I’ve driven past this neglected ’64 GP for years now, and never stopped. But with all of this GM Deadliness in the air, I decided that my truss order could wait five minutes while I paid my respects through the chain link fence. Of course, I live in hope of finding a ’63 GP curbside, but that may be a while. Meanwhile, this will have to do.
How many times have I posted this picture? Can I have one, please (the car)?
I’ve always preferred the ’63 over the ’64. I’d forgotten about that prominent bulge added to the ’64 Pontiac’s rear flanks. Hmm. This angle really shows it clearly. And I thought it was because the front end wasn’t quite as nice.
I’ll stick to the profile, but then I can see the faired-in headlights. Close, but not quite a Greatest Hit.
Sorry Paul, I like ’em both. Although that rear end looks like it inspired Cadillac and Lincoln 5+ years later.
Agreed. Uppity Pontiac, looking richer than its station 😉
It’s almost too painful to contemplate. How could GM take the best styled and most desirable cars of the early ’60s and kill the brand?
This is pure speculation on my part, but I suspect that as part of their restructuring, GM decided that they couldn’t support two brands with a wide model range and would never kill Chevy, so they chose to pull the plug on Pontiac instead.
Which was the correct decision. For many years, Pontiacs were just over-trimmed Chevrolets. That they managed to carve a unique identity in the midst was due to successful inter-division lobbying by Pontiac brass rather than anything else. Chevrolet aimed to offer a full range of cars, while B-O-P needed three brands and a separate dealer network for it. It worked fine when the company had serious market share, but Pontiac still ate more into Chevrolet’s share rather than Ford’s or Chrysler’s. GM really needed a full-range brand and a premium brand. Chevy and Caddy were all that’s necessary. Add GMC for trucks (possible future expansion into medium/heavy), and Buick for history (Buick *is* GM) and China, and there you have it.
I have never understood the decision to keep the GMC Truck brand alive. For the same reason Pontiac was disbanded, GMC only eats into Chevy truck sales, yet require some different tooling and a separate dealer network. GM is not going back into medium (Top Kick and Kodiak are history) or heavy trucks anytime soon. Even when they were in it, back in the ’70’s, Chevy duplicated every GMC model. It never made sense to me.
My understanding was that it was a dealer thing. Old GM had moved most Pontiac Buick and GMC franchises into a single dealer network. With Pontiac getting killed, I think that the fear was if they killed GMC too, there would not be enough Buick volume to keep those dealers afloat. With Buick and GMC it worked out, though. But from a product standpoint, I agree with you completely.
I think the key to GMC’s continued existence is in “GM Death Watch 31” of this piece Paul wrote for TTAC four years ago.
Killing those dealers and just going Chevy-Cadillac would probably be a PR as well as a legal nightmare…one of GM’s own making thanks to franchise laws put in place to protect dealers from a repeat of what happened in 1956.
More specifically, I’d say the sentimental reasons for Pontiac mostly come from the 1957-80 period…and going that late is generous.
Pontiac was pretty much a fancy Chevy when it began, and GM contemplated killing it back in the 50’s. Instead Bunkie Knudsen and John DeLorean were brought in to transform its US image (they pretty much went on being fancy Chevies in Canada…but that business model worked up there).
Starting with the 1971 Nova clones, Pontiac started its long road back to simply being a fancy or over-trimmed Chevy…and as such only ended up hurting Chevy’s position in the marketplace. In the 50’s it was the opposite…
I’ve argued here and elsewhere that after the BOP engines disappeared in favor of Chevrolet drivetrains…Pontiac no longer had a reason to exist.
Over at FoMoCo, Ford models covered both low-price and lower-middle positions, giving Ford a more premium perception in the marketplace than Chevrolet. FoMoCo’s “Pontiac” (not performance line but lower-middle line) was Edsel, which came and went within three model years.
Chrysler’s marque occupying the lower-middle position was DeSoto, and it too was gone by the end of 1960.
Pontiac got a reprieve because GM found the performance angle and quickly established a beachhead with “Wide-Track” suspensions and distinctive styling. By the time the ’67 Firebird appeared, Pontiac’s reputation was such that the ‘Bird would be seen as a differently-engineered car from the Camaro…and it would continue that way until the third-gen models came out for ’82.
