By on January 7, 2010

haven't I seen this before?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest Pontiac of them all? Pontiac’s golden decade, starting in 1963, has plenty of contenders. The ’63 full-size Pontiacs, headed up by the mile-stone Grand Prix shocked and revolutionized the whole industry. Some love the swashbuckling and hippy ’65 GP, or the even the more voluptuous ’67. The midsized Le Mans and GTO has its fans, as does the ’71 Firebird . But the ’69 Grand Prix may well be the one, for sheer dramatic effect, proportions, and its more restrained size. Well, even if you don’t think the ’69 is the one (and I may be in your camp), I’m going to blow my horn and say that this photo is pretty fair. Does it remind you of something you’ve seen before? “It” was in the back of my mind when I was shooting this GP, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well I had remembered “it” when I got back home:

this ad was still in my head 41 years later as I shot the gp

Like (almost) all of my CC, this was not a staged shot in any way. I was driving out West 11th, taking my daughter to Target in the late afternoon, when I saw the GP. I was pretty anxious about how low the sun was already, because I’ve had trouble with that before, especially with dark cars. But as I stood facing that six-foot long hood, and saw how the low light and shadows were playing in its folds, I suddenly saw a ’69 GP ad in my mind’s eve, the one you’re looking at here. It’s been forty one years since I saw it in Time or Life, but Pontiac’s ads rendered by the team of Art Fitzpatrick (the cars) and Van Kaufman (backgrounds) were the equivalent of Van Gogh or Vargas in my youth.

They perfectly capture the magical essence of Detroit’s golden years, and despite their corniness and slightly psychedelic quality (or because of it), they are my favorite and most deeply impressed-in-my-mind ads of that time. I’m going to do a separate post on their Pontiac work to follow this CC.

CC 67 022 800

The ’69 GP was a major departure  for Pontiac, since it had always been the standard bearer of the full-size line. This car sits on an extended 118′ wheelbase version of GM’s mid-size four-doors, which had an extra four inches over the coupes beginning with 1968. Pontiac’s decision to move the GP onto this platform was both brilliant and yet somehow disappointing.

Brilliant in that it anticipated the demise of the full size car, or at least their leading role as trend-setters and glamor-mobiles. Increasingly, full size cars became more sedan-focused, as the big coupes became irrelevant. Which makes sense, given how huge they were becoming, especially after 1971. Pontiac saw this in advance, and their move with the GP signaled a coming corporate-wide shift to “mid-sized” coupes as the standard-bearers and as the big sellers.

CC 67 023 800

The disappointment with this move is easily explained: just look at the interior of this GP. It’s virtually indistinguishable from a pedestrian Le Mans coupe of the same vintage. The big, old GPs came with buckets, console and those magnificent chrome-plated altars of a dash. Well, those were all being sacrificed on the altar of bean-counting anyway, as our recent ’68 Buick Riviera CC showed all too clearly. The sixties marked a big shift by GM and the rest of the US industry in de-contenting luxury cars to keep their cost down and dramatically boost volume. In the process, they lost their exclusivity, and opened the doors for the imports. Buckets and console, along with pretty much all the other goodies, were on the long option list. The 428 HO would be a good one to check off.

the le mans wants it cheap interior back

The ’69 GP’s price and sales stats tells this tale: its starting price, $3,866 ($22,460, adjusted) is lower than the the inflation adjusted price of its full-size predecessor, but not by nearly as much as it was cheaper to build. Let’s not forget that this is a Le Mans coupe with rhinoplasty and a new C pillar. Sales exploded, to over 112k, four times its bloated ’67 predecessor. Profit margins undoubtedly increased by at least  that amount too.

CC 67 021 800

The ’69 GP’s use of the 116″ mid-size platform did come with a price: it had to share the body shell with Chevrolet, for their new Monte Carlo. Pontiac did get the first year for itself, as a reward for its efforts. But sales dipped in 1970 and for the rest of this body style through 1972, probably because of the MC.

CC 67 014 800

Speaking of 1971, there are some who probably like the refreshed face of the ‘71 – ’72 GP even more than the original. With its single headlights and more “classic” grille, it unfortunately became the prototype for all those garish seventies “Super Fly” customs and pimp-mobiles, like the Bugazzi. That’s where this handsome coupe starts lose it for me; it and the Lincoln Mark III shared the same proportions and details that were too obvious retro with their exaggerated long hoods, classic grilles, vinyl tops, and other affectations. The 1963 Grand Prix was still a trail-blazer; the ’69 a follower stylistically, and a trend-setter for a garish decades of coupes to come.

CC 67 024 800

This GP also makes an interesting contrast to the XJ-C coupe we did earlier this week. They both came out about the same time (the Jag’s sedan donor, that is), and are clearly contenders for the all-time coupe beauty sweepstakes. Me? I’ll take the Jag with the Grand Prix’ engine and electrical system. And a nice ’63 GP to keep it company. How about you?

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61 Comments on “Curbside Classic: The Most Beautiful Pontiac Ever? 1969 Grand Prix...”


