1973-1977 Pontiac Grand Prix


The new generation represented by the 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix had to share some key style and engineering elements with many General Motors intermediates. That was a blow to the GP's famous distinctiveness, but it was hardly a fatal one.

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1976 Pontiac Grand Prix
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The T-top removable roof panels, opera windows, landau vinyl roof, and stand-up hood ornament on this 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix were typical trappings all U.S. carmakers were using to woo buyers in the mid-70s. See more classic car pictures.

Conventional wisdom has it that the Seventies were dismal years for American cars. So long confident in its ability to master the public's tastes and needs, Detroit suddenly found itself whipsawed by strong competition from abroad and new layers of regulation at home. Trying to adapt the cars it had on hand to meet these challenges didn't always result in the happiest outcomes.

Tremendous gains in performance, as measured in raw horsepower, were swept away with a rising tide of safety and exhaust emissions standards. With that avenue closed to them, automakers turned to luxury as a selling point. All kinds of cars were newly dolled-up in plush trappings. The trick worked especially well on mid-sized, two-door "personal" cars that sustained the Big Three through these difficult times.

The Oldsmobile Cutlass became the country's most popular nameplate, spurred by strong demand for its formal-roofed Supreme coupe. New designs launched in 1977 resulted in the best sales years ever for the Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar XR-7. Chrysler, staunchly dedicated to nothing but full-sized cars, could resist no longer and brought out the Cordoba in 1975. It was an instant hit.

That the 1973-1977 Pontiac Grand Prix would also turn out to be one of these successes seems to be no sure thing in retrospect. The car arrived under less than ideal circumstances. Through a series of delays triggered by the infamous General Motors strike in the fall of 1970, Pontiac was forced to delay its release. Instead of coming out for 1972, the all-new GP was held over to 1973. Though it did a very good job of continuing the Grand Prix tradition of personal luxury combined with sporty flair, it represented the beginning of GM's homogenization of its mid-size car platforms. The bold individual statement the GP had previously made was beginning to be quieted.

The Grand Prix's basic body was now shared with Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Buick. Additionally, the new GP was forced into sharing a 116-inch wheelbase used by the Monte Carlo and all intermediate four-doors. For the GP, this represented a two-inch loss from 1972.

Further watering down the Grand Prix's unique flavor was the fact that the new G-body for "personal coupes" was quite similar to the redesigned A-body for mainline intermediates. In fact, the Buick Century Luxus and Regal, as well as the Olds Cutlass Supreme, were A/G-body crossbreeds that grafted the G-body roof onto the 112-inch-wheelbase platform used by A-body coupes. Adding to the confusion was the new Pontiac Grand Am, which was also competing for the performance-oriented portion of the GP market. Unfortunately, this overlapping marketing would gain momentum in subsequent years and would come in for its share of blame for declining GM sales.

Continue to the next page for specs and features on the 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix.

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The 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix

Like its corporate cousins, the 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix featured a new "colonnade" roof style that had fixed rear "opera" windows. With the onset of new government safety regulations, the roof design combined the graceful look of a hardtop with the additional rollover protection of a pillared coupe. Up front, the headlight and grille design recalled the look of the previous-generation GP, with its large vertical-slatted grille and dual headlamps finished off with squared bezels.

As on the earlier cars, the turn signals were cut into the leading edge of the front fenders. Suspended by energy absorbers that bounced back from minor impacts, the Grand Prix's slim front bumper jutted ahead of the grille in another bow to the new safety standards.

1973 Pontiac Grand Prix
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
When the new Grand Prix finally made it to market as a 1973, it surrendered its unique 118-inch-wheelbase chassis of 1969-1972 for a 116-inch stretch.

Perhaps the most apparent difference was in the Grand Prix's new proportions. Gone was that super-long, almost exaggerated headline of the previous generation. In its place was a more conventional interpretation of the "long-hood/short-deck" styling theme that became standardized among other GM G-bodies. In keeping with tradition though, the hood featured the familiar "ironing board" sculpting that came to a point at the grille. The rear of the 1973 Grand Prix featured a new interpretation of its predecessor's sculpted rear deck. While the slotted taillamps were no longer set in the rear bumper, the design was an evolutionary step and integrated the protruding rear bumper as well as possible.

