Many American model lines involve confusing nomenclature — especially when names continue for decades — and so it is with the 1960s Pontiac Grand Prix, which made its debut in 1962 and has been around ever since. But first series cars belong squarely to the Swinging Sixties, as the second series (from 1969) dropped the Grand Prix from Pontiac’s upmarket full-size range into the mid-range.
The initial offering was developed from the Pontiac Catalina coupe, without its predecessor’s excessive chromework and with sporty interior trim that included a centre console and bucket seats. This was designed to make the Grand Prix the personal luxury car for those who preferred to be seen in (and drive) a quality high-performance model, to which end numerous fancy extras were offered. The stratagem worked well, for the Grand Prix sold well until it was demoted.
First generation cars were fitted with a 6.4 litre V8 from the companion Bonneville, though various tuned versions were available and a larger 6.9 litre option was offered. The engine choice remained the same until 1967, when two improved versions of the old power plants appeared at 6.5 and 7 litres respectively. The Grand Prix’s appearance evolved over the decade, too. The initial convertible-style roofline was squared off with a concave rear window, and a major restyle in 1965 saw all Pontiac models acquire the more rounded ‘Coke bottle’ look that was then modish. However, the Grand Prix did not change as drastically as most.
Further styling changes were implemented in 1967, along with the introduction of a convertible Grand Prix. But the end was nigh, and though 1968 saw a new beak-nosed grille and bumper, the convertible was swiftly discontinued and this would be the Grand Prix’s last year as a member of the full-sized Pontiac club.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1962 (until 1968)
6.4 I (389 cid) or 6.9 I (421 cid) V8; 6.5 I (400 cid) or 7.0 I (428 cid) V8
Varied according to engine – but typically top speed of around 130 mph (209 km/h); 0-100 mph (161 km/h) in 12 secs.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Grand Prix’s sporty profile was down to John DeLorean, Pontiac’s head of advanced engineering – who would become notorious as the founder of Northern Ireland’s DeLorean Motor Company, which went spectacularly bust in the early 1980s after making 9,000 gullwing DeLorean sports cars.