Everyone here knows what I’m talking about. We’ve all had an experience with the one you don’t take home to Mom. Oh, maybe she (or he) is a little more experienced than your mom’s used to, or older, or younger, or tattooed, but there’s something just a bit shady about her that you’d rather keep to yourself. I think the same sentiment can be applied to cars, and this one is, ironically, all my wife’s fault.
Photo Courtesy of mecum.com
For our ninth anniversary this year, my lovely bride bought me (amongst other things) a full-line 1975 Pontiac brochure, and I was almost instantly smitten by the Grand Prix shown in the lead photo. Maybe it was the silver and black color combo, or the contrasting 1930s Mercedes in the garage behind it, but I kept returning to it like it was some kind of siren calling me to my doom.
As has been covered before, Pontiac really began its long, slow decline in the 1970s. Its glory days were just a recent memory, as Oldsmobile carried the GM day in the malaise years. In a way, buying a “real-life” 1975 Grand Prix would be paramount to taking “that” girl home to Mom; after all, I have a garage full of super-cool (well, in my eyes anyway) ’50s and ’60s iron. The older stuff is where my heart lies, and if I ever brought a ’70s car home, it had better have a screaming chicken on the hood. Yet I can’t stop thinking about the Grand Prix.
There has to be a rational reason, or at least that’s what I keep repeating to myself. To get to the bottom of my self-diagnosed perversions, I’ve examined the Grand Prix’s GM competitors to determine if I have similar feelings for them. Perhaps I am an undiagnosed personal luxury coupe lover.
Chevrolet, however, can be safely eliminated, as I’ve never been a particular fan of the ’73-’77 Monte Carlo. The round headlight versions like the above ’75 model aren’t terrible, but the weird mirror image door handle/lock cylinder deal is a bit of a turnoff. The parallel bodylines on the rear quarters and fenders are fairly well-done, but on the whole, I’m not going out of my way to check these out when I find them. Strike one.
Perhaps the most mainstream option of the 1970s was the Cutlass Supreme. The bronze color, although undoubtedly popular at the time, does the body no favors in my opinion. Neither do the strange creases adorning its flanks. As a complete work, I guess I can see the appeal of the Cutlass Supreme, but it doesn’t really seem to stand out from the others in the looks department. I guess Oldsmobile buyers just followed the crowd in the ’70s. Strike two.
OK, I’m a Buick guy, so how about the ’75 Regal? Sorry to say, I think that Buick churned out the least appealing example of the personal-luxury genre, at least amongst the GM brigade. The rear end treatment is OK, but I’m not in love with the front end, especially on the square headlight examples that followed this one. Somehow, the Regal seems to be the most conservatively styled of the four, and not in a good way. Even a set of Buick Rally wheels can’t save it for me. Other GM brands…you’re out!
Photo Courtesy of mecum.com
Thus, I’m back to square one. To be honest, pictures I see of the actual car, especially of the rear end, don’t do it for me like the brochure image does. In a similar vein as the Oldsmobile, the copper color on the above ’75 doesn’t belong on anything but a Turbine Car or other mid-’60s Chrysler, but even the lines don’t exactly take my breath away. The ironing board hood, however, does add some much needed drama and tension, draping this generation of Grand Prix with an exciting visual image, at least compared to its contemporaries. The problem for me is that the Grand Prix had already set almost unattainable styling standards.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the ’63 Grand Prix is my favorite. All ’63 Pontiacs were trendsetters, and the combination of special grille and backlight and lack of ornamentation and eight-lug wheels…well, you can see why I’d have no problem proudly bringing a ’63 home to my garage. It’s the tall brunette with glasses, my favorite type of girl.
Then there was the ’69 Grand Prix. Although I’ve never been a real fan of this bodystyle, I can see the appeal–it’s crisp and masculine, and it belies its size with handsome tailoring. The ’69 is like a blonde girl, not my favorite, but nobody would question my taste if I parked one in the driveway.
Therefore, I must sadly admit that I’ve been rambling without being able to provide an answer or a reason to myself or to others. This brochure image caught me in a moment, glanced at me across a crowded room. I felt the initial pangs of desire, but can pursue it no further. I’m spoken for, and this ’75 Grand Prix is just not my type.
What is the door handle/lock cylinder issue with the Monte Carlo? I haven’t heard of that before.
Oh, it’s just a personal thing…I think it looks backward with the door lock in front of the door handle.
Toronado’s started doing that odd lock-door handle layout too, starting with the 1979’s, the continued it on the downsized 86’s too.
Maybe that’s the reason why I like the Riv and Eldorado so much better than those Toros…I never thought of it that way!
