engine, in 1989 the Grand Prix also received air conditioning as a standard feature on all models. In this same year, the Turbo Grand Prix was also newly introduced. Beginning as an SE version, this model was without three available options, leather seats, a CD player and a sunroof. With a modified 3.1 L V6 with a Garrett T-25 turbocharger and intercooler, these SE models were shipped to McLaren/ASC to receive a 'B4M' body kid with a special molding, along with hood louvers. This new series also included a full-analog instrument cluster that would eventually become the base of the 1990-1993 sport cluster.
In favor of a sedan version, the base model was dropped in 1990, and production was begun on September 12, 1989. A new STE (Special Touring Edition) was introduced in 1990, and featured special seats, audio systems and Driver Information Centers. With adjustable lumbar support, the seats in the STE had 8-way pneumatic, along with 8-speaker audio systems with full graphic equalizer, along with a ‘gain' slider to control bass. A step up from the more basic ones available in the SE and Turbo, the Driver Information Centers was much more advanced. This year also offered a turbocharged STE.
Turbo models were dropped in 1991 in favor of a new Grand Prix Pontiac model. This new model included the new 3.4 L Twin Dual Cam engine, as well all available options, plus a modified version of the B4M body package. Renamed the B4U, the composite headlights were replaced with min-quads. Also available this year was a SE sedan model.
In 1994 the Grand Prix received a major redesign that included updating both the front and rear fascias and ground effects, in addition to a new instrument panel with dual airbags, new gauges and controls. The LE, STE and GT designations were deleted in 1994. Option packages on the SE coupe became GT and GTP. The SE sedan now featured an optional package that included 3.4 L V6, alloys, low profile tires, ABS, and sport suspension. In the Sedan, front seatbelts are no longer attached to doors, but instead anchored to pillars, while the coupe kept the door-mounted belts.
In favor of the four-speed automatic, both five-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmissions are dropped. Twin-can 3.4 L V6 is now up 10 horsepower. Grand Prix coupes now gain standard equipment that included 16-inch alloys, cruise control, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with integral radio controls. Replacing the old 3.1 L V6 was a brand new 160 hp 3.1 L V6, Generation III.
In 1995 the newest update was the addition of the brake/transmission shift interlock. The GT coupe was dropped this year in favor of the GTP Package, and in the meantime, the GT sedan continues. Both the GTP and the GT received variable-effort steering, along with new aluminum wheels. A White Appearance Package was available in 95 and could be equipped for coupes, and included color-keyed alloys and special pin-striping. Bucket seat models were updated to feature floor consoles.
1996 is the final year for the first-generation Grand Prix. All coupes received a sport package that included five-spoke alloy wheels and dual exhaust. The 3.4L DOHC V6 now gained 5 horsepower with intake and exhaust improvements.
All W-bodies received a major redesign in 1997. The first 97 Grand Prix was produced on August 12, 1996. Well received for its 'wide track' appearance, the second generation W-body Grand Prix sold well in three available trims, the SE, GT, and GTP. The inclusion of a supercharger for the GTP, which boosted power to 240 hp, was available in 97. Originally manufactured in the Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas, production was shifted in 2003 to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Currently building the Chevrolet Malibu, the Fairfax plant was retooled. The final Grand Prix coupe was rolled off the assembly line on June 2002, before being replaced by the Pontiac GTO for 2004.
Updated in 2004 on a revised version of the GM W platform, the first 04 Grand Prix model was built on May 5, 2003. The high-end GXP trim was seen as the successor for the now defunct Bonneville. The GXP's small-block 5.3 V8 was a popular addition to the 2005 line, especially as it was the Grand Prix's first V8 since 1987. Announcing that 2008 would be the year Grand Prix would end production, Autoweek stated that it might be replaced by the Zeta-based G8.
Virtually unchanged in 2005, the Grand Prix continued to be available in the Base coupe, the GT, GTP and GXP. 2005 was the final year for the GTP. The GT offered the Supercharged 3800 Series III Engine in 2006, which adds an extra 20 bhp boost from intake and head redesigns, as well as an electronic throttle body. The LS4 V8 is the GXP's strength, with a 5.3 liter Displacement on Demand engine that is based off of the legendary LS1 block. With a shortened crankshaft, the power-plant has many modifications that make it fit into a FWD vehicle. A Formula One inspired bit of technology, called the TAPshift was also featured in the GXP and allowed drivers to control the gears semi-manually. With 323 ft•lbf of Torque, this engine had an available 303 bhp.
In 2006, once again, not much has changed for the Pontiac Grand Prix. Three options are available, the Grand Prix, powered by the 3800 Series III V6, the GT, powered by the 3800 Series III Supercharged V6, and the GXP, powered by the LS4 V8.
Many enthusiasts are upset that 2007 could be the last and final year of the Pontiac Grand Prix's incredibly long run. Nonetheless, hope is geared to Pontiac's potential to replace the Grand Prix with a vehicle that will equally rival it in longevity and popularity.
By Jessica Donaldson
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