Two versions of the Grand Prix were offered for 1973, the base model and the sportier, upscale SJ. (The Model J designation used previously on base models was dropped.) The SJ differed from the entry-level Grand Prix by virtue of its larger standard engine and its "Radial Tuned Suspension," which included specific coil springs, stiffer shocks, and a larger front sway bar. Interior accoutrements for both models included a custom-padded steering wheel and African crossfire mahogany instrument panel inserts.

Although the 1973 GP lost two inches of wheelbase, it actually gained three inches in overall length. It was now 216.6 inches long and the increase was comprised primarily in the federally-mandated bumpers. The big difference was in weight. While the base GP's shipping weight rose "only" 125 pounds from the previous year, the scales under a fully loaded SJ could register 4,400 pounds, a gain of more than 500 pounds.

On the next page, read about the 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix's engines and specifications.

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1973 Pontiac Grand Prix Engines and Specifications

Powertrain offerings for the 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix were a virtual carryover from the year before. The Grand Prix's base engine was the familiar 400-cubic-inch Pontiac V-8. Equipped with a Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor, it was rated at 230 net horsepower at 4,400 rpm, with 325 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 revs. The compression ratio was 8.0:1.

The only other engine choice was the four-barrel 455-cube V-8 standard on the SJ. This larger engine was rated at 250 horsepower at 4,000 rpm, with 370 pound-feet of torque at 2,800 spins. It also had an 8.0:1 compression ratio. The only transmission for either engine was a Turbo 400 automatic; manual transmissions had been dropped from the Grand Prix line in March 1971.

1974 Pontiac Grand Prix
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Hobbled by the OPEC oil embargo that sent consumers in search of smaller, more fuel-efficient 1974 cars, Grand Prix orders dipped to just below the 100,000 mark.

While it is not widely known, the legendary 455 Super Duty V-8 was originally intended to be offered in the Grand Prix, as well as in the GTO and Grand Am. Though mentioned in dealer catalogs, the option never came to pass in those cars. It was reserved instead for the 1973-1974 Firebird Formula and Trans Am.

Despite the extra weight and the lack of Super Duty power, the new GP was a runaway success. While 1972's total production of 91,961 Grand Prixs was certainly respectable, it paled in comparison to the new car. All told, 1973 Grand Prix production soared to 153,899 units, 20,749 of which were the upscale SJ models.

The lion's share of the record-setting automotive market in 1973 was centered around mid-sized models, with very strong demand for two-doors. Among the Grand Prix's G-body kin, Chevy's Monte Carlo sold a very impressive 290,693 units. The Olds Cutlass Supreme accounted for 219,857 orders, while Buick buyers took home 163,269 Luxus and Regal coupes.

On the next page, read about how OPEC's 1973 oil embargo impacted the 1974 and 1975 Pontiac Grand Prix.

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The 1974, 1975 Pontiac Grand Prix

Pontiac's 1974 Grand Prix had one major obstacle right out of the gate: The 1973 oil embargo called by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was a major blow to the intermediate car market. The resulting fuel shortages, which hit as the 1974 model year was getting under way, pushed gas prices to new heights.

Buyers flocked to smaller, more fuel-efficient subcompacts made in the U.S. and abroad. Not surprisingly, 1974 Grand Prix production dropped off to 99,817 cars. While this figure marked a devastating drop of 35 percent, it was still good enough to rank as the GP's third-highest sales year to date.

1974 Pontiac Grand Prix
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Grand Prix prices started at $4,936 for the 1974 Model J (as the base car was now called), but that didn't cover extras.

The 1974 model year saw little more than some minor cosmetic changes. The revised grille treatment extended only as far as the top of the new thicker front bumper, which was accented with large, upright guards. The headlamps were housed in bezels that were taller and more rectangular than the previous year. The overall effect made the front of the car more massive looking than before. Out back, the taillamps were now paired vertical units, and the sides received sculpting lines. The "J" designation made its return to the base Grand Prix.

