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1969 Grand Prix, right side

1969 GP, front
1969 GP cockpit
"The GP for 1969 was a completely new design that..."
      In response to the public's move toward mid-size luxury/performance cars, Pontiac, under the watchful eye of John DeLorean, chose to base the 1969 GP on an extended A-body chassis. It sported a wheelbase of 118 inches, and the body took the long-nose/short-deck styling theme farther than Pontiac ever had before. The result received the G-body designation, and was a striking combination of modern elegance, performance and classic styling themes, all wrapped in a package that was distinctly Pontiac. In one fell swoop, Pontiac had redefined the luxury performance market--there was nothing around like the GP, nor even in the same league. Its "beaked radiator"-style grille, "Coke-bottle" body sides and slotted taillights were all established Pontiac styling cues, yet the car looked like something Duesenberg would have been making, if the company were still in business. Pontiac product planners also saw the similarity, and they called the new car "Grand Prix Model J," with the "SJ" a $316 option.
      The standard engine and trans were again the old standby 350-horse 400/3-speed manual, with the regular-fuel 400 2-barrel/automatic combination a no-cost option. The 370-horse 428 was standard in the SJ, optional in the J. The 390-hp 428 HO was available in both models, as was an automatic, or close-ratio 4-speed.
      The new GP was unusual inside, too. The dash curved around the driver in "fighter-pilot" fashion, and was dubbed the "Command Seat." This dash was so futuristic that no doubt it alone sold many cars.
      The 1969 GP represented a return to the single focus that was the original GP. It was not a "main-streamed" vehicle. People quickly understood that this was a true road machine, and not an overweight luxo-barge.
      Public response to the new body style was overwhelming. Sales skyrocketed. Production zoomed to 112,486 units--an increase of over 350 percent! If Pontiac had strayed from the idea of what made a GP a GP, they certainly got back on track with this model.
      PMD's historian, John Sawruk, relayed an interesting side note to the 1969 GP story. It seems that there was consideration as late as 1967 to continuing the Grand Prix on the B-body platform for 1969. Although the reasoning behind such a proposal has never been clearly explained, it was most likely used as a backup measure in case the G-body was not ready in time.
      No Grand Prix show car was built for 1969, probably because the stock version was enough of an eye-catcher and was selling very well. However, a very unusual engineering exercise was performed on one 1969 GP. This particular car was converted by GM Research Labs to utilize steam power. The interesting point about this GP is that it was the first steam car to feature full power accessories, even air conditioning. The Grand Prix was no doubt chosen for its spacious engine bay, and the rather bulky powertrain used up every square inch of it--and then some. There were no plans to market this car, and it's a good thing, as the steam engine added about 450 to 500 pounds to the car and only provided about half of the standard 400's power--no tire-shredder, to be sure. This car survives today and is still owned by General Motors.   NEXT >


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