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Oracle of Delphi

A History of the Pontiac Grand Prix - By Don Keefe, 1973 - 1990

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Nice history there thanks for the post! Helpeful because I've been reading john Gunnell's 75 Years of Pontiac and Oakland, a Crestline Publishing book that covers up to 1982 models, along with a few prototypes, the 1958-60 Vauxhalls, a few show cars and special editions, and a few rebadged Canadian Chevy's (Acadian, Beaumont, Stato Chief, Laurentian, Parisienne, etc.) And I always love seeing behind-the-scenes styling bucks/rejects-they give great ideas no matter how weird-looking they may have been.

Here's why I think Pontiac relented and finally offered a Grand Prix sedan for 1990:

1) To replace the previous mid-size 1982-86 Bonneville (as well as the soon-to-be-dropped 6000).

2) Unification of the GM mid-size cars. For example, the similar Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Buick Regal were know primarily as coupe lines, their sedans were always far less popular and remembered in comparison. And this I think is why the Monte Carlo name at Chevrolet was dropped and the Lumina moniker was used as Chevy's W-Body version.

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The 1990 W body GP sedan was in response to the Taurus/Sable of the day. GM admitted finally that 2 doors were not the prime market for cars anymore.

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Great read I enjoyed it alot. I have a Grand Prix, although she is getting old and might get replaced in the not to distant future.

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Great read I enjoyed it alot. I have a Grand Prix, although she is getting old and might get replaced in the not to distant future.

Yeah, the author is a great read. Maybe Fly will pin the two GP articles.

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The '74 and '75 GP's did have different grilles and taillights for model year ID. GM used to do this until 1981. The 75 GP's taillights were busier looking. 1978-80 had similar changes to tell apart.

But the 1981-87's are nearly identical. Maybe the 85-87 got more rubber on the bumpers?

Anyway, I do remember 1976 being a comeback year for GP sales and they were all over Chicagoland, with Cutlasses and other luxo coupes.

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The '74 and '75 GP's did have different grilles and taillights for model year ID. GM used to do this until 1981. The 75 GP's taillights were busier looking. 1978-80 had similar changes to tell apart.

But the 1981-87's are nearly identical. Maybe the 85-87 got more rubber on the bumpers?

Anyway, I do remember 1976 being a comeback year for GP sales and they were all over Chicagoland, with Cutlasses and other luxo coupes.

The 81-87 Grand Prix's look pretty similar but a sharp eye can tell the different years apart.

81-84 had the same grille and taillights but the color slections for the exterior changed each year

85-87 had the mini egg crate cross hatch grille and slightly different taillights

81-83 mid level GP's were called LJ and 84-87 were renamed LE

84-87 door panals and grab pull handles were changed from the older pull style setup of the 81-83 setup

81-82 had a Brougham Landau model which replaced the form SJ models from 78-80 as the top offering

81 was the last year for a Pontiac made V8 in the form of the 4.3 liter 265 unit

82 was the only year in Gran Prix history, up to the 80's, that didn't have a gas fired V8 option and the top gas engine option was the Buick built 4.1 liter 252 CID 4bbl V6

83 saw a return of a gas V8 option in the form of the LG4 305 4bbl Chevy motor

84 saw the introduction of a 4 speed automatic overdrive transmission, the 200 R4, only offered with the 305 V8

86-87 saw a second V6 option added in the form of the 4.3 liter TBI Chevy V6 from the Monte

The hood ornament changed on the newer 84-87 GP's

84-87 also introduced the sport exterior two-tone paint with stripes

seat material also changed going from the LJ to the LE models as did steerign wheels

84-87 also saw the sport steering wheel from other Pontiac models introduced as an option on base and std on LE

86 of course also saw the introduction of the very limited production 2+2 with fast back rear window ala Monte SS Aero coupe

81-83 had white guage pointers

84-87 has red ones and the woodgrain dash applique was changed to include some dashes of silver and given a larger opening for the newer digital stereos.

81 has optional bucket seats without recliners and were similar to all the other older A/G body cars in design

82 bucket seats that were ordered as an option in the base model were the same as in the then new Firebird and had recliners and holes in the headrest

84-87 bucket seats were again like the Firebirds but a little plainer looking compared to the 81-83 seats, with recliners and often in gray or blue material

Thats all I can think of going between the 81-87 years

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I had a brand new '81 with the 110hp 231 (later known as the 3800 for you kids reading) Buick V6 powerhouse. First year of "Computer Command Control", aka an ECM, or engine control computer. That thing had like ZERO power, and I had a dieseling problem that never went away. I got beat in a drag race by my uncle in a loaner '81 Fairmont/LTD wagon with an ancient 200 cid inline six (his '80 F350 with the junky Ford 400 engine was in the shop). That was a low point.