  • avatar
    fincar1

    I’m a Firebird guy myself when it comes to Pontiacs, but the plain LeMans sedans of the early 70′s were styled like nothing else of the time. It’s a long time since I’ve seen one of those.
    And as far as that Jaguar is concerned, for some reason it just doesn’t speak to me at all.

  • avatar
    Roundel

    My father is the original owner of a 63 Midnight blue GP, 71000 original miles. The paint is shot and needs plenty of detail work, but still runs fine with some minor tuning. He’s trying to restore it little by little, thinking it will fetch him some money in the future. He still doesn’t understand that their is far more sentimental value, than real value in it. This is no GTO
    I would have to say that the 63 was far more graceful in apperance while this 69 is just too 70′s for me, the front end is nothing special, especially the protruding grille, and while the interior is more modern, isn’t as unique as the 63 was.
    Maybe I’m personally biased, but I think early to mid 60′s was Pontiacs prime,  not this.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    Wow, thanks for this post…great memories. My mother had a ’69 GP…triple-black with buckets and the floor console/autoshift  when I was a little one… that car was soooo hot. Some of my first memories were of her driving me around in that car… 80+mph on the freeway, sliding around in the snow in a Chicago winter, the patterned (black) vinyl getting scorching hot on a sunny summer day, and leaving ‘patterned vinyl marks’ on your legs if you were wearing shorts.

    We had that car for several years and then traded it in for a new loaded ’75 silver/black Grand Prix LJ… The ’69 was way cooler.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    Hubba Hubba!  Nice car.  My mom’s best friend had one exactly like this when I was a kid… I used to encourage her to “blow the doors off” of the other cars at stoplights.  It was a crazy car to own for her, she is all of 5’1″… boy could that car scoot.  Thanks for sharing!

  • avatar

    I had a 77 Grand Prix SJ, red with a white landau roof and white vinyl buckets. I LOVED that car to pieces, then crashed it to pieces.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      I just had to reply to this..  Mine was a 77 too, two-tone gold with T-tops, honeycomb mags and all power.
      She too, died an untimely death.. :(  Even the late 70′s GP’s fetch a premium..

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      My first car was a 1976 Grand Prix, a hand-me-down from my dad. I loved that thing. The influence of the bodywork from 1969 was still present 7 years later, and the interior hardly changed. I still remember the smooth radial tuned ride  that’s more comfortable than my air suspension LS430, being able to accelerate at 1/8th throttle using the engine’s low end torque, and the long hood/short deck proportions that required the hood ornament as a marker to keep the car in it’s lane.

      Unfortunately, it had so much rust by the early 80′s it never looked as good as when new.  Also never got better than 16mpg around town from the 155hp 350 2 bbl.

  • avatar

    The 2008 Grand Prix will probably be remembered as the best looking of this variant. The 1969 Grand Prix does have some camp valve, but it looks ridiculous today.

    • 0 avatar
      whynotaztec

      Surely you jest!

      I have fond memories of a silver 79 with t-tops, leather, and the 301 v8.  Quick, but really hard 1-2 upshift.

    • 0 avatar

      I couldn’t disagree with Akear more. A 2008 Grand Prix is a Tupperware cookie cutter car that I couldn’t pick out of a lineup in a million years. Park that big old GP beside the new car and see which one gets all of the attention. Ridiculous has massively more curb appeal in an era of lookalikes to the extreme.

  • avatar
    Bergwerk

    This is a beautiful car.  I built a model of this (MPC I think) as a kid.  The pointy-nose Pontiacs, especially this and the 1st gen Firebird, were my favorites.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    My mom had a ’71 GP that was the first car that I drove regularly. The high compression engine really made it move (as long as you stayed in a straight line), leading to some mild hoonage. Taking it on dates was much classier than the average suburban Dadillac, but the front buckets and the wrap around cockpit made getting close to the girl impossible. I would have much preferred the bench seat in this model!

  • avatar
    texlovera

    My brother traded in his 68(?) Firebird for a ’75(?) Grand Prix; that GP was truly a pimpmobile.  I also much prefer the “pointy-nosed” era of Pontiacs.  Thanks for posting this!

  • avatar
    cstoc

    I always thought these cars were beautiful, but my favorite is still the 1971 version.  Actually, I liked the LeMans, Firebird, and full-sized Catalina/Bonneville models of 1971 as well.  I loved the GM cars from about ’64 to ’71; after that they seemed to lose something.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    She’s a beaut…

  • avatar
    also Tom

    The ’62 Grand Prix. Crisp and clean. No vinyl outside. The original is still the greatest.  End of Story.

  • avatar
    geeber

    These are handsome cars, but I would have to say that both the 1963 and 1964 Grand Prix are better looking. Those two years of Grand Prix (anybody remember the reddish-orange Matchbox version of the 1964 model?) and the 1968-69 GTO hardtop coupe are the two best-looking Pontiacs, in my opinion.

