Last Gasp For Performance: 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ 455

By Jeff Bennett

For many addicted to muscle cars, the seventies were shaping up to be the worst kind of withdrawal.   Horsepower had become a dirty word, insurance companies were becoming hostile to customers with certain cars, and safety mandates were making cars heavier.  Many brands just rolled over and took it, with their cars becoming boring interpretations of what the government wanted to see. Pontiac, GMs de facto performance division, wasn’t going down without a fight.  While some of their cars walked the line, the new for 1973 Grand Prix coupe still offered some of the more popular muscle car options in a last valiant, but vain, attempt to give customers what they wanted.  This 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ is currently for sale here on craigslist in Fern Creek, Kentucky, is an example of this perseverance.  After a few mark downs, it is being offered at the reduced price of $5000.  What does $5000 get you these days?  The answer in this case is 455 cubic inches of Poncho power all wrapped up in a snazzy blue personal luxury coupe.

I have to admit that I am not a fan of these large personal luxury coupes, whether they left the factory as a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, or Buick.  However, these A-body coupes set sales records across General Motors, and they also got raves from customers over their good handling.  Part of the reason for this is that they borrowed the front suspension design of the Firebird and Camaro.  Another reason was that the switch was made from bias ply tires to radials.  If you have never driven on bias ply tires, this may not be a big thing for you.  However, radials go a long way towards making a car ride and handle better.  There is a reason why bias ply tires went the way of the dodo bird.

The A bodies were new for 1973, and they were larger and heavier than their predecessors.  Five mph bumpers mandated by the government added some of that weight, and new emissions requirements robbed them of valuable horsepower.  It didn’t matter to customers, who gobbled them up like kids scarfing down Halloween candy before school the next day.  For those who still liked to mash the go pedal, two treats were offered.  The first was the SJ package, which gave customers front and rear anti-roll bars, special shocks, and a gauge package.  The second treat was the best of all, a 455 cubic inch V-8 backed with a Turbo Hydramatic transmission.  Despite the additional weight and choking emissions equipment, 455 cubic inches are hard to hold back.

The Grand Prix for sale here is one of the cars lucky enough to have both the handling package and the big engine on the window sticker.  In addition, whoever ordered it had good taste in selecting color combinations.  The dark blue interior contrasts nicely with the black vinyl interior.  Additional options include air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, a center console and bucket seats.  While it doesn’t have power windows, it is a nicely outfitted car by any standard.

Under the hood is the 455 cubic inch Pontiac V-8 that put out 250 horsepower for that year.  It is implied in the ad, but not stated, that the block, heads, and intake manifolds are correct, and the seller has spent a lot of money repairing various items both in the powertrain and in the braking system.  It is also stated that the air conditioning system is intact and capable of running, but the conversion to a more modern refrigerant hasn’t been completed.

As with most other cars of this vintage, there are some areas of rust that need to be taken care of.  Most prominent of these would be small spots at the bottom of the doors, the sills, and under the vinyl top.  If you have ever dealt with a car with a vinyl top, you will know how they trap moisture and grow rust like a farmer grows corn.  The good news is that the pictures reveal nothing that would require a panel replacement or anything as complex as cutting and patching.  The spots could probably be blasted, treated, filled, painted, and blended without too much fuss.  To be fair, the condition is pretty good compared to other survivors of the era.

One possible bonus with this one is shown in the picture above.  It seems that the seller managed to secure a set of Pontiac “Snowflake” wheels from GM Restoration parts.  The cost ($600) is listed in the ad, but it doesn’t specifically say that they come with the car.  While I like the original wheels, the Snowflakes look a lot better, and they would be worth negotiating for if they are not included.  Given that the asking price has fallen from $8,000 to $5,000, my guess is that the seller will be trying to recoup any money possible.

While I started the article by saying that I am not a fan of these coupes, this one has kind of grown on me.  I have always wanted a big block car, and I like that it has the handling package.  The color combination is fantastic, and the Snowflake wheels really enhances the look of the whole car.  If you look carefully at the hood in front of the driver, you see the cherry on top of this one: a hood mounted tachometer.  How can you not like a car like this?

The owner says that he is dropping the insurance soon because nobody drives the car.  It sure sounds like he wants this car to find a new home.  One of you should take it home.  It is a seventies car, but it is one of the most appealing ones.

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Comments

  1. Curtis

    Decent car if in a better position right now I have a friend that it’d be very fun to be able to buy this car for.

