By on October 18, 2012

When shopping for personal luxury coupes in the late 1970s, you might have bought the 1977 Mercury Cougar (seen in yesterday’s Junkyard Find), or maybe a Chrysler Cordoba, or perhaps even an AMC Matador Barcelona. If you wanted to go with a General Motors product for your long-hooded, big-on-the-outside/small-on-the-inside coupe, Pontiac had just the car: the Grand Prix!
The Cougar had Cheryl Tiegs as pitchwoman and the Matador Barcelona had crypto-Spanish provenance, but the Grand Prix had these classy emblems on the quarter windows.
Not to be outdone by the Cordoba’s small round taillight medallions, the Grand Prix boasted big hexagonal octagonal medallions.
301 cubic inches under the hood. How many horsepower? We’ll just say that this engine made fewer horses than the base 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine in the 2013 Kia Rio and leave the rest to your imagination.
A full set of these Pontiac rally wheels can fetch dozens of dollars these days, thanks to the enormous quantities manufactured. I like these wheels so much that I used them on my 1965 Impala sedan.
The Cougar’s suspension was “Ride-Engineered,” but Pontiacs had Radial Tuned suspensions.
Once again, much as we like to make fun of these cars, I must admit that they were actually pretty good daily drivers. Thirsty as hell, of course, but what big Detroit car wasn’t back then?

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47 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix...”


  • avatar
    jpolicke

    From the sloppy way the rear side window openings were finished off I’m guessing it was impossible to get one of these without the vinyl half-roof over the back. Everything about the cars from this era was intended to look good from a distance; a closeup inspection anywhere reveals cheap materials assembled indifferently. Quality was thrown out the window.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    ah, the bloat, the fatness, the sheer stupidity of design. i much preferred the original version of the gp to this ….. absurdity. in the sea of change that is life sometimes it is good to know that on occasion your original thought remains the same. it is still not as nice as the original.

    even now think of what we have to choose from in 2 door coupes now and make a comparison. who would want to go back to these days. halcyon indeed!

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Great find…one of my childhood faves. Oh….but the taillight bling is OCTagonal…. ;-)

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Love it.. my first car. I had the buckets, leaky T roofs, and real gauges.. 400 ci.. Was indeed a good car til she met an untimely demise. Was reliable and never left me stranded. About the only GM product I ever owned that I look back with fondness.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I owned one of these around 1986, bought as a college beater for around $500. Mine was a 1975 SJ model, with a 400 cubic inch V8, blood red with a black vinyl top and black cloth interior, same exact wheels as this one’s. My car was loaded up, and it had the same gauge cluster as the one shown but with a (gasp!) tachometer where the big clock is, with a tiny little clock within it. One interesting feature about that car was that its turn signal stalk also served as the headlamp dimmer, something quite unusual on American cars of the era as most had the dimmer mounted on the left corner of the floor, pushbutton style. Another odd thing about this car was that I purchased it in Wisconsin, yet it had a “Sheehan – Florida Gold Coast” dealer sticker on its trunklid. Enjoyed that car, although its 400 CI engine was not as torquey as the 350 on the also-1975 Cutlass I had owned the year prior.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    With the Cougar and now this, I take much comfort in the 1968 Jeep Commando, the 1976 Chevy pickup and later, the 1976 Gremlin I drove in the years 1975-1980.

    These cars – not just the GM models, epitomized how bad the domestic OEMs got in that era. Yet, of all of them, GM still did it best, and that’s not saying much…

    Still, when getting married in 1977, I checked out a Chevelle 300 coupe, as I wanted to get rid of the truck because it was such a gas-hog, the visible grind marks around the TTAC & CC commenter “SYKE”-approved triangular fixed quarter glass could be seen from the air. It was clearly a hap-hazardly-assembled car and I rapidly walked away. I bought our 1976 Gremlin a few months later and never regretted it.

