(first posted 6/22/2015) There’s an election coming up in Canada on October 19, 2015. Unlike some other parts of North America, “Liberal” is not the other “L” word. In fact, one of our national political parties is called the Liberal party.
The venerable GM Colonnade that is the subject of this Curbside Classic has a lot in common with today’s Canadian Liberal party. It has seen better days, but it still lives on wearing a graceful patina.
The time when it ruled and could be found on almost every street and pink house across the country has passed, but it lives on with a slight glimmer in its rectangular quad headlamps. Don’t count it out… quite yet.
Those hockey-puckish rubber bumperettes standing guard for thee on chrome in defense of a 5 MPH crash tell the story: Remember when we shone? Remember when that reporter asked prime minister Trudeau what he would do to fight the terrorists and he said “Just watch me”? Bring it on, 6 MPH collision!
Hiding under the hood is a (Chevy) 350 ci V8 with 2 barrel carburetor.
The engine and air intake is stock. Ready for another 40 years, just like the “Grits”.
Jump in… let’s hop on the aftermarket (ca. 1982) driver’s side seat cushion and hit the hustings!
Before we turn ‘er over…
Let’s turn the key back to “Accessory”…
…and see what’s playing on that cassette tape?
72,542 original MILES on the odometer. See those small blue numbers on the inside the speedometer gauge ring? Ki-little-ometers, situated in their proper place. Just like Canada’s blue-coloured party was in ’76.
Colonnade designers gazed upon their crystal balls to see into the future, and made the trunk opening large enough to accept a new millennium recycle bin with plenty of room to spare.
The car is a Veteran. Its current owner is one, too.
On this warm June day, the LeMans has volunteered to join the campaign to elect Mike Bossio as the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for a riding in Eastern Ontario.
Mike puts his arm around his elder statesman team member, still going the distance four decades later.
(Editor’s Postscript: Just a reminder that “talking about politics” is not the same as “talking politics”, so please let’s not slide into any political provocations/arguments in the comments. Thanks)
I think these late LeMans were one of the nicest-looking cars out of the whole Colonnade menagerie. Clean, rectilinear nose styling that was somehow still in harmony with all the curves out back, and a hint of the Pontiac beak for brand identity without going all out into schnoz-land. Just a nicely styled car, nothing broughamy about this steel-roofed, steel-wheeled throwback. Too big? Probably, definitely bigger than it needs to be, but it’s stood the test of time and is still roaming the roads today. May it live on.
I agree, even with four doors that’s one nice looking Colonnade. I like the “trim rings & black steelies” look.
I don’t think there’s a steel wheel car on earth that wouldn’t benefit from a nice set of original full wheel covers or at least a nice set of $20 plastic ones from WalMart.
“Nice” and “Walmart wheel cover” are a contradiction in terms. Tacky garbage.
No “even with” about it, the sedan was the pick of the Colonnade litter in terms of rooflines. Especially since the focus was so firmly on the coupes that they didn’t mess with the sedan through the whole run.
I just looked up the Buick, Oldsmobile, and Chevy versions of this, hoping to post a photo of a better solution but they are all at least as bad.
Giant chrome bumpers not helping.
Makes me think of Sheriff Buford T. Justice.
“My handle’s Smokey Bear and I’m tail-grabbin yo ass right now!”
When I get home I’m gonna slap your momma!
Daddy, the top came off :-O
There is no way, NO WAY!, you came from my loins!
Put the evidence in the back!
” Where the h_ _ _ are you , you son b _ _ _ _ !!!!
“You sounded taller on the radio…”
I bet Red Green would love to get his hands on that baby!
I think the three window sedan colonades in retrospect were really quite modern looking compared to the likes of the Torino, Fury, and Matador from this period. They were also a touch smaller and better handling. Their roofline was referenced in the early roofline of the 78 A body Malibu and Lemans 4 door.
I liked the style of these cars. I remember they often lost their rear bumper-mounted reflectors.
Here’s a similar one I was following on the road some time ago. I think it was a 1977 but I didn’t take a picture of the grille..
It should also be noted that the leader of the Liberal party in 1976 and today are both named Trudeau.
I’ve read several biographies on Pierre Trudeau and he had excellent taste in cars. He drove a fifties vintage Mercedes SL while Prime Minister. I wonder if Justin still drives his dad’s SL?
The LPC and PMD – Canadians used to buy pretty much anything they put out there. Not so much lately.
I believe the 190 was willed to Trudeau II.
It was a 300SL Roadster, not a 190 – and yes, Justin owns it.