Here’s Aaron Severson’s take on the late ’50s revival of Pontiac…
I think the choice was between Pontiac and Buick, and Buick does the business in China. I remember hearing Bob Lutz explain on Autoline After Hours that they had a solid plan for Pontiac but the administrators were just not interested, they wanted to streamline the company (or something to that effect).
What bugs me most about the 1964 is the taillight treatment. The regular Pontiacs look fine, but the Grand Prix moves the taillights out of the vertical fender sculptings and onto a horizontal bar below the trunk lid. It looks contrived and tacky — unusual for a Grand Prix (at least until the odd 1968 redesign).
Both 63 and 64 GP’s are beautiful cars…wouldn’t mind owning either of them!
Although I have to agree that the 63 GP is a more attractive car, I have always had a soft spot for the 64 that stems from my Grandma’s 64 Catalina sedan. Those big boomerang taillights were unmistakable.
This 64 GP is almost as much of an antidote to our F-body syndromes as the 62 Cad was yesterday. Anyone old enough to have spent any time in these cars will not have a hard time understanding how we can be so harsh on the Gen3 F body. Even the lowly Catalina was a quality-built car made up of quality-built pieces. The only rap I can recall on any of these was the 3 speed Roto-Hydramatic in some models. But if you chose your Poncho carefully (Bonnie or Star Chief, I believe) you got the Cadillac-grade Jetaway H-M. And if having to rebuild a tranny at 80K was the worst thing that happened with the car, then it was still a pretty good car.
Oh General Motors – How far you fell.
I remember thinking that these were the sharpest cars out there when I was a kid, even though they were a few years old by that point. It helped that Matchbox offered a bright red 1964 Grand Prix in its line-up for many years. I was especially in awe of the “white-out” taillights, although, in retrospect, the 1963 treatment has held up better.
It’s interesting that the 1963 model featured chrome housings for the headlights, and the 1964 model covered the headlight housing completely with the body. Pontiac repeated that evolution in styling for 1965-66.
I had a few moments between processes to check in, I was taken aback by this car.
Imagine virtually the same car in gold and you have my childhood next door neighbor’s daily driver back in the late 60’s…
Gene was a tall dark and handsome guy, with a deep voice. All the neighborhood women loved him, much to his wife’s consternation. He was also the man’s man, had been in the army, was a motorhead (had a beautiful ’32 five window with a 283 Chevy as his ‘fun’ car), hunter, fisher, good athlete. But that gold Grand Prix is what made me want to be like him.
Since I was all of five, it was going to be pretty tough to do. The closest I do is to get his car. Which I did, as a Matchbox that my father bought for me.
Still, when I see these cars, I think back to that image of my old neighbor… I didn’t turn out anything like the guy, but I still like his old car.
Nice post and remembrances! My childhood thoughts to that same era revolve around the muscle cars folks in my hometown were driving. One was the owner of a 69 Orbit Orange GTO Judge and he would pass our row house every day around 4:30 pm, that Goat just above idle, but with an exhaust note with plenty of Ram AIr basso profundo!
Another I remember like it was yesterday was the young Viet Nam vet, back home, in his 69 B-5 blue Plymouth Road Runner. In stark contrast to the mood in those times, I remember he had a large American flag custom painted on the entire rear quarter of the RR. Muscle cars and Old Glory, it gets no better then that for a tribute to her!
Just one house away from the RR was a 69 Corvette coupe, LeMans blue.
Needless to say, the car scene is not as interesting as it was circa 1969.
I love these GP’s, but they are really custom trimmed Catalinas. The concave rear window was the big difference. And as for the ‘clean trim’, one could get a low end Catalina with same “clean lines” too. Pontiac was #3 in sales due to good sales of their ‘standard’ full size line. So, yes, the GP and all of the big 60’s Ponchos is one of GM’s Greatest Hits.
People forget that the 1962-68 GP was not a unique body as the Riviera or Toronado. To me they are similar to Olds Starfire or Buick Wildcat of same era. Short wheelbase full size coupe with special trim and buckets.
