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1971-1976 Pontiac

Different Types of Pontiac

­Several different types of Pontiac cars comprised the company's lineup. The Catalina lineup was fleshed out with Brougham models available as two- and four-door hardtops and a four-door sedan. They featured modest upgrades including more-luxurious upholstery, Brougham scripts on the C-pillars, and deluxe wheel covers. Brougham starting prices topped those of comparable base Catalinas by a little more than $200.

The 1971 Pontiac was available in a number of different models.
The 1971 Pontiac was available in a number of
different models.

The Bonneville was next up the ladder, though it had been knocked down a bit in the pecking order. While it rode the premium 126-inch-wheelbase platform, it was no longer the top-of-the-line series. That honor would be reserved for the new Grand Ville, which replaced the Bon­neville Brougham. (The Executive series was also dropped for 1971.)

Bonne­villes came as two- and four-door hardtops, plus a four-door sedan. They were identified externally by wide full-length lower-body trim with a louvered detail just behind the front wheel opening.

The Grand Ville -- offered in convertible and two- and four-door hardtop styles -- represented a new philosophy at Pontiac that sought to "out-Bonneville" the Bonneville. Rather than work within the constraints of the nameplate and improve that model, it was determined that something above the Bon­neville would generate new interest in the segment and in Pontiac in general.

The Grand Ville was the closest that Pon­tiac would ever get to having GM's prestigious C-body return to its lineup. The last time the division had such a car was the 1940-1941 Custom Torpedo. While the Grand Ville was based on the same "B" bodyshell as the Catalina and Bonneville, it featured a formal hardtop roofline borrowed from the new C-body Cadillac, Buick Electra, and Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. This hybrid gave Pontiac a premium series without unmanageable costs.

A little bit of shuffling also went on with regard to the upper-level wagons. There were no Bonneville or Grand Ville station wagons as such. Rather, there was the Grand Safari, which used Bonneville base powertrains Grand Ville trim items. (Pontiac's model numbering system put the Grand Safari among Bonne­villes in 1971-1972 and 1975-1976, but with the Grand Villes in 1973-1974.) Simulated wood­grain trim was optional on all wagons.

Speaking of powertrains, some significant revisions to the entire Pontiac V-8 engine family were instituted for the 1971 model year. Like all other General Motors makes, Pontiac lowered engine compression across the board for compliance with the 1970 Clean Air Act, as well as compatibility with the new generation of low-lead and unleaded fuels. The 350-, 400-, and 455-cid V-8s all returned, though with less horsepower. Combined with the heavier curb weights of the new cars, performance suffered.

The standard engine for base Catalinas was a two-barrel-carbureted 350. With a 3.88-inch bore, 3.75-inch stroke, and a compression ratio of 8.0:1, it was rated at 250 bhp at 4,400 rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque at 2,400 rpm.

Catalina Safaris and Broughams came standard with a two-barrel 400, which was available as an option for the other Catalinas. With a 4.12-inch bore, 3.75-inch stroke, and 8.2:1 squeeze, it made 265 bhp at 4,400 rpm, with 400 pound-feet of torque at 2,400 revs. An optional four-barrel version of the 400 provided an extra 35 horsepower.

Bonnevilles received a 455-cube engine as standard equipment. Though based on the same basic block design, the 455 featured a 4.15-inch bore, 4.21-inch stroke, and 3.25-inch main journal diameters. Equipped with a two-pot carb, the 8.2:1-compression-ratio V-8 developed 280 bhp at 4,400 rpm and 455 pound-feet of torque at 2,000. Smooth and flexible with an abundance of torque, this engine was ideally suited to the big Pontiacs. It was also available in Catalinas at extra cost.

The Grand Ville received the four-barrel version of the 455 (an available option for all other full-sized models). It was good for 325 bhp at 4,400 rpm and 455 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm.

An interesting side note from the 1971 model year was the early availability of a manual transmission. Though very slow-selling, considering the excellent reputation of the available Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic, there were some full-sized Pontiacs built with a synchromesh three-speed, which was considered standard equipment.

Factory records indicate 144 Catalina coupes and sedans, 30 Catalina wagons, six Broughams, four Bonne­villes, and a pair of Grand Villes were assembled with manuals, oddities to be sure. The window for ordering a stick-shift B-body Pontiac closed in March 1971, never to return. The Turbo Hydra-Matic then became standard equipment, a change that was accompanied by an increase in base prices.

Production of the 1971 B-body Pontiacs came to 261,282 cars. That was a notable drop from 1970, but a strike early in the model year slowed up production of General Motors vehicles. Thus, as a group, the full-sizers remained the most popular Pontiacs.

Continue on to the next page to learn about the 1972 Pontiac.

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