For 1976, Pontiac finally got around to giving the Grand Prix a facelift, which significantly modernized the look of the car, now in its fourth year with this body. Up front, the traditional round headlights were discarded. In their place were twin rectangular headlights. The grille was an all-new design, which was soon nicknamed the "waterfall," because of the way it folded over the top of the header panel. The cleverly executed front-end update was a refreshing change from the previous design, which could trace its roots to 1969.
In order to increase sales in the lower end of the personal luxury market, Pontiac made a "value leader" out of the base Grand Prix by lowering the standard equipment level and knocking $500 off the base price It was powered by a 160-hp 350 2-barrel (California got a 4-barrel version), coupled to a Turbo 350 automatic, and came with a new 60/40-division full-width bench seat with fold-down center armrest.
While the entry-level GP was no longer as luxurious as it had been, it still boasted an attractive interior and exterior treatment. And, of course, more hedonistic decor was just a check of the option list away.
The SJ and LJ models both returned with levels of trim similar to those in 1975.
In addition to the 350 Pontiac, available engines for the 1976 GP included the 185-hp 400 4-barrel, which was now standard in the SJ. The 200-horse 455 4-barrel was now an option for all models.
The reshuffling of standard and optional equipment really paid off for Pontiac, which was rewarded with phenomenal sales—228,091 units total, or 110,814 base models, 88,232 SJs and 29,045 LJs. While this was nowhere near the Monte Carlo's 353,272 units, it represented a 263 percent jump in GP production, making '76 by far the best year on record.
In recognition of the division's 50th anniversary, Pontiac released a special limited-edition Grand Prix LJ. It was painted gold, naturally, and featured such niceties as removable roof hatches, special pinstriping and a 50th anniversary hood ornament and trunk lock cover. Pontiac built 4,807 of these cars, making them fairly rare, and a possible collectible.
Pontiac also built one 1976 GP with the yet-to-be-introduced 301 V8. It and a 1976 Sunbird with a soon-to-be-released 151-cube Iron Duke 4-cylinder were part of a publicity campaign sponsored by Pontiac and National Car Rental. Both cars were driven around the world—to show that National's rentals, especially its Pontiacs, were durable, reliable vehicles that customers could trust on short hops or long trips.
|By 1966, the X-400 was gone, but the Grand Corniche carried
the GP show car torch. Reminiscent of the 1953-54 Parisienne dream car, the Grand Corniche was a two-door limo with a landau-style half-top.
It was finished off in pearlescent turquoise with wire wheels.|