  • avatar
    sw2092

    General Motors Holden here in Australia introduced ‘Radial Tuned Suspension’ (even the same badge that you pictured) progressively across it’s range from 1976 onwards, and transformed a bunch of cars that handled like pigs into cars with almost European levels of ride and handling for the time. One of Opel’s whiz engineers of the time moved to Australia and sorted out the Torana, Kingswood/Stateman and Geminis of the time with a comprehensive set of suspension modifications that made them excellent handlers. ‘Radial Tuned Suspension’ was quite a catchphrase of the time here. RTS probably reached it’s ultimate expression with the 1978 VB Commodore, the original predecessor to the Pontiac G8 that you got for a while in the US. It was Opel-based to start with, and the RTS engineered into it made it a brilliant handling car. Of course, what constituted a Radial Tuned Suspension in Australia and the US may be completely different. I’d be interested to know if Pontiac’s RTS transformed it’s range as much as RTS did for Holden. By the look of that yacht, I’m not holding out much hope…

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “Not to be outdone by the Cordoba’s small round taillight medallions, the Grand Prix boasted big hexagonal medallions.”

    Which looks suspiciously like an octagon…

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Don’t forget, you could raise the hood,and see 2 feet of space before you got to the engine.

  • avatar
    mjal

    My brother bought one of these used while in college in the ’80s. It was a’77 base model, no vinyl roof, 301 engine, vinyl bench seats, with over 100k on the odo. Make all the fun you want of these cars, but this one was tough as nails and gave him many years of trouble-free driving. He sold it with over 200k miles to a girl who drove it to Alaska.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I went to my high school prom in one of these. My date’s mother lent me the car (along with her daughter), was her pride & joy. Everyone knew Marge’s GP. It was the gold with the antique white landau roof and same leather interior. Plus T-tops!

    As high school kids were wont to do back then, we got totally stoned and drove the thing at high speeds in the backwoods of Northeast Ohio; amazingly no one was harmed or injured during the process. We attended the dinner and the prom, we skipped the after-party. The car (and us) came back without a scratch on it.

    Neither Sally or I had any recollection of what we did that evening. We only found about the racing from the kids we raced against. (We won, BTW.) We declared it the prom night a success and never dated again.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Pretty much evryone but those who bought them , hated these cars at the time they were new .

    I rather like the dashboard layout and not surprised GM offered an optional tachometer / clock .

    As mentioned , they were indestructable if boring and fuel thirsty .

    Cars like these made me a firm Import man in spite of my basic lifetime Generous Motors bias , I still drive a ’69 Chevy C/10 pickup truck as my shop truck .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    Really, really hard to throw quality out the window when it is nowhere to be found…

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    What the pictures don’t show is the cool cockpit layout these cars had. Someone has already pinched the console and center stack, but these cars with the bucket seats and floor shifter had a really nice wraparound feel that BMW used 10 years later to good effect.
    We’ve had two Ponchos, a ’73 Lemans wagon with the Pontiac 400 and the ’79 Bonneville with the Olds 350, buckets and a floor shift.
    Both cars were thirsty but an absolute hoot to drive as long as they stayed in tune.
    I imagined this beast wasn’t far off the mark, until I saw the part about the 301. Meh.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      You’re right about that. My 1975 GP had the buckets with the center console and floor shifter, and it felt pretty cool to sit in that car. The ones with bench seats looked like crap, though. Would you believe a friend of mine had a Pontiac Can Am of that same year, very sporty and aggressive looking on the outside, but with a bench seat inside. That feature alone ruined the whole car…

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    There was quite a lot of last minute buying of this year’s mid-sized GM line as there was a wide awareness that they would be down-sized in 1978 . My father bought a 1977 LeMans at the end of the model year . I tried to get him to buy a full-sized model as I’d heard they weighed less , handled better , got better mileage , etc. but as usual he didn’t listen to me . A cousin bought a new ’77 GP in white with a tan vinyl top and a girlfriend’s sister had a 1977 GP we borrowed once . It was oddly equipped with no vinyl top but a sunroof ( which leaked ) and a seldom seen dark green metallic and a tan leather interior . As I recall it had some rust ( it was maybe 6 years old but was a San Antonio car )and was disappointingly slow , even with the 400. Remember thinking it didn’t compare with an uncle’s 1971 Grand Prix I had driven a few times .