I always thought it was strange, it doesn’t detract anything from the car to me at least, but it is odd, I wonder if the same stylist that did that on the 73 Monte Carlo was the same one that did that on the 1979 Toronado, I have never found any type of explanation as to why they are like that, they just “are”.
Those doors were pretty long–maybe to shorten the lock rod to a more reasonable length.
the GP was certainly the most expressively styled of these ’73-’77 A body specials and well done I think.
Throughout the ’60s and early ’70s, Pontiac consistently had among the most artistic brochures of GM. Especially the ones like that ’63 that were done in watercolor. The scenery and women were classy and beautiful, the men were dignified, and the cars looked ever commanding. It was such a different time then, and a golden age of advertising. Car ads and brochure pictures are so much less grand today.
They did have these great shots in the 1973-1974 brochures, like the Grand Prix image at the top of the article, where most of the background is mysteriously dark and the cars look like they are being illuminated by an overhead street light, very cool atmosphere.
It could even make this Grand Safari ominous….why is it on the dock? At night? Whats going on here?
Whats the backstory on this sleek black Grand Prix parked outside of this warehouse?
I can imagine Roy Scheider is behind that slightly open door giving somebody a beat down.
I’m sure Quincy M.E. will be on the case!
I’m pleased to not be alone in liking Roy Scheider’s old movies….
Roy Scheider ROCKS!
It’s really the brochure that makes these cars super cool! If only one could recreate that in reality! Honestly, that black ’74 Grand Prix doesn’t look half bad either.
As much as I love the 62-64s and the 69-72s, the 73-77 GPs are my favorite, but of course I am prejudiced because my first car is a 77 Grand Prix that I have managed to still hold on to after 25 years.
Yes its a big car, yes it has big bumpers, yes the interior is too small, yes the engines were underpowered, etc, but it is a classic Bill Mitchell design that takes you back to the days when cars were actually “styled;” look at the lines on the hood, trunk and flanks and the curved rear glass. Its a car worth spending some time looking at and they are surprisingly fun to drive for a boat.
I really like the details on the 73’s the best, but the body style itself has always been pretty sharp.
I feel your pain Aaron .
I really like the ’63 Grand Prix but what the heck would I do with a boat like that ? .
Why, dock it in the garage, of course! 🙂
My 1923 ‘T’ Model Ford garage has never even had a Motocycle inside it in the 30 years I have lived here .
Getting a HUGE boat like that in and out my narrow old back gate is a chore and once in side , it’d prevent another vehicle from parking as my driveway is rather short too .
I like looking at and riding in Land Yachts but not driving them , feeding them nor wrenching on them .
62-63 and 65 are my favorites, but I like these as well. A lot has been made about these models losing their distinction over their predecessor, but frankly at the end of the day, this is a business and automakers are here to make money while catering to what the public wants. The previous model was no longer sustainable, but these were and I think they did a good job style wise. Out of all the GM 73-77 intermediates, these are my pick. 2nd pick, Olds Cutlass.
Never really been a fan of 2-door cars but if I had to go for one of these GMers I would pick a 1977 Grand Prix, I think it wore its big bumpers well and I liked the square headlight look.
I remember that brochure well. My Mom had bought a 74 Luxury LeMans and I probably picked up 75 Pontiac brochures one of the times the car was in for service. Its funny how things always seem a little strange on the year after the one you own.
I recall having the same kind of relationship with a 72 Olds 98 Regency brochure. There was something about that brochure that called to me. Even though I was not really an Oldsmobile kid, that car in the brochure looked so appealing that it made me want one anyway.
I like all three versions presented here, but if I owned one, I would have the “mahogany grain” contact paper immediately removed, and find some artsian to make real veneer inserts. I still have bad memories of staring at my Monarch’s generous expanses of faux bird’s evil eye walnut while stuck in traffic, there wasn’t even a temp gauge to fret over. My brain would find patterns that were quite disturbing. Looking back, I should have just painted that mess over. Funny how such mundane details can bother one to no end.
Some of these did a have a real wood veneer on the dash and doors, I don’t recall what years, it may have been on the up line trims.
My elementary school principal had a 71? Black Catalina? ( it was the top model) hardtop sedan with the real wood trim and black leather power split front bench seats with huge headrests. They were not Morrohyde. The rear seats were fit for a made don, the center armrest had cocktail holders. The ashtrays had individual lighters, a la Cadillac. She was an incredible, stylish woman; you would never want to disappoint just because one admired her. She wore high end designer suits, and Dallas style jewelry. She took a group of us out for pizza for perfect attendance or something, and smoked her brown More 120’s without a care in the world, no one wore a seatbelt. That was one hell of a cruiser, and a perfect match for such a sophisticated lady. If I were of legal age, I would have gladly let her cougar me.
