(first posted 9/5/2013) Oh look, a first year Colonnade coupe! From 1973 to 1977, the Oldsmobile A-Bodies became the dominant nameplate among the B-O-P intermediates, so you might think the 1973 Pontiac line came in third behind Olds. However, as of ’73 Oldsmobile had not yet gained total domination, and this green coupe (along with it’s brother the Grand Prix) came in second among GM intermediates, behind the Chevelle/Monte Carlo juggernaut.
Colonnade coupes remain a polarizing design. Many dislike the thick roof pillars and fixed rear windows, and despite being the largest intermediate GM ever produced, interior space does not reflect the exterior dimensions. Personally, I prefer the standard coupe to other colonnade body styles, and while I believe the styling declined from year to year, I find the early versions fresh and interesting. In my opinon, each successive year of the colonnades looked increasingly generic, but in 1973 the full range- Chevy, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick, all provided cars with strong individual character.
Looking at this view, I hope you agree. The stance of the car, the body lines, and the large single headlights all worked together to form a pleasing aspect. In addition, GM had yet to incorporate their sillier seventies styling elements (do NOT get me started on stacked square headlights!). On this car, there’s no gingerbread trim or vinyl top to distract, and I find the overall look quite pleasing.
The rear of the car also provides a distinctive look. The fenders and trunk draw together to form a horizontal crease across the back, and the designers mounted the tail lights on a sloping panel above the bumper. This one element keeps me from loving the ’73 coupe, but Pontiac made up for it the next year with new taillights mounted outboard of the trunk, and wrapped over the top of the rear fenders. If I ever decided to acquire one of these colonnade Ponchos, I’d try to find a ’74 coupe, and then replace the front grille with a header panel off a ’73 (or a Grand Am Enduro nose).
The exterior lacks any trim level designation, but the overall appearance indicates a lightly trimed base model, rather than a full-boat deluxe package. The wheel covers are a step up from dog dish hub caps, but they deliver the only exterior bright work.
A view inside reinforces this impression. Between the manual window crank, vinyl upholstery and bench seat, I’m thinking base model. A close look at the door panel confirms my suspicions.
The trim plate just says “LeMans.” In 1973, Pontiac offered their standard A bodies as the LeMans, LeMans Sport Coupe, Luxury LeMans, Grand Am and GTO (or should Grand Am come after the GTO?). Therefore, this green coupe is indeed the least of the Pontiac clan. If you’re interested, Mike Burns covered a top of the line LeMans trim level in his article on a 1977 Grand LeMans.
I said at the beginning of the article that the Pontiac intermediate line finished second among the GM nameplates in 1973. However, this was the only strong year for the LeMans, and the Grand Prix could not win the sales race by itself. LeMans sales slipped from 233,989 in ’73 to 148,254 in 1974. A year later, LeMans sales bottomed out at 48,589 (to be fair, 1975 was a bad year for all, but still!), and LeMans sales would not exceed 70k until the new model arrived in 1978. Among its brethren, Pontiac intermediates fell to dead last among the four GM brands in ’75 and ‘76, and only because of resurgant Grand Prix sales, came back to barely beat Buick for third in 1977.
This chart shows the steep decline of the LeMans nameplate, and also shows the strong rise of the Grand Prix in ’76 and ’77. Keep in mind, LeMans sales includes coupes, wagons and four doors, making the meteoric rise of the two door Grand Prix even more impressive. Why LeMans sales dropped so strongly when other colonnades built momentum is a question I can’t answer. Perhaps someone more familiar with 1970’s market forces can provide an explanation.
So we bid farewell to our 1973 LeMans coupe. If it came from an earlier era, people would line up to grab this clean, rust free coupe and turn it into a muscle car clone. In fact, if it were older, I’d have mentioned how unusual it is to see such a basic model still plying the roads, a car still sporting wheel covers instead of styled steel wheels. But since it’s a just 1973 LeMans, it’s just an old colonnade coupe, and there’s reason to make it a clone (even though we could make it a GTO!). Instead, our (not so) little coupe rests quietly on a California curb, a rare representative of the pinnacle year for the Pontiac colonnades.
I am in love with CC today! First the green Firebird and now the LeMans.
Personally, Im a big fan of the Collanades. I love em all, particularly the Pontiacs and especially the ’73s. It was the only year for (kind of) small bumpers (relatively speaking) and the engines still made decent power. And they ride and drive like no other car. Its like driving your recliner down the road but they surprise you in the corners.
