The Pontiac Grand Am is a mid-size car and later a compact car that was produced by the Pontiac division of General Motors. The Grand Am had two separate 3-year runs in the 1970s: from 1973 to 1975, and again from 1978 to 1980. It was based on the GM A platform. Production of the Grand Am was canceled in 1980 when it was replaced by the Pontiac 6000. The Grand Am was reintroduced in 1985 when it replaced the Pontiac Phoenix. It was Pontiac's best selling car and later replaced by the Pontiac G6, so named as it was intended to be the 6th generation of the Grand Am.
All 1973-75 Grand Ams were built in Pontiac, Michigan at Pontiac's main assembly plant. 1978-1980 Grand Ams were built in Pontiac, Michigan at Pontiac's main assembly plant and in Atlanta, Georgia at GMAD Lakewood. All Grand Ams between 1985 and 2005 were built in Lansing, Michigan at the Lansing Car Assembly.
The original Grand Am was introduced in the fall of 1972 as a 1973 model. It was based on the GM A platform (A-body) along with other cars such as the Pontiac LeMans, Pontiac GTO, Chevrolet Chevelle, Buick Century, and the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The GM A-body platform had major design revisions in 1973 that included the elimination of pillarless hardtops due to proposed federal rollover standards, but with frameless windows similar to that of a hardtop. No convertibles were produced due to those same federal rollover standards (that never were enacted). In addition to federal emissions regulations that reduced performance, new federal standards required a 5 mph (8.0 km/h) impact-resistant front bumper and a 2.5 mph (4.0 km/h) impact-resistant rear bumper, which increased to 5 mph (8.0 km/h) for 1974.
The Grand Am, coined by Pontiac with a name derived from two other cars in its lineup ("Grand" signifying "Grand Prix luxury" and "Am" for "Trans Am performance") was designed as America's answer to European luxury/sport sedans and available as a 4-door Colonnade sedan or a 2-door Colonnade coupe. 43,136 Grand Ams were built during the first year of production (both two-door and four-door models).
The Grand Am could be had with a standard 400/2bbl V8 engine (6.5 Litre, 170 horsepower), an optional 400/4bbl engine (230 horsepower), or an optional 455/4bbl engine (7.4 Litre, 250 horsepower). Single or dual exhaust systems were also available. Originally planned but never materialized was the availability of 310 horsepower (230 kW) Super Duty 455/4bbl that was originally set to be available on several 1973 Pontiac models including the Grand Am, Grand Prix and GTO along with the Firebird Trans Am and Formula. However, production of the 455 SD was delayed from its planned debut at the start of the model year due to emissions considerations. Production of the 455 SD was delayed until the spring of 1973 and then it was made available only on the two Firebird models. One early '73 Grand Am prototype was reportedly assembled with the 455 SD engine.
The 400/2bbl, 400/4bbl, and 455/4bbl engines were available with a Turbo-hydramatic 400 automatic as standard equipment. A 4-speed manual transmission was available with the 400/4bbl engine in 1973 and 1974. It is unknown how many of the 1973 model year Grand Ams had the four-speed manual transmission, but it is estimated to be in the 600-900 range for 1973 and perhaps half that in 1974. The four-speed manual transmission was available only with the 400/4bbl engine. All 400/2bbl and 455/4bbl equipped cars were automatics.
The 1973 Pontiac Grand Am style had a unique flexible urethane front fascia center nose (known as the 'Endura' nose) that was squeezable and could return to its original shape following a minor collision along with the new energy-absorbing bumpers, a total of 6 grille openings with vertical bars, round front turn signals with a cross-hair design, horizontal rear tail lights, and chrome rear bumper. Additionally, Grand Ams featured a Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) as standard equipment which included the radial-ply tires, Pliacell shock absorbers and front and rear sway bars for improved ride and handling. Springs were advertised as being computer selected. This basic suspension tuning also came standard with the Grand Prix SJ option in 1973 and optional on two other Pontiac models that year including the full-sized Bonneville and the sporty Firebird. The Grand Am was one of only three GM cars to come standard with radial tires and appropriate suspension tuning in 1973 with the others being the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon and Chevrolet Monte Carlo S. For a 4200 pound car, it handled quite well, being both predictable and 'toss-able'.