Powerplant offerings for 1974 included the standard 400-cubic-inch V-8, which dropped five horsepower from the year before to 225. The 455 V-8, which held its 250 horses, and was again standard in the SJ.

1975 Pontiac Grand Prix
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Little was done to change the 1975 Grand Prix, save for the usual grille texture and taillight shuffle.

The 1975 Grand Prix was essentially a carryover from 1974 in terms of styling changes. The few changes that were made were concentrated in the grille, which had fewer slats, and in the taillamps, which had a number of fine vertical ribs running through them. The genuine mahagony inserts on the dash were dropped, however. Wood-grained plastic trim took their place.

The Grand Prix was now divided into three trim levels. First was the standard J coupe, next up was the SJ, which became more tightly imaged as the "sporty" version, and the new luxury-based LJ featuring velour upholstery and a choice of two-tone paint schemes.

The 1975 model year saw some significant changes in emission control devices and a subsequent reduction in horsepower. This was the first year for mandatory use of unleaded fuel and catalytic converters. All Pontiac V-8s received the new GM High Energy Ignition System, which was claimed to deliver three times the firing power to the spark plugs, allowing for a wide (.060 inch) plug gap. This resulted in more complete combustion, which aided efficiency and reduced emissions somewhat. Further reduction in oxides of nitrogen emissions came from a lowering of compression from 8.0:1 to 7.6:1 in the 400- and 455-cubic-inch engines.

The 1975 engine lineup was as follows: The base engine was a four-barrel 400, now rated at a rather lethargic 185 horsepower, a loss of a full 40 horses. (A federally-certified 170-horsepower two-barrel 400 was also optional in all models.) The 455 V-8 with four-barrel carburetion was down to just 200 horsepower; it remained standard in the SJ. There has been a bit of controversy over the years as to whether the actual power losses in Pontiac engines were as dramatic as the ratings indicated. In any event, it wasn't a positive sign for performance enthusiasts.

Another thing heading downward -- again -- was production. The total for model-year 1975, a generally tough year industrywide, was 86,582 Grand Prixs, 64,581 of which were standard J models.

Continue to the next page to read about changes made to the Grand Prix for 1976, Pontiac's 50th-anniversary year.

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The 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix

For 1976, Pontiac performed a major facelift of the 1973-vintage Grand Prix. The new styling effectively updated the look and significantly broke with tradition. Up front, the familiar dual round headlamps were replaced with four rectangular units. Likewise, the grille was an all-new "waterfall" design that folded over the top of the header panel. This cleverly executed update was a dramatic change from the previous Duesenberg-inspired design, which could be traced back to the 1969 model year.

1976 Pontiac Grand Prix
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
A sweeping facelift greeted the Grand Prix for 1976, which was Pontiac's 50th anniversary year. One of the 4,807 golden anniversary specials made that year posed with a 1926 Pontiac coupe.

In order to increase sales in the lower end of the personal luxury market and fill the void left by the departure of the Grand Am, Pontiac made a "value leader" out of the entry-level Grand Prix (no longer going by the Model J name). Base price was reduced by $500 and the standard equipment level was lowered somewhat. This price fighter arrived with a new 60/40 full-width bench seat with fold-down center armrest. Power came from a 160-horsepower, 350-cubic-inch V-8 equipped with a two-barrel carb (Californians received a four-barrel version) coupled to a Turbo 350 automatic transmission, both borrowed from the Le-Mans line. The 350 V-8 was the smallest engine ever offered in the Grand Prix up to that time.

Of course, if a more upscale version was desired, the SJ and LJ were still both available, each returned with similar levels of trim as in 1975. Furthermore, to commemorate its 50th anniversary, Pontiac released a special limited edition Grand Prix LJ. As one would expect, all were painted gold and featured such niceties as removable roof hatches, a specific 50th anniversary hood ornament and trunk lock cover, and unique pin-striping. Pontiac built 4,807 commemorative Grand Prixs. Already fairly rare when new, they are even more so today. Anniversary models could be considered a good bet for future collectibility, as few are ever seen at car shows.