Now Im going to shamelessly plug my GP proving my prejudices.
Get out of here… You own a ’73 Grand Prix too? Oh wow…Florentine red at that! We are the coolest. This is my ’73 Grand Prix SJ, of which I am very fond 🙂 I wish it wasn’t triple black but I’m just happy to own one! The ’73 GP will probably always be my #1 favorite car (followed closely by the ’73 GS and ’77-’78 Firebird).
I would love to see more pics/info on your car — I’m Cuckoo for these.
Wait? You wish it WASN’T trip black?
If you need an explanation as to why the Grand Prix took off and the LeMans sunk, look at the Grand Prix above, the personal luxury coupe thing was really hitting its stride during this time, the Colonade GP’s “sporty Eldorado” looks really hit big with buyers as the 70’s ran on.
Plus, the GP absolutely NAILED the proportions and styling details that made it appeal both to folks who wanted luxury and folks who liked a bit of sportiness with their luxury, without alienating either camp. Mrs. Bordner, the lady next door who had three GTOs over nearly a decade drove a series of GPs in the 70s. I am not that big of a colonade fan, but the GP may be the one I chose if I went down that road.
Yep. Pontiac made its intermediate hay on muscle and sport, while Olds was arguably the least muscle focused of the A bodies. Yes, they had the 4-4-2 and the Hurst Olds, but they were the first to move upscale with the Cutlass Supreme – and the full size Luxury Sedan.
Couple that with the rise of the GP, and the real battle for intermediate sales was between a pair of personal luxury coupes. The rest of the body types were just along for the ride, and Olds had more drag.
Colonnade fans are almost as deranged as Mopar fans. That’s a compliment to you fine crazies. 🙂
Whoa… two ’73 GP’s! Nice. Way back when my brother was seeing a girl that had a red over silver SSJ with a 455… man I lusted over that car… even though it was a typical Cleveland rustbucket that had been patched up somewhat poorly. That car could move….
Okay, one more deviant post. The Colonnade in the background is a ’73 Century 350 parts car.
1973 happens to be the only year that the rear quarter window trim on most intermediates was stainless steel. Not all ’73s had the stainless and all ’74-’77 cars had the cheap plastic garbage that disintegrated in a few years.
The worst part about owning 1973 GM Colonnades would be all the unique 1973-specific trim and interior parts. When you can find the stuff, it brings stupid money.
Dude, you have a triple black ’73 SJ? Bitchin’! The best of the best of the Collanades. I have a 77 GP parts car if you need anything thats not 1973-specific.
Anyone can build a Mustang or Camaro, it takes a real car guy to put together one of these. Im sure you hear this as well when you take it out “WOW I HAVENT SEEN ONE OF THOSE IN YEARS!!!” I love it.
As for mine, its a J that thinks its an SJ. It was special ordered with the 455, upgraded suspension, Rallyes, buckets, etc but its still a J. Its triple red but Id much rather have it in triple badass black
That’s what I love to see/hear at car shows, the “I haven’t seen one in years!”
Ah.. but on the sedans, it was still stainless till the end in 77. Most of the two doors I’ve run across had stainless trim on the rear as well. Unless you are talking about GPs in which case I have no knowlege.
Gorgeous Grand Prix! Both the red and the black!
Ok, it’s official. I hate LT Dan and Junqueboi.
If I had one I’d give my left kidney for a 73 GP SJ, especially in the lovely Florentine red with a black roof (although I could rock a silver/black roof with a oxblood maroon interior).
I remember seeing these cars and wondering what the hell happened to the rear end of them. The front ends are verticle, but the rear fender lines just don’t fit it.
I saw some of the artist’s rendering a while back and it looked like the designers went overboard shaping the fenders into pointed ovals. While it looked alright in profile, it left nothing for the rear view of the car. The rear fender and trunk lines make the trunk look shallow and the tail lamp panel across the back look like it was melted and pushed down.
What we see in the next years is an attempt to remedy this design flaw. The vinyl roof cuts a stronger horizontal line where it meets the fenders, to draw up the eye away from the pointy rear end. Also in 1974, Pontiac put waterfall tail lamps on the rear fenders to draw attention away from the slanted rear panel.
Finally, I need to mention that these cars were designed and finalized before they had to have the world’s nastiest looking design elements, those damn horrible 5 mph bumpers put on them. The car’s appearance is horribly wrecked with the park bench steel bumper on the front of them and the rear bumpers forced in the back. So, these bumpers ended up elongating the rear line of the vehicles instead of simply meeting into a horizontal point across the back, wrecking the effect.
