History of the 1969-1972 Pontiac Grand Prix
In the American automotive landscape, the years around 1970 were the era of big, and while the Grand Prix wasn’t the biggest offering from Pontiac, it was still plenty big at 17 feet, 6 inches long. The Grand Prix was completely redesigned for the 1969 model year, and featured the longest hood in production car history. Pontiac was GM’s sporty marque, and the Grand Prix offered the intermediate-size buyer a bunch of sporty extras including bucket seats and an aircraft-inspired wrap-around cockpit to bring all controls closer to the driver.
The Grand Prix was available only as a two-door hardtop coupe in this era, and 112,486 of them were made for the 1969 model year. Production was halved in 1970, with 65,750 made, and 1971 saw about the same number. During the final year of this production run in 1972, just over 90,000 Grand Prix coupes left the factory.
The most notable change in body styling came in 1971 with the addition of a boattail molded rear deck lid. This matched the angled nose and hood sculpting that had been included on the car from the beginning of the era. Other changes, such as the shift from two headlights to one, were minor.
In 1969, Grand Prix buyers could choose from two engines and four power levels. The least powerful engine was a 400-cid V-8 at 265 hp, but most cars were delivered with the standard 350-hp 400-cid motor. There was also an optional 428-cid V-8 at 370 hp, and a high output 428 engine with 390 hp.
For 1970, the 350-hp 400-cid engine was still standard, but buyers could opt for a 455-cid engine at 370 hp or the detuned 400-cid engine at 265 hp. By 1971, emissions regulations were taking their toll, and the standard 400-cid engine produced only 300 hp, and the 455 was reduced to 325 hp. The change from gross to net horsepower ratings happened in 1972, reducing claimed output to 250 hp from the 400-cid engine and 300 hp for the 455-cid engine.
Throughout this era, the Grand Prix was offered with a standard three-speed column shift manual transmission, though few were ever built that way. Most cars received GM’s standard Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. Manuals were discontinued mid-year in 1971. Early in the run, there was also an optional floor-mounted four-speed manual, with just 676 cars built with this option in 1969, and another 329 in 1970.
Grand Prix collectors will want to seek out the four-speed cars with the high output 428-cid engine, though these will be exceedingly rare, and any such car should be accompanied with paperwork.