    And while the 1963 Grand Prix with its chromeless sides, and the entire 1963 full-size line with its stacked headlights, were very influential, Pontiac first grabbed third place in sales in 1962 (knocking out Rambler).

    The 1969 Grand Prix did have a unique dashboard as compared to the LeMans. It was noted for its wraparound “cockpit” effect, where everything was centered around the driver.

    And while the absence of chrome does make it look less expensive than its predecessors, I don’t believe that this was entirely due to the accountants wanting to cut costs. The Nader-led safety effort was in full swing by 1969, and one of its charges was that all of that dazzling chrome used on the dashboard could blind drivers in sunlight. Metal on the dashboard was also seen as dangerous to drivers and passengers in an accident (remember, seat belt use was much less common in those days). All automakers were banishing as much chrome as possible, and heavily padding the dashboards.

    That first photo is great. Interesting that the car in the ad lacks even a driver’s side outside mirror.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Stylingwise – this car has a beautiful profile. The C pillar is perfect, as is the hardtop window design. The squared off bustled rear end is also perfect, and we will never see such a nice “tail lamps within the rear bumper” design such as what appears on this GP. This car is a high style, high stepping show boat.

    But this car is only awesome from the outside. Like the Jaguar.  The Jaguar, however, had a fitting interior, while the GP definately did not. The GPs exterior was elegant, while it’s interior was callow. The GPs exterior recalled boulevard cruisers of the 1920s, and sadly, so did it’s handling.

    It was the right car for those whose children had outgrown the need for a station wagon, because the GP was no family car. It was the “second car” for those seeking relief from daily commutes in the Chevrolet Kingswood, Pontiac Safari, or their Plymouth Custom Suburban. These buyers weren’t ready to size down into a small four seater, but wanted the exclusivity of driving a large car incapable of hauling their entire brood.

    About this time, we are also seeing more working mothers in the market. These cars were obviously female, attracting the Sophia Loren in the ladies earning wages within an economy capable of family support with one working man’s wages. Working moms with teen children were often younger than forty years of age in these days, and nothing said wage-earning MILF with fiscal stability quite like the GP and MC! America’s middle class was expanding, and General Motors sensed an opportunity for the Jeffersons to “move on up” and finally buy a new car that catered to their inner swinger.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    John DeLorean popped into Pontiac just in time to pen the roofline and both ends of the ’63 Grand Prix. When fully detailed including aligning the panels and bumpers, very easy on the eyes.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Paul:

    In my “Towson” days at Loyola High School a friend’s father had this same car, same color, etc. It did have bucket seats and I have to admit I’ve never seen one without them until your post. My friend’s Model J had the 428 motor that was 370 horesepower instead of the standard 400 C.I. – 350 horsepower motor. I believe the SJ came with the 428 standard and had the 428 H.O. – 390 HP as an option. Anyway, what a beast; this was a car that we’d use to drag race other classmate’s cars and it pretty much blew everthing else away – by a lot.

    If you have no history with Pontiac, you probably wouldn’t care about its recent demise. But if you can remember back to this time and have actually experienced the “Wide-Track” division, you’ll really miss what Pontiac was, and a rebadged Chevy is everything Pontiac wasn’t.  Thanks for the post.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Did I tell you I put in two years at Loyola? When were you there? Guessing from the car, shortly after me (’67-’69).

      When I was there, one of the kids had a brand new red ’68 GTO, but his father ordered it with the “delete option” two-barrel low-compression engine. One of the other kids with a 327 Chevy could easily put it away.

      That was a nice drag strip, up the (can’t remember the name) street to Joppa Rd, eh?

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      Paul:

      I was there from 1968-1972 and the road in question is Chestnut Avenue. There was a woman who lived up on the right near Pickersgill Nursing Home that we called the “broom lady” because she’d chase after Bill Roger’s (class of ’72) 1967  SS396 Chevelle with a broom. Of course Bill was doing about 100 by the time he got past her driveway so I doubt he noticed.

      There are speed bumps or what are now euphemistically called “speed calming devices” all across that road to keep the hooligans at bay.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      I noticed those last time I was there. I have vivid memories of flying up up Chestnut, goading our driver of the day to try to hit 100. Don’t think we ever made it, but that 396 Chevelle undoubtedly could. Good times (well, after school, I mean)!

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    My favorite GP was the ’67, but in this era they were all beutiful!