Inside, the Grand Am came standard with Strato bucket seats upholstered in Naugahyde vinyl or corduroy cloth featuring manual recliners and adjustable lumbar supports - both features common on European-style sports/luxury sedans but unusual for American cars of that time. Also included were an instrument panel from the Pontiac Grand Prix featuring a Rally Gauge Cluster with full Fuel, Oil, Water and Volts instrumentation (tachometer or Fuel Economy gauge optional - on cars so equipped, the clock was moved to a space on the lower instrument panel under the radio), three-spoke padded steering wheel with brushed-stainless spokes, and Genuine Crossfire African Mahogany trim on the dash facing, radio and clock surrounds, as well as the center console between the front seats. Grand Ams also were among the first U.S.-built cars to come with a turn-signal mounted headlight dimmer switch that had been common on imported cars for decades. Other standard equipment included concealed windshild wipers, a 1.12 inch front sabilizer bar, and an in-the-windshild radio antenna. Upscale options included air conditioning, tinted glass, power windows-locks-seat, rear defogger, various sound systems and tilt-steering-wheel. AM/FM stereo with a tape player was optional.
Pontiac also produced a single 1973 Grand Am station wagon as a feasibility study. This was a LeMans wagon converted to a Grand Am. A functional ram-air induction system was developed for the Pontiac A-bodies utilizing twin NACA openings in the hood, but the option was dropped due to inability to pass federally mandated drive-by noise standards. A few functional Ram Air systems were sold over the counter, but are extremely rare. The twin-scoop NACA hood was an option for any Pontiac A-body for all three years, but was non-functional.
Described as "The mid-sized Pontiac with Foreign Intrigue ... American Ingenunity" on the front cover of the four-page 1974 Grand Am brochure that featured a green four-door sedan, only minor styling changes highlighted this year's model including a redesigned nose and grille with 12 openings with horizontal bars. 1974 Grand Ams rear-end styling was redesigned for the new 1974 5 mph crash standards and had vertical rear taillights with relocated license plate and fuel filler above the bumper. Engine and transmission offerings were the same as 1973, but four-speed manual transmissions were no longer offered in California, where it was Turbo Hydra-matic or nothing. Inside, the Genuine African Crossfire Mahogany trim on the instrument panel was replaced by a simulated material due to splintering problems on the '73 models but the real wood was continued on the center console.
Sales were down more than 50 percent from 1973 due to the energy crisis resulting from the late-1973 and early-1974 Arab Oil Embargo which led to long lines for short supplies of gasoline at service stations and dramatic increases in fuel prices, plus a severe recession and tremendous priced increases for all 1974 model cars due to inflation and the new safety and emission control devices. Only 17,083 Grand Ams were built this year with very few being four-door sedans.
The 1975 Grand Am looked the same as the 1974 model, but had vertical front grille bars, a body-colored rear bumper, and a catalytic converter single-exhaust, which mandated the use of unleaded fuel, along with GM's High Energy Ignition and other items promoted as part of Pontiac's Maximum Mileage System. In addition to the standard roofline with louvered rear side windows, Grand Am coupes with the optional vinyl roof could be ordered with a full triangular rear side window or a vertical opera window similar to that found on the Grand Prix.
Inside, the Strato bucket seats received revised vertical trim patterns, the adjustable lumbar support controls were dropped and only the passenger seat had a recliner, a "safety practice" which would continue at GM for a decade. New this year as a no-cost option was a 60/40 bench seat with center armrest.
The advent of the catalytic converter spelled the end of dual exhausts this year. Engines were also detuned to meet the 1975 emission regulations with the compression ratio dropping to a new low of 7.6 to 1 on some engines. Standard engine was the 170-horsepower 400 V8 with two-barrel carburetor, optional were a 185-horsepower 400 or 200-horsepower 455 - both with four-barrel carburetors. Turbo Hydra-matic was standard equipment and the only transmission offered this year. 0-60 time was 7.7 seconds.
Only 10,679 Grand Ams were built in 1975 and the series was dropped after this year due to declining sales and rising gas prices as a result of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. Also a factor leading to the Grand Am's cancellation, were plans for all 1976 Pontiac A-body cars receiving the newly approved rectangular headlights, which would necessitate a complete redesign of the Grand Am's Endura nose and Pontiac officials decided that the expense of such a redesign could not be justified based on low production numbers. The basic GM A-body design remained until 1977.
Factors that led to the demise of the first-gen Grand Am
By the time the first-generation Grand Am was discontinued in 1975, rising fuel prices had made the public more aware of the importance of fuel economy. The combination of numerically lower rear axle ratios (to improve fuel economy) and 1975 federal emissions standards all but killed performance, which was the final nail in the coffin for the muscle car era. Although designed to compete with European sport/luxury sedans, the Grand Am was considerably larger and heavier than its intended imported competition which was more in the size and weight class of U.S. built compacts - and much bigger than the largest cars built in most nations outside of North America. Detroit also began to offer upgraded luxury compacts such as the Ford Granada, Mercury Monarch, and even Pontiac's own Ventura SJ, along with the similar-bodied Chevrolet Nova LN, Buick Skylark S/R and Oldsmobile Omega Saloon. They offered similarly luxurious interior appointments and improved suspension tuning, but in smaller packages better designed to challenge the imported sedans. Furthermore, the Grand Am's Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) package that was unique when the Grand Am was introduced in 1973 would become optional equipment on all other Pontiac and GM models in 1974 and made standard equipment throughout most car lines by 1975, (around this time the automotive industry was switching to radial-ply tires) so the Grand Am's lost yet another bit of uniqueness.
