By on July 20, 2012

We’ll follow up yesterday’s ’73 VW Super Beetle Junkyard Find with another car from the same year. The Super Beetle listed at $2,499 and the Luxury LeMans four-door hardtop at $3,344… but now they are just so many tons of scrap metal.
The LeMans and its GM A-body siblings got a lot bigger in 1973, and— thanks to Malaise Era legislation under the watch of noted eco-socialist Richard Nixon— cleaner at the tailpipe… at the cost of engine power.
This Pontiac 350 was rated at 150 net horsepower, versus 250 for the 350 in 1971. Some of this was just the difference between gross and net horsepower, and some was the result of a big drop in oxides-of-nitrogen-producing engine compression.
Still, these were nice discount-luxury machines in their day, even with fewer horses under the hood. Unfortunately, certain events late in 1973 really trashed the resale value of cars like this one.
Even in the 5% humidity of Great Plains Colorado, GM cars of this era still manage to rust around the rear window.
If you’re bothered by the confusing climate-control interfaces in modern cars, check out this vent-control lever.
The same goes for this one-speaker “sound system.”


Billy Preston would have sounded just fine on this radio— who cares about those embargoing Arabs when you’ve got music like this on every station?

For free junkyard wallpaper images in all the popular computer monitor resolutions, check out the wallpaper downloads at the headquarters of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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46 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1973 Pontiac Luxury LeMans...”


  • avatar
    fintail jim

    In 1973 I was in junior high and old enough to appreciate the tragedy that was unfolding regarding American cars – the differences between the 1968-1972 and 1973-1977 GM A bodies being a great example. I acutally liked the Pontiac Grand Am and knew enough to appreciate what a 1973 Buick Century Gran Sport with a BUICK 455 could mean to a pre-teen like me.

    Funny coincidence: driving around Houston just the day before yesterday I saw a really nice 1973 Chevrolet (Malibu) Laguna S3 – the one with injection-molded polyurethane nose. That brings up the question of why are there rust spots on the front fascia of the featured Luxury LeMans? I thought that piece was fiberglass.

    One more comment: In 1973 one only needed an AM or AM-FM radio with five presets to find decent music. Now it is a challenge even with satellite radio.

  • avatar
    bdaniels_us

    I must be illness or nostalgia but I love malaise era pre downsized cars. They are the tacky mcmansions of the auto world but to great effect. To borrow a phrase from the train song City Of New Orleans, these cars are rolling magic carpets made of steel. They rode like pillows of air, had gobs of room, over the top styling, were quiet, and had interiors like bordelos. Except for anemic performance and terrible gas mileage, there’s a lot to love.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    No A/C, bare minimum gages, no power anything…why in the world would this vehicle have been badged a LUXURY LeMans? A buddy of mine had a four door Cutlass Salon of the same vintage and it had power everything, center console with shifter, etc.

    Weird…

    • 0 avatar
      mccall52

      Like a lot of other things, if you feel the need to say it’s ‘Luxury’, then is it, really?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      In those days, a “luxury package” often meant nicer upholstery, some fancy badges, chrome trim on the rain gutters and around the wheel wells, and upgraded wheelcovers. The big-ticket items were still an option.

      The Colonnade Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon had an unusually comprehensive list of standard equipment for that time.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        For the Luxury LeMans specifically – not only the 1973-74 cars but also the 1972 version on the previous body – the package included fender skirts for the rear wheel openings. (I’m fairly sure these were the only fender skirts ever offered on any 1973-77 GM intermediate.)

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      Come on, you can tell it’s the “luxury” version because it’s got that cute monogram, just like the ones that preppy women of the time would have embroidered on fabric handbags that coordinated with their all-Talbots outfits.

    • 0 avatar
      and003

      I think it might be a marketing ploy, but I’m not really sure.

  • avatar
    texan01

    As the owner of a 77 Chevelle… I need some extra trim for my quadra-port.

    Neither the 76 nor 77 Chevelles I’ve owned, have ever rusted out there. The 76 rusted out due to leaky taillights and leaky door seals, the 77 only has a spot of rust that was hidden behind the stainless lower trim, and its no bigger than a quarter. Thanks to the poor design, that area of the rear window can’t drain any standing water in the seam. Whenever I get around to repainting mine, I’ll add some drains.

    fun fact, these cars were started on design in 1968. and the pictures of the original styling sketches, these cars are way better looking.

