Easy Summer Miles: 1978 Pontiac Grand Prix

Bill OwensBy Bill Owens

It’s been about ten years now since we’ve had to say goodbye to Pontiac, but there are many fans of the make out there and hopefully plenty of models of the brand that will endure for years as classics. Here is a great looking Pontiac from the past, a 1978 Pontiac Grand Prix, the first year of the downsizing of the model in the seventies. It is for sale here on Craigslist in Ionia, Michigan. Thanks to reader Jack M. for bringing this beauty to our attention.

The car belongs to the seller’s parents who are retired. I think it would be hard for me to let go of this beauty if it were mine, but the parents say it will sit in the garage and not get driven much, so they have decided to let someone else enjoy it. Even though the car is now in Michigan, it is originally a Missouri car that is rust free and clean. It is a beautiful triple black, wearing its original paint and vinyl landau top.

The interior is in excellent condition. The original black cloth seats show very little wear. This instrument panel and the one on the previous generation Grand Prix were two of my favorite instrument panel designs of the seventies and eighties. It is not a heavily optioned car. There are no power windows, power door locks or power seats, but these are things that can be easily sacrificed on a classic car. However, it does have air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, and cruise control as well as bucket seats and console.

The engine is the 301 cubic inch 2 barrel that produced 140 horsepower. The car has only been driven 57,500 miles, mostly in the summer. It has a Turbo 350 3-speed automatic transmission. The original spare and jack remain with the car and have never been removed. The Grand Prix rides on newer radial tires, drives straight and tight, and it is overall exceptionally nice. The seller is asking $7,900 for this beautiful Grand Prix. Wouldn’t it be nice to add this one to your collection?

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Comments

  1. TimS Member

    Nice bodystyle but not a fan of triple black or the 301. Good example though. Could sneak onto my “dry day driver” list.

    4
  2. poseur Member

    clearly remember my sister poring over a ’78 or ’79 Gran Prix brochure laid out on the kitchen table, announcing that she couldn’t decide whether to get an LJ with all the SJ options or an SJ with all the LJ options to replace her rusting ’68 Firebird 400.

    she was going to university during the day while making union wages third shift at the Allison tranny plant in Indy & could afford her first new car.

    she wound up with a black SJ with red strato buckets & those wicked cool 14″ snowflakes.

    it served her well until she fell asleep post-work one Saturday morning on the hour-long drive to our parents’ home & ran off the highway & down an embankment.

    She shoulda let them total it out but had it rebuilt by a local body shop. it looked good but never operated like it should & gave here issues ever after.

    i still remember opening the long heavy door & feeling it drop on the hinges & then rub when closing with a thud & the inner parts shaking.

    she replaced it with an ’85 Grand Am SE coupe & moved to Chicago only to have the wheels stolen off it several times over the next couple years.

    13
  3. Howard A Member

    10 years, and we’ve been crying about it ever since. Pontiac was the best of the bunch, way to go, GM. These just didn’t have the zing of the long hoods, but still a very nice car. The old man had a Bonneville like this. I remember the 301 got outstanding mileage. We thought there was something wrong with it. Wasn’t big enough for the old man, and he didn’t have it long, but it was a nice car.I should have bought it from him, but was into MG’s at the time. There’s enough bright work on this car, the black looks ok, but so many nicer colors than black, people, sheesh. What,you grow up in a dark room?

    4
    • Jeff

      I think the 301 was the last of the true Pontiac engines.
      Some of my favorite cars cars of the 50s and 60s are Pontiacs, but honestly, GM started killing the division long before they officially discontinued it. My personal interest in them ends somewhere in the mid-80s. After that, I never rode in a Pontiac that impressed me, and a mid-90s Grand Am still ranks near the top of my “worst new car I’ve ever driven” list (right behind the Oldsmobile Alero).

      3
    • Fiete T.

      Grand Am. Aztek. Montana minivan. Gawdy Grand Prix.
      The Solstice was the right direction. Too little, too late…GM didn’t kill Pontiac, Pontiac committed suicide. “We build excitement” turned to “We build excrement.”
      People say that GM should’ve killed Buick, but Buick’s worldwide sales are higher than any other division.

      3
    • George Smiley

      Pontiac killed themselves. Ever see that Aztec?

      2
    • Rob John

      I agree. GM mis-managed their entire portfolio into oblivion and killed SAAB while they were at it. Pontiac was just starting on a comeback with the G series of cars when the bean counters took them out back behind the shed. And you know the rest.