That would have been a Grandville.
My correction, you are 100% right: Catalina was a lesser model, Impala like by the mid seventies. GM would move names up and down, ie Bel Aire and Century: I get them mixed up. Better get back to work, instead of doing my useless research while trying to look busy.
I’m about 99% sure that every 1973 and 1974 Grand Prix and Grand Am had real “African crossfire mahogany” (as Pontiac called it) on the dash and console, and on the GP door panels as well. For 1975, not only did Pontiac switch to vinyl, but readers of the brochure are supposed to think “handsome mahogany woodgrain vinyl” is a good thing.
(I don’t think any Grand Ville had real wood or leather trim, even optionally, the comment above notwithstanding – but Old Car Brochures is down and I can’t check.)
So it was dropped after 74, I knew that it at least there at one point, I think that they only Pontiac with leather in this era was the Grand Prix, which did have a leather seat option, but I don’t think that made it over to the Grand Ville where “ornamental sierra grade brocade” was the order of the day, I think the Bonnevilles did get optional leather by 1980 or so.
The 1975 Grand Prix LJ parked in my driveway has all wood interior trim from factory with 73000 miles on the 455 cubic inch under hood accessory. Thanks Norm
I am not all that familiar with these GPs but I have always felt the very good 1970 reached it’s zenith in the mid 70s. All the little styling “bugaboos” were ironed out….like the strange/tiny-looking trunk and rear bumper that looked dainty while the front bumper LOOKED more massive.
That said, of these 4, I always thought the Monte Carlo looked the strangest…inside and out. The strangest feature to me was the “shoulder”(?) On all 4 fenders. A theme, unfortunately, picked up on the 78 downsized Monte.
Conversely, I find the Regal to be my favorite. A friend had a 1973 or 74 sky blue Regal with a white vinyl roof and a light blue interior. It was a “nice” car. But when my very conservative uncle bought one a few years newer, I thought someone must have switched bodies with my uncle when he retired. He would own 2 or 3 of these Regals before my aunt and uncle passed…all somewhat sporty LOOKING coupes.
In my order of desireability? Grand Prix AND Regal tie for first place (I really like the white and burgundy Regal pictured here) with Cutlass next and Monte Carlo last.
I like that era Grand Prix and its arrow head shaped hood proudly proclaiming to anybody/anything in the sky that this is a Pontiac.
The Monte Carlo looks too plain and the 2 door cutlass of this era has some strange designs on the bottom of the door and the area in front of the door and behind it. it always made it look like(to me at least ) that the owner could not park the car right and bumped stuff with it.
That face is just so…massive. Like a towering hollow-Ionic-column porch stuck on a ranch house.
In 1981, I bought a 1976 Gran Prix LJ, with 30,000 miles. It was two tone silver with a red pinstripe, a silver padded halo top with Hurst T-tops, 400 engine, Rally II wheels, and a black velour interior with all the toys. It was very comfortable to drive and handled well for a personal luxury car. It was a good looking car, and I always got a lot of complements on it. At first, I loved the T-top, but I eventually learned that it was a big mistake. I got baked in the sun, it leaked, it rattled, and it ruined the structural rigidity of the body. In 1988, I traded it for a new Monte Carlo SS. That was definitely a mistake, and another story for another time.
Indeed. Buying anything GM in the ’80’s was a mistake. Period.
40 years ago, In the fall of 1974, my sixth-grade class went on a field trip to the long-since-closed GM factory in Framingham, MA. At the time this facility built GM A-body cars, including all the models mentioned in this piece. I came home from the trip with a bunch of brochures, but the Pontiac brochure, with its dramatic images set against dark backdrops, was my favorite. And I think in the realm of mid-1970s personal luxury coupes, the Grand Prix is my favorite.
Hi All, I just joined and this is my first post!
As you can probably tell by my avatar, I love these cars. I own a 76 LJ with only 7k miles on it that has never been wet. I bought one back in 1978 that succumbed to the Minnesota tinworm after 10 years but have always loved them for their ride and style. When I found my current low mile survivor, I had to buy it and relive my younger days.
My wife calls it my time machine!
Time to write it up and submit it! I think I speak for most of us when I say we’d like to see it in more detail…
Yes, that should probably be a project for a sunny day next spring or summer, but I think it would be worth waiting for.
That is an old Grand Funk Railroad tune of the same vintage. “Step into my time machine..”. Mark Farner. You’re at the right place for others with the same affliction.
