Pontiac Grand Prix

From Academic Kids

The Grand Prix name has been used on large Pontiac automobiles since 1962. Named for the Grand Prix prototype auto racing series epitomized by the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the car was originally indended to be a competitor for the Ford Thunderbird and Chrysler 300 personal luxury cars. Over the years, it became simply the marque's mid-size offering, slotting below the large Bonneville in the company's lineup.


Origin of the model

Missing image
1967 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible. This one year was the only time a convertible was offered.

The Grand Prix appeared in the Pontiac line in 1962. It was essentially a standard Pontiac Catalina coupe with less chrome outside and sportier trim (bucket seats and a center console) inside. The performance-minded John De Lorean, head of Advanced Engineering at Pontiac, contributed greatly to the development of both the Grand Prix and 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.

Shake up the market

For 1969, DeLorean's team unleashed an audacious all-new Grand Prix based on a slightly stretched version of the intermediate GM A platform. This smaller, lighter car at last had its own body, and brought a new level style and luxury into the intermediate class. It also refocused attention on performance, with increased installation percentages for manual transmissions and engine options up to the 390 hp (290 kW) 428 HO. It was both a marketing and an engineering landmark, being hailed at the time as "an Eldorado for the masses" and also in retrospect as the first successful downsizing of an American car.

The 1969 Grand Prix performed the remarkable feat of creating a new market segment—the intermediate personal luxury car. The similar Chevrolet Monte Carlo followed the next year. Ford and Chrysler scrambled to respond, producing plusher versions of their Ford Torino and Dodge Charger intermediates, but both eventually created new models to enter the battle—the Ford Elite in 1974 and Chrysler Cordoba in 1975.


All A-bodies, including the Grand Prix, were redesigned for 1973. This generation was larger and heavier, due partly to the federally-mandated 5 mph (8 km/h) crash bumpers. Although large V8s were still available, performance was on the decline due to another federal standard—a new emissions control system. The most notable styling feature of this generation was the appearance of the fixed opera window, replacing the previous disappearing rear side glass.


1978 brought a downsizing of the Grand Prix and the other A-bodies. This version of the A-body also got some sheet metal revisions in 1980.


When most A-bodies were moved to front wheel drive in 1982, the Grand Prix remained on the same rear wheel drive chassis, now under the name "G-body". The Grand Prix remained as a coupe, with its sedan version being the short-lived mid-size Bonneville. The Bonneville went back to full size on the GM H platform in 1986, and the Grand Prix continued as a rear wheel drive vehicle until 1987.


The first front wheel drive W-body Grand Prix Coupe was built on January 12, 1988. This generation Grand Prix was built in Kansas City, Kansas. Three model designations were available: base, LE, and SE. The Grand Prix LE had standard air conditioning, power windows, and power locks. SE models got the 2.8 L V6 engine along with other amenities, such as "AQ9" 14-way pneumatic power seats, a driver information computer in the center console, and a sport gauge cluster. The Grand Prix was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year for 1988.

In 1989, air conditioning became standard on all models, and a 3.1 L Multi-Port Fuel Injected V6 replaced the underpowered, outdated 2.8. Another model designation to appear in 1989 was the Turbo Grand Prix. This version started as an SE minus three available options: leather seats, a sunroof, and, in 1990, a CD Player. These were shipped to McLaren/ASC to get a "B4M" body kit with special molding and hood louvers, and a modified 3.1 L V6 with a Garrett T-25 turbocharger and intercooler. The Turbo also included a full-analog gauge cluster that would soon become the base of the 1990–1993 sport cluster.

In 1990, the base model was dropped in favor of a sedan version, entering production on September 12, 1989. The new STE (Special Touring Edition) Grand Prix had special seats, audio systems, and Driver Information Centers. The seats were 8-way pnumatic with adjustable lumbar supports. The audio systems were 8-speaker with full graphic equalizer and a "gain" slider to control bass. The Driver Information Centers were quite a step up from the more basic ones available in the SE and Turbo. In addition to the basic information that the SE LCD counterparts displayed, the STE vacuum fluorescent display DIC's had a full light and door monitor with icons for all the major vehicle systems. The STE also had a front and rear lightbar in addition to a trunk-panel. A Turbocharged STE was also available for this year.

In 1991, the turbo models were dropped in favor of a new GTP model. This included the new 3.4 L Twin Dual Cam engine along with all available options and a modified version of the B4M body package. The composite headlights were replaced with mini-quads and the package was renamed B4U. An SE sedan also became available that year.

The final 1996 Grand Prix was built on May 24, 1996.


In 1997, the W-bodies got a major redesign. The first 1997 Grand Prix was built on August 12, 1996. Promoted widely for its "wide track" appearance, the second-generation W-body Grand Prix sold well. The Grand Prix was made in the Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas until 2003, when production was shifted to Oshawa, Ontario Canada. The last Grand Prix coupe rolled off the assembly line on July 19, 2002.


The Grand Prix was updated for 2004 on a revised version of the GM W platform. The first 2004 Grand Prix was built on May 5, 2003. A notable addition to the line was the GXP's Northstar V8 previously reserved for Cadillac. The model may be replaced by a new G8 for 2007.

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