      1
      • z28th1s

        Killing Saab was no big loss. IMO their cars were always some of the ugliest.

        2
  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Once again, I’m reminded of how much nicer Pontiacs look over their siblings’ counterparts. A shame that they are gone. I can’t really comment on the price but for the condition it doesn’t seem like there’s much downside here

    3
  5. Jimmy

    I agree Pontiac was one of the best divisions GM had and they crushed it. The feature car looks great and for a daily driver I would buy it for that price. By the way Our 2012 Mustang GT/CS is black with black leather interior and like any other black car / truck on the road when clean and polished they are stunning even a black Pinto / Vega / Gremlin looks great when clean.

    5
    • Fiete T.

      Except for the Solstice, their product line was vomit. They hadn’t turned out anything attractive or classy looking, “Exciting” or durable in years. So, like Oldsmobile, Saturn, Plymouth, Mercury and Chrysler (as soon as FCA needs to revamp the 300/Charger/Challenger product) they got the axe. “Gone are the old days of resting on laurels…”

      2
  6. Will Fox

    Sorry folks; IMHO, there hasn’t been a real Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Lemans, Century, Regal, Cutlass, 442 since `77. I worked in a Pontiac dealership when the `78’s hit the market; man, what a let-down. The entire staff chuckled at what GM considered “mid-size personal luxury” by then. It was in the crapper.

    4
    • Andre

      Man.. I don’t know about that. First gen cars were gorgeous and I think most of the 78-87 were fairly clean and mature in their design… 73-77 cars though.. even as a devout GM guy.. I can’t find much nice to say about those colonnade boats.

      3
    • Jeff

      I have to agree with Andre on this one. I think the first-gen GPs are sweet, the second-gen cars ok, but by the third generation, these were just wallowing behemoths. I think the ’78 downsizing was a good idea, and this car, in my opinion, is a tasteful alternative to a Monte Carlo.

      1
  7. Vance

    The curse of GM doors is due to the fact that the hinges were glued on and the latches were shimmed for final fit. That why they all sagged as the vehicle aged and began to droop. I used to sell cars and I amazed GM owners when I pointed this out. It was a great selling point.

    1
  8. CCFisher

    Door hinges that couldn’t support the doors.

    Door pull straps that weren’t up to the task of yanking the doors closed.

    Mediocre 301 with its two crankshaft counterweights and 80,000 mile life cycle.

    THM-200 “grenade gearbox” (which I suspect this one has – the 301/2bbl 78 Grand Prix my parents owned had one).

    Rear frame rails that were the first area of the car to rust.

    There’s no nostalgia here; just bad memories.

    6
    • Miguel

      CCFisher, you forgot about it being one of the easiest cars to steal, and they were stolen a lot.

      3
  9. Rock On

    Nice car. Don’t let the 301 hold you back a 400 will bolt right in. My buddy did it the other way around. He dropped a 301 into his Pontiac Formula 400 to save fuel. The next owner was probably wondering why it was so gutless!

    4
    • Fiete T.

      Grand Am. Aztek. Montana minivan. Gawdy Grand Prix.
      The Solstice was the right direction. Too little, too late…GM didn’t kill Pontiac, Pontiac committed suicide. “We build excitement” turned to “We build excrement.”
      People say that GM should’ve killed Buick, but Buick’s worldwide sales are higher than any other division.

      • Jeff

        Was that deja vu for you as well? Someone’s bitter.

        5
    • Redwagon

      If a 400 will bolt right in so will a 455. Just saying……

      3
      • PatrickM

        Find a good 421!! Best engine ever from Pontiac. It’ll cost ya, but…

        1
  10. Madmatt

    This GM platform ,was probably one of the best driving/handling midsize cars of that era..,they just drove very nice/smooth,yeah rusty rear frames was a big issue,how many Olds cutlass rear bumpers were hung by bungi cords,and some coat hangers..?..,more than just my own..haha..! I love this car,and feel that if it checks out,that it is a very fair asking price.78 -87 GM cars are getting hard to find in this shape,looks very nice.

    3
  11. Steve

    I am sort of torn when it comes to this car. I like G bodies a lot, but… My uncle had two of the previous “colonade” Grand Prix when I was growing up. The first was a gold-ish brown, with round headlights, IIRC, and the second maroon-ish red with rectangular lights. I don’t recall what engines either had, but they were pretty fast, and pior to this the uncle had a 70 (Torino) Cobra with a 428 cobra Jet and a 4 speed, so he knew fast cars. The 301 in these cars, as well as pretty well all of the engines in any g body were so bad. Fit and finish was lacking as well. I have a 79 Malibu that I bought in 97 with the terrible 267 v8, TH200 and 2.29 gears in the glass 7.5 rear axle. It all got swapped for a 355/ 200 4r/ 8.5″ with a 3.73 posi, then a 383, now a 468 BBC.