I do love the style of those downsized RWD GPs though, even the '78-'80, especially without vinyl tops. I'd love to have a steel-roof '78-'87 GP now with a nice smallblock under the hood and some fat swaybars with Pontiac Rallye II rims.

Edited by ocnblu
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The 1980 model year G bodies to me, look the best of the 78-80 cars. The quad highlights looked better and more luxurious, and was probably the last 'one year only' look for GM cars.

My parents got a 1980 Regal, since gas was $$$ then. We squeezed into it, after having full sized cars. But, me and sibs liked riding in what was popular style for the day. Instead of a woody station wagon.

It's a generational thing, someone knowing all about the 80's G bodies. I used to know the differences in the 1981-88 Cutlass Supreme grilles, but now I can only visualize the 81 and 84. But the 60's and 70's GM model looks are burned in my mind, ;-)

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I love that style, too, especially with single headlights... '71-'72?
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Spent a lot of time in a 1969 SJ with a 428 HO 390 HP engine. That car was just flat out enjoyable ride.

Had a friend who had a winter beater with the black leather interior that was in great shape. I wish we had saved it before the car went to the scap yard. It was a 69-70 and it was the only factory leather I can recall seeing.

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I grew up with an '83 G/P LJ that my parents bought new and kept for 10 years (replaced in '93 with only 70,XXX miles on it). I was heartbroken when they traded it in (supposedly got $1,000 for it, but I know that was not the actual cash value of the trade). It's the car I travelled in from age 7-18 and of course learned how to drive (had to use my cousin's '83 Regal for my driver's license test b/c it had a bench seat whereas the Pontiac had the buckets). I miss my mom's old Pontiac and keep an eye out for one, hoping one day to get one for myself (there is one similar to my mom's, but with T-tops, parked at a gas station in the Moorestown area... if I had $$$ available, I'd be tempted to see if they'd part with it).

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I had a brand new '81 with the 110hp 231 (later known as the 3800 for you kids reading) Buick V6 powerhouse. First year of "Computer Command Control", aka an ECM, or engine control computer. That thing had like ZERO power, and I had a dieseling problem that never went away. I got beat in a drag race by my uncle in a loaner '81 Fairmont/LTD wagon with an ancient 200 cid inline six (his '80 F350 with the junky Ford 400 engine was in the shop). That was a low point.

I do love the style of those downsized RWD GPs though, even the '78-'80, especially without vinyl tops. I'd love to have a steel-roof '78-'87 GP now with a nice smallblock under the hood and some fat swaybars with Pontiac Rallye II rims.

1981 was a bad year for those old 3.8 liter 2BBL vin code "A" 231 engines. Sounds like yours may have been out of tune right from the factory. I had a 1981 Cutlass 4 door with that engine and 60K miles and it to was a dog. A trip to my trusted mechanic brought about a carb rebuild, timing adjustment and a new TPS(throttle position sensor) and after that point the old 231 really livened up and would easily dust my 1979 Fairmont 4 door sedan 200 straight 6 so I may have had one of the better running 231's of that era. We used to have a used car dealership and sold a ton of cars with those engines from the 1981-1987 period. Never in all my years of driving did I see an engine that varied so much in power from one specimen to the next. By far the best was my dads 1982 Cutlass Supreme coupe with 40K miles and in perfect running shape. The order sheet listed positraction 3.08 gears on the options and that car would actually lay rubber with a 231 V6!

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The 1980 model year G bodies to me, look the best of the 78-80 cars. The quad highlights looked better and more luxurious, and was probably the last 'one year only' look for GM cars.

My parents got a 1980 Regal, since gas was $$$ then. We squeezed into it, after having full sized cars. But, me and sibs liked riding in what was popular style for the day. Instead of a woody station wagon.

It's a generational thing, someone knowing all about the 80's G bodies. I used to know the differences in the 1981-88 Cutlass Supreme grilles, but now I can only visualize the 81 and 84. But the 60's and 70's GM model looks are burned in my mind, ;-)

I had 2 1980 Grand Prix's one LJ and one SJ with factory moonroof. It always amazed me just how different those 2 cars felt in everyday driving. The SJ had the bucket seats and floor shifter, guage package and the HO 301 4BBL V8 that really would run. The LJ was far tamer and quieter and cushier by comparison. I wish I still had those 2 cars, one was destroyed in a fire and the other was sold on Ebay when I lost my job 4 years ago. I really want to find another clean southern lower mileage SJ GP. That was a really nice car with a sport/luxury edge to it.

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