Pontiac and Chevrolet knew they had a problem with the bumpers and ended up creating the Enduro bumper front ends for the Grand Am and Laguna.
The GM Intermediates also had a tail light problem with the wagons. They were placed too low in the bumpers in order to accommodate the new hatch openings. This meant that drivers behind the wagons couldn’t see the tail lights. Cars in this era had an oversized front deck with stand up grilles, and this meant that objects on the road disappeared yards away from you. When you have hoods this long, the last thing you wanted in front of you was a car with tail lights placed low into the bumpers. In heavy traffic, the GM intermediate wagons were one of the last vehicles you wanted to follow because you couldn’t see their tail lights.
So – no, I’m not a fan of these Colonades. They had poor interior space, poor gas mileage, questionable build quality, heavy doors, unopenable rear windows, god-awful plastic interior panels and questionable styling.
But they were super popular around Chicago, where I grew up.
My observations do not apply to Grand Prix, Cutlass Supreme or Monte Carlo, which had completely different fender lines, roofs and market. While based on Colonades, they were intended to be boutique and brougham rides. Those cars were personal luxury cars and looked pretty nice.
It’s funny that you mention that the personal luxury coupe Colonades were meant to be a boutique item, but they ended up as the bread and butter for most of these line ups as the cheaper and more conventional versions quickly sank in sales as the 70’s wore on, meanwhile the Monte Carlo, Grand Prix and Cutlass Supreme continued to rock on.
The Colonades were those cars that probably looked really great in concept drawings around 1969-70, but by the time they actually rolled off the line, something was lost in translation.
The bumper regulations hurt these designs. The Colonnades were originally supposed to debut for the 1972 model year, but where delayed by the GM strike in late 1970. It was almost as though the cars were designed without much thought as to how they would accommodate the new federal bumper standards.
GM was hardly alone in that regard. The all-new Ford Torino debuted for 1972, and Ford had to completely restyle the front for 1973 to accommodate the 5-mph bumpers. By 1974, the 5-mph bumpers on both the front and the back of the Ford intermediates made them look as ponderous as the full-size cars.
That is the dumbest non-real Chicago car guy comment I ever had the displeasure of reading. The 73 stying had lines like no other and coupled with a 1967 Firebird HP 400 365hp (out of the box) big block and a Muncie M21 you got a bulletproof combo that will fly. Real musclecar guys know that the colonade accepts 295
series tires like it was factory,
Have some vision and you can do this! And the suburbs does not make anyone a Chicago car guy lmfao
A very nice find. Count me as another who prefers the 74 to the 73. The rear of the 73 always looked like it was pinched off, like it came through a chopper while still hot. The 74 had a very attractive tail treatment.
I also never liked those base wheelcovers on the 73. It is interesting that while several others of the GM colonades had more delicate looking bumpers in 73 before the buliker 74 (especially the Century and Cutlass), but the 73 LeMans seems to have quite massive bumpers.
I have written before that my mother had a 74 Luxury LeMans sedan. I had never realized how much sales fell off, but it makes sense, as I recall seeing fewer and fewer of these as the years went by. As for the vinyl seats, even our Luxury LeMans had vinyl seats and crank windows. These were stlll commonly found on higher trim level cars in the 70s, though the velour seats were making strong headway.
Definitely the best-looking of the ’73 Colonnades.
Back East, these rusted away in about, oh, an hour and a half…word was that GM had a “run of bad steel” in these years. Like MoPar in ’57 (ouch!)
Chevy guy that I am, the ’73 Malibu styling was such a disappointment…GM made the new Laguna look decent and most of the other new A-bodies wore the new federally-mandated cowcatcher bumpers look halfways decent. Especially the Pontiacs.
But the Malibu – to this day – looks like GM chromed a 6×6 and hung it on the front of the car. A neighbor of mine has a black one, an SS (and I’ll assume it’s not a clone) in primer. Driven and enjoyed often.
Still can’t get over that cowcatcher.
Yes I know they were better handling and riding cars than the 68-72’s. But I still can’t get over the cowcatcher.
At least they hid it better on the Pontiacs.