I tend to view Canadians as more practical given their historical choices in cars. It amazes me that Trudeau had so much support at the start of his stint as PM, and that he remained in power for the vast majority of the next sixteen years. Here was this flamboyant candidate driving sports cars (I believe he also drove a MG) and a bachelor (for most of his tenure) to boot. I can’t think of an American politician who is or was this colorful. Perhaps the 300 SL will make a repeat appearance at 24 Sussex Drive.
Coworker used to work for the local Saturn dealer. Told me that a certain then-congressman now running for President (who goes by his first name and is not from a political family dynasty) bought a base-model Saturn SL1 without AC. Fine, we only really get hot a couple months a year around here….nope, coworker said it was for use in DC.
And when Pierre did marry, Margaret (Justin’s mom) was hot.
As for the LeMans, the only thing odd about it is the Chevy engine. Even the speedo with blue metric numbers was standard on stateside Pontiacs. My family had a Nautilus Blue metallic 1977 coupe, different from a ’76 only in the grille and the 301 V8 under the hood. But it was a Pontiac engine.
GM started mixing motors around this time, and got themselves in trouble when they forgot to tell people. Lots of people here can tell a Chevy V8 from and Olds or a Buick or a Pontiac, but most mainstream buyers could not.
Another problem with the Colonnades was build quality, especially compared to their immediate predecessors. I had a 1970 Chevelle hardtop coupe whose doors thunked like a vault. The LeMans’ doors rattled every time you closed them and never looked like they were designed to fit.
The LeMans even had a run-in with Canada Customs. My brother used it to visit his then-girlfriend-now-wife at McGill University, and I guess the douaniers thought he looked suspicious. They took apart the interior, found nothing, then put it all back together even more indifferently than the factory did.
Did the Chevelle have the frameless windows? My dad’s ’76 LeMans did have doors that seemed floppier than the ones on my mom’s ’71 Bel Air, but I chalked that up to the lack of window frames.
As Homer Simpson say’s. I like Democrats because they act like Republicans after they get elected.
Harry Truman said, “If you want to live like a Republican, vote for the Democrats!”
Some Colonnade cars of the 1970s looked more attractive than others. It usually depends greatly on the front-end treatment. IMHO, Pontiac and Oldsmobile’s Colonnade cars had a better looking front end appearance than either the Buick Apollo/Century or Chevy’s Chevelle/Malibu of the same generation.
You mean Buick Regal/Century. Apollo was once used for the X-body Buick model until it got replaced by Skylark. 😉
Side by side Headlights? A-OK!
I wish Chevy and Buick would have avoided the Stacked Quad Syndrome. A fine look for Trucks but it looked terrible on every car that got them.
What a curbside find. Other than the front seat, it looks cherry. It’s interesting that instead of an AM radio, or perhaps an AM radio with an 8 track, the owner of this car went all out for the top of the line AM/FM cassette deck in an intermediate LeMans. I have to agree that this headlight setup looks good on these cars – it accentuates the width and the squared off front end still blends nicely with the rest of the curvier design.
I strongly suspect that this radio was added later.
I’m trying to think, was there *ever* a car designed from the outset to have stacked quads? It seems like they were only ever on stopgap models getting their final facelift before the end of the run.
Unfortunately, yes. And it didn’t work for them either. Abandoned at the first facelift.
1979-80 Mazda 929. Famously described by the Aussie magazine Motor Manual as looking like a length of pregnant water main.
Ford LTD II.
OK,Perhaps. But these were also placeholder cars derived from the ’72 Torino. Not that I’m complaining; as I think that the LTD II is one of the most ’70s of ’70s cars.(and Yes, I mean that in a good way). But stacking the rectangle lights DID defeat the whole reason for their being: To lower the hoodline for “Areodynamics”.
Originality counts. Stacked quad headlights looked great on the 1963 Pontiac. It was the imitators who didn’t get it.
I didn’t like these when they were new. Forty years have passed and I still don’t like them. Too fat, too slow, and too thirsty with hit or miss build quality. This is where G M jumped the shark.
Couple of things come. To mind . Just above the cassette player ? I always wondered what exactly “radial tuned suspension ” entailed ?
The other thought crossing my mind. Unless the old “A” body Pontiac , spent its winters in a garage, how did it survive 39 Southern Ontario winters ?
“I always wondered what exactly “radial tuned suspension ” entailed ?”
I always wondered the same thing. I remember the “conventional wisdom” of the time that if you put radials on a car not designed for them, they were noisy, or drove strangely, or something – I forget what exactly. Then I put radials on my 71 Scamp, and the car was fine. In fact, the ride was like glass compared to the bias ply tires.
