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.
©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.
©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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