    My first car was a ’62 Bonneville with a 389 (capable of sustained flight) and my second was a bone-stock ’70 Tempest T-37.  Even with the 350-2V it smoked a lot of Mustangs.  But, as strange as this sounds, I always thought the ’71+/- LeMans Station Wagon was the real beauty!  It was sleek, functional, and a Goat with a big trunk!  I am crazy.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Although I am a  bigger fan of styling from the first half of the 60s than from the second, this story allowed me to look at the car with a fresh eye.  By 1969 (at the advanced age of 10) GM cars became very boring to me, and I was a die-hard Ford guy (with  a sympathy for MoPar people, mainly because the starters sounded so cool.) 
    My grandma traded a 64 Catalina sedan (which I had really liked) on a silver 69 Catalina sedan.  Whether it was safety, or style, or cost-cutting, the interior of that 69 seemed to me cheap and deadly dull when compared to the 64, which was full of chrome, had a translucent plastic steering wheel, and lots of other little touches common in the era.  By 69, the only cool feature left in that black cloth interior was the little red indian head used for the high beam indicator.
    With a fresh look, I have to acknowledge that this GP was very well proportioned.  I think today, I like the proportions even better than the Mark III, which I always considered one of the best looking cars of its era.  I too like the 71-72 with the big headlights the best. 
    One interesting feature not mentioned was the door handles.  If I am not mistaken, these were unique to the GP (except maybe the Toronado, as well).  The thin unit that us used your thumb to push in the button, which would pivit the handle out so your other fingers could curl around it and pull the door open.  

  • avatar

    A good friend had one when I was in high school. Then he got a really nice ’71 Firebird.
     
    I’m not sure if the Grand Prix is beautiful, though. The car has great lines but that front end makes me think of Farago’s Subaru Tribeca review that got him fired.  A bit pudendic, if you ask me.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I have fond memories of my ’69 – Model J, Dark Green Metallic, 400 motor, turbo 400. I had the buckets and console with the wrap-around dash – made the car seem “futuristic”. Also had the wire-wheel hubcaps. It ran quite well, as the 400 wasn’t bogged down with much more than a PCV valve and a preheater on the air cleaner schnozzle.
    But, for all of my love, the car was problematic – first, the narrow grille obstructed airflow to the radiator – so summer drives with the AC on were a dicey affair, with your eyes glued to the idiot light (I eventaully installed a 3-guage set, right in front of the tranny lever, at the angle of the console). Also, the nylon-toothed timing sprockets wore off, so I replaced the sprockets with steel and a new chain, but alas, the nylon shards clogged up the oil sump screen - had to take it to the dealer for that one – then lifter noise followed – I replaced the whole set, but the bottoms had mushroomed, so I had to file each one of them (thankfully, they rode in bosses, so I could get to the bottoms) what a pain — whew!
    Did I mention that I loved this car?

  • avatar
    gottacook

    I have a very large (~10″ x 14″) and beautifully produced ’69 GP brochure at home; a friend of my parents was a Pontiac dealer at the time. As a fantasy car, the one in the brochure is extremely nice, with leather bucket seats and a console. I had no idea there even was such a thing as a bench-seat ’69 GP.

    (I do think, however, the ’68 was the right choice for the movie Goodfellas - anyone here know how that car was chosen? Was it actually specified in Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguys?)

    My favorite for elegance in Pontiac design is the ’70 GTO, the front end in particular. (This and the ’69 GP were among the first wave of the “who needs hiding headlights?” phase of design; in 1968 and ’69, headlight doors could be specified even on full-size Chevys.) I also once saw a ’71 silver Bonneville 4-door hardtop (no vinyl roof) that looked great, although it was only a year old at the time and hadn’t yet developed the body problems endemic to that whole generation of full-size GM cars.

    Someone above mentioned the ’70-’72 LeMans wagon, the last of the attractive Pontiac wagon designs. Personally I’m partial to the 1965-67 full-size Pontiac wagons – we owned a ’65 two-seat Bonneville Safari, followed by a ’67 Executive three-seat, a dealer demonstrator with ALL options including vinyl roof and 8-track player. These were beautiful cars, the fake wood on the ’67 notwithstanding.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      The ’67 full-size Pontiacs had a front-end treatment that was a bit heavy-handed, but somehow it worked. You don’t see that level of detail in today’s vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      dmrdano

      I love, ya, Man!

    • 0 avatar

      The bench seat was a “no-cost” option on the Grands Prix of this era beginning very late in the 1969 model year (for most of the ’69, the Strato bucket seats and console was the standard and only seating offering) – so late that many sources through the years considered the bench a “new” option for the ’70 GP. The bench seat was pretty much a “special order” option and when ordered the console was deleted and the shifter moved to the steering column (with automatic, manual shifters were all floor-mounted regardless of seating choice). Also, the bench-seat cars had a dashboard glovebox on the passenger side due to the loss of the console (the only glovebox space offered on bucket-seat GPs during this period).
      The bench seat 69-70 Grands Prix came with one of the two standard no-cost upholstery choices of knitted expanded Morrokide vinyl or cloth and Morrokide. The optional leather upholstery available in those two years was only offered with the Strato buckets. For 1971-72, bench seat GPs had the same upholstery/trim patterns as bucket-seat cars – expanded Morrokide or cloth and Morrokide (no leather trims offered for 71-72).

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Wanted one so bad my teeth hurt. But it wasn’t in the cards for a young guy with a wife, big mortgage and two little kids.

  • avatar

    The ’69-’70 Grand Prix does not have a 116-inch wheelbase; it’s 118 inches (the 1970-1972 Chevy Monte Carlo was 116 inches). It was indeed built on a special version of the A-body chassis, but it was stretched a further two inches beyond the sedan wheelbase. It’s not identical to the sedan chassis, either. The A-special chassis puts the extra wheelbase ahead of the firewall, rather than in the passenger compartment. Part of the reason was to use the same driveshaft as the Le Mans coupe, a cost-saving measure.
     
