CC Capsule: 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix – A Broughamified GM Deadly Sin

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It had been a long, crappy day at the office, and I was headed home to a long night of leaning on the youngest boy to make up more missing homework assignments. And then I realized I had nothing thawed for dinner. Thank God for the roasted chickens at the grocery store – but it was about five windy degrees outside, so dashing in to get it was not going to be a joy. What a relentless day it was! And then there it stood.

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It’s amazing how finding a curbside classic can instantly shuck off my day’s stress. And making my day even better, as I walked around this Grand Prix snapping photos, the owner stuck his head out of the barber shop across the way and invited me in to talk about his car.

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“I bought it off this lady who bought it new but wasn’t driving anymore,” he said. “It’s got only 80 thousand miles on it.” A broughamified coupe was certainly the kind of car a middle-aged woman would have bought in 1979. By the looks of the car, she didn’t have many places to go in the ensuing 35 years. Even the pillowy interior looks barely ruffled.

I know these were a mere shadow of Grand Prixes gone by, especially the stunning 1963 and 1964 models. We’ve gone so far as to call this Grand Prix a GM Deadly Sin; read all about it here. But let’s ignore the storied Grand Prix history and weigh this car on its own merits for a moment. Pretend this car was called something other than Grand Prix. As a midsized two-door on the cusp of the 1980s, it wasn’t bad.

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One of these was in the motor pool of a state agency where I worked in 1988. (Department of Mental Health. All of my friends, and even some of my family, joked that it was a remarkably accurate placement.) They had a motley crew of vehicles, including a couple of Ford vans, a bare-bones compact (an Escort, I think), and a rust-riddled white Caprice wagon. It wasn’t hard for the GP to stand out among this competition. I checked it out every time it was available, and I pretty quickly came to like driving it. It was comfortable and quiet. The power steering was typically finger light, but was precise enough. It had enough go power for the city traffic I drove in. Its ride felt a little floaty but never unsure. The one thing I couldn’t get over was the feminine styling. See above, re: middle-aged women buyers.

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But the strapping fellow who owned this one seemed more than secure enough in his masculinity to drive it. (He was also brash enough to park it in a handicapped space.) Actually, he was selling it. When I explained to him about Curbside Classic, he became pretty excited to find that I would be sharing his Grand Prix all over the Internet. He even dashed out to the car with me so he could prop up the For Sale sign in the front window so I could photograph it. Unfortunately, my iPhone doesn’t like the cold and it chose that moment to shut down. Then it took me more than two months to get around to writing about this GP. So much for helping a guy out.

The Grand Prix has been a frequent subject around here. Read about it: 1964, 1968, 1969, 19761991.