    Having driven and restored a 71 Malibu Convertible, and owning a 76/77 Malibu Classic. I will say, for pure style the ‘vert is the looker. If I have to take a long road trip.. the 73-77 cars are way better drivers stock for stock, and if you start with sway bar upgrades, the 73-77 cars get even better.

    At shows though I do get people really looking over my tired original example moreso than the dozen or so 68-72 Chevelle coupes.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The bumper standards didn’t do these cars any favor, although one would think that GM should have been aware of that issue when it designed these cars.

      I also thought that all of the GM intermediates looked better with the round headlights, as was used on the 1973-75 versions – particularly the Chevrolet Chevelle/Malibu and Monte Carlo.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        No the bumpers aren’t doing this era car any favors. On mine, I’m planning on tucking the rear bumper in a couple inches. I can’t do much with the front because if I were to tuck it in any, it’d be just a flat front and looks awkward.

        The rear tuck will help integrate the rear better.

        I agree that the round lights look better, but the quad lights are excellent at lighting up the road.
        I’ve thought about swapping my quad rectangles to the dual rounds to clean up the front, or swap to the one piece ’73 Laguna nose.

        The later Cutlass and LeMans with the side by side quad lights look better and more modern than the Century, and the Malibu Classic with the stacked quad lights.

      • 0 avatar
        Alfasaab99

        Your Daily Automotive History Lesson, Brought to you by Alfasaab99:
        The colonnades were supposed to start production as 72′ models when the federal bumper standards didn’t apply but they started production as 73′s due to a UAW strike.

  • avatar
    BrewCity

    Ugh. I never thought the swoopy body work on these GM sedans looked right (but it seemed to make more sense on the coupes).

    We had a Buick Century sedan of the same vintage that was passed around our family. My grandfather bought it, then sold it to my uncle, after which my Dad ended up with it in the early 80s.

    Everyone in my family referred to the car as “THE SLUG” due to it’s less than exhilarating performance and brown paint.

    I was probably about 6 or 7 years old at this point, and I was always a little afraid of THE SLUG because it would occasionally backfire Uncle Buck style.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    My grandfather drove a ’73 LeMans new until ’82 when the maintenance just got to be too much. I learned to drive in it and got my learner’s permit in ’81 at 15. One distinct thing I remember is that the accelerator had such a short travel that it was difficult to accelerate from a stop smoothly. I’d take off from a lght and give myself and anyone else whiplash. Maybe Pontiac designed the accelerator that way to give the illusion of more power than the 350 4 bbl could really put out. I think ’73 was the first year of the EGR valve (vacuum actuated). Although it was pre-catalytic converter, the exhaust had a different odor than “normal” gasoline engine exhaust of that era. Maybe it was the Pontiac engine design. The car came from the dealership with bias plies. When radials were put on it made all the difference in handling, ride, and mileage.

  • avatar
    stickman

    You should post pictures of the radios more — like you do with the clocks. I was absolutely mesmerized by the fact that this radio appears original but does not denote the clear channel stations at all. The 1960 Pontiac Ventura has them but a 1973 Pontiac LeMans does not. Maybe you can get some more Pontiac pictures from 1961 to 1972 so I can narrow down when they were dropped?

  • avatar
    Garak

    “The Super Beetle listed at $2,499 and the Luxury LeMans four-door hardtop at $3,344″ – a huge land yacht cost only a third more than a horrid economy car? Were there some hidden costs there, like absolutely no equipment in the base version?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      In those days, basic domestic cars were VERY basic. Looking at the 1973 Pontiac brochures, it appears as though automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes were options on the LeMans, and the standard engine was a 250 I-6.

      At least GM was fitting disc brakes as standard equipment to its intermediates by 1973.

      Hardly anyone bought base cars in the intermediate class by 1973…most went out the door with the V-8, automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes and air conditioning.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      A Ford Focus Titanium starts at $22,700 and a Buick Lucerne starts at $29,700 — about the same differential. The differential is more if you aren’t looking at the upscale model of the cheaper car.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      Those prices would be equivalent to about $12,124 and $16,124 today. You can still buy subcompact economy cars such as the Versa for around $12k today, but there are no midsize cars available for much under $20k. People’s expectations have changed, buyers expect a certain level of equipment in anything bigger than a compact, and that comes at a price.