    Complete history of this car here: http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/100-less-is-more-pontiac-grand-prix.html

  • avatar
    rudiger

    While the ’69 GP is not my favorite Poncho (I like the ’61 ‘bubble-top’ cars better), I can’t disparage anyone that considers it the best design to come out of Pontiac. It’s certainly a beautiful car and, frankly, quite depressing when one thinks about how far Pontiac had fallen when the Aztek was released over thirty years later.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Paul, thanks again for a nice CC.  Just thinking abour your complaint re. interior decontening as evidenced by the GP and the Riv CC’s, could it also be that the original Mustang pointed the way toward this?  I mean, that Mustang was a car that came bare-bones, and if you were option happy, you could drop some coin dressing up the interior.  Kind of like Ford took the Sloan mantra “a car for every purse and purpose” and applied it to the Mustang’s option list and to great advantage.  GM seeing this, may have recognized that some would be willing to move up into the “personal luxury” segment, and they could bring more customers into the GP tent by decontenting and extending the marque downward by creating a ”near personal luxury” vehicle.  So besides the savings on the Bill Of Material, they could add additional profit potential by rolling out an option list…

    What thinks you?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      I agree. The late sixties were a time of melting class distinctions (to an extent), and working class folks were eager to snap up what had once been inaccessible to them before: luxury cars, sporty cars, personal cars, etc; and de-contenting them made their starting sticker price look that much more affordable. The Big Three knew what they were on to in this regard, and it helped keep profit margins up at a time when they were under pressure from inflating labor and material costs.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Obviously not the rise of Aspirational Marketing (maybe this happened with the introduction of the LaSalle and Zephyr), but perhaps this era marks when A.M. went from “untouchable snob appeal” to “mainstream affordable”…

      BTW, I forgot to mention before … amazing shot … scary in its similarity … and, one can only think the artists drew it from a real vehicle in order to get the reflective surfaces and forms right, but, obviously, they weren’t perfect … they forgot the pole and its reflection…

    • 0 avatar

      The thing to remember is that at the time the Mustang was introduced, it was actually pretty plush in standard form. Base American cars of that time were <i>stripped</i>, but the Mustang was reasonably trimmed, roughly comparable to the upscale Falcon Futura (minus the center console, standard on early Futuras). You could dress it up, yes, but it had carpets, wheelcovers, etc., which base cars generally did not have. Compared to the “fully equipped” imports of a few years later, it was Spartan, but it was not by the standards of domestic cars of 1964.
       
      In the late sixties, GM management was pushing for decontenting all cars, not luxury cars per se. Even though GM owned nearly half the U.S. market, their profit margins slipped a bunch in the late sixties, and senior management was very concerned.
       
      “Content” is a tricky issue when talking about sixties cars because it really means trim, rather than equipment. Remember, even on a Buick LeSabre, you technically paid extra for automatic and power steering, even though very few were ordered — or built — without them.
       

    • 0 avatar

      The thing to remember is that at the time the Mustang was introduced, it was actually pretty plush in standard form. Base American cars of that time were <i>stripped</i>, but the Mustang was reasonably trimmed, roughly comparable to the upscale Falcon Futura (minus the center console, standard on early Futuras). You could dress it up, yes, but it had carpets, wheelcovers, etc., which base cars generally did not have. Compared to the “fully equipped” imports of a few years later, it was Spartan, but it was not by the standards of domestic cars of 1964.
       
      In the late sixties, GM management was pushing for decontenting all cars, not luxury cars per se. Even though GM owned nearly half the U.S. market, their profit margins slipped a bunch in the late sixties, and senior management was very concerned.
       
      “Content” is a tricky issue when talking about sixties cars because it really means trim, rather than equipment. Remember, even on a Buick LeSabre, you technically paid extra for automatic and power steering, even though very few were ordered — or built — without them.
       

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I do lust after big coupes too.  I want something like this to restore with my own two hands and be a car for Sunday cruises.

  • avatar
    aamj50

    Sooo freaking cool!! There is a ’69 or ’70 Grand Prix SJ in my town which is mostly kept under cover in a garage. Every time I pass by there I have to look to see if it’s out. It is glossy black with black vinyl top. I’ve been tempted to knock on the owner’s door and introduce myself, but I think I’ll wait until he’s out with the car.
    Pictures do not do this one justice. I don’t have any cool personal experiences with the ’69 GP to relate but I’m a big fan of Grands Prix in general and have owned a couple including a ’78 model with a 400 c.i. Trans Am mill. The ’69 has always been my favorite.
    Thanks Paul!