- 1973 Grand Am 2 door 34,445
- 1973 Grand Am 4 door 8,691
- 1973 Total 43,136
- 1974 Grand Am 2 door 13,961
- 1974 Grand Am 4 door 3,122
- 1974 Total 17,083
- 1975 Grand Am 2 door 8,786
- 1975 Grand Am 4 door 1,893
- 1975 Total 10,679
- 1973–1975 400 CID (6.6 L) V8 with 2-barrel carburetor (standard engine, others were optional)
- 1973–1975 400 CID (6.6 L) V8 with 4-barrel carburetor
- 1973–1974 400 CID (6.6 L) V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed (not available in California)
- 1973–1975 455 CID (7.4 L) V8 with 4-barrel carburetor
- A SD-455 equipped engineering prototype Grand Am was built, but was dismantled and destroyed.
- 1973 engines may have point or unitized ignition.
- 1974 engines may have point or unitized ignition or starting around May 1, 1974, HEI ignition.
- 1975 engines have HEI ignition.
- 1975 was the first year for the catalytic converter.
The Grand Am returned in 1978 based on the Grand Prix's A platform, downsized from the previous generation, and offered in both two- and four-door models featuring a vertical bar grille and other trimmings to differentiate it from the LeMans, upon which it was based. Like the 1973-75 models, this generation of Grand Ams also featured standard radial tires plus an upgraded Radial Tuned Suspension with front and rear sway bars. Interiors were similar to the Grand LeMans with either a standard notchback bench seat, optional 60/40 bench or Strato bucket seats with console and recliner on passenger side, and a choice of either cloth or Morrokide vinyl upholstery.
Standard equipment includes power steering, power front disc brakes, Turbo Hydra-matic transmission, full instrumentation and Pontiac's 301 cubic-inch V8 engine with two-barrel carburetor and 140 horsepower (100 kW). Optionally available was a 155 horsepower 301 V8 with four-barrel carburetor, along with the usual appearance/comfort options such as snowflake wheels, whitewall or white-lettered tires, power windows and seats, tilt steering wheel, sunroof, cruise control and other items.
In California, where more stringent emission regulations made Pontiac V8 engines unavailable since 1977, Chevrolet V8 engines were substituted including a standard 135 horsepower 305 V8 with two-barrel carburetor or optional four-barrel version with 145 horsepower (108 kW).
Very few changes were made for 1979 other than the normal trim revisions and the demotion of the standard powertrain to a Buick 231 cubic-inch V6 and floor-mounted three-speed manual transmission (listed as standard equipment, but very few if any were built with the "standard equipment". The 301 V8, rated at 135 horsepower (101 kW) with a two-barrel carburetor or 150 horsepower (110 kW) with four-barrel, and Turbo Hydra-matic transmission were now optional.
New for 1979 was a four-speed manual available with the 150-horsepower 301 four-barrel in 49 states. In California, only automatic transmission was available and engine offerings included the standard Buick 231 V6 with two-barrel carburetor (again, only listed as standard) and 110 horsepower (82 kW) or optional Chevy 305 V8 rated at 160 horsepower (120 kW) with four-barrel carb.
Inside, the woodgrained instrument panel was replaced by brushed aluminum trim; the gauge faces changed from silver with black letters and numbers to black with white letters and numbers. The same seating choices in either cloth or Morrokide trims were offered including the standard notchback bench seat, or optional 60/40 bench or Strato bucket seats with console. An AM/FM CB radio combo was available. Also, a heated rear window was optional.
The year 1980 was the finale for the second-generation Grand Am. The four-door sedan was dropped, leaving only the two-door coupe which received only minor appearance changes. Strato bucket seats in cloth or Morrokide upholstery were standard equipment along with a center console with floor shifter for the Turbo Hydra-matic transmission.
The V6 engine, two-barrel V8s and manual transmissions were dropped leaving the four-barrel Pontiac 301 V8 with 170 horsepower (130 kW) the only engine offered in 49 states or, in California, the 160 horsepower (120 kW) Chevy 305 V8. Slow sales of the Grand Am led to its discontinuation after the 1980 model year.
