The Pontiac Grand Prix is an automobile that was produced by the Pontiac division of General Motors. First introduced as part of Pontiac's full-size model offering for the 1962 model year, the Grand Prix name was also applied to cars in the personal luxury car market segment and the mid-size offering, slotting below the large Bonneville in the company's lineup.
First generation (1962–1968)
Picking up where the Pontiac Ventura model left off, the Grand Prix first appeared in the Pontiac line for 1962. It was essentially a standard Pontiac Catalina coupe with minimal outside chrome trim and a sportier interior (bucket seats and a center console). The performance-minded John De Lorean, head of Advanced Engineering at Pontiac, contributed greatly to the development of both the Grand Prix and the GTO. Early models had full access to the Pontiac performance option list, including the factory-race Super Duty 421 powertrain installed in a handful of 1962 and 1963 cars.
The full-size Catalina-based Grand Prix did very well through the 1960s, and is often credited with the move towards minimal exterior trim seen in the 1960s. Yet its clear resemblance to the other full-size Pontiacs caused some to consider it a lesser model than the other personal luxury cars. At the same time, the Grand Prix had a much stronger performance image than its competitors.
Aside from the minimal exterior chrome trim and distinctive grille and taillights, the first Grand Prix was much like other full-sized Pontiacs. It was essentially a Catalina hardtop coupe trimmed to standards similar to the larger top-line Bonneville.
Inside were bucket seats upholstered Morrokide vinyl and separated by a center console including a floor shifter, storage compartment and tachometer at the front end. The rear seat was of the bench type with a center armrest below a radio speaker grille (which could be made functional with the extra-cost Bi-Phonic rear speaker), along with nylon loop-blend carpeting covering the floor and lower door panels. Other standards including a padded instrument panel, deluxe steering wheel, courtesy lights and other items.
The standard engine was the Bonneville's 303 hp (226 kW) 389 cu in (6.4 L) V8 with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts. Optionally available were a 389 Tri-Power with three two-barrel carburetors and 318 hp (237 kW), and two other higher-output 389s including a four-barrel version rated 333 hp (248 kW) and 348 hp (260 kW) Tri-Power option. Late in the model year a "street" version of the larger 421, primarily a racing engine in 1961 and most of 1962, became available, but only in a four-barrel form rated at 320 hp (240 kW). Pontiac also offered the 421 cu in (7 l) Super Duty with two four-barrel carburetors, rated at 405 hp (302 kW), as a US$2,250 option (when the base Grand Prix listed at US$3,490). Also standard was a three-speed manual transmission, while optional transmissions included a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed with Hurst shifter or the three-speed Roto Hydra-matic.
For 1963, the Grand Prix received revised sheetmetal shared with other full-size Pontiacs, but with its own squared-off roofline with a concave rear window that contrasted with the convertible-like roofline of the 1962 Grand Prix and continued on the 1963 to 1964 Catalina and Bonneville. Also new was a Pontiac-trademark split grille with vertical headlights and round parking lights and "hidden" taillights out back. Aside from grillework, taillight covering and bumpers, chrome trim was limited to lower rocker panels, wheel arches and roofline.
Inside, the GP continued with luxurious interiors featuring bucket seats upholstered in Morrokide vinyl and separated by a console that was now built into the instrument panel containing a vacuum gauge (with Hydra-matic) and real walnut trim on the instrument panel and a dash mounted tachometer (manual transmission), along with revised custom pedal trim plates. A wide assortment of options were available including power steering, brakes, windows and driver's seat; air conditioning, eight-lug aluminum wheels with integrated brake drums, Safe-T-Track differential and other items. New options this year included an AM/FM radio, cruise control and a tilt steering wheel that could be adjusted to seven different positions.
Under the hood, the 303 hp (226 kW) 389 four-barrel V8 remained the standard engine. A new lineup of optional engines was introduced this year which included the 330 hp (250 kW) 389 Tri-Power and three versions of the larger 421 in³ V8 including a standard four-barrel version rated at 320 hp (240 kW), a 350 hp (260 kW) Tri-Power option, and the 421 HO option with Tri-Power carburetion and 370 hp (280 kW). The same selection of transmissions continued including the standard three-speed manual, optional four-speed manual or three-speed Roto Hydra-matic. Brakes were 11 in (28 cm) drums.
The 1964 Grand Prix received only minor appearance changes from the 1963 edition. Those included a revised grille (based on the 1964 Bonneville/Catalina) with new "GP" logos and rear deck trim with new taillights, still hidden, again following the shape of the other big '64 Pontiacs).
Revised upholstery trims highlighted the interior, still featuring expanded Morrokide vinyl bucket seats and console as standard equipment.
Engine offerings were mostly unchanged from 1963 except that the standard 303 hp (226 kW) 389 four-barrel V8 gained three 3 hp (2.2 kW), with the extra-cost Hydra-matic transmission. The standard three-speed manual and optional Hydra-matic transmissions were unchanged from 1963, however, a new GM-built Muncie four-speed available in either a wide-ratio M-20 or close-ratio M-21 options replaced the Borg-Warner T-10.