That concave rear window and square rear roof pillars really made a difference on the 1963-64 models. The 1963-64 Olds Starfire shared the same roofline.
I don’t believe that the Buick Wildcat featured the concave rear window, and, after 1962, it was available as a four-door hardtop. There were no four-door versions of the Grand Prix or Starfire in the 1960s.
The closest to come to a 4-door version of the Grand Prix is the Canadian Grand Parisienne like the front end of this picture of a 1966 model
Personally I love the 66 LTD 2 door hardtop with the concave rear window and slim pillared roof – one of the most beautiful Fords of the era, so much better than the less graceful, more boxy 65 and the more rounded off 67.
I’m with Paul. The first time I saw a new GP in 63 in midnight blue I was stunned. The 64 just looks tamed down, less edgy, more conventional. I’m a big fan of the 67 GP as well. Pontiac in the 60s was where it was at, model after model, year after year of great styling.
This car is a 64 copy of my Mother’s 63 in Marimba Red that she drove until 1973.
I Lived in this car. I can remember the neighbors lining up for a ride around the block in “lola” . Only I got to sit on the middle armrest in the back seat for every spin.
I can also remember the transmission slipping into nuetral for what seemed like years.
OMG, i love this car…. i wish i could get my hands on it…..florida living would suit it.
I’ll have the red one. One of the most under appreciated cars of it time
Did Paul say something about ordering a truss? Paging George Lebay…
But then came the ’65, and it took my breath away even at 8 years of age!!
I like these, the ’63 it’s stunningly elegant…the ’65-’66 however are among my favorite cars of all times (yes, I love big hips !)
A guy that lived on the next street had a copper color 64 GP. At age 12, I thought that car was just beautiful. I did not understand how a 18 or 20 year old guy could possibly own such an impressive car, since my Dad had a 64 Biscayne. Unfortunately for my Dad, my Mom wore the pants when it came to car buying, even though she didn’t drive. My mother considered cars items of utility. Luxury or frills were totally unnecessary in life.
A funny item. When I became employed out of the service, I bought a nice used 68 Fury, some serviceable clothes including a suit, and a few other things. Today, I chuckle when I think of the day my mother chatted with my uncle, and told him, referring to me, “Chuck, all he does is throw money away.”
I’m still laughing as I’m typing this.
What beautiful classy cars those are. I never realized they had concave rear windows before.
Count me among those who prefer the ’63 and its slimmer hips, especially combined with those eight-lug wheels with the exposed drums. You can also count me among those who had the Matchbox version, though I recall mine as being purple or dark blue.
This all brings back memories.
I was seven when those were the current model…a friend’s parents had a 1964 Catalina. The boomerang taillights fascinated me, as did the headlights one on top of the other (the only other vehicle I’d noticed to have that, was my school bus, a 1960 International).
But out and about in town, someone had a 1965 Grand Prix. Rear end looked JUST like my friend’s family car…except those boomerangs were WHITE, not red. And the REAL taillights were hidden somehow, unless the driver stepped on the brakes. What was this Grand Pricks (that’s how I pronounced it)? Why was it so different, and in strange, contrived ways?
I have no clue as to the merits of this car. I’m guessing it was Pontiac’s way of eee-e-zzzing into the Personal Luxury…starting with an off-the-line full-size shell. The market and the bankroll didn’t justify a model-specific body…
Give me that Falcon in front instead!
I have an original Matchbox of the ’64 Grand Prix, in red. One of my favorites as a kid that got lost, and I found this one at thrift store!
The behind-the-fence situation of that GP reminds me of the black-on-black Chrysler 300L hardtop that sat behind a fence in Centralia (WA) for a couple of years. On one of the first trips by, I tracked down the lot owner and was told that it was a customer’s car in for transmission repair. Well, it sat there for a couple of years. Was gone the next time I drove by. Turned up on a classic-car lot all spiffed up with the transmission repaired and a far-too-high price tag.
Who doesn’t like the ’63 Grand Prix?
I have one myself. Not in mint condition but it’s a great car nevertheless.
Take a look at it if you want:
You have a great car! Thanks for showing it to us.