02 June 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #19, Continued

If I did have to choose just one car to represent all 1973-77 A-bodies in my Fantasy Garage, it would be a 1973 Pontiac Grand Am. It's a bit out of the mainstream, but I have good reasons. In the morass of 1970s bloat, the Grand Am was a legitimate attempt by Pontiac to create a "driver's car," something a bit more athletic, a more sophisticated blend of GTO performance and Grand Prix comfort and luxury, and clearly influenced by European cars of the period.

The Grand Am used the same body as the LeMans, but with its own distinctive front end made of Endura, a flexible urethane that matched the car's body color. The suspension was beefed up, and the interior used the Grand Prix's dashboard (full array of gauges, trimmed in genuine mahogany!) and had bucket seats and a console in both the two-door and four-door models. We don't think of this as unusual now, but at the time bucket seats were almost unheard of in a four-door car, and just to make things a bit more interesting, the Grand Am's reclined, had lumbar support, and were upholstered in a wide-wale corduroy fabric.

If you were so inclined, you could order your Grand Am with a four-speed manual transmission to go with the standard 400-cubic-inch V-8 (the base LeMans engine was a lowly six-cylinder, but most people probably opted for the 350 V-8), or upgrade to Pontiac's 455.
1973 Pontiac Grand Am two-door and four-door. (Image borrowed from Hans Tore Tangerud/Love to Accelerate)
It probably doesn't come as a surprise that this sort of vehicle was not what most buyers were looking for in 1973. The Grand Am was never popular, and sales grew even worse in '74 and '75, after which it was dropped. Curiously, when the GM intermediates were downsized for 1978, Pontiac brought back the Grand Am; it again sold poorly and lasted for three model years, though in its final one, 1980, it was only available as a coupe.

So why is my FG Grand Am a '73? As usual, it's in the details. I prefer the grille design used on the '74 and '75 models to the one used in '73, but I much more strongly prefer the horizontal tail lights and overall rear design of the '73 to the vertical design of '74 and '75. (If I wanted to cheat a bit, I suppose I could swap a '74-'75 nose piece.) A white interior was available on the '74 Grand Am, but the genuine mahogany dash was gone (the console still had real mahogany trim). And mine needs to be a four-door, since such an overall package was much more uncommon at the time.

And more broadly, my general feeling about the '73-'77 A-bodies is that, regardless of brand or model, the first year of the design was the best, and in each successive year it got a bit more cluttered and overdone. (Of course there are exceptions; I strongly prefer the quad rectangular headlights of the '76-'77 Grand Prix to the single round lights used on the previous three years.)

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