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1962-1968 Pontiac Grand Prix


1966, 1967, and 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix

The 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix received only a light touching up. Most noticeable were a new plastic grille without the vertical bars of 1965, more rounded grille outlines at the center; and smoother headlight housings.

The rear end sported taillights hidden behind horizontal ribs, rather than behind the grillework previously used, while the sides got a new ribbed bright-metal panel below the side sculpture line. Inside were redesigned Strato bucket or bench seats, with a new headrest option.

1966 grand prix, blue
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix featured ribbed bright trim under the sculpture line on the lower bodysides. A GP emblem rode on the front fenders behind the wheels.

For the 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix, engine displacement grew from 389 to 400 cubic inches, thanks to a slight bore increase; that, plus a new, high-lift camshaft helped boost the standard horsepower rating from 325 to 350. The optional Quadra-Power engines were increased from 421 to 428 cid, with ratings of 360 and 376 horsepower.

The top version boasted a high-output cam and valve train plus special exhaust manifolds. Tri-Power was no longer available. Newly optional were front disc brakes (with dual master cylinder) and Rally II wheels.

Perhaps the most surprising news for 1967 was the introduction of the first (and, as matters developed, the last) Grand Prix convertible. Listing at $3,813, it cost $264 more than the hardtop and enjoyed a modest production run of 5,856 units.

Styling changes on the reskinned Grand Prix, which was hyped as "the most perfect Pontiac" in the 1967 brochure, included front fenders that swept forward, effectively hiding the lamps in profile view.

1967 grand prix hardtop
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Among the extensive style changes to the 1967 Grand Prix were the headlights, which were now hidden under the outer ends of the horizontal-bar grille.

This gave the illusion of greater length, though the car was in fact only an inch longer than the 1965 model. And this time the headlamps on both Grand Prix models were hidden under doors in the grille.

Vent windows were eliminated from the hardtop, a harbinger of a trend that some of us still think of as a backward step. And both hardtop and ragtops featured concealed windshield wipers, industry first. Cornering lights were a new option.

Industry-wide, automobile sales fell more than seven percent in 1967. Pontiac suffered less than most, actually increasing its market share, and the Grand Prix's output of 42,981 units made off with a slightly larger (5.3 percent) share of the Pontiac pie.

Even so, Pontiac's flagship again failed to live up to its early promise. No doubt that disappointment, coupled with the fact that the ragtop accounted for only 13.6 percent of the Grand Prix's 1967 sales, helped bring about the decision to drop the convertible after only one season.

That little upturn in Grand Prix sales proved to be short-lived, however, as 1968 sales fell almost to the disastrous 1966 level. Bill Collins, assistant chief engineer in charge of Pontiac's body engineering group, thought he understood why:

"Our 1968 Grand Prix was a disaster," he later recalled. "Nobody bought it. It looked like a big fat turkey . . ." The hidden headlamps were retained, in combination with a rather garish hill-width eggcrate grille. Collins was right -- the effect was not good.

1968 grand prix, front view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Grand Prix departed from tradition by trading its horizontal-bar grille for an eggcrate pattern in 1968. It was bolder, bigger, and featured a prominent beak.

All of which is not to suggest that the 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix was not a fine automobile. Car and Driver, impressed by the its quiet, smooth ride, observed that "The performance and roadability of the Grand Prix are excellent. Only its size (a 121-inch wheelbase) and its weight (well over 4,000 ground-crushing pounds) keep the Grand Prix from being a Super Car."

But time had run out for the original Grand Prix. Either something radically different was called for, or the series would have to be dropped altogether. Happily, at the urging of John Z. DeLorean, Pontiac's former chief engineer who in 1965 had taken over the general manager's responsibilities, the former alternative was chosen.

Thus, for 1969 the Grand Prix reemerged as a mid-sized car. Based on the LeMans series, it was built on an exclusive 118-inch wheelbase, and its crisp styling and smaller size helped make it the sensation of the 1969 season. Sales of this new edition leaped ahead by an astonishing 255 percent.

Find 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix specifications in our final section.

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