Cohort Sighting: 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix – A Big Deal In Any City

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From a midwesterner’s perspective, it might seem that the Northwest is crawling with old cars, but for the locals who encounter them regularly, like Washingtonian cohort member Runningonfumes, some stand out more than others.  All the Volvo 240s and Tercel wagons in the world wouldn’t make the sight of this pristine Grand Prix any less remarkable.

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With its loop bumper, concealed headlights, and split grille, this is a rich example of turn-of-the-decade styling and a lot of other cars would copy these cues with varying degrees of success.  Many undoubtedly found it garish, but without the vinyl roof and with cerulean paint, this particular car isn’t too kitschy.

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In identifying its exact year, a little bit of research was required.  Until now, I only understood the GP as the purpose-built G-body coupe built from 1969 onward; I didn’t realize it began life as a more special version of Pontiac’s B-body, a la Buick Wildcat.  So this car, built before the nameplate’s reinvention as a midsize trendsetter makes it rather rare, and as a member of GM’s fullsize family, a definite big deal.

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There are shades of the ’70 LeMans and ’68 Skylark present in the droopy rear end and, if you have bad enough eyesight, even the slightest hint of ’71 Riviera’s boat tail.  All in all, it’s not a very distinguished design, and not very well matched to the front of the car.  The optional vinyl top makes more sense given the featurelessness when viewed from this angle.

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I’m not going to say this is evidence of GM’s disdain for customer’s intelligence, because the commonality almost seems accidental.  Even the in ’80s when GM badged engineering reached its peak, various divisions would still get very differently themed front and rear clips on the same basic shape.  But it’s still hard to grasp why anyone thought so much sharing of design cues would be wise.  At least the front ends were suitably distinguished (until another domestic manufacturer cribbed a given theme, which was especially frequent in Pontiac’s case).

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Even through the glare, we can see that this is a very clean interior, and even though the instrumentation and upholstery aren’t original, they–along with the center console–do a good job of making the car feel more modern.

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Whatever complaints exist about the exterior styling or the GP’s relevance in 1968, its interior more successfully adhered to the car’s original personal luxury mandate, and would only get better in subsequent years.  The same is true for the Grand Prix as a whole, so credit must be extended to those responsible for rescuing this example of the model’s most obscure incarnation.

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