  • avatar
    Jetstar 88

    About those wheels…Am I right in saying you need a small ring to slip on the hubs of whatever car you’re mounting them on to make them hub-centric? I have a pair, and they don’t ride on the hubs of my 1964 Olds the way the stamped-steel wheels do.
    Sorry for the tech question, but it did seem like an opportune time to ask. I do love me some
    DotJ.

  • avatar

    I had a neighbor who drove one of these as a kid in the late 70′s.
    Bright orange (or was it bright red?), t-tops, eight track and him with mirrored aviator glasses and platform shoes and disco clothing.
    Back then I thought he and the car were pretty cool, today I think of Disco Stu.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I remember these cars fondly as a kid in the 80′s……..as being fodder for monster trucks and charity sledgehammering.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    Back-in-the-day, I liked these. That said, have you noticed that you get few door dings now that most of these six-foot-long-doored monsters are off the road?

    For the Elvis fans: Elvis had a young woman over to Graceland and early in the morning they were sitting on the front steps when a new Grand Prix pulled up the drive. Elvis told the young woman that the car was her’s and then sheepishly told her that at 4:00 am a Pontiac was the best he could come up with. It seems even The King has some limits to his powers.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    My friends dad had what I think was a 78 grand prix when we were in grade school. As a nine year old, I thought that car was really comfortable to ride in. Seemed pretty fast too!

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    You can’t see it in the pic but they also had a Mcdonnell Douglas wind tunnel for a fan shroud. It looked like 3 feet from the radiator to the front of the engine.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Allegedly, Radial Tuned Suspension meant that the suspension had been modified/re-calibrated to cope with the softer, more flexible sidewalls of radial tires, versus the stiffer walls of the old bias plys. It basically meant harder bushings and stiffer shocks and springs.

    They may not have handled great compared to the West German makes or most contemporary cars, but it likely did make them handle noticeably better than they would have without the RTS modifications.

  • avatar
    Burger Boy

    I had a triple black version of this car, my very first new car. Loaded, T-tops came to $6900. Yeah, we laugh now, but everyone loved this car, made my girlfriend was um, “excited” and when it came time to sell, it went for a premium. It wasn’t a race car by any means, but what was then? Todays Dodge Caravan is much quicker than the Z28 Camaro of the day.

  • avatar
    vwgolf420

    My uncle had a cobalt blue with white vinyl roof and white vinyl upholstery.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in the day I liked these even with the overwrought rococo styling and the neat wrap around cockpit especially with buckets and console. But while other teens lusted for Screaming Chicken Trans Ams and Z28 Camaros my heart raced for the 73-75 Grand Am. For some reason these seemed ahead of their time or just a more modern GTO with the Endura bumpers, euro tuned suspension and the same wrap around cockpit with buckets and console that was optional in LeMans and GP was standard in these. Powered by a 400ci or optional 455ci.4 speed or automatic they seem under appreciated as muscle cars.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My great Uncle had a white 1977 with red vinyl roof and red bucket seats/black floor shifter that cantered towards the driver. Also had gauges and optional firmer suspension and the new for that year 301. he didn’t like the look of the new downsized model and quickly snapped up this leftover. I remember the 301 being very smooth and having a lot of low end torque. You barely had to touch the gas pedal to get the car moving around town. It was also much better on gas than his previous 400 equipped 72. Had the car for years and not much actually went wrong with it or failed other than the usual tuneup, carb rebuild and typical hoses belts etc. His next car ironically ended up being an 80′s downsized G-body Cutlass which he liked better overall and I remember him admitting that he was probably wrong in not trying out the 78 GP when it debuted as it had a larger trunk and better laid out roomier interior.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Looking at this GP, you can see the Pontiac heritage. Switch over and look at the Cordoba, and I can’t tell anything. Makes me think if I had to choose between the two at the time, I’d of bought a Lincoln. Ha.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Murilee, didn’t the Cougar use Farah Fawcett-Majors as the eye candy??

