(first posted 10/1/2015)
Here’s another article from June 1978 R&T posted here– the Grand Am Ad in that issue interested some of you, so I hope this article will do as well.
Here’s the Ad:
And the article, enjoy:
The ad copy. So many. Sentence fragments.
The work of the William Shatner Ad Agency, perhaps.
I think they intended to mimic spoken voice. So yeah. William Shatner.
It was really popular. In ’70s ads. Someone must. Have thought it. Conveyed something.
We were all pretty stoned. Back in the 70’s. Everyone talked. This way.
What amaze me the most about old ads is the amounts of writing on them. Did people really read all that?
True to form, I never read the copy, just looked at the picture and the line down the bottom. “Brought it back alive” indeed!
Yet another ringer. Out of General Motors. Sweat shops. Which you could not buy.
In 1978 I bought a new Grand Am coupe when I found the newly restyled Grand Prix a bit too plain and boring. Was a few hundred dollars cheaper too. The 301 4-bbl was peppy with decent mileage. The handling was excellent with standard RTS suspension – far better than the ponderous Colannades of the previous generation GM intermediates. And the beautiful dash with the full gage cluster was the best in the industry. The rear windows didn’t roll down, but this mattered little to me at the time.
Build quality was so-so, but probably no worse than the competition. Ran well until 100K miles, when everything went at once. Typical for the era, when U.S. cars seemed to be engineered to last 100K miles, and not too many more.
I _still_ get twitchy when the odometer starts reading 99,000 despite improving quality.
The conventional wisdom of the day as taught to me.
“Free till Fifty; Still alive at Seventy-five;Throw it away at One Hundred K.”
Not a big fan of the looks of these, but having driven that era Malibu I could see it being a decently good all-around car with the V8.
*Such* an attractive coupe.
I almost got lured into buying one of these in the same brown color in the late ‘80s. My brother got stuck with it when someone used it to repay a debt to him and tried to unload it on me.
The throttle got stuck wide open and I didn’t notice much acceleration at all. I was able to stop it and drive back even down side streets all with the throttle stuck open and never came close to going over the speed limit. What a ugly, gutless pile of crap.
Now you go to car shows and the Malibu or the El Camino versions of this turd are there at least they change out the engine sometimes.
Back then, 100,000 was acceptable for a car to go to junk yard. Now, cars are “just broken in”.
Regarding performance versions of the RWD G body, it wasn’t until the ’83 Monte Carlo SS that there was any sales success. Then the Grand National and Olds H/O and 442.
There wasn’t a true Pontiac stale-mate, and the Grand Prix Aero was a tiny amount.
The early Grand Ams never caught on, until the ’85 FWD version.
The 1980 Grand Am coupe and Grand Prix SJ were about 3/4 of this project brought to life at your then local Pontiac dealership. The trick rocker arms weren’t used but the 301 for this year was a heavier duty W72 motor as used in the Trans Am with performance cam and the same electronic spark control system as mentioned in this article. It was referred by the marketers as the EC 301. It came tied to a firmer shifting THM 350 or 200 Metric transmission and 2.93 rear gears in place of the pathetic 2.14 on other 301 A/G body cars. They also had dual rear exhaust outlets, a fat rear sway bar and beefed up suspension and bracing. They were the first attempt at a semi performance mid size from GM after the rather lackluster Buick 3.8 turbo from 1978.
I had a 1980 GP SJ with this setup and was surprised at how quick it was for the time. 8.5 second 0-60 runs were pretty normal but then again I ran base timing a few degrees over stock and had the secondaries open a little sooner. It has excellent highway passing power and would pin the 85 MPH speedometer rather quickly. This car had close to 200K miles on the clock when I parked it for it’s Winter nap on the original 301 motor and THM 350 transmission with the only thing replaced being the timing chain and gears and valve cover gaskets! Sadly it’s met it’s maker in a bad house fire. I miss that car to this day and haven’t found one like it since.
I’ve never seen an ’80 with a dual exhaust tip. Though it’s been a while since I’ve seen an ’80 anything.