You like it because it is an attractive car! It is so fashionable to pan everything from the ’70s, but I am not of that brigade. It looks good, had a comfortable ride, and unlike 90% of modern cars, has some style!
No explanation/defense is necessary. 🙂
This may be the only place on the internet where it’s NOT fashionable to pan a ’70s car! 🙂
I have to say I appreciate your thinking! Some ’70s cars were worse than others, but as a whole, the ’73-’77 GM mid-size was a popular car, and the mainstream versions with the 350 / 350 drive train combo were comfortable and at the upper end of the competency curve. And, a lot better than many cars offered in those years, and in the next several years.
These cars had two popularity curves, new, and also as very sought after used cars into the mid 1980’s. While I have favorites each year based on the styling updates that came and went, today, I’d have to give the Monte the nod for 1975. The GP second, and maybe the Regal fourth, and the Cutlass last. I was a Cutlass fan, and the ’73, ’76, and ’77 worked well for me, but the ’74 and ’75 just didn’t win me over the other offerings.
The Monte Carlo is one of the few 70’s cars that I would consider putting in my dream garage, but it’s pretty far down the list.
For me, a bigger “Why do I like this?!” candidate would probably be C3 Corvettes, especially the earlier ones with the tunnel-back window. Not my kind of car at all, but there’s just something about them, and I was very disappointed when the C4 ‘Vette was unveilled, as I thought they destroyed the look.
Sorry, but to me those are eternally the early to late 70s Israeli mafioso’s cars…
The Grand Prix is my choice among all of these, hands down. The others are adorned with creases which look like too much makeup on a basically attractive girl (to remain with the original poster’s metaphor), perhaps less so the Cutlass but especially the Monte Carlo, whose stylist(s) must have been the same who put the squarish pontoons on the fenders of the prior model, then developing a recreational pharmaceutical dependency before doing this generation. The Grand Prix stayed clean, at least on its sides a tribute to its incomparable 1963 ancestor.
I knew a girl wwwwaaaayyyy back when that had a ’73 GP SJ with the 455. Sorry to say her personality didn’t match the car…
That front end on the 75 Grand Prix is enough to put me off – all pointed bonnet and only single headlamps
Surely there was a better looking personal coupe in 75?
The single headlight Grand Prix does look a bit like “The Car” from the horror movie of the same name, I like the quadarbeam 4-headlight later versions.
Like all the original colonnade coupes the single headlights were just one of a host of details meant to recall the golden era of classic cars. The Monte Carlo’s Delahaye-inspired fender sweeps being the most obvious example (as a kid I remember thnking the Regal looked an awfully lot like the Monte from the front.)
The Grand Prix pulls it all together best, Fron the sweeping, pointed hood to the faux stand alone trunk, And the interior was head and shoulders above any personal luxury car of the time, even higher priced models. The Monte Carlo was let down by a horribly cheap looking interior.
Hated the single headlamp versions on every last one of the collonades, I to prefer the quad lamped GPs to these, I was never that smitten by golden era car styling, it’s all about prissy detailing.
I remember when these first came out when I was a little kid. I thought they were the best looking cars ever. Even the four doors looked so modern at the time. I rode my bike right over to the Chevrolet dealership about a mile from my house to get a Monte Carlo brochure for my dad. Ultimately the ’73 Grand Prix would become my favorite but a bucket seat Grand Am would be a very close second. These were actually due to be released for the 1972 model year however a nationwide GM strike in 1970 supposedly delayed them one year. It would have been interesting to see what they would have looked like before the big bumper mandate of ’73. Of course they wouldn’t have had EGR valves and a couple other smog devices either so might have been a little more fun to drive also. I eventually ended up with a very well preserved1975 Century which I have had now for about 21 years, bittersweet orange metallic with black brocade interior. (Not exactly what I wanted but, hey, po boys can’t be too choosey.)
I find it a little funny that some here would have such a strong preference for the Colonnade Grand Prix over the Monte Carlo, or vice versa. They’re both really quite similar, and both over the top in the very best way, in my opinion! Of course, I’ve owned my 1976 Monte Carlo for 15 years now, but the first “classic” I bought (although it was on the edge of being considered such at the time) was a 1977 Grand Prix LJ I got a couple of years before I found the Monte. I loved it! Everything about the styling of the GP, inside and out, is just a little bit more extreme than the Monte. It’s also a bit longer. The Regal and Cutlass compared here are also similar, but can’t really compete in the over-the-top style department because they both have shorter wheelbases and are shorter overall than either the Pontiac or the Chevrolet. The GP and the Monte were their respective divisions’ versions of a Toronado or Riviera (albeit on a different platform) and as such, really emphasized the long hood, looooonnng doors and longer rear deck of a true personal luxury car, while the Cutlass and Regal were supposed to be smart, stylish mid-sizers (in the swollen context of the ’70s). I also owned a 1976 Cutlass Supreme for a short time, so I’ve had experience with every one of these but the Buick. For drivability and styling, the GP is the winner for me. I kept the Monte Carlo I found because I like its styling almost as much, and because the one I got was LIME GREEN, which my white GP just couldn’t quite compete with.
