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Augmented Survivor: 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix

1977 Pontiac Grand Prix LJ

At what point does a survivor become a refurbishment or restoration? That’s a question I’m asking as I examine this really nice Pontiac for sale here on eBay. The car is being sold by a Grand Prix expert and is located in Bangor, Pennsylvania. At first glance, this looks like a terrific “survivor” car, with original paint, 40,300 miles and even the original snowflake wheels commonly seen on Trans-Am’s. The seller even states that the car is a “very very nice original survivor” with one owner. Ding-ding-ding! My alarms start going off there, because it’s pretty easy to tell the seller isn’t the original owner, which means in my book there have been at least two.

1977 Pontiac Grand Prix

The ad describes a really nice car that is mostly original, with a nice interior, great condition vinyl top, and other items. Then we find out that the air conditioning compressor has been replaced, and the system has been updated (presumably to R-134). Parts of the exhaust have been replaced as well, and while it’s unclear when, some body side molding has been added to the car. To me, since the vast majority of the car is original and there’s a lot of documentation going back to the first sale showing so, I would classify it as a survivor—I don’t have a problem with the upgraded air conditioning and replacement of parts such as the exhaust that are not lifetime items anyway. I’d rather see new belts, hoses and the like than cracked originals! But what do you think? What does it take to label a car with the “survivor” moniker?


  1. Charles Gould

    While you are correct that this is technically a two owner car, I disagree with your premise that this somehow indicates that the seller is not being honest or accurate. If a seller buys a one owner car from the original owner, and then stores it, or gets it running, or even drives it around a bit to assess its condition, and then offers it for sale before really putting much use or miles on it, it can still be promoted as a one owner car in my opinion, especially if the seller never registered it.
    If I rescue a one owner car from a barn, and wash it off and get it running, but do not register or actually put any significant miles on the car, it should not lose its one owner status simply because of my involvement unless I used it like an owner.
    Perhaps it would be more accurate for the seller to say that he acquired it from the original owner.

  2. Oceanman

    My dad has a 1969 Thunderbird, with somewhere around 55,000 on the clock, and still wears its original paint, hubcaps, and interior, with a small tear on the driver’s seat and door panel. He’s repaired/replaced some of the heat shielding underneath the rear seat, and some rust repair under the rear window. The passenger’s power window has also been repaired, using just a few non-standard small pieces/installment methods, but it works.

    He touts it as a ‘survivor’, and I’ve been asking myself that very question for a while. It seems like without a huge amount of luck, or a deeply padded wallet, that it is difficult to own a car of age that uses 100% original parts. Hell, my 2013 Abarth already has an aftermarket hood and rear bumper due to an accident.

    So, I believe that if the main mechanicals and at least 90% of the exterior/interior are truly original, with broken parts replaced as best as possible, then yes, it can be considered a survivor.

  3. charles hefner

    You said exactly what I was going to say Charles Gould! I agree 100%

  4. Andrew M

    How does having two owners magically *not* make a car an original survivor? I never understood that nitpickyness of collectors. Even if you find a one owner car, the second you buy it and plate it, that status is gone, so why fret about it?

    As for this car… let’s see. It was one of the cooler cars of the 70’s (many guys wanted one then, esp. with the big block). It has 40k on the clock, original drivetrain, original sheet metal and it’s 38 years old. I think that more than qualifies it as a survivor. Even if some nose-in-the air collectors will never see a 70’s or 80’s car as ever being collectable.

    As a side note – I had a ’77 GP SJ with the 400/4bbl, buckets and console, and what a fun car that was. Not the fastest thing on the road, certainly not the slowest.. but what a handsome car.

    Like 1
  5. Dan Farrell

    Unless you plan to show the car why are we so worried about labels. Most people call the early Mustangs classics, but the definition of classic is generally referred to a car with a high price and limited production. Unless you plan to show your car in competition don’t worry about labels, enjoy.

  6. jim s

    if this seller has a dealers license this is a one owner car. if seller does not have a dealers license then the car is a 2 owner even if not titled and taxes plus fees not paid. this is not the frist vehile this seller has sold, his rating of only 91.7 is from another sale. the seller may be a curbstoner.

  7. jim s

    sellers ebay address is Pennsylvania which, unless the law has been change, has a law on how many titled vehicles a person can sell a year without a dealer license. the bordering state of Maryland, unless the law has changed, does not allow dealers to do as is sales. buy not titling this car in seller name he is trying avoiding these laws. seller may not have a right to sell vehicle but since seller name is not going to be in the system what happens if there is a issue!