I had an 80 GP “LJ” (around 1990/91) with the 265 that really didn’t seem to be as bad as it’s made out to be. (Except for the Metric 200 slushbox)
Joe, that loss must have hurt. Ouch! Would have loved to see a write-up and pictures of your GP.
Gee, I’da thought that 2.14 was a typo, since I recall 2.41 ratios from GM in that era, but then I went to check, and there it was. Must have been real dogs.
BTW do you have any idea why that EC engine got 2 engine codes?
All 301 4BBL engines had the code L37. The spicier W72 “EC” 301 was used to differentiate the garden variety 4.9’s to the HO engine which made 30 more horses or up to 170 HP. The W72 code was used on prior 400 Pontiac engines such as the 220 Hp engine in the 1878-79 Trans Ams to separate them from the 180 HP engines in the full size cars. For 1980 that was quite something considering Chrysler 318’s were down to 120 HP, Fords FI 302 made but 130, Chevy’s 305 was listed at 155 and the Olds 307 made 150. And this was with a smog pump and emissions choked carburetor.
The W72 or EC 301 also featured the same basic beefed up block as the turbo 301, used it’s electronic spark control (EC) and also borrowed the rolled fillet crank from the turbo engine so it was quite a bit stronger than prior 301 motors.
I always liked this car. I think the the front end looks smoother and more cohesive than the Malibu model.It is just the right size, plenty of room inside and and decent trunk. The performance was good for the times, the production version was not as quick as this prototype but still more than acceptable. I think that it’s specialty car stablemates, Grand Prix, Cutlass, Regal and Monte Carlo stole most of this cars thunder. My Dad had two of these platform Malibu wagons with the V6 and I thought they were okay. Too bad this car didn’t stick around for further development.
I’ve always been a fan, too. These were the best of the downsized A bodies.
When the first Grand Am hit the showrooms, I thought it was an interesting effort, certainly much better than Ford’s Elite (not necessarily it’s competition). Than the 2nd generation appeared. Much more interesting (IMHO) than the Grand Prix and any of it’s corporate “sisters”. And unlike the GP, available as a 2 door AND a 4 door. A sport wagon would have made a great addition to the lineup.
I remember reading a road test of this very prototype in my dad’s collection of old Popular Hot Rodding magazines. I liked the looks much better than the very similar Malibu coupe. Wish they would have produced this, I’d be on the lookout for one as an LS-swap candidate.
Anybody else see an XJ Cherokee in the front end? Looks great though
Totally, instantly associated them when I first laid eyes on it. I like the look of Cherokees too so nothing wrong with it
Pretty impressive that they put together a knock sensor with 1978 computer technology. Don’t forget that the original IBM PC didn’t hit the market until 4 years later.
Ford’s 1st EEC in 1978 used a proprietary 12-bit CPU, probably because early 8-bit chips like the Intel 8080 & Motorola 6800 (1974) were too slow for a realtime application like that. It took awhile before mass-market microprocessors became fast enough for embedded process control; I remember being impressed by a Fairchild Mil-Spec 16-bit CPU clocked at 40Mhz in the mid-’80s.
The aftermarket Audiovox cruise control from 1980 installed on my Frontier had a Zilog Z80 eight-bit processor, but perhaps knock sensing requires a faster processor.
When the first Grand Am appeared, what puzzled me was its name, cobbled together from two other Pontiac names, as though by a committee. What was next, I thought, the Pontiac Trans Prix?
No, you couldn’t…!!!
But those were the days when Pontiac did most things right, regardless of the name on the car.
My gosh, what DOESN’T that dash provide feedback
for? Warp drive, dilithium levels, hull integrity… LOL
Actually, four of the eight small circular pods to the right were A/C vents. The other four housed a fuel gage and idiot lights for oil, temp and battery. Full gages were optional. The large dial to the far left was the speedometer and the large dial to its right was the clock, which was also optional. A tach was optional as well (with or without the gages) and replaced the clock when ordered. When a tach and clock were both specified the clock was a small digital affair over near the glove box.
