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Protect your 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix from the unexpected.
The third iteration of the wildly popular Pontiac Grand Prix appeared in 1973. A further evolution of the intermediate-size personal luxury car, the Grand Prix was once again only available as a two-door coupe, this time utilizing the same A-body Colonnade pillared hardtop body style with frameless door glass that appeared on the Oldsmobile Cutlass and Chevrolet Chevelle.
From a styling standpoint, the new Grand Prix was instantly recognizable as a Pontiac. Both sporty and luxurious, the cars had a vertical bar V-nose grille, and a trunk lid that ever-so-slightly echoed a boattail. Inside, an all-new instrument panel improved on the wrap-around cockpit theme, and added mahogany veneer on the panel, console, and door panels. Strato high backed bucket seats were all new, and included unusual features such as adjustable lumbar support and backrests. A split bench seat was also available.
The standard powerplants were Pontiac’s own 400-cid V-8 engines, with the Pontiac 455-cid V-8 optional. An SJ option included a rally gauge cluster, radial tuned suspension, special shock absorbers and radial tires. The public responded well to the new Grand Prix, and sales for 1973 jumped from 90,000 units the year before to more than 150,000.
The 1974 models were largely unchanged, while 1975 added a new luxury LJ sub-series, which included a velour interior and exterior pinstripes. The engines were detuned and catalytic converters added, as with all GM cars that year, in a bid to reduce emissions.
The 1976 model year saw a pretty new split waterfall grille and a revised headlight layout, with a 350-cid V-8 now standard for the first time on the base cars. All cars now featured simulated Rosewood trim, replacing the real wood of prior years. Befitting Pontiac’s 50th anniversary that year, a special edition Grand Prix was built based on the LJ luxury model, with special equipment including removable Hurst T-tops, Rally II wheels, “Anniversary Gold” paint, a white opera roof, and white body side moldings. Special badging included golden hood and trunk medallions and a special golden arrowhead logo in the sport steering wheel. Overall, Grand Prix sales this year were stronger than ever, surpassing 225,000 units.
The 1977 cars were distinguished by a new hood ornament, altered grille, new taillights, and modified trim. Most importantly, a new lightweight engine became standard. The Pontiac designed and built 301-cid V-8 engine, provided adequate performance with 135 hp pulling as little as 3,804 pounds. The object of the exercise was to promote economy, but hedging their bets as always, Pontiac also offered 350-, 400-, and 455-cid V-8s as well. One oddity of 1977 cars is the fact that for California, none of the Pontiac engines could be cleaned up sufficiently to pass the new more stringient emission standards, so for that state, Oldsmobile Division 350 and 403 V8 engines were utilized, with a few even built with Chevrolet 350 engines.
Today, the 1973 and 1976 models are typically the most desirable Pontiac Grand Prix of this generation, mostly due to available power and handsome looks respectively. The car was a best-seller during this run, which means parts availability and trim supplies are not a concern, and buyers can afford to patiently seek out rust-free cars that are equipped to their liking. Golden Anniversary cars are the exception here, as fewer than 5,000 were built.