Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix 421 Super Duty – “The Fastest Accelerating Stock Production-Line Car We’ve Ever Tested”

The Pontiac 421 SD is one of those very few cars upon which the great American performance car of the ’60s mythology is based on. Pontiac already was the terror of NASCAR tracks and NHRA strips with its 389 SD, and then in late 1961, it unleashed the first of the big displacement super-performance V8’s, the 421 SD. Rated at 405 hp, but reputed to make more like 465 hp, the SD was unbeatable, and forced the hand of all the others, with a raft of legendary competitors to come: Ford’s 427, Chrysler’s 413/426 and Chevy’s 409. Pontiac upped the ante with the 421 SD, and the horsepower wars were off to their final zenith.

Car Life explains how the new ’62 GP was a “super” Catalina, in the mold of Chevy’s SS, featuring bucket seats, console, floor shifter and a few other bits of eye candy. And even in its base 303 hp 389 form, it was an excellent performer, although one wonders if its 15.9 second 1/4 mile and 0-60 in 7.2 seconds weren’t already indicative of the “super tuning” that all high performance Pontiacs got before being released to the press. I strongly suspect so; it was on page 1 of John DeLorean’s playbook.

The 421 SD was stuffed to the gills with heavy-duty and high performance parts, and crowned with dual four-barrel carbs. As noted above, it was rated at 405 hp, but CL notes that could be upped to 432 with some additional over-the-counter goodies. The tested car had the three-speed manual transmission.

As per the headline, CL stated that “Undoubtedly, the 405-bhp Pontiac is the fastest accelerating stock production-line car we’ve ever driven. 0-60 wasn’t that blistering, at 6.0 seconds. But the 1/4 mile was, in 14.3 @103 mph. “And the engine is just beginning to sound alive alive in 3rd at 103 mph.” Top speed had to be estimated at 135 mph, because the test track wasn’t long enough. “There just isn’t anything like a big, high-winding engine with the volume turned full on”.

Not surprisingly, tire adhesion was a serious problem, and in any gear, even high, if there was a touch of moisture on the road. Starts required feathering throttle and clutch.

Fortunately, Pontiac also offered heavy duty suspension options, as the standard one on the test car was “much too soft and billowy”. The optional 8.50-14 low profile rayon cord tires were recommended “for serious work”. Why else would anyone order a 421 SD unless they planned to do some “serious work”?


Note: the color pictures are recent pictures of a similar car for sale found on the web.