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    My dad had a 77 GP as a daily driver for the first 11 years of my life. Silver with red velour bucket seats, floor mounted shifter, power windows, and a sunroof (not the t-tops). I wish I knew which motor it had. It had wire mesh hub caps that were constantly being stolen. I remember the “GP” logos everywhere inside and out. It met its untimely demise when someone cut out in front of him. With all of that metal in front, there wasn’t much damage, but it was still curtains for the big fella. By then our other car was an Audi 4000 and the GP was replaced with a ’88 Toyota Celica. Probably not all that surprising that this was the last GM product he ever owned. It still blows my mind that this is what passed for an upscale GM product back in the day.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      An upscale GM at the time would have been a loaded Cutlass/Regal or even the Seville. The GP was a mid level personal luxury coupe and considering the time era it was from hardly a bad one.

  • avatar
    miklo1968

    The way this car could accelerate in near total silence always impressed me as a 14 year old kid, back in 1982. We had a family friend who owned a silver ’77 Grand Prix (I don’t know which engine he had under the hood). I only rode in the car a few times and he was lead footed like my parents but his Grand Prix didn’t sound like the engine was going to come screaming through the hood and there was no fan roaring under there like it was cooling down a nuclear reactor. My dad drove a ’77 Buick Regal and mom drove a ’73 Buick Regal then, both had the 4bbl 350. I knew that the 3 cars were virtually identical and probably rolled off the same assembly line but the Grand Prix was so refined and superior to the Regal in every way. I do remember by 1982 the Grand Prix had about 89k, my dad’s ’77 Regal had about 69k and the 9 year old ’73 had over 100k on the clock. I’ve never been in a car before or since that could duplicate the ride quality of the ’77 Grand Prix. There are 3 cars I’ve driven or ridden in that did come close to duplicating the ride of the Grand Prix they are the 1987 Buick Riviera, 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme V8 and 1989 Mercury Cougar LS. The Riviera V6 was very quiet even when the pedal went to the metal but the ride was too soft like my mom’s ’73 Regal. The Cutlass Supreme 307 V8 screamed out in agony anytime the rpms climbed above 3500 like my dad’s ’77 Regal but the fan clutch must have worked on the Oldsmobile because that awful roaring stopped at 3000 rpm. The Mercury Cougar which I drove for 6 years had the potential to duplicate the Grand Prix in every way, if only the 140 horsepower V6 didn’t run out of steam so quickly. The ride quality was surprisingly close to the Grand Prix especially for a Ford Motor Company vehicle. In 1984 when my dad finally bought his “dream” car which turned out to be his worst nightmare, a 1977 Cadillac Seville with only 64k it didn’t ride or work quietly under pressure like the Grand Prix did. In 1993 I had the chance to ride in a Rolls Royce and I thought I was going to experience the “ride” of my life and I ended up disappointed and wondering what all the hype was about and why anyone would spend that kind of money on a car that rides like an old Checker Cab. The V6 in the 2005 Accord I currently drive is nearly silent to the redline and the ride overall is great but not like the Grand Prix. I spent about 15 years driving or riding in as many different vehicles as I could trying to find that special feeling again. I even rented the last 2 generations of the Pontiac Grand Prix and hated every minute in them. I know I’ll never find what I was looking for and I’m probably remembering things better than they actually were.

  • avatar
    crystalsdaddy

    That’s my car. Taking offers. She’s pretty. I have tones of pics


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