  8. Will

    The number of owners is irrelevant to whether or not a car is a survivor. If I buy a car that has had five owners before me it is still a survivor if it has only had necessary repairs to stay roadworthy. The term “one owner” is used mostly to confer confidence that maintenance has been done correctly as an original owner tends to better maintain a car than subsequent owners thereby making survivor status more likely but not assured. This is a survivor. Unlike the Marauder from a few days ago. A car must have been around long enough to earn the distinction of having survived when most of the vehicles it shared an assembly line with are long gone.

  9. The Walrus

    To me, a one owner car is any vehicle which makes it through the typical life cycle of the vehicle with one owner without the need for a complete restoration upon transfer to a ‘collector’. For a car from the ’60’s and 70’s, I would say that’s about the first 10-15 years. Basically if it makes it through that period without having multiple trades it is a one owner car. The routine maintenance performed to keep the vehicle and its options properly operating do not impact this unless they are hack jobs.

    Once in the hands of someone who doesn’t use it as a daily driver, in my opinion it can be forever considered a one-owner car. In many states a vehicle of this age is no longer eligible for a title, and would therefore need to be registered to maintain formal ownership. As long as the mileage is low (say less than 500 a year), I don’t see a problem with someone from that point forward calling it a one-owner car, as long as they are clear that it was the one owner who put the majority of the miles on it and that subsequent owners did not use it as daily transportation.

  10. Bruce Joslen

    I enjoy the discussions on what constitutes ‘one owner’ or ‘survivor’. I will add a bit about what may possibly qualify as a survivor. My father purchased a 54 Customline in 1958 as a total wreck from accident damage which technically ‘wrote off ‘ the car. He repaired it, replacing only the right front guard. He sold the car in 1965. In 1982 he found the Customline again, lying in the back of a wrecking yard, partly stripped and badly rusted. He purchased it again and spent 20 years repairing it. My point is, that this car has been saved from the crusher twice, and retains most of it’s original panels. Does that make it qualify as a ‘survivor’ ?

    • Will

      No it is not a survivor. A survivor has had only minor repairs and has never been seriously damaged. A survivor has mostly original paint. Touch ups are ok but not whole panels. If an insurance company calls it totaled, it didn’t survive even if it has been completely repaired. A survivor has never been disassembled. .

  11. jim s

    sorry, i was so wraped up in how this car was being sold i forgot about the car itself. i need to keep in mind vehicles do not get to pick their owners/sellers. this would make a great daily driver, make the seller an offer and have fun. nice find

  12. GrammarPoliceman

    “…even the original snowflake wheels commonly seen on Trans-Am’s.”

    Use the plural in this instance, not the possessive.

    • Jason

      Ugh. It’s an online post, dude. This ain’t The New England Journal of Medicine. Take your snobby grammar and stick it.

  13. geomechs geomechs Member

    Regardless of whether or not this is a one-owner, original, or still in the crate, I like it. The ’77 GP was the nicest of that series and I sure wouldn’t kick it off my driveway. I have to say that I have some problems with it having the A-C compressor replaced with so few miles but I have to admit that I had failures of compressors back when cars and trucks were less than a year old. I question the Snowflake wheels. I don’t recall those being available on the GP at that time but I could be wrong.

    • Will

      I agree. I got my license in 77 and this was definitely on my list of preferred cars at the time. It still is.

  14. Charles Gould

    “Survivor” and “One owner” are two separate and distinct concepts, although a car can possess both attributes. Nobody is suggesting that a second owner defeats the survivor status. I am just suggesting that the one owner status is not defeated by a person who finds and facilitates putting that car back into use unless he registers and uses it as his own.
    As far as dealer status goes, many sellers have sold many cars in states that require them to register as dealers, without doing so. If you are buying cars that are thirty five to fifty years old, you should be prepared for some surprises and should not hold a seller responsible unless they have intentionally concealed a known defect or known problem.

  15. Jason

    Semantics notwithstanding, I would not buy from this seller.
    (Check out two separate negative feedbacks, both for Pontiac Grand Prixs. Hmmmm.)

  16. Blindmarc

    Nice ride for the current price. Always liked the these.

  17. Jon

    Anybody heard of a 1977 Grand Prix COPO? If you do not know what a COPO is, please do not reply.

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