Better handling and riding than the 68/72s yes,better looking no way.The curvy rear and angular front make it look like something out of a chop shop,they don’t match
I think Chevy recognized how disjointed the ’73 Chevelles looked and toned down the front bumper quite a bit in ’74. I always thought the ’74 Chevelle (Laguna excepted) was much better looking than the ’73….it’s the only ’74 Colonnade I feel this way about though… Well, I do like the ’74 Monte Carlo about the same as the ’73…
Yep, I like the 73-74 Laguna the best, the 73 rear the best. The 73 front bumper is just so massive that it begs to be tucked in or replaced with a 74-75. then they went to the 76-77 which is meh at best, though I’d swap it for a 75 bumper in a heartbeat AND tuck it in.
The rear bumpers on the 74-75s are a bit better as well, the 76-77 rear bumpers are just plain rectangles with little style to them.
I’ve always thought the same thing. My big sister’s first new car was 1973 LeMans Sport coupe purchases in October 1972. When she drove up in it, I thought the styling was just odd – the blocky front didn’t match the tapered tail. I thought and still think it looks like they connected two different styling clays designed by two different teams working with opposite styling teams. I enjoyed driving the car when I got my license a year and a half later. The handling was decent, especially after my father bought radials for sis when the car was two years old. The engine was reliable, but the rest of the car fell apart by 1979 – and we lived in the sunbelt. She replaced it with a ’79 Datsun 810 2-door.
I feel the way about the Chevys the way some of you feel about the Pontiacs. While I think the LeMans holds its own against the Grand Prix, I think the Chevelle is incredibly plain against the very good looking Monte Carlo (the Laguna not included)
I love the early Regals and My MC!
On closer inspection, I’m finding those wheel covers to be rather unusual, in a good way though. I know they were original, but they seem like they belong from another era. They look like the belong on a 1963 Le Mans.
I agree: they are an interesting design. This is one of the styles that I think would look cool repurposed as hanging light fixtures in the shop/barn. The multiple slits would diffuse some light downward & look pretty cool. The best part is that I think it could be done without ruining the cover.
Kind of like this design only hubcap instead of glass shade.
Hello my name is Frankie to all of the Month people out here in America my wife is trying to buy a 1973 LeMans Sport coupe in decent shape running with decent interior if anyone out there in America has one we would be willing to pay all shipping cost and pay for the vehicle at a decent price give us a call at 620-202-2400 at your earliest convenience if you have one for sale thank you and look forward to hearing from someone
Never liked this body style – the previous two iterations of LeMans were so great looking and then this one with the pinched behind came along. I didn’t like it then and cringe to look at it now. Agree that the Grand Prix, Cutlass, and Monte Carlo look so much better.
Those wheel covers look more 53 than 63 to me:
Agreed. And those ’53s do look quite a lot like these ’73s indeed. I’d forgotten about them; or maybe it was a subliminal thing…
Agreed, after driving my ’64 LeMans up until 1972, when these abominations came out, it finished Pontiac for me. With that upright prow front end, acres of hood, and that drooping melted rear, these were butt-ugly cars, imho. I rented a few of these while travelling for my first job, hard to see out of, no idea where the rear end was, those big floppy slabs of window glass, the plasticky interiors, no trunk space. I cringe along with you!
But God intended rear windows to be fixed!
In total agreement with you regarding the styling evolution. The first year meant something (although I’m not exactly sure what). After that, let’s just cliche it down to meaninglessness.
“But God intended rear windows to be fixed!”
I HEARD THAT!
I’ve always thought it looked like two different designers did the front and back ends of this car. The back is interesting, but it’s much too pinched for the upright front end.
An unmolested survivor like this one is always a pleasure to see. I was shocked by the sales numbers–I hadn’t realized the LeMans had done so well in ’73, and figured most of Pontiac’s mid-sized volume was due to the Grand Prix. Not surprised by the later mix, which is more in keeping with what I remember. Mid-1970s LeMans were no where near as prevalent in New Orleans as the rest of the A-body sisters.
As for the rear, while I appreciate what the designers were trying to do, and there is a purity to the lines, somehow it just doesn’t quite work, especially with the jutting bumper. I have to think that Pontiac got quite a bit of negative feedback from dealers (or customers, though not sure GM actually listened to them at that time) on the rear design, as the ’74 rear-end rework was pretty significant for a second year refresh. It seems they raised the deck lid height, changed the deck and rear fender contouring, and raised the rear fender line to make the trunk look “roomier.” However, one detail that bugged me about the refresh was that the trailing edge of the rear fender “bullet” contouring no longer lined up just right with the top of the fender as it had in ’73.