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    My father, and my grandfather, each bought a 1964 Bonneville sedan in dark blue. I thought they were beautiful cars. I still do.
    They had a/c vents that were machined out of metal and chrome plated, and they could be rotated on two axis to direct flow anywhere or block it. In later years GM replaced those with plastic and then plastic flaps.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    My aunt and uncle had a ’69 GP. Silver with a black vinyl top, if my memory is correct.  They had it for a long time, maybe 10 years. That was one very sharp looking car!
    Thanks for writing this, Paul.

  • avatar
    thalter

    I am impressed at how accurate Art Fitzpatrick got the light play and reflections on the hood, when comparing his rendering to an actual photo, even down to the reflection of the A-pillar and windshield in the hood. 

    Does anyone know if Art had an actual vehicle in front of him when he did these renderings, or did he have to fabricate the light play and reflections in his head?

  • avatar

    Oddly enough these big barges (even the XJ-C) don’t do anything for me. Sorry Paul.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    Thank you for posting this beauty!  My favorite GPs were the 69-72 series. The wraparound dash and console were very cool and of course the pop up door handles ruled too.   These sure are rare to see now and even more so in SJ trim.   As mentioned above and I concur, the zenith for GM and Pontiac was basically early 60′s to very early 70′s.  My dad was a Pontiac dealer for a lotta years so this is the stuff I grew up with.  What cars did he keep for himself tucked away? 64 GP with 8 lug wheels, 67 & 68 Firebird convertibles and a 69 GTO convertible with hideaway headlamps.  Neat stuff…..

    Say….when is the “CC” going to cover a 67 to 72 Chevrolet pickup?

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    OK, here goes.
    I’m 52, and Pontiacs apparently were my dad’s way of life.  The first I remember was a 1956,  green and white.  I was too young to remember the model, but now I think (think!) it was a Star Chief.  (Please correct me if that’s wrong; like I said, I was 4, 5, 6 at the time.)  He traded that in on a 1961 Star Chief (for sure) in 1963 whin I was 6.  My first favorite car.  I remember the 1964 Pontiacs coming out with those “banana” taillights, as dad called them, only with the GP, they were chrome “bananas” with the taillights hidden behind chrome ‘louvers’.  That is what got me watching the Grand Prixs when I was young.  Then came the ’65, which I thought was the best looking car EVER.  Bonneville, Catalina, GP, 2+2.  Never a better looking GM car.  The ’66 models ruined that with the pointy, curvy nose.  Then, in 1967, he traded the blue ’61 with the bad “Slim Jim” transmission in on a 1965 Catalina!!  My dream come true!!!  Two years later, someone in a Fairlane hit my dad head-on while he was sitting still.  (Totaled the Ford;  he drove the Catalina home, but it was gravely injured.)  He traded my dream in on a 1966 Catalina, but I never really liked it.   Then, as fate would have it, in 1974, he bought a 1969 Catalina, white & black, and handed me down the 1966.  (If only the Fairlane had never happened…)  My own Pontiac at age 17, with 115000 miles on it!!!  With me it only lasted another 10000 and lost its oiling system and timing chain when leaving high school one day in Jan. 1975.  That’s when I bought my first car, a 1967 Buick Skylark, which served me really well for 2.5 years and 50000 miles!!!  Now for the meat of this story, if you’re still with me…I traded my Buick baby in on a 1969 Grand Prix Model SJ, yes, SJ, with the 428 H.O. engine.  And it was the exact green that the one is in the Curbside Classic.  That is my favorite car of all time, because it didn’t kill me with its power or straight-line only handling.  And, contrary to the CC story, there was very little chrome in the wrap-around cockpit.  I drove the piss out of it, getting all I could out of its factory 390 horses and chrome valve covers and air filter.  I did a 270 degree spin taking off in the rain one time when I thought I had it pointed straight enough to punch it.  Wow.  Never had that much power under my foot since then.  One night I got a little too frisky and broke two pushrods when I floated the valves.  A 3.55 rear end will do that to a young guy.  I was 20 and knew bettter, but I overrevved it anyway.  After that, when the water pump went out on a second date with a new girlfriend (spent the whole date putting in a water pump while she did homework; and yes, she was 17 and I was 20, but I was a gentleman and impressed her parents)  it went the way of being traded in on a 1973 Monte Carlo.  Yes, I do wish I could have found another GP, but the MC caught my eye.
    Thank you all for allowing me to take this trip down the memory four-lane in my favorite car. 

  • avatar
    blowfish

    My friend has a 71 or so GP, it has a 400 cu ins Vee8. Its got jam I had to say. This was 74-75 in Winnipeg. I had a 73 Duster 340 then but no match for the torque.
    My fnd also owns a couple 74 Trans Am SD 455. It for some reason only built very few, he eventually hoarded about 4 of them.
    SD 455 seems to have a lot of power for that period.
    M bro has a 74  Vette 454 auto, but the power seems to be not as powerful as his.
    Back then gas was only ~ 50 cents a gallon.

  • avatar
    Beta Blocker

    I owned a ’69 Model J between 1975 and 1980, white with a black vinyl top, with the 428, bucket seats, and console. I bought it used with 41000 miles on it , when I was twenty-three.   It was my first car.
     
