The 1976 Pontiac model year -- Pontiac's golden anniversary -- would be the end of the line for both the super-sized B-bodies and the 455-cid V-8. For this last year before drastically downsized 1977 models arrived, Pontiac again shuffled things around in an attempt to increase sales.
Appearance-wise, little had changed. With the freshening up the line received the year before and the new car waiting in the wings, there was little point to making any major changes.
Perhaps the most significant change was the retirement of the Grand Ville name. At some point, Pontiac's marketing and product planners must have realized that the equity built up in the Bonneville over the years was being squandered on an unproven nameplate that, in the end, wasn't getting the job done.
The solution was to bring the Bonneville Brougham moniker off the bench and put it on the top-level B-body Pontiac. Slightly modified grille designs were employed across the line, and Catalinas could be ordered with a Custom package that included rectangular headlights, additional exterior trim, and interior upgrades. Powertrain options were essentially the same as the previous year.
Total Pontiac output was up by more than 200,000 cars for the model year as the U.S. economy began improving and consumers were getting over their fuel-price jitters. Orders for full-sized Pontiacs, which had fallen off to 126,555 in 1975, bounced back to 137,216 units in 1976. However, that wasn't enough to keep the B-body cars from being overtaken -- easily -- by the series of Grand Prix personal coupes.
While the 1971-1976 full-sized Pontiacs were stylish and luxurious machines, they were really not the right cars for the time. They were larger, heavier, more complex, and more expensive to produce than the cars they replaced.
In an age when fuel economy and low operating costs were becoming more important, GM introduced the largest, costliest, and thirstiest machines in its history. It also didn't have a sufficiently adequate presence in the compact and subcompact markets.
Plus, GM was saddled with a corporate structure that allowed product-line changes only in concert with other divisions. That slowed down progress and made it harder to time new products to meet changing market conditions. The result was a loss of market share to foreign competitors, a trend that has yet to reverse itself.
To get more information about the 1971-1976 Pontiacs, including models, prices, and production, see the next page.
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