    As fast as G bodies go, ultimately I would I would love to have a GN, or ultimately, a GNX, but I could never afford a GNX, and could never devalue it by actually enjoying it by driving it… GNX

    1
    • z28th1s

      The ’70 Torino Cobra had a 429 Cobra Jet, not the 428.

      4
  12. Vin_in_NJ

    The Grand Prix had the nicest of the 5 GM G-Body interiors. The dash flowed seamlessly into the A/C & radio, whereas the Cutlass, Regal, Malibu & Monte Carlo separated the 2 units into a box. The Grand Prix also widened the center console to meet the dash and incorporated the ashtray.
    A terrible shame GM decided to kill it’s performance division and keep the divison geared towards AARP

    6
    • Fordfan

      Agreed the Pontiac had the nicest dash. my brother-in-law had a 79 lemans 4 door i had a 78 Malibu classic 2door
      I always thought the Buick/ chevy dash were similar with the Buick being the nicer one and the Pontiac /olds similar to each other with Pontiac being the best

  13. Lance Platt

    I prefer the styling of the 1969-77 Grand Prix and was disappointed by the 1978 model and it’s small 301 V8. I did drive one while my 1974 was being serviced at the dealership and found that the power to weight ratio wasn’t as bad as the specs indicated and the handling was fine. The car for sale appears in excellent condition for it’s age and is a time capsule of when personal luxury cars ruled.

    1
  14. Maynard Reed Jr

    Sweet car. I’d like a grand prix of the vintage for my 455 and 4 speed. I think it those it around good.

  15. Jimmy

    Well from my understanding and from the documentary of the musclecar days on History channel GM heads fought Pontiac and their engineers from day one on building cars people wanted because they didn’t like any of their other divisions to compete or beat Chevy sales especially the Corvette. I think if they had left them alone the 70’s and 80’s Pontiacs would have been much different cars. I did own a 85 Grand Prix two tone blue with T- roofs fully loaded I bought from the salesman for a very good price who used it as his demonstrator but wanted a Firebird. It had a 305 V8 and auto trans to please the wife and it was a nice cruising car on sunny days and it was reliable enough it passed through 2 other family members before I lost track of it when I moved out of state in 2000.

    1
  16. Don H

    I had one just like this in the 1980s mine had the 301 four barrel and the transmission was not a 350 turbo think it was a 200 metric or something like that the 301 is not a powerful engine but if you don’t expect too much it works just fine😎

    2
  17. Chebby Member

    My high school buddy had one in Grandma Beige on beige. We suspected it had been wrecked because it had fresh paint and the seat belts would not lock up. The 301 had decent punch and it was a really smooth, comfortable car that deserved better than his ownership. He tried very hard to destroy it and eventually did.

    These cars were usually pale greens, blues, and browns. The black interior is pretty rare, and triple black with Rallys and a floor shift is as close as you’re going to get it to musclecar looks in the late 70s. Enjoy it now and upgrade the powertrain at your leisure. Maybe turbocharge the 301 as a nod to the Trans Am of the era.

    1
  18. AndyinMA

    I drove a 79 that was well optioned – ttops, leather, etc. the 301 could be quick but the shift from first to second was a jolt then it ran out of breath not long after.

    1
  19. Paul W Cowan

    Did Pontiac offer a Brougham interior in this vehicle for this year? Price would feel a whole lot more reasonable with up-level touch points, IMHO.

  20. Paul

    I had one of these back in high school in the 80s. Burgundy with a red interior. It was a great car to drive and was quite maneuverable. The 301 motor wasn’t that great not was the transmission, but it sure was a pretty car.

    1
  21. Troy s

    Good looking car, all decked out in black and those wheels really add to the appeal of this machine. Muscle cars had been dead for a while when these came out so we can’t expect it to run like one, especially with that engine, it’s a nice cruiser, keep the speed down and enjoy the ride. Any car can be built for speed, this one definitely has the potential to go that route, or just leave it well enough alone.
    I always thought Pontiac had a golden opportunity to join the retro looking modern cars back when they brought out the second coming of the GTO, plenty fast car with that…Chevy Corvette engine but the styling blew it for me, and a lot of other folks too. Tough to see that brand go down in a wimper. Politics!

    1

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