Grand Prixs and all other full-sized Pontiacs were completely restyled for 1965 featuring more rounded bodylines with Coke-bottle profiles, and a 1 in (25 mm) increase in wheelbase to 121 in (3,100 mm) (for Grand Prix, Catalina, and all Safari station wagons — Bonneville and Star Chief increased proportionally from 123 in (3,100 mm) to 124 in (3,100 mm). While other Pontiac coupes received the semi-fastback rooflines shared with other GM divisions, Grand Prixs retained the exclusive squared-off roofline with concave rear window but a bit more rounded than the 1963-64 version. The old GM-X frame was replaced with a new box-frame with side perimeter rails. Inside, interior were revised with all-new instrument panels featuring a larger dose of walnut trim which now extended to the center console standard with bucket seats, along with a new steering wheel with horn bars replacing the horn ring used in previous years. The standard bucket seats could be upholstered either in expanded Morrokide vinyl or a new cloth-and-Morrokide trim. New for 1965 was a no-cost bench seat option with center armrest available with either upholstery choice.
New options this year included an automatic air conditioning system for which the driver could set a constant year-round temperature setting, if desired. This system, first introduced by Cadillac in 1964, was available in addition to the regular Circ-L-Aire Conditioning. Hazard flashers were also optional.
Engine offerings were revised for 1965. The standard four-barrel 389 in³ V8 was uprated to 333 hp (248 kW) with a manual transmission or 325 hp (242 kW) with automatic. Optional engines included a 389 Tri-Power and 421 four-barrel — both rated at 338 hp (252 kW); a 421 Tri-Power rated at 350 hp (260 kW) and the 421 HO Tri-Power with 376 hp (280 kW). The standard three-speed and optional four-speed manual transmissions were carried over from 1964, however, a new three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic transmission with torque-converter that was similar in principle to Ford's Cruise-O-Matic and Chrysler's Torqueflite replaced the older three-speed fluid coupling Roto Hydra-matic (along with the four-speed Super Hydra-matic in Bonneville and Star Chief models). The Turbo Hydra-matic also featured the now-standardized P-R-N-D-S-L shift quadrant pattern in place of the P-N-D-S-L-R setup of previous Hydra-matics.
A 1965 Grand Prix road test was featured in the February, 1965 issue of Motor Trend magazine, much of which was devoted the entire Pontiac lineup receiving M/T "Car of the Year" honors for 1965. Other Pontiac road tests in that issue included a GTO convertible, Tempest Custom sedan, Catalina Vista hardtop sedan, and Bonneville hardtop coupe.
The 1966 Grand Prix received only minor appearance revisions from the 1965 edition including a new more rounded split grille and new taillight trim. Inside, a revised instrument panel included a squared off gauge panel and new Strato bucket seats in either Morrokide or cloth upholstery with higher seatbacks and more contoured cushions for improved lateral support. The Strato buckets were standard equipment along with a console, but a notchback bench seat with center armrest was a no-cost option.
Engine offerings were largely unchanged from 1965 except that the 338 hp (252 kW) Tri-Power 389 option was discontinued, leaving only the larger 421 available with the three two-barrel carb option, which was offered for the last time this year due to a new General Motors edict that banned the use of multi-carb options on all GM cars with the exception of the Chevrolet Corvette starting with the 1967 model year.
Revised sheetmetal with more rounded wasp-waisted styling highlighted the 1967 Grand Prix and other full-sized Pontiacs, along with the addition of a new Grand Prix convertible. Also new to the GP were concealed headlights with horizontal mounting (all other full-size '67 Pontiacs retained the vertical headlights for one more year), concealed windshield wipers and ventless front windows on hardtop coupes. Out back were louvered taillights similar to those found on the GTO.
Inside, Strato bucket seats and console were still standard equipment with Morrokide vinyl or cloth upholstery, or a no-cost optional notchback bench seat with either trims. Other changes included a revised instrument panel and door panel trim.
Under the hood, the 389 V8 was replaced by a new 400 cu in (6.6 l) V8 with four-barrel carburetor, dual exhausts and 350 hp (260 kW). Similarly, the 421 V8 was replaced by a new 428 cu in (7.0 l) V8 rated at 360 hp (270 kW) or an HO version with 376 hp (280 kW) - both with four-barrel carburetors. Both the 400 and 428 V8s were basically bored out versions of the older 389/421 block but with various internal improvements including bigger valves and improved breathing capabilities.
New this year was a dual master-cylinder braking system and optional front disc brakes along with Rally II wheels. Also new for 1967 was an energy-absorbing collapsable steering column. Plus, Pontiac added an 8-track Stereo tape player.
The Grand Prix convertible would be a one-year only offering and dropped after this one year.
The 1968 Grand Prix received a new "beak-nose" grille and bumper with concealed headlights and revised rear deck/bumper with L-shaped taillights, plus side reflector markers to meet a new federal safety mandate. The convertible was discontinued, leaving only the hardtop coupe for '68.
The standard 350 hp (260 kW) 400 cu in (6.6 l) V8 was unchanged from 1967 aside from revisions in order to meet the 1968 emission regulations, both Federal and California. Both optional 428 cu in (7.0 l) V8s received higher power ratings of 375 hp (280 kW) for the base version and 390 hp (290 kW) the HO.
Interior trim only received minor changes from 1967 aside from revised door panels.
This would be the final year for the Grand Prix to be based on the B-body full-sized car platform. The 1969 GP would be all-new with an exclusive bodyshell but its chassis design was based on the smaller Pontiac A-body intermediates (Tempest, LeMans, and GTO).
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