In the early 1970s, Road Test Magazine covered a nice cross section of cars, including an emphasis on “ordinary” sedans, coupes and economy cars that wouldn’t usually have been seen in some of the more sports-car-oriented automotive titles. With the arrival of the reworked GM B- and C-body cars for 1971, Road Test took the opportunity to sample quite a few different models from the various divisions, including this top-of-the-line Pontiac sedan. It was the era when GM still paid attention to delivering differentiation between their brands, and Road Test noted that the Grand Ville did indeed demonstrate benefits that were unique to Pontiac.
The editors were correct in predicting that the 1972 models would not be significantly changed–the biggest difference would be the new, larger front bumper (getting ready for the Feds!) and reworked grill styling. They were also right to note that Pontiac’s styling was very unique, with the bold, pointed front grille continuing the brand’s aggressive character in front-end designs. As for the visual heft of the car, I’d argue that it wasn’t the track width that made this car look obese… plenty of highly-styled sheet metal draped over a huge platform took care of that. At least there were some legitimate benefits inherent with the wide track that helped the biggest Pontiac continue its tradition of offering better-than-average handling for such a large car.
Oddly, the testers made no comment on the unusual new name for the flagship sedan: Grand Ville translates into “big town,” which seems rather dull compared to the evocative names derived from racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats or carefree living on the sunny shores of Catalina Island. Perhaps the name was an unfortunate harbinger of the tough times to come for Pontiac, as performance imagery fell out of favor during the 1970s and the brand started to lose its way.
Apologies for the blurriness on the edge of the page above, it was hard to get this issue to lie flat on the scanner without damaging the binding. The text on the upper left image reads as follows: “The Grand Ville has its own roof, shared by no other Pontiac. Both two- and four-door hardtops have equal legroom as a result.” This C-body roofline on the Grand Ville was actually unique to Pontiac among all the B-body cars. It’s interesting to note that the Grand Ville and Bonneville shared the same 126 inch wheelbase (the Catalina had a 123.5 inch span), but had different rooflines, with the Bonneville sticking to the B-body roofline shared with other GM divisions. For 1973, all the big Pontiacs (except wagons) would commonize on a 124 inch wheelbase, shared with their B-body cousins at Buick and Oldsmobile, though the Grand Ville would continue to use the unique C-body roofline.
These cars truly were horrific gas guzzlers, though mileage would suffer even more as the decade progressed and additional Federal regulations took their toll.
It’s entertaining to imagine this Pontiac barreling along at 100 mph on a Nevada highway, back in the days before limits and regulations so significantly changed the automotive landscape.
16.2 cubic feet of trunk capacity seems shockingly small for such a gargantuan car, though Road Test seemed satisfied with the available cargo room. They did call out the high lift-over height for the trunk as problematic.
The editors seemed to like the new big Pontiac, and felt it was very suitable for family car duty, with some wide-track flair thrown in for good measure. The $5,945 as-tested price for this Grand Ville would adjust to $34,928 in today’s dollars, placing this car at the low end of the near-luxury category, or high end of the family sedan segment, a logical pricing strategy for the premium Pontiac within GM’s hierarchy. While the Grand Ville may not have had quite the flash and glamour of some of its 1960s Bonneville predecessors, it was still well done for a very large car, and a fitting last hurrah for the biggest Pontiac before those attributes would permanently fall out of favor.