This generation of the Grand Am is very rare. In 1979, the Grand Am was featured in the NASCAR Grand National circuit. In the first year of the NASCAR Busch Series (1982) the championship was won by Jack Ingram, in a 1980 Grand Am. 1980 was the second-generation Grand Am's final year, with only coupes available. The Grand Am was discontinued after 1980 and was utimately replaced by the STE version of the Pontiac 6000 for the 1983 model year, some 10 model years after the original Grand Am was introduced. The STE turned out to be more competitive to the imported sedans than the Grand Am due to more compact dimensions, front-wheel-drive, increased fuel economy, electronic fuel injection (1985+) and other technological advances.
For the 1985 model year, Pontiac re-used the Grand Am name for a new compact car to replace the aging and unpopular Phoenix (based on GM's X Body) using the new-for-1985 N Body. The Grand Am shared the same front-wheel drive platform as the Buick Somerset (renamed Skylark in 1987) and the Oldsmobile Calais. Initially, the Grand Am was available in base or plusher LE trim in coupes only. The 2.5L Tech IV was standard, while a 3.0L Buick V6 was optional. In 1986, a sedan and sportier SE trim were added. The SE trim had the V6 engine standard, lower body cladding, composite headlamps, a slightly revised interior with different cloth used on all seats and door panel inserts, full instrumentation, and came standard with 14" aluminum wheels.
1987 models brought more power to the base engine, and a new Turbocharged four-cylinder engine taken from the Sunbird GT. The 2.0L turbo engine became the base engine for the SE model for 1987. If one where to get the turbo engine, then the turbo boost gauge would take the place of the voltmeter. This was also the last year that the Buick sourced 3.0L engine would be available in the Grand Am, as it was discontinued in mid-1987.
For 1988, front seat belts were moved from the b-pillars to the doors, to meet the passive restraint mandate for 1989. The Quad4 'LD2' engine became available for Grand Am's in 1988, replacing the previous model years 3.0L V6 on the options list. It is worth noting that 'Sport buckets' borrowed from the Trans Am GTA, were added to the option list this year for SE's. Other options included a Driver Information Center, electronic trunk release, and a moon roof. The base model was dropped after this model year.
A totally new front and rear fascia along with an interior redesign made news for 1989. The 2.5 gained balance shafts and an increase of power. The 2.3L 'LD2' Quad 4 replaced the 2.0L Turbo engine as standard equipment in the SE midway through the year. This was the final year that the 'Sport Bucket' seats were available to SE's.
The 2.3L 'LGO' Quad 4 was announced as being available late in the model year on Grand Am SE's; in fact this was a limited run car, of which only 200 were built. All 1989 2.3L 'LGO' Quad 4 Grand Am's were red on grey coupes, with standard appointments including (but not limited to) 16" machined face wheels. The 16" wheels were only optional to SE's.
This would be the first year that the Grand Am could be ordered with either 16" wheels, or a factory installed CD player.
NHSTA safety ratings for frontal crashes are as follows: Driver:3-stars; Passenger:4-stars
Changes were minor for 1990 and 1991;
For 1990, a new High-Output version of the Quad 4 (mated to only a 5-speed manual) became the standard engine for the SE (opting for the automatic transmission changed the engine to the 2.3L 'LD2' Quad 4). The 16" wheels moved from the option list to standard equipment for the SE's this year. The LE gained a 'Sport Performance Package' (RPO: W32) late in the 1990 model year run. The W32 option included SE ground effects (minus wheel well flares), the same standard (as well as optional) "SE" drive train, 14" aluminum wheels, a larger front larger sway bar and a rear swaybar that were only otherwise available on the SE model.
For the most part, the final year of this body style was essentially a carry over year. The only changes were the addition of an Anti-lock Brakes System (ABS) as standard equipment for all Grand Am SE's (not available to LE's), and all 1991 model year cars received a redesigned "short throw" shifter (if opted with a five-speed transmission).
The Grand Am was redesigned for 1992.
- 1985–1991: 2.5L Tech IV TBI L4 engine: 90 hp 1985-86, 98 hp (73 kW) MPG EPA City/Hwy/Overall 21/29/23(w/3-speed auto) 1987–88, 110 hp (82 kW) MPG EPA City/Hwy/Overall 21/28/23 1989–91.
- 1985–mid 1987: 3.0L Buick V6 engine with MPFI: 125 hp (93 kW), 150 ft·lbf (200 N·m) of torque
- mid 1987-1989: 2.0L MPFI turbocharged L4 engine: 165 hp (123 kW), 175 ft·lbf (237 N·m) of torque, Maximum Boost 10 PSI,MPG: EPA City/Hwy 18/27
- 1985–1991: Isuzu sourced 5-speed manual with overdrive (2.5L only)
- 1988–1991: Muncie sourced, Getrag designed 5-speed manual with overdrive (2.3L only)
- 1985–1991: 3T40 3-speed automatic (not available on 2.3L HO Quad 4)