A quick internet search suggests that it was slightly stiffer springs, shocks and bushings to compensate for the more flexible tire sidewalls. This would make sense, as my Scamp could have taken advantage of stiffer suspension pieces with the radials.
Mercury did the same thing with the “Ride Engineered” plaque on the passenger side of the dash on Panther Grand Marquises (or is it “Marquees”?). I always thought that was funny — like they engineered the car for the ride but didn’t worry about performance, reliability, and other fun stuff.
As JPC said it was simply different springs, shocks and bushings to compensate for the new type of tires.
In reality it was simply kind of a gimmick such as Buick’s Dynaride
Pontiac seemed to place this a lot of its cars of the mid to late 1970’s
Holden stole the badge too. Ford was pushing them hard in the marketplace, and they needed a gimmick. Pre-RTS big Holdens handled terribly – the magazines used terms like ‘jelly-action’ – and the RTS changes made a huge improvement.
Fitting radial tyres helped HQs immensely, fitting a HX/HZ rear sway bar did the rest, I preferred the Panel vans with leaf rear end to the sedans and wagons I owned examples of each, vans were handy being a traveller in OZ.
Toe in settings are different for radials if you dont do that the car is all over the road.
Getting some serious flashbacks here. Mom had a 74 Luxury LeMans sedan when I was in high school. Ours was maroon with maroon interior (but white vinyl seats). And fender skirts. I have long thought that the Pontiac versions of the colonade sedan were really attractive. I like the 74 the best, but these are not at all bad.
Ours lacked the “Radial Tuned Suspension” and was shod with bias belted Uniroyals (which I promptly wore the shit out of). That car was a real handler, that cornered really flat (sway bars front and rear) and steered well (variable ratio power steering that was very fast for the day). Only that pig of a 2 bbl Pontiac 350 spoiled the fun. With a real engine, that car would have been something. I wish I would have appreciated it then.
Random thoughts – those super soft Nerf-style weatherstrips were horrible as they aged. Did GM own the patent to that awful color? Not brown, not gold, not beige, not anything, but they were painting cars with it through the 80s and beyond. That shot of the instrument cluster reminds me of the way the fuel gauge would swing wildly due to a lack of sufficient baffling in the tank.
Fabulous find. I keep hoping to find one to write up, but no dice so far.
And you were lucky to have a fuel gauge that worked. I knew several people that had ’67-72 GM products (trucks mostly) and the fuel gauge didn’t work. The senders are crap.
I always liked the blank gauges and empty slots on lower trim models.
I always liked the styling on these cars, for some reasons., perhasp becaus ethey looked lighter and had larger windows than many 70s saloons.
Can some one please point me in the direction of some more good quality info on the Colonnade, and why are they called colonnade anyway?
interesting also to see the word “Riding” used rather than district, ward or constituency. It comes from Yorkshire, where with typical efficiency we only need 3 (north, east and west) for the whole country (sorry, county) 😉
And hopefully the car will do better than the UK Liberal party at our election last month – from 57 seats in parliament to 8.
The “Colonnade” term was pure marketing, AFAIK. I remember my grandfather giving me some 73 Chevy brochures, and that was how the cars were described. I think it was a term to describe a body with frameless glass coupled with a center pillar. I think everyone was trying to come up with terminology to describe something that was half hardtop and half sedan. Colonnade was a lot better sounding than Ford’s “pillared hardtop.”
And by the later 70s when these had become more common (like on the 75-79 Town Car or the 79-81 Chrysler R body), they were just sedans.
These cars came about because GM thought the US. Government was going to bring forth more stringent car making requirements related to improved roof strength(folks that were inside a car involved in a roll over did not end up so good afterward, so there was movement afoot to require automakers to beef up the roof and kill off the convertible)
In the end the Feds did not bother to require this mandate ether due to heavy lobbying for automakers or because they were afraid to piss off anymore Americans after that fiasco where they required all 1974 USA sold cars to not start up if the seatbelt was not buckled(more folks were angry about the fact they had to buckle their seatbelt in order for their new 1994 car to start then they were about the Watergate scandal)
I always thought the “colonnade” term described the presence of a window in the C-pillar. The fancier trim levels of the four-door ’75-’76 Caprice, Delta 88, LeSabre and Bonneville I think were hardtops with the triangular window in the C-pillar. Base models were pillared sedans with the conventional solid C-pillar and a roofline like that of the X-bodies.
Just in case anybody wanted to know ? That “sound system” i think may be a UN3 option code. I do remember that they had a way of walking out the door.
As I recall , the Radio install guy , was only given an hours supply at a time. Management would do an inventory about 5 times a day. Even rarer , on the “B ” side, they had a CB option. They were kept under lock and key.