    Before seeing the photos above, I didn’t know that any were produced with cloth bench seats.    My first thought was that someone had installed a custom interior in it,  as the original buckets could become quite uncomfortable on long trips.
     
    In 1977, I was given the task of teaching my 57-year old aunt, visiting Montana from her home Los Angeles,  how to drive a car.  My uncle and my cousin had gone on a six week Canadian wilderness trip and had left their 1972 El Dorado behind at my place in Montana, along with my aunt, who wasn’t keen on making such a wilderness trip.
     
    But she had never learned to drive a car, she had a six week vacation from my uncle, and so decided it was time.  We started out in the Cadillac and quickly discovered it was way too much car for her– too big, too soft, too cumbersome.
     
    So I told her we would switch over to my Pontiac Grand Prix and she took to that car very nicely.  We drove eight hours a day, five days a week, and at the end of six weeks she had her license.  She wanted the Grand Prix too, but I wouldn’t sell it to her.
     
    But I did sell it in 1980 and bought a 1981 Firebird to replace it.  That was a big mistake.   Between 1969 and 1980, GM had forgotten how to build cars.  The Firebird was a source of endless problems until I finally got rid of it and vowed never to buy another GM product again.  (Or maybe GM had forgotten how to build cars even as early as the late 1960s, and I just didn’t realize it at the time, because I was enamored of this particular car.)
     
    The guy who bought the ’69 from me in 1980 called it the “good body Grand Prix” in that it had straightforwardly elegant lines, while the 72-76 models had become overly-pretentious.  He was still driving it well into the late 1980s.
     

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    WOW…

    Perfect sheetmetal..

    Badges and name trim are all there.
    Interior even has the paper for the feet…

    Nice.

  • avatar
    Marty S

    I purchased a new 72 Grand Prix and it was one of my favorite cars. The downsizing created a very clean, striking and elegant design, particularly from the rear 3/4 view. Actually, the 71-72 refresh was also notable for the redesigned rear deck, which was very shapely, although I have to say that the original 69 design was exceptionally clean. And the interior cockpit design was unusual for the time period. If you were willing to wait about 6 weeks you could completely customize the car, making selections from various wheels, vinly roof patterns, and other options. I ordered mine with a really nice sport steering wheel (very thick). The price was well below a T-Bird or Riviera, but the car was just as striking and sporty and, I think, more tasteful. While the proportions were later copied by some other cars, the Grand Prix, standing alone, is a great design. Unfortunately, my Grand Prix was stolen in 1975, never to be seen again.

  • avatar
    1600 MKII

    Funny – My wife and I went on our honeymoon in a ’69 GP sj (my brother’s). Buckets, console, Auto 4-spd, 400. Metallic light blue/blue vinyl. My nicest memory of a long trip in an American car including all my years with Cadillac. It was fast, comfortable and, if I remember, got pretty good mileage.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    I grew up hating these cars. Too big. Too garish. No handling. A real boat. Just another Detroit anchor.
    Now years later I am having a change of heart. Liking them better than ever.

  • avatar
    remember it well

    In 1976 my buddy had this car except it had the HO 428. It was a fun fast car. It was considerably faster than my mothers 1976 Trans Am but that Trans Am could really hold the road. It was not even close to as fast as my 1969 Cobra 428 SCJ but then that car NEVER lost a race.
    That car often beat 350 4 Bbl Camaros while i had my boat in tow (not kidding).

    My favorite year of this car was the 1971. I still try to find nice photos on line. That car’s interior and ex. was beautiful. I have still never seen a cosole that curved toward the driver like that.

    IMO Pontiac had the best lines in the 70′s….GP, Gran Ville Convertible, Trans AM – even the Safari Wagon was sharp for a wagon.

  • avatar

    I still remember when I saw my first 69 GP. I was drafted the summer of 68 and was about to finish my AIT in Biloxi. SSG Cook was a member of the cadre and one weekend I was restricted to the Company area and he was in charge of me. Had me cleaning the dayroom and crap like that. By evening we had become friendly and he took me outside to see his new GP. All black with the 428 HO engine and even had the 4-speed. Only black one with a 4-speed I have ever seen. I finished my training and left for Vietnam just before Christmas. Strange thing is, months later in Vietnam, I ran into SSG Cook for the last time. He had just gotten into country for his third tour of duty. Spent a lot of years in the military and met a lot of folks and now can only recall a few. But because of that all black 69 GP I can still remember SSG Cook.