As well as the aforementioned Pontiac 350, available engines for the 1976 Grand Prix included the 185-horsepower 400 four-barrel, now the standard engine in the SJ. The 200-horse, 455-cube four-barrel was now an option for all models. (Pontiac also built one 1976 Grand Prix with the as-yet unreleased 301-cubic-inch V-8. The GP and a companion 1976 Sunbird -- with another impending engine, the four-cylinder "Iron Duke" -- were part of a publicity campaign sponsored by Pontiac and National Car Rental. The two cars were driven around the world to show that National's rental fleet, and its Pontiacs in particular, were reliable.)

The reshuffling of standard and optional equipment was exactly what the market demanded, and Pontiac was rewarded with a new Grand Prix production record in a model year when sales of larger cars were generally on the rebound. The combined totals tallied up to a whopping 228,091 units. (The base and SJ series each accounted for more assemblies than the entire 1975 Grand Prix line.) While this was still considerably shy of the 353,272 Chevy Monte Carlos made for 1976, it represented a 163-percent jump in GP production, a tremendous increase by anyone's measure.

On the next page, find out how Pontiac updated the 1976 Grand Prix lineup.

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The 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix

The 1977 model year would prove to be the Grand Prix's last on the second-generation G-body platform. All Grand Prix models received a minor facelift for 1977, the most significant change being a new grille design that featured a more restrained "waterfall" effect. The fine vertical bar treatment used in 1976 was replaced with five thick bars on each side. The taillamps were also updated slightly. The T-top from the previous year's anniversary edition became a regular Grand Prix option, and the optional "honeycomb" wheels first seen in 1971 were discontinued in favor of a new "snowflake" aluminum wheel design.

1977 Pontiac Grand Prix
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The T-tops that were part of the 1976 50th anniversary package joined the regular options list for 1977.

The ever-tightening California and federal emission standards contributed to the most confusing engine roster the Grand Prix had ever seen. Depending on the state to which a car was to be delivered, there might be a Pontiac-, Chevrolet-, or Oldsmobile-built V-8 under the hood, as there was a 49-state engine lineup and a California and high-altitude lineup.

The base GP engine for 1977 was Pontiac's new 301-cubic-inch (4.9-liter) V-8. It shared many basic block dimensions with an experimental 303 Trans Am race engine from 1969, though the new production powerplant was not nearly as beefy. Its deck was one inch shorter than its larger siblings. Connecting rods measured 6.05 inches versus 6.625 inches for its larger brothers. The bore and stroke measured 4x3 inches, respectively, and the pistons and connecting rods were shared with Pontiac's new 151-cubic-inch "Iron Duke" four.

The new engine shared the same three-inch main journal diameters as the 350 and 400 V-8s. The block, heads, and intake manifold were very lightweight castings, and the crankshaft only had counterweights on each end in the interest of weight reduction. Although the 301 was based on the tried and true Pontiac V-8, there were enough differences to preclude a great deal of parts interchange.

The result of the pound-shaving efforts dropped the overall weight of the 301 significantly. While the larger Pontiac engines tipped the scales between 640 and 675 pounds, the new V-8 came in at a very trim 452 pounds, about the same weight as Buick's 231-cubic-inch V-6.

The 301 produced 135 horsepower at 3,800 rpm, with 240 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. While the horsepower rating would only rank as mediocre for the current crop of four-cylinders, the power level of the 301 was similar to other 5.0-liter V-8 engines of the period and had the advantage of being lighter in weight.

Next up the option ladder was the "5.7 liter" V-8 engine. Depending on the time and plant in which a car was built and the zone to which it was delivered, the buyer might receive a 350-cubic-inch Pontiac, Olds, or Chevy engine.

There were a couple of reasons for this. The first problem was that the Pontiac 350 would not pass the stricter California and high-altitude emission standards. For those areas, the division substituted the Oldsmobile-designed 350. Since the Olds engines were cleaner running than the other GM V-8s, there was a great demand for them. The resulting shortage of Olds 350s meant that not even Oldsmobile had enough of them for its Cutlasses. In turn, Chevrolet's 350 began filling in for the Olds 350.

