Jack Humbert, Pontiac's chief designer, came up with some eye-popping styling changes for the 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix.
Although Pontiac continued to employ GM's "B" body, this time there was no mistaking a Pontiac -- any Pontiac, but especially the Grand Prix -- for any other automobile in the GM stable. A venturi -- or "coke bottle" -- theme was adopted, soon to be copied by other automakers.
The windshield "dogleg" of 1962 was
eliminated, and curved glass was used throughout, notably in the
concave-shaped backlight (shared with the Starfire). Stacked headlamps
and hidden taillights were prominent features, while the split grille
housed parking lights designed to look like driving lights.
Most noticeable was the fact that the sides were even more completely free of adornment than before. A thin, bright outline surrounded the wheel wells and a slim stainless-steel strip graced the rocker panels, but otherwise the body was virtually devoid of chrome or sculpture.
This represented a radical departure from tradition, for Americans had long been accustomed to equating chrome with class -- all too often with dismal results. Witness the "juke box" styling of the 1958 Oldsmobiles and Buicks, for example.
In contrast, as Tom Bonsall has observed, "Here was the most expensive Pontiac model, a stunningly beautiful car, whose main feature was the absence of trim . . ."
Having dealt itself a winning hand, Pontiac elected to stand pat with the 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix. There were no significant mechanical differences, although there were now three 421s rated at 320, 350, and 370 horsepower.
Styling modifications were largely confined to identification changes and front and rear details: deeper-set grille, rectangular rather than round parking lamps, and large vertical back-up lights.
Yet, for whatever reason, sales fell sharply. In 1963, the Grand Prix had accounted for 12.4 percent of Pontiac's total output, but for 1964 that figure fell to 8.9 percent. The explanation may have something to do with competition from the restyled Thunderbird, which scored a 46-percent sales increase that year.
Go to the next section to learn about the 1965 Pontiac Grand Prix.
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