To my eyes, the rear-fender line mash-up got even worse with the ’76 and ’77, where rectangular tail lights replaced the waterfalls. On these, the “bullet” contouring doesn’t line up with the top of the rear fender OR the tail lights. In general, marrying rectilinear styling elements on a basically curvaceous design usually doesn’t work particularly well (witness many mid-1970s abominations). Perhaps in Pontiac’s case, this styling hodgepodge weighed on the LeMans sales numbers in those years.
I agree. The 1974 rear end style was the only one that worked. However, I forgot how hideous it was to put a brougham vinyl roof on the sports roof like the photo of the blue coupe above. That doesn’t work at all. The tapering triangular rear side windows were the only good ones to go with.
It seems that Detroit was not ready for the upright Brougham look for their bread-and-butter intermediates. The Torino looked like crap as a Brougham until it became an Elite, then a T-Bird, the LeMans looked like crap as a Brougham until it became a Gran Prix, and sheet, look how bad Chrysler did the Brougham look on the Charger until they came up with the Cordoba!
I guess no one expected Americans to want upright grilles with hood ornaments, padded formal halo roofs with opera lights, bordello interiors, opera windows, or denim-look vinyl covered continental deck lids. Japan flubbed it up at first, Detroit miffed it except with the Lincoln Marks, Granadas, Monte Carlos, Cutlass Supremes, Gran Prixs, and the European brands couldn’t figure it out at all.
It is quite a market shift to go from GTOs, Roadrunners and Mustangs to faux polyester luxury riding on bloated prams, right?
What made my mother’s 74 Lux LeMans work so well was the solid Honduras Maroon color, with no vinyl roof but with fender skirts. That sedan with the skirts had a graceful flow to it unlike almost any other 4 door car of the 70s. I will have to find a picture sometime.
A bit like this one spotted in the auto trader about a year ago? Looked fantastic in the pictures, and they were asking a decent price for it. Classy looking tin Indian.
Nailed it! I still think that ours looked even better sans the vinyl roof, which really didn’t fit these sedans that well. Mom liked this rust color, but it was late in the model year, and the one she looked at in this color lacked air. No way, no how.
I had read at the time that the redo of the ’74 LeMans/Grand Am tail end – it was the only colonnade with different trunklid sheetmetal for ’74 – was indeed to increase trunk room, because of complaints from ’73 buyers; it wasn’t merely to make the trunk “look” roomier.
I like the GP better myself (especially its real-wood-veneer full-gauges dashboard, shared with the Grand Am, versus that of the LeMans) but when my mother test-drove a new ’74 GP, she couldn’t see over the long hood; she ended up getting a Luxury LeMans opera-windowed coupe instead.
The fender skirts were so not necessary, but so sexy-looking.
Is this car for sale 73 lemans
Yeah it does look like a cut n shut of 2 different models did all the designers not meet until it was signed off?
Well, as long as we’re dragging out pictures of our old Pontiac A-bodies here’s my ’76 Grand Prix SJ that I had well into the ’80s … Sure miss that blood-red velour interior 😉
I agree that the ’73 was the best looking of the ’73-’77s
Outstanding find! I hated the Colonnades for decades but am starting to warm to the early examples.
As others have stated many times – the first version of a design is most often the best and cleanest. At least this LeMans doesn’t have fender skirts which fill in the pointed tail even more.
I agree with those who have said that the first-year colonnade styling was generally the best, and went downhill with each succeeding year. I think this LeMans is a particularly good reminder of that.
When these coupes first came out I kind of liked them. But thought they were rather retromobiles. Look closely. Don’t you see a lot of circa 1939-49 GM two door sedans?
Aerodeck, not right. But prewar GM sure enough.
As a longtime Colonnade owner, I have to say something. I LOVE Colonnades — they’re just so interesting and unique in automotive history. Never before or since have we had those styling cues (although the whole Colonnade idea is sort of a ’30s throwback — but so ’70ized it’s really its own thing)! I still reget my decision a number of years ago to pass on a beautiful ’73 GP in Desert Sand (basically a muted harvest gold) with saddle interior. This was right after I got my own ’77 GP LJ with practically every option including T-tops, which made it easier to pass on the ’73 — but in retrospect I shouldn’t have. Oh well. I think the weird low rear end of the ’73 LeMans works just fine, although the bumper is a little unfortunate. Say what you will about Colonnades — they were hugely successful overall (LeMans sales figures notwithstanding) and widely copied for years. (Cordoba, LTD II, etc). GM itself even went back to more Colonnade-like styling on the downsized coupes in 1981 after abandoning it with the boxy 1978s — the opera-look window returned on the Monte, GP, Cutlass and Regal after disappearing for 3 years, and the cars looked longer and lower again.