  • avatar
    stickman

    The 1960 Pontiac Venture had clear channel stations marked. This 1973 Pontiac LeMans does not. Murilee, can you get some pictures of Pontiac radios from 1961 to 1972 so I can get to the bottom of this?

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    150 HP from a 350 V8. Not on my watch said John Z Delorean. My stainless steel bodied sports will blow it off the road. Or maybe not!

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      You’d be surprised at how reasonably quick the cars really are. My 145 hp 305 at low speeds will leave the lights faster than any other car, with no more than a 1/8 throttle. After 50 it starts to slacken, and after 70 WOT just produces more noise, and not much change in accleration to its drag limited top speed of 115.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        That’s the mystery of torque.

        (Incidentally, the HP and torque for the Volt primary drive motor are roughly equivalent to that era’s 305 v8..)

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        Yup it’s all there by 2500 rpm. In a flat out drag race, it’s going to lose, I’ve not one chance against anyone. Daily driving though, its more than ample. I mean, even a Yaris can outrun it.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      My parents bought a 73 Luxury Lemans coupe with the 350 2bbl engine. I bought the 69 Lemans coupe that they were trading in. The 69 had much more power with its 2bbl 350 and the build quality was much better. Interior trim items on the 73 began to fall off after the first year. Gas mileage on the 73 was awful, too.

      In a quest for better milage, they traded the 73 for a 75 Ford Maverick with a 302 V8. Bad mistake, but that’s another story.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        No argument that build quality was better on the 68-72 cars. They were built with better materials. the 73-77 cars were the beginning of the cheap GM interiors covered in hard plastic.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    We bought the wagon version of this car when we needed a better family car than my freshly restored Rampside–
    I found this beast on a 3rd tier used car lot and paid <1900 out the door in 1981.
    It had the 400-4bbl Poncho engine, factory tow package, turbo 400 tranny, dual exhaust, AC, NO smog pump (yes, that was stock for just one engine that year),no cat converters yet and would pass everything but a gas station. You could light the tires anytime you wanted.

    It served us well but the pre-HEI ignition system always needed attention.

    I had it reupholstered in M-B tex and the seats remained perfect until we junked it in 1991 at 171K due to a blown tranny.

    Say all you want about Malaise cars, it earned its keep. It hauled 12 sheets of drywall on the roof rack, 27 bags of concrete that the drone in OSH loaded in the back behind the rear axles (wifey got air when she goosed it) and made countless trips to LA before it breathed its last.
    Root beer brown, fake woodgrain on the side, perfect cruiser for long trips, just had to remember it had a 280 mile range.
    This link shows a '76, but you get the general idea.

    http://www.picsearch.com/imageDetail.cgi?id=c9QxmyVPvI1Ef9C34-8dhRmXDrnJN_C9SSyfM-73JK0&width=873&start=151&q=Pontiac LeMans

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      Mine gets close to 400 miles on a tank… gotta love the powerless 305 and super economy 2.56 rear axle. It gets better mileage the faster you drive it. at 80mph it gets 20mpg. at 55 it gets 17.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        That’s hilarious.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        Yeah. I drove it nicely on a trip to Shreveport from Dallas, and it got a lackluster 17mpg. I drove it like a rented mule to Waco and back with speeds touching 100 and it got 21.

        70mph cruise puts the engine at about 1900 rpm. Torque peak is 2400 and hp peak is a lofty 3800. It’ll do 60 in first gear, if you want to risk running the 180,000 mile unrebuilt engine to 5 grand. It’ll happilly rev that high, and sound good doing it,

      • 0 avatar
        sfay3

        Yeah, right. I love how the laws of physics cease to exist on the internet.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        So at 150 MPH it must get 40 MPG :)

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        Laugh all you want but its true. Besides it’ll never hit 150 unless its falling out of an airplane or off a cliff. It’s geared to go that fast, but 145hp means it tops out at a shade over 100 (101 on the GPS is the fastest I’ve gotten it). With the 225-70-15s and the 2.56 rear, its spinning at just over 2,100 rpm at 70mph. Its not even gotten out of the idle transfer slots in the carb yet. when you pick up the pace to 80, you have to work it that much harder and gets it out of the inefficient idle stage of the carb, and into the comparatively more precise main metering system on the 1950s design Rochester 2-jet. 2100 rpm is barely fast enough to get the alternator really charging,

        20-55 it gets about 15-17mpg on my daily commute in stop and go traffic, 55-85 it gets up to 20mpg and then after 85, it’ll start dropping as you push the carb into the limits of what it can do, and starts dipping into the power system and runs rich. With the A/C on, it gets 12 and 17 no matter how fast you drive it. Last big road trip to San Angelo TX with two passengers, AC on, and 600 miles of road, it averaged 18mpg.