That’s really interesting…I had no idea the GP and Monte Carlo were longer than the Buick and Olds.
The GP and Monte used a 116-inch wheelbase (I think) which they shared with the 4-door Malibu/LeMans/Grand Am/Cutlass/Century. The Regal and Cutlass 2-doors had a 112-inch wheelbase shared along with the Malibu/LeMans/Grand Am/Cutlass/Century coupes. Most of the difference seemed to be in the rear deck area.
The extra wheelbase on the GP and MC was all in front of the firewall. From the windshield back, these all had the same basic body.
Maybe. The back of the GP had a lot more going on, though. Having owned three of them, I can tell you for sure that the trunk was longer and the deck lid much bigger on the GP than on the Cutlass. One thing is for sure — the GP and Monte didn’t have one iota of extra rear legroom! The rear seat is inexcusably tight for such a large automobile.
There’s no “maybe” about that fact. The trunk lids may have been different, but these cars were fundamentally the same basic body shell under the skin, from the firewall back. That’s how GM has been doing shared bodies since the late 1920s: exterior differences, and sometimes a wheelbase stretch, but the same basic body shell shared by divisions.And that the GP and MC got its extra 4″ in the front end is well documented.
The graphic evidence is in this attached shot of both a GP and CS. Note how the extra 4″ inches is in the distance from the front edge of the door to the front wheel on the GP. And how their bodies are fundamentally identical from the windshield back, including the doors, etc. And the length of the rear portion of their bodies, including the trunk, is identical on both.
Does that help?
Yes. I think the rear seems shorter on the CS because it has a faster roofline, which makes for a smaller trunk opening. The hood seems quite long on both, but it does look like the extra length is in the front. The CS definitely feels smaller in person.
Perusing the old car brochures I found that the Grand Prix of this era had just over 15 cubic feet of trunk space. The Buick 2 door Regal/Century was just under 15 cubic feet (14.7). Rear legroom is about the same for the Regal and the Grand Prix.
Your MC wasn’t featured was it? i remeber seeign an article on a sharp one with with lime green exterior and white interior.
You probably saw mine. Yes, it’s lime green with white interior, and it’s been featured in Hemmings Classic Car magazine, quite a few years ago now.
The Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo were the lower priced divisions interpretation of the Eldorado/Toronado/Riviera personal luxury car translated down to a mass market price, which is, at least in my theory, why Oldsmobile and Buick never received any A-specials/G-body of their own, fearing that they would possibly eat into Toronado and Riviera sales. The 1971 boat-tail Riviera was supposed to be based on the original 1969 style stretched A-body, but Buick management decreed that it be “full sized”.
I think the Grand Prix appeal, to me at least, sportier image that the Grand Prix at least “alludes” too, even if it is similar to the Monte Carlo, the Grand Prix’s dash is sportier looking, it seems to me that more Grand Prix were equipped with consoles and other luxury options like the leather interior, cornering lamps and the door illumination on the SJ’s.
I think that you are right that the Grand Prix and Monte Carlo were the “Eldorado” of the Pontiac and Chevrolet divisions. It would not have made sense for Olds or Buick to get a second personal luxury style car. I think that the Riviera’s sales were an important part of the E-body sales and therefore a major part of making the cost of that body affordable. Without the Riviera in the E-body lineup, the cost of both the Toronado and Eldorado would have been higher.
The CC effect has finally happened to me. I was watching ‘Carlito’s Way’ and there’s one of these in the background as Sean Penn’s dirtbag lawyer leaves Riker’s Island after visiting a client.
I much prefer the earlier A bodies over these.
A buddy of mine had a ’73 version of the Grand Prix. It was a fuel hog, but it was the “quietest” car I have ever ridden in. You could cruise the Texas highways at 80 mph and not know it.
Back then, GM knew what its customer wanted. Too bad the world changed, but GM refused to make the transition.
How can i hate two cars so much (the Monte Carlo and Cutlass) but be so in love with the Grand Prix?
What can you say? People who love cars are seldom rational. 🙂
As has been mentioned here many times undoubtedly, GM did such a good job at differentiating its divisions for so long that the untrained observer had no idea they were the same under the skin (to some extent). Thus, your GP v. Monte Carlo conundrum. I get it…