True, the did sort of “colonnade up” the 81 coupes, with a more 80’s version of the Colonnades meets Bill Mitchells “sheer look”.
This car has an optional tilt steering wheel – unusual for a base model which leads me to think it was a special order. Naturally, the presence of this option doesn’t guarantee this is the case – just my thinking.
This was still the days of many combinations of options. I remember seeing a 1973 Bel Air with 454 tag and full vinyl top, a ‘cheaper’ Caprice.
This is definitely a base LeMans, previously called T-37 or Tempest. Another name that went from top to bottom of the line.
In 1976, a base Grand Prix coupe, with a bench seat, was brought out at a lower price, and sold like hot cakes! Buyers wanted lux looks, and fastbacks as entry level mid size went out of style fast.
Also adding to sales was plain full size cars getting traded in for P-Lux coupes. Example, neighbor traded in base ’71 Impala sedan for an ’80 Cutlass Supreme coupe.
The Colonnade fastbacks were designed in 1969-70, the hight of supercars. Also, were meant to ’72 Models, out in fall 1971. Delayed a year from UAW strike, and bumper laws. Grand Am was meant to be GTO, but got name change to avoid insurance surcharges.
I love the look of those cars. With the lines on the hood it looked like they were making a giant pontiac symbol on the hood.
The Colonnades never fail to leave me fascinated. Such interesting looking cars for their time, especially the early, more curvaceous model years.
FIrst off, I admire Junqueboi’s taste: Fieros, Colonnades and early 70’s Grand Prix’s. My kind of guy!
Second, the feature car is just a great catch there and a nice write up by David. I just don’t see colonnades around my parts (NJ) the quality of this car. Heck, it’s hard to find ONE, period. This LeMans is a real beauty!
The 73 Colonnades were also the last of the line for Motown Muscle, in particular, the GTO and Chevelle SS. About one year ago, Ebay listed a 73 Buick GS Stage One and a 73 Pontiac GTO. Simply beautiful in their lines. And dead perfect in their presentation. I wish I had the funds to buy either one! As a fan too young to drive in the muscle car/intermediate era leading up and into the early colonnade area, I felt betrayed come September of 73 when these cars came out. Every magazine article of the day lamented the low compression engines, the heavy looking front and rear bumpers and the peculiar look to the colonnades.
But I think time has been very kind to these cars. The unique fender styling’s, the sloping rear decks and the fixed rear window probably have more fans today then back in the day when they came out. But you knew, as a muscle car fan back then, that no self respecting GTO came with a 3 speed manual or dog dish hub caps or a low compression engine. You knew early on in September of 73 that a new paradigm in performance was coming upon us: The Tape Job Muscle Car….
While the Buick, Chevrolet and Pontiac performance intermediates withered, Oldsmobile stuck with its 442 through the whole Colonnade run, slowly making it a paper tiger by the time the downsized 1978’s. Though through 1976-1977 you could at least still get a proper “4” in your 442, since the 455 and the 403 were still available through 76-77. They are rare though. Oldsmobile still had a H/O Cutlass during the Colonnade years too.
Actually, a 3-speed manual was the base GTO transmission all through it’s run, and many had dog-dishes, too. Pontiac did low-compression better than the other guys. Remember, the 455SD with 310 SAE NET HP was a lo-comp.
In the old gross HP rating, by my calculations it would have been a titch
I do not see anything pleasing about this trash barge. I’m probably in the minority too.
Single headlights? No thanks. That alone kills the Colonnades for me. I actually prefer the 76/77 of all the Pontiacs, I know I’m one of the few with that opinion..
I agree with you Matt. The single headlights, especially on the Grand Prix, looks odd on that huge front end but I think the LeMans pulled it off a little better.
I think the 69-70 4 headlight design from the 69-70 GP would have translated nicely to the 73-75 Collonades.
Interesting aside on the 73s…they are the first cars that I know of that moved the high beam switch to the turn signal lever. Anyone know if there were any earlier cars?
Only on the Grand-Ams. The cheaper ones still had a floor dimmer.
Correct, the Grand Am only,to make it more “Youropeeon”!
Cutlass Salon had it too, not sure if the Lagunas had it too.
