1962 Pontiac Grand Prix

By the standards of the time, the 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix didn't come particularly cheap. With a base price of $3,490, it cost $141 more, in fact, than the larger Bonneville two-door hardtop.

On the other hand, the Grand Prix stickered at a whopping $831 less than the base Thunderbird -- but Ford's flagship carried more standard equipment, so the difference wasn't nearly as great as it might have seemed at first.

Most Grand Prix buyers loaded their cars with such amenities as Hydra-Matic (88 percent), air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes with aluminum hubs and drums, the last providing Pontiac with what may well have been the best brakes in the industry. The Grand Prix received generally good reviews, though a few shortcomings were mentioned.

1962 grand prix, red, front view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1962 Grand Prix boasted a unique grille and a convertible-like roofline.

For instance, the suspension was considered a little soft, especially for a high-performance car. The tachometer, mounted on the console, rode so low as to be almost useless; at high speeds it would have been folly for the driver to take his eyes off the road long enough to read it.

And on cars with Hydra-Matic, the shift lever lacked precision, making it nearly impossible to ascertain its position simply by feel.

But probably the most important criticism had to do with the automatic transmission. Pontiac used two different Hydra-Matics at that time. The Bonneville and Star Chief models -- six inches longer than the Catalina and Grand Prix series, and correspondingly heavier -- used the older, four-speed version.

But the Grand Prix shared with the Catalina the new "Roto Hydra-Matic," a smaller, lighter, three-speed unit incorporating a small torque converter.

Though its action was very smooth, critics found slippage to be excessive, and shifts weren't as crisp and positive as they might have been. (We have never understood, by the way, why Pontiac failed to use its best transmission in what it considered its top-of-the-line model.)

Grand Prix production wasn't bad the first year, but it wasn't sensational, either. For 1962, the total came to 30,195 units, nearly 12,000 units short of Oldsmobile's comparably-priced Starfire and far behind Thunderbird's 78,011 units. But better days lay ahead.

For details on the 1963-1964 Pontiac Grand Prix, continue on to the next page.

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