Well, we kept stereos, A/C compressors, alternators, ECUs, VIN plates and starter motors under lock. Oh, and all the badging. I may be forgetting some other stuff.
And even so, I remember one time when security dismantled a band stealing tyres. I leave the rest to your imagination.
There are some items that always have ‘friends’
A guy who maintains a car for 40 years gets my vote regardless of party. That’s a firm sign of frugality and common sense.
Sidenote: The scene is just a bit unusual. Normally you can distinguish Canadian from American houses quickly by the windows. Canadians have more of the British T-shaped or asymmetrical casements. In these pics all the windows are American style.
I totally don’t understand your comment on casements. Please post photos so I can figure this out.
I’d go more by the vehicle in the driveway to tell the difference between CDN and USA houses.
I’m a little confused too as I count at least three different types of window in those photos. Granted, none of the three are asymmetrical, but I don’t know if that’s a valid identifier either. Plenty of 70’s and 80’s buildings in the USA have asymmetrical casements, with a larger fixed glass panel and a smaller panel that cranks open for ventilation. I lived in a condo like that for a couple of years.
Or am I missing the point completely as well?
I have some US and Canadian house construction catalogs (both complete houses and building materials) from the ’20s thru the ’70s. Granted that the US material is mostly PA and MICH (perhaps location matters) The only differences from the US an CAN stock in a given year is the price and brand names. Design wise, No ,real differences!
Besides Buford’s car, every time I see the colonnade body shell, I see a 6000 SUX that was able to compete, style-wise, with the original Taurus in Robocop. In my mind, a truly timeless design.
Not bad looking car, the best of the lot I suppose. But so inefficient, overweight and bloated, just look at the size of the trunklid and opening as opposed to the actual surface area of the rear deck – why was the opening so small? From the What Were They Thinking files.
Guess they hadn’t got into weight saving mode yet, but you’d think common sense would tell them there’s no need to have the trunk lid going to the bumper when it overlaps about eight inches of trunk wall.
Parallel universe HJ Holden styling is the same ignition lock and shifter are identical though the shifter was reversed on the tree, even the engines had gone to Chevy orange from Holden red, all very familiar but quite different at the same time.
The front end of that car looks neat. Nicely integrated. And everything lines up (or seems to).
Nice ride and nice to see a Canadian car even though it comes with a Chevy drivetrain. In my opinion the Oshawa built cars were always put together very well. The old Chevy 350-2bbl is pretty rock solid though. I give this guy a lot of kudos for campaigning in an old car like that. At least it will surely stand out, and I know I’d stop and talk to him. My dad’s old Malibu is this same colour. I think this colour actually suits these cars very well, kind of goes with the era. Here is a recent pic of the car, which is original except for paint (all sheetmetal is factory) and wheels.
Great find! We had a 77 Lemans Wagon brand new in the exact interior and exterior colours–ours had the 301 with the strange 2 bbl that looked like a quadrajet with the secondaries blocked off. My brother wrote the car off about 1986 but I sure have a lot of good memories of family trips in the Lemans
In my opinion, this is one of the best looking large 1970s sedans. It’s distinctive from any angle, particularly from the back. After all, how cars have rear styling that’s as interesting (or more interesting) than the front?
I’ve only known one person who drove one of these cars, and oddly enough he was from Ontario as well. In the mid-1980s, my family knew someone who moved to Philadelphia from Toronto and he drove a LeMans similar to this one, except it was dark blue. Well, dark blue and rust. Even back then it seemed like a rare car, and I always noticed him driving around in his huge blue Pontiac with Ontario plates.
Looks like my drivers ed car except it had a 400 engine Not great handleing, but fairly quick.
I like the greenhouse on these — very light and airy, so different from today’s cars! The flipper door handles, quad rectangular headlights, and 5 mph bumpers identify it as a car of the 70s.
The greenhouse on the Colonnade cars reminds me of the greenhouse on the 1960-62 Plymouth Valiant and 1961-62 Dodge Lancer.
I had a friend whose family inherited a Lemans sedan. He referred to it as “The Iron Flounder”.
I had one of those – my grandmother’s ’73 LeMans. Man, that thing sucked the gas. I recorded fuel economy and it regularly got 10-12 mpg in mostly city driving out of its 350 2bbl. For a student, that was punishingly bad. I was happy to replace it with an ’86 Dodge 600 coupe.
I was mixed on the styling of the LeMans- the front fenders always made me think of the ’48 Tuckers. The back trunklid sloped down too fast – sorta like the late 90s Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable.