The rear end looks like something more from the 40s than the 70s
My father had a 74 LeMans and I have wanted a Colonnade ever since. One day….
I’m a bit different here, I happen to like the ’73 Poncho Le Mans, pinched rear end notwithstanding as I’ve always found it kind of unusual. Good friends and neighbors who lived across the street from us had one, bought new, I think. I was roughly in the 3rd grade when they got it and thus that may have influenced my preferences for this year.
It was orange, and had a white vinyl top and the interior was, I think white too. Don’t know much else about the car, though it may well have the buckets/console, but I’m pretty certain it had the same wheel covers as the subject car above.
I will agree the bumpers were a bit unfortunate though and may have contributed to some of the pinched look of the rear of these.
As to the square headlights, have no issues of them being stacked, though how they are implemented is a different matter.
My mom and sister both had ’73 Cutlasses. I had been given my sister’s ’71 Cutlass and she needed a car, so my dad bought two of them. Mom’s was that awful misty blue with a white vinyl top, and my sister’s was an even worse sort of new penny bronze, with a brown vinyl top. Yuck. My Mom’s car was loaded to the max, with every option but a sunroof, and sis’s car was a stripper, with only A/C and power seats because of her being short and a “close driver”. Mom’s car was totally trouble free, but my sister’s was problem plagued from almost day one. She kept it for almost 7 years, and then replaced it with a shit brown (Her color choices have always been really bad)’79 Cutlass, another one with endless issues. She kept that car for 10 years, replacing it with a “Fly’s ass green” Nissan of some kind that wasn’t much better than the Cutlass was. Her first reliable car was the odd sort of blue green Mazda that replaced the Nissan, Her and her husband inherited his mom’s misty green Taurus when she suddenly died, and they still have it, even though it’s getting up there in age.
I never “got” the Colonnades. I thought they were, even though they sold a ton of them, the second of GM’s huge mistakes, the first one being the Vega, which was a good looking POS, but a POS nonetheless. GM’s next big cluster was the X-cars, then they had only the trucks and a very few car bright spots over the next couple of decades, with dud after dud. I consider the present Camaro a dud too, it’s horrible looking.
I wondered how they went from great looking cars in 1972 to horrible looking cars like the Colonnades in one step.
It’s not a dud if it sells, and the Camaro sells.
In the summer of 1973, we drove to Florida from Pennsylvania in my parents’ 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 Holiday sedan. We were visiting Disney World (hardly anyone flew in those days), which had just recently opened.
I remember how many Colonnade cars passed us on the way…to me, at 11 years old, they were the epitome of “newer and better” at that time. Especially compared to our 6-year-old Olds. It hardly helped that our Olds lacked air-conditioning and had an all-black, vinyl interior. It seemed as though every Colonnade had air conditioning, which was the height of luxury in those days.
The Pontiac LeMans and Chevrolet Chevelle were dull, and I rarely saw a Laguna version with the “soft” front end. But the Grand Am seemed exotic, while the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon looked like a cut-rate European car to me. I would have been thrilled if my father had pulled up to our house in brand-new Grand Am or Cutlass Salon.
My grandmother’s 60-year-old cousin had a brand-new 1973 Plymouth Sebring Plus, and it seemed like something…your grandmother’s 60-year-old cousin would drive. Even if it did have the wild interior upholstery and bronze exterior color. The other Mopar intermediates and AMC Matador were also old-hat (yes, even the Dodge Charger – that swoopy styling looked tired by 1973). At least the Torino could be dressed up as a sort of mini-LTD, but it was definitely not as “cool” as a Grand Am or Cutlass Salon.
A friend has a 1976 LeMans coupe. We drove it to the annual AACA Macungie show this past August. It’s amazing how cramped the car is. We had to arrange the items in the trunk to accommodate the cooler for our lunch and drinks. The back seat was cramped and even with the seat all the way back (my friend is well over six feet tall), I felt as though I was almost against the windshield.
Unfortunately, like a lot of 1970s dream machines from Detroit in general and GM in particular, living with it on a daily basis isn’t as much fun as looking at it. In retrospect, our 1967 Oldsmobile was a better all-around car. But I certainly wouldn’t have listened in 1973.
Jiust found this. Pointiac’s decline in the 70s is curious but not surprising, since it represented a return to the brand’s norm. Like DeSoto, Pontiac was an awkward rung on the brand ladder. In both cases, the brands were sandwiched between a vastly more popular lower-priced line (Dodge/Chevy) and a markedly more prestigious higher priced line (Chrysler/Oldsmobile).