  • avatar
    hopponit

    Still an impressive beast. I got my 69 to replace my 69 firebird 350 that was totaled (in aug. ’72) by a guy having a heart attack. Mine was the high-output 400 4v with turbo400, 3.08 to 1 rear. It was one of only two in our town. The other was a triple white ’70 SJ(455 was standard in the SJ in 70, the 428 was 69). The over heating problem was traced to a bad sending unit after a new pump, thermostat, and clutch-fan (a ten dollar part, after spending hundreds)and it needed all new springs due to the prev. owners son jumping it over hills (He had smashed the exh. pipes under the engine into a D shape when it hit the ground)I went for a stiffer springs but it still had some body roll when cornering at high speed. Motor Trends road test listed the top speed of the 69 SJ 428, auto 3.26 to 1 rear) as 129 mph. Being an idiot at the time I tested that personally on rt 60 from Malden to Witcher Creek. The stock non calibrated speedo said 130 after the last 5 miles of running flat-out. My firebird (350 2v auto, 2.56 to 1 rear) could never show more than 125 in the same run although it did it many times on the way to and home from school in Charleston. BY the way the GP had 2inch exh but the Mote Carlo had 1 3/4 inch. one of the ways at the time to help the flow of the MC was to order GP exh. I agree the 62,63, and 65 were great designs but I love the 69-and 70. When Professor Fulmer retired from Pontiac styling in ’66 to come teach Engineering at WVIT He told me his last car he bought was his favorite styling he had done. He had a new ’66 Lemans 4drht with the single overhead cam 6. It was light blue and well optioned. One thing the GP had by accident was a cup holder.I could place a tallboy style Pepsi bottle in the drivers ash-tray and have it diappear up to the top third of the bottle. God that was a huge ash-tray. The only one I’ve seen bigger was on my ’66 Buick Riv.

  • avatar
    solemandd67

    1969 Grand Prix. The most beautiful car ever made. Why?

    The summer of ’69. Our family members bought new cars. My aunt Nancy bought a white ’69 Marquis Brougham. My aunt Bennie bought a ’69 New Yorker. They were nice but…

    My mother, whom I lost this past April, bought a ’69 Grand Prix Model J.
    She ordered it from Van Winkle Pontiac in Dallas,Tx. She wanted it painted a special color=Deep Water Blue. That’s a ’67 Chevorlet color. It came with a Parchment Cordova grain vinyl top and got the salesman to get her 1970 GP Parchemnt leather buckets. They were not available on 69′s. She sold our ’65 Corvair Monza and drove my grandmothers extra car, a ’61 Falcon until our car arrived.

    It came Aug 1st. That June I turned 5 and she 35. Although I saw GP’s in the showroom and loved the interior, I dont recall seeing a navy blue and white one. When the car was driven to the front of the dealership I was struck dumb. It’s that moment that all car lovers remember when one car BURNS in your brain. It was beautiful! Tilt/AC/PW/PWR Drivers Seat. I remember that black dash and carpeting making the white seats float. We stood there as they removed the plastic pff of them. The salesmam walked to the fron of the car and opend that 6 Ft hood. The chrome valve covers on That 400 CID V8 made the Corvairs engine look like a toy. You could smell the fresh paint on the outside and the leather on the inside. A few salesman came from the showroom to look at it. The only thing she’d forgotten was the Pontiac mats, but before she pulled away, she paid for a set and the salesman placed them for us.

    It was odd back then for an African American woman to be so focused when purchasing a new car but my mother wasnt ordinary. She was divorced. She supervised the lab of Dr. George Miller, father of musician Steve Miller. She was intelligent and she loved Pontiacs and when she wanted something a certain way, she got it. I remember how long it took and the calls that salesman made just to order that car. He was very nice and when I got tired he’d get me a soda or hand me another brochure.

    She drove it to my grandmothers house and her neighbors poured over it. I remember the springs on those door handles being tight.

    For 5 consecutive nights she would take me out to the driveway to look at our new car at my request. Because it was the summer I stayed at my grandmothers while she was at work and one morning she stopped and treated us to Hostess cup cakes and milk before she dropped me off. She had pleanty of napkins and I was very careful not to drop anything. I couldnt figure out why I Hhad to ride in the back seat behind her at all times instead of the front seat until….

    The night of she 6th day of ownership. She came to my grandmother house to pick me up. Since she was the lab supervisor she was the first to arrive and the last to leave frequently. I had talked about the car non-stop since she bought it. I held the brochures she and the saleman gave me. I was in heaven. My grandmother wanted us to spend the night and offered to wash my mothers uniform out for her. That way she’d not have to drive home and get up so early and drop me off. Plus she’d be closer to work. I put on a sad face. She knew I wanted to ride in the GP although I was sleepy. She relented to me….

    We were 4 blocks from home. All I remember Is I woke upm just for a second before I felt the jolt, heard her scream NNNOOOO!and felt like I was floating. I woke up to her slapping my face. A drunk diver had totaled that beautiful car and the impact was so hard I flew over her head and into the windsheild. She always said the back seat was the safest place for a passenger per Ralph Nader.

    I know a Mothers love. When I apologized to her years later she told me it wasnt my fault and she never held it against me but none the less I still feel guilty just the same.

    I’ve had over 30 old cars and yes I did get a 69 GP Model J. It was just like hers except it was tripple white and had Morrokide interior. I was living in San Diego. She never sat in the car but I told her about it and sent her pics. I wanted to have it painted that same color but couldnt bring myself to do it.

    Everytime I see a 69 GP I think of My Mother.

    Thank you for the pics
    Solemandd67


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