You could actually order both an analog clock (in the gauge cluster) and a digital clock (above the glove box); Car & Driver had a test car so equipped and was mystified, calling it “a Pontiac with time to spare”. The digital clock used mechanical wheels that turned as needed to display the numerals. If you ordered neither an analog clock nor a tachometer, you got a big dial with hash marks in a circle with “PONTIAC” in the center, to remind you of being a cheapskate every time you drive.
Gorgeous dashboard and console BTW.
What was interesting about this car is that Pontiac had full plans to offer the 301 turbo in both this car and the Grand Prix SJ sport variants but after the second oil crisis that never materialized. Instead we lost the Grand Am altogether, the Grand Prix SJ was canceled and in it’s place was the Brougham trim level taking away any sportiness this car had for 1981. Even worse the F-41 suspension with rear sway bar was gone on the Grand Prix and all you could order was a $16.00 HD spring option. Strangely the Lemans series still retained the rally suspension option with larger tires and rear sway bar. And to add insult to injury the 301 was gone across the board unless you bought a wagon (de-tuned to a mere 135 HP) and the top gas fired engine was the smaller 4.3 liter 265 with a mere 120 HP or 50 less than the W72 301 for everything else 49 state. 1981 and 82 were truly miserable years for performance!
The Grand Am seems to be getting a little more love this time around, compared to when I spotted one in the cohort! https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/cc-cohort/cohort-capsule-1978-pontiac-grand-am-neither-grand-nor-am/
Still think its a nice looking car.
These were good disposable road cars. Attractive and slick looking, but rattled to pieces by the time they were about five years old. Certainly don’t miss those ridiculous spoilers on car trunks. Same with the interior – neat looking when new, but ratty looking after a half dozen years. It was a sweet car that barely outlasted the payment book.
How could General Motors hit a home run with the downsized large cars but bunt with the downsized intermediate cars?
These were more than a bunt, but not a homerun either. They didn’t feel as substantial as the B/C bodies, and the non-openable rear door window was all kinds of cheap. The supposed reason for that was to allow a recessed armrest, which on paper increased elbow room but in real life was uncomfortable to use. Then there were those misshapen and pointless “aeroback” Olds and Buick sedans and coupes. You had to be careful with your driveline selection. Despite those issues, the ’78 intermediates captured the essence of the previous “colonnade” design in a smaller package and sold well for the decade they were available. Most of them were lookers too, inside and out.
The test car was a four-speed but the ad only mentions an automatic. I guess they dropped the idea of a manual?
My best friend bought a new 1978 (or 1979?) Malibu coupe after graduating from college. It had a 305 V8, handling suspension (F41?) and a four speed manual transmission. It was a pretty great ride at the time.
One odd thing I recall was a spot the dash area that was intended to display the PRNDL on an automatic was still there… but the PRNDL was painted over at the factory. The cover up was very plain to see.
I grew up with the N body Grand Ams. They were everywhere. But their interiors…
When I see cars like these now, they just always reek of gas when you walk past them.
I don’t remember these so-called ‘CA’ (i.e., Can-Am) Pontiac A-bodies. The article says it’s a prototype; did they actually build/sell any? If so, seems like they’d be included in the list of rare, small-batch Pontiacs.
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is what looks to be some kind of hokey, quasi-shaker hood scoop that doesn’t appear to do anything. It reminds me of the cop-cars in Smokey and the Bandit that all seemed to have similar, tacked-on shaker scoops, as well. I guess it must have been some kind of marketing scheme related to the previous, low-production colonnade Can-Am that ‘did’ have a real shaker hood scoop.
All things considered, I’d just as soon have a V8 Malibu.
It was strictly a prototype. The “hood scoop” was not a scoop. It contained a digital tachometer and stopwatch for elapsed time.
I had a ’78 Grand Am that I bought from Byrne Bros. Chevrolet in North White Plains, NY. I loved it and still miss it. I remember a Car and Driver article where they compared it to a BMW.
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