        And yes, the speedo is within an 1 mph of the radar signs, and 2mph of a GPS speedo. its mechanical measured mile is close enough to a real measured mile that the odometer is accurate enough to track with it.

        http://www.fuelly.com/driver/texan01/chevelle

        if you want to see the data for 30,000 miles of driving it. Most of the time this car just putters around in city driving.

      • 0 avatar
        sfay3

        So that wall of air that requires substantially more energy to push out of the way simply doesn’t matter? I’ve heard this kind of thing for years and I’d be willing to bet there are other factors in play. For instance, on a backroad with a 55 mph limit I sometimes notice slightly worse fuel economy than on the adjacent interstate with the 75 mph limit and it has nothing to do with timing or anything else. The 55 mph road has towns in the way with stop signs, stop-and-go traffic, etc.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    While the Colonnades lost ‘muscle car’ and ‘hot rod’ buyers, they were bought by a lot of middle class families trading in a big car.

    And, while the LeMans didn’t light up sales charts, the Grand Prix brought in bacon to Pontiac. The first Gas Crisis hurt full sized cars more than middies.

    And when will the Clean Air Act of 1970 be gotten over? Air Pollution needed to be cleaned, and now cars have both power and clean tailpipes. Ever ride behind a ‘classic’ muscle car? You end up coughing.

    You know, if no emission controls, where you live, Denver region would be under a cloud of smog and soot. Muscle cars were declining in sales for other reasons and it was time for cars to get cleaner.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      When I first brought my 77 home, and had it parked in the garage, i had forgotten how much it stinked. Literally.

      Now that I’ve given it a good tuneup and all the emission controls are working, the carb is sorted out and its been driven, it no longer smells like gas in my garage as much. If I had to smog check it, it’d probably pass with flying colors for the standards of the day. If it had to try and pass todays standards, it’d fail miserably.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    The dawn of the Tempest / Le Mans / GTO era at Pontiac coincided with Daddy no longer receiving company cars so these are what he started buying . Usually he would buy at the end of the model year and if possible the end of that generation of Pontiac midsized cars , thinking the bugs would be worked out . Unfortunately that didn’t hold true for his 1972 Le Mans sedan with the 350 / 2 barrel = absolutely the worst car he ever had – a rust- bucket , unreliable POS . I was happy when he traded it on a 1977 Colonade sedan with the V-6 . Of this generation I thought the sedan was more attractive than the coupes , particularly those with the fussy and silly opera windows . I thought it was sort of a poor man’s Jag in appearance and the body and the interior held up much better than the ’72 did . However the early V-6 was reliable but really idled roughly and was inadequately powered for such a heavy boat . Handling , as stated here though was greatly improved .Of course by the time he bought the ’77 the Bonneville had been downsized and weighed less , handled better and got better mileage than the LeMans but he wouldn’t listen to me .

  • avatar
    Joss

    a/c was still an option on our 79 Le Mans. If you missed it first time round there was dealer kit. We had the roof re-sprayed by GM after 1 year. The Le Mans had a good reputation.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    In the mid-70′s while other teens were lusting over screaming chicken Trans-Ams and it’s F-Body sibling Camaro Z-28 I said negatory good buddy to those because my heart raced for the 73-75 Pontiac Grand Am. It was only available with the 400 or 455 big block Poncho. TH400 auto or 4 speed. Standard buckets, gauge pkg and console too.I always found it to be far more stylish and technically ahead of it’s time with euro handling/suspension package and Endura nose which eliminated the battering ram look and made the federally mandated 5MPH bumpers look very stylish and unobtrusive. Same goes for the equally stylish Chevrolet Laguna S-3.

    Build quality on 73-77 Colonades was quite subpar. Lousy paint and leaky window and door weatherstiping. I had a neighbor who had the Regal 2dr with the Luxus pkg in maroon. Nice car but paint oxidation and window leaks got to it after only a few years.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Does anyone know of a company that sells body parts for 73-77 A bodies? My heart is set on a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham, but I don’t want to be stuck hand-fabricating patch panels if rust attacks.


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