The late ’90s era of the Taurus/Sable was hideous. Is that when Ford was having its ovoid orgasm?
This brings back memories. When we moved to the suburbs in ’76, our police department used these. White with green stripes. Agree that Pontiac and Olds weathered the shift to rectangular lights much better than Buick or Chevy – although that list really drops to Olds – and possibly Cadillac when you talk about the full-size models.
Say what you will about the Trudeaus, they had/have great taste in cars…
And the son…
Sturdy car. We kept one on as a service loaner into the late 80’s.
My dad had one almost exactly like this. 1976, 4 door, except in maroon. But his was special.
He bought it new from a dealership that had “accidentally” ordered one too many cars with the police package, so his LeMans came with the 400ci V8, a 4 barrel carb, 400 trans, positraction, and supposedly a beefier suspension with a bigger sway bar. Dad had a friend at the dealership who was more than happy to make that “mistake” and my dad made it worth his effort.
It also had a neat “Certified” speedometer that looked different from the one pictured on this car. No carpet, only a rubber/vinyl floor and a stout bench seat. It had A/C, but that was the only creature comfort and my dad thought it was bad for the car so he removed the compressor.
Dad kept this car for about 20 years, which is a very long time to keep a car that gets used year-’round in Minnesota. It was still running perfectly well with 250k+ miles, but the floorboards had rotted out so he sold it to a kid who wanted it for the motor and transmission. I bet that motor’s still running today.
That was a great car.
I always thought the Pontiac LeMans was the only Colonnade vehicle that has improved itself with the 1976-77 restyle than the other Colonnade cars (Chevy Malibu, Olds Cutlass, Buick Century), I always think of Sheriff Buford T. Justice every time I see these cars.
One odd little detail was the little tape insert in the outside door handles (at least on the Olds version) that was color-coded to the paint. My mom’s 76 Cutlass S got wrecked and the shop used salvage doors. She was NOT happy when she got the car back and the tape inserts in the door handles on that side were silver, not cream…
The outside handles on the replacement doors were a little bigger than the originals too..I don’t know if that was a running change during the production run or something that just varied…the handles were a little longer and thicker in section. Weird thing to have two versions of.
I think the color keyed door handles were an Olds trademark. I know that the successor A/G-body Cutlasses had them, as did the pre-refresh Cutlass Cieras. Not sure about the others but I know I saw those well into the 80’s on some lines.
D92 is the RPO code for “door handle tape” and is a GM-thing since that style door handle came out in 1971. D92 was almost always (maybe “always”?) either part of an option package or standard on a particular model or trim level.
I recently bought this car out of Canada. It will live out the rest of its life in the US as a Buford T. Justice replica car.
I drove one of these for the summer in 1976 for my summer job. Great memories driving it on the highways around town. I had to go pick up the ‘computer report’ at head office, some 20 miles away. The instrument panel had a little decal that said, “Radial Tuned Suspension.”
Once in a while my Le Mans was out somewhere so I got to (had to) take the boss’s car. It was a Cata/Bonne/Parisienneville or something. Drab blue, loose suspension, zero acceleration. Yuck.
I have (had/have) a hatred for Le Mans colonnades, particularly the knife job back end of the 1973s. Time has however softened my disdain for these, and I think now this is a nice car. Maybe it’s the red poster on the side. In any event, it’s great to see a 40 plus year old car surviving in this part of the world.
Mr. Trudeau (Junior) won that election in 2015, and another one after that. Just reporting the news, well known by now.
…meanwhile, in Japan:
Interesting seeing one of these in Japan! Just seems like it’s more than a bit outsized for passenger car duty in an area where vehicle parking can be a bit… tight?
I think the Diablo Sammich is a Smokey and the Bandit reference.
I have a tendency to call these “Colon-aid” cars. Not that I dislike them by any stretch, but it’s just kinda funny.
Seeing this car makes me hungry for a Diablo Sandwich and a Dr. Pepper.
I’ve never heard of that first item. I can’t seem to stop myself wanting to pronounce it “Dy-uh-blow Sandwich”.
When I worked for GM in the mid 70’s the top of the line radio was AM/FM/ 8 track, with built in CB radio with microphone. These were extremely expensive units that were kept under lock and key until they were installed in a car. I remember seeing them installed primarily in Monte Carlos and Buick Regal coupes. I think that was a thousand dollar option back then.
Did you work in the Fremont plant? I remember the Fremont PD had these as patrol cars, pretty much the only Pontiac police cars I’ve ever seen.
I hate these cars. In 1983 a lemans of this vintage pulled an illegal uturn and destroyed my 1979 camaro. Yeah I’m not over it!