Vintage Car Life’s ‘Best Of 1969’ Review: Pontiac Grand Prix SJ – The Enthusiast’s Personal Luxury Car

One could sense Car Life’s excitement when Pontiac’s first Personal Luxury Car arrived in the form of the downsized 1969 Grand Prix. In the eyes of CL, the new Grand Prix delivered the goods, especially with the SJ handling package. In that competitive field, CL was impressed enough to name the model the ‘Best Personal’ car in their “Best Of ’69” issue.

As noted in the review, Pontiac’s late arrival to the Personal Luxury Car segment was due to GM’s internal politics and production issues. This had left trendy Pontiac in the curious position of lacking a model in that hot segment. But this was still DeLorean’s Pontiac, always on the lookout for a break.

As the original full-size Grand Prix had become too bloated, a chance opened up to reinvent the model. By splitting tooling costs with Chevrolet (for their upcoming Monte Carlo), Pontiac’s PLC project got the go-ahead from headquarters, a fact unknown to CL reviewers at the time.

Once green-lighted, Pontiac applied the tricks it knew well. The ’69 Grand Prix would have lots of performance and lots of style. Sitting on a lengthened A-Body Tempest chassis; the car got the long-hood short-deck proportions popular at the time. Then, by dropping the 428-cid V-8 in the engine bay, the Grand Prix SJ had more power than a GTO and less weight than a Catalina. A winning mix for CL’s reviewers.

The Grand Prix suspension was considered ‘conventional but beautifully executed,’ a sign Pontiac was still under the guidance of engineers. CL was particularly impressed with the SJ handling package, with stiffer springs, shocks, and wider wheel rims. CL makes clear the ‘Best Personal Car’ title was awarded to the SJ version, for its handling prowess and performance. The base model performed in the average way other Personal Luxury Cars behaved.

Styling discussions can’t be avoided when it comes to the ’69 Grand Prix. Being a Personal Luxury Car, the Grand Prix was meant as a fashion statement, and that it accomplished. The model pushed the long-hood short-deck trend to the extreme, popularized by the likes of the Mustang. Also, its neoclassical face was a sign of a new age in Detroit styling. The ’69 Grand Prix was one of the marque’s truly influential models.


Further reading:

Curbside Classic: 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix -Who’s The Fairiest Pontiac Of Them All?