The top GP engine option for 1977 was the "6.6-liter" V-8, which was standard in the SJ. Again, depending on time and place of delivery, the actual engine could be the 180-horsepower Pontiac 400 or the cleaner-burning 185-horse Oldsmobile 403. (Like the smaller-displacement Olds V-8, the 403 was also in short supply.) The 455 was discontinued at the end of 1976.

Continue to the next page to read about the 1977 Grand Prix's sales successes.

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The 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix Production

The Pontiac Grand Prix and other GM cars suffered from engine shortages caused by the need to meet the various emission standards, which meant that some buyers of GM cars did not receive the engines they had ordered. This resulted in a class-action suit against General Motors by irate owners and consumer advocates.

The media quickly picked up on the suit and GM received a lot of negative publicity over the incident. As it turned out, the only winners were dealers. They took back the cars in question only after setting a mileage charge that could cost the consumer as much as $2,000. Then they would have the opportunity resell the low-mileage used car at a premium.

1977 Pontiac Grand Prix
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The starting price for a 1977 LJ was just a bit under $5,500, but the final tab could top $9,000 if you ordered every option.

Despite the loss of the 455 and the "which engine is it?" fiasco, 1977 proved to be the best year ever for Grand Prix sales. Model-year production came to 288,430. A significant portion of the GP's record-setting sales figure could be attributed to the fact that the public knew that this was the last year for the "big Grand Prix." The 1978 model year would usher in a much smaller car that would be powered by a new generation of V-6 and small V-8 engines. Despite the claims of greater efficiency and space utilization, as well as improved gas mileage, many buyers could instinctively sense that things wouldn't be the same for the Grand Prix and the rest of the GM intermediates.

That is not to say that the 1978-1987 Grand Prix models were not good cars. They were solidly designed, had great durability, and average, if not spectacular, build quality. The problem was that they looked like the Monte Carlo, which looked like the Regal, which looked like the Cutlass. Not surprisingly, sales of the Grand Prix dropped by almost 60,000 in 1978 and the downward slide in sales would accelerate.

Something was lost the day the last 1977 GP rolled off the line and that something was individuality. Though Pontiac's second-generation G-body did lose a little up to that point, there was still a lot left. Its unique blend of luxury and performance was something the nameplate would not experience again for another decade. And isn't that what owning a Grand Prix was supposed to be about?

Continue to the next page for models, prices, and production numbers for 1973-1977 Pontiac Grand Prix.

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1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix Models, Prices, Production

The 1973-1977 Pontiac Grand Prixs incorporated ever-tightening emissions standard, all the while producing cars that sold well and won praise from the public. On the charts below, find weights, prices, and production figures for Pontiac Grand Prixs from 1973 to 1977.

1973 Pontiac Grand Prix


WeightPrice
Production
(wb 116)



coupe 4,025 $4,583 133,150
SJ coupe 4,400 $4,962 20,749
Total 1973 Grand Prix

153,899

1974 Pontiac Grand Prix


WeightPrice
Production
(wb 116)


J coupe 4,096$4,936 85,976
SJ coupe 4,300 $5,321 13,841
Total 1974 Grand Prix


99,817

1975 Pontiac Grand Prix


WeightPrice
Production
(wb 116)


J coupe
4,032$5,296 64,581
SJ coupe -- $5,573 7,146
LJ coupe -- $5,995 14,855
Total 1975 Grand Prix

86,582

1976 Pontiac Grand Prix

WeightPrice
Production
(wb 116)


coupe 4,048$4,798 110,814
SJ coupe 4,052 $5,223 88,232
LJ coupe ----
290,452
Total 1976 Grand Prix

228,091

1977 Pontiac Grand Prix

WeightPrice
Production
(wb 116)


coupe 3,804 $5,120 168,247
LJ coupe 3,815 $5,483 66,741
SJ coupe 3,976 $5,753 53,442
Total 1977 Grand Prix


288,430

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