Spacing the rungs right is the trick of the Sloan ladder, not just in terms of actual prices but perceived value. A DeSoto or Pontiac simply wasn’t attractive enough in terms of product or price to tempt a lot of Dodge or Chevy buyers to trade up, while conversely, an entry level Chrysler or Oldsmobile was a very tempting trade up for a would-be Pontiac buyer.
Pontiac broke its norm by defining styling, packaging and performance trends in the 60’s, first with its full size cars, then with the GTO and its intermediate siblings. But they couldn’t sustain the full-size success through the 60’s, and Pontiac quickly became GM’s weakest full-size line, while by the early 70’s the muscle car boom was dead, and Pontiac was oddly slow to broughmify the LeMans, making it’s non GP A-Bodies come across as cheap and mean, especially the interiors.
I am a long time lurker, but I don’t remember seeing this before. One of these was my first new car. I purchased one in this same color in Aug. of ’73. The sticker was $4,086. I paid $3500. I had graduated from high school earlier that summer and had just turned 18.
It was a great running car. A few years later, when I got married, my wife drove it. We then passed it on to my sister. At 135,000 miles we sold it. The drive train, suspension, was all original and still in good working order. Over the years it did need a water pump, and the “diode trio” in the alternator needed replaced. Other than that, just the standard tune ups, brakes and tires. A lot of fond memories, for a forgotten car!
Love, hate, indifference, or love some and hate some, the colonnades always spark lively and interesting debate. What I find most interesting about them is that in today’s age of evolutionary change where one generation looks more like a facelift of the previous generation, these were radically different looking cars inside and out from both their predecessors and their successors. They had some of the last really distinct styling and drivetrains from division to division and some of the last cars that exuded gm confidence. They were engineered and styled pre Watergate, pre fall of Saigon,, pre open crisis, pre less is more mentality and the long hoods and long shallow trunks compared with their predecessors shows it. They weren’t space efficient, but they were all about styling and the last of the gm “midsized” cars to have truly enormous engines. It’s bizarre to think today, when a 2019 car is really so little different than a car from twenty years ago even, how radically different these were from its five year older model and there was no comparison with a 63 or 53. Yah, they were not high points necessarily in terms of build quality, materials, power, space efficiency, or fuel efficiency, but consider the competition. The Japanese we’re Fielding tiny tin toys, the Torino was a wallowing, bloated, oversized pig, and the Chrysler products were poorly assembled out of flimsy, cheap materials. The colonnades were quiet, roomy enough for Mom and Dad and two kids, reasonably powerful, efficient, and smooth, and fairly luxurious for the day.
What caused the high mortality rate amongst the rubber caps on the column shift levers? JP I know you have pointed this out before in previous posts. This car obviously has a Chevrolet steering column and even looks to be a tilt one as well. It seems to me that Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile used a more durable cap on their column shift levers in the 1970’s as well as a different shaped lever without the 2 curves in it.
Wow, good eye Glenn. I never noticed that shifter at all when I first read this. The Pontiac shifter was completely different, mostly straight with a single gentle bend at the base like the one pictured.
That design went back to at least 1969 because our 74 LeMans had the same shifter as my Grandma’s 69 Catalina.
That Chevy knob was soft rubber/plastic that looked pressed on and would easily lose its grip on the lever. I remember being able to turn the knobs that were still there and they easily came off with a gentle pull. The end of the Pontiac lever was a hard plastic material. Every one I ever touched seemed permanently affixed with no looseness or slop at all.
Good points JP. Two things: My Camaro on the turn signal lever has a miniaturized version of the column shifter knob which is still there in good shape; my 2018 GMC Sierra SLT has a column shifted 6 speed automatic and the shifter lever has the same 2 curves in it as the 1970’s Chevrolets. GM certainly has gotten a lot of mileage out of that basic lever shape.
This post predated my arrival on CC. Had I responded to it in 2013, I would have railed strongly against the knife job rear end of the ’73 Le Mans. I did not like the sharpness of the finishing end, and I thought the Malibu and the Cutlass were much better in their posteriors. However I will say that if I saw a ’73 Le Mans at a car show today it would probably be one of the first I would photograph. I would say today that it was a daring style, polarizing to be sure, but many customers drove one home as shown in the sales of nearly a quarter million. Many of those many have experienced buyers remorse however when the Joneses down the street got a GP or a Cutty. Very nice find nonetheless.