    6+

  2. redwagon

    looks nice and the current owners clearly have spent time in taking pictures and documenting expenditures. my guess is that under their ownership/care it was well maintained. if you like this make/model it would be worth checking out for 5k. lots can be done with the motor or leave it stock.

    vinyl tops never were of interest to me and since some rust underneath the top needs to be addressed well it would be a good time to just remove it. make it look a bit cleaner.

    5+

  3. Dan

    I owned 2 of these, a 1971 and a 1973….nice cars, a cruiser with comfort, not a muscle car but nice ole boats……this one is in my favorite color….dark blue….I would own another, well heck if I had room….

    5+

  4. gord

    neat hood tach (not a factory option)
    and the snowflake rims are from later year cars
    had a 76 t-top annivesary and a 77 CONVERTIBLE (very rare)… all gone now

    4+

  5. TVC15

    Very cool

    2+

  6. jimbunte jimbunte Member

    This is a helluva deal!

    5+

    • Mike W H

      I have to agree. If this was in the LA area, it would be a strong $8,000 car. I just checked Craigslist and the “needs cosmetics” ones are like $4500.

      0

  7. LM

    Correct me if I am wrong here; J Model 400ci/230hp and SJ Model 455ci/250hp Since this is a straight J model (lowest model of the series) would it not be originally fitted with a 400ci. and not the 455ci/250 as advertised? Could be special order, but doubtful. So I will assume it is not the original engine here. But for $5000, who cares I guess….

    4+

    • flmikey

      You could get the 455 in any GP…it was standard in the SJ…the SD 455’s were slated to be offered, but never materialized…

      5+

      • Lounge

        SSJ models came with the 455HO – SJ had the standard 455 with HO heads. The S models came with the 400.

        I had a 71′ SJ.

        2+

    • GXP

      It is an SJ

      0

  8. ronebee

    fantastic car

    4+

  9. Sanity Factor

    Idr ever seeing the hood tach on a GP before let alone a 73 but its a nice addition along w the later snowflakes…wish my 73 Caprice had different wheel options available besides the boring same old Rallys…

    3+

  10. AMXSTEVE

    The worm under that vinyl top is really bad.
    that’s why they are selling it.

    3+

    • Steve R

      In the pictures he provided of the passenger side rust shows previous shoddy repair work. Good luck to whoever buys it.

      Steve R

      1+

  11. Tommy D

    Slap on some 98cc 400 heads and a cam and you’ve got some power! 73 was the best year for the collonade coupe’s, thinks got worse from there…

    1+

  12. lawrence

    Like….one of the last nice one’s from GM.

    1+

  13. BillO BillO Member

    Ad is a little confusing about the wheels, but the Craigslist listing at the bottom says since it’s at the low price, the snowflakes are included rather than the Rally II wheels. At a higher price (according to one of pictures), the Rally II’s would have been included.

    1+

  14. Brandon

    My dad had a 69 sj 400 gold with a black top
    It didn’t have the hood tach but I do know it was an option that year.

    The one in the picture is the only one I’ve ever seen but I would love to own one.

    1+

  15. RoselandPete

    The author says that cars of the 70’s were “boring.” Well, I’d take most of those “boring” 70’s cars to the boring stuff turned out today. I do have to agree with his assessment of bias ply tires though. When I got my 72 Riv about 15 years ago, it still had the original bias ply tires. I quickly replaced them with radials and I couldn’t believe the difference. It was like driving a completely different car. I must have driven bias ply tires back in the 60’s and 70’s but I never noticed they were so crappy.

    3+

  16. Jubjub

    This one’s been on and off CL for quite a while…perhaps a few years.

    2+

  17. m

    That car is in worse shape than it looks.
    Once that car was stripped and blasted, you’d see it was a mess.

    And no one makes replacement sheet metal for ’73 GPs. How do I know? I used to own one and could not find panels for it.

    $5k might be too high.

    0

  18. Doug Trotter

    @JeffBennett. A Pontiac 455 is not considered a “Big Block”

    0

    • Tommy D

      nor is it considered a small block …

      1+

  19. Anthony

    That’s a good deal if not too rotted under the top. Looks complete which is a big deal for these to make one really nice. NOS trim is expensive. Someone needs to stamp repair sections for the rotted roof areas .

    0

  20. ccrvtt

    Of the 1973 intermediates from GM the Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, and Regal were the most attractive. This was the one time that the Olds was the ugly duckling of the group. However, the Cutlass did manage to fight its way to best-seller status by 1976 or ’77. This is a nice-looking car, but as mentioned above there are probably some major issues.

    0

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