Cohort Capsule: 1973 Pontiac Grand Ville – Another Case Of Name Debasement And The Grand Finale For The Extended Wheelbase

14145224292_6f53dccf00_zImages posted at the Cohort by William Rubano

Detroit perpetually played the game of name debasement: every few years, create a new top model with an even more impressive sounding name, and push the previous standard-bearer down a notch. Remember when the Bel Air was only used only on the exclusive hardtop coupe Chevrolet (1950)? Well, Pontiac was a player too; in 1971 its standard bearer Bonneville was due for a take-down, thus the Grand Ville, to take its place at the top of the pecking order.




The Pontiac Bonneville (and Star Chief/Executive) had always been bestowed with a longer wheelbase of the lesser Catalina/Ventura. This was an old tradition, back when a few extra inches of wheelbase was something to brag about. The Sloanian ladder was just a series of steps of ever longer wheelbases and accordingly higher prices. But that started to crumble, when cars like the 1958 Thunderbird showed that exclusivity could come in shorter packages.




The 1971 Grand Ville and Bonneville started out on 126 inch wheelbase, stretched some 2.6 inches over the Catalina’s standard 123.5″ length. But that only lasted two years, and by 1973, all big Pontiacs, including this ’73 convertible, were riding on the same 124″ wheelbase. It undoubtedly reflected the changing values of the early seventies, as well as GM’s recognition that bigger was not always better.




The Grand Ville pushed the Bonneville down into place previously occupied by the Executive. Which means that the Catalina stayed in its place. Unlike at Chevy, where the Biscayne and Bel Air were soon pushed off the ladder totally, at Pontiac it was just a re-shuffle at the top, and the Catalina continued on until 1982, when Pontiac foolishly axed the B-Bodies totally.



If you wanted a full-size Pontiac convertible from 1973 to 1975, this was the only way to get it, after the Catalina ragtop was discontinued (there was no Bonneville convertible after 1970).  Less than 5,000 of these beauties were moved each year, making it the rarest B body convertible in those years, though the red paint on this car appears to have been a popular choice.

Sedans got what looked like the upmarket roof from the C body, but remained B-bodies.  A 400 (455 in 1971) came standard on all body styles, along with the usual luxury trappings of the era. You could get adjustable pedals from 1974 to 1975 as well.


The Grand Ville was a sales success at first, until the Arab oil embargo caused people to re-think buying an automobile whose name loosely translates as “large city,” and sales plummeted. In 1975, the Grand Ville was promoted to a Grand Ville Brougham, gaining some extra equipment in the process, before finally becoming the Bonneville Brougham in 1976, restoring that nameplate’s prestige in anticipation of the downsized 1977’s release.


Related reading:

1972 Pontiac Catalina: More For Your Dollar1973 Pontiac Grand Ville Convertible: Lady in Waiting