Field Find: 1971 Pontiac Grand Prix 455 – J

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Starting with the 1971 model, we witnessed what was really just a facelift to the uber-successful third-gen Pontiac Grand Prix. It was downsized in ’69  (’70 was mostly a ’69 rerun), and to my eyes, Pontiac did the update right. The big two-door hardtop still possessed a regal bearing but it let you know that it had arrived with its prominent Pontiac proboscis. Today’s featured car is a ’71 Model J that has spent a lot of time both outside and garaged. It looks good but it has a problem – let’s see if it’s a resolvable matter. Located in Perris, California, this Poncho is available, here on eBay for a no-reserve current bid of $3,400 with 64 bids tendered so far.

The finish on this Grand Prix cleaned up pretty well. I believe the hue is Lucerne Blue, not a shade that I would associate with a Grand Prix but I like it. The listing claims a straight, rust-free body and it looks it. The VIN indicates that it’s an Atlanta-built car so it may or may not be a lifelong west coast resident. If so, it’s probably a transplant but there’s no way to know with certainty. The hood shows a bit of burn-through, probably from its time out in the sun, but the exterior package, right down to the wheel covers, shows as original and complete. Even the black vinyl roof covering still displays well – there’s no visible sign of “bubbling” which could indicate invasive rust.

The interior, surprisingly, appears to be pretty strong- that outdoor time doesn’t seem to have adversely affected any of it. The upholstery is a vinyl and fabric combination, an arrangement that I have not encountered before in a GP of this generation. It may be the lighting but the cloth part of it looks discolored, but again, that may not really be the case. The dash is wearing a topper so I imagine that it’s split but I can’t determine any other evident shortcomings. The listing contains no interior details so the images have to do the talking. As with the ’69 and ’70 editions, this ’71 has a very similar, driver’s side, wrap-around, cockpit-style dash, one of this generation Grand Prix’s more identifiable, and endearing features.

Let’s talk power. Pontiac offered two engines in their ’71 Grand Prix, a 300-gross HP 400 CI V8, and a stouter 325 HP 455 V8. Horsepower was down over the ’70 version thanks to lower compression ratios mandated to accommodate the Clean Air Act and the commencement of leaded fuel elimination. The Model J, such as this car, came standard with the 400 while the 455 was standard equipment in the higher-brow Model SJ variation. That larger engine was, however, available in the Model J too and that’s the good news here. The bad news, besides the fact that it’s not photographed, is that it is reported to have a blown head gasket. How, what, why, etc. is not said but I imagine a blown gasket, at the least, means a warped cylinder head and possibly more damage than that. The lack of an image may be disguising missing parts, an attempted repair, etc. so interested parties should make an inquiry and perform an in-person inspection.

In spite of the facelift, Grand Prix’s production volume continued to trend downward to 58K units from its 1969 high-water mark of 112K copies.  Some of that may have been due to various ongoing GM labor strikes as ’72s output, of an almost identical car, managed a 92K count – a nice bounce back. These are excellent road cars and a nice blend of tourer/muscle car – not to mention the attention-grabbing styling. That head gasket issue, however, gives me pause. Then again, if it’s not a real serious problem, this Model J could prove to be a good buy, right?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Timothious

    I always thought these looked cool from the side, the rear, and had nice interiors. But it’s like the put the big shnoz on the front and couldn’t figure out how to finish it.

    Like 6
  2. Mark Switzer

    A true ” landyacht ” of the past . They were wonderful road cars , but we’re not thinking about economy with 400 cubic in engines. General Motors was leaning more towards luxury when they designed these . Hopefully , some lucky bidder will be able to get it back on the road again or enter it in a futureautoshow !

    Like 7
    • Lee

      The author was wrong about the engine, the eBay ad says 455

      Like 3
      • Jim ODonnellAuthor

        You didn’t read my post carefully:

        “The Model J, such as this car, came standard with the 400 while the 455 was standard equipment in the higher-brow Model SJ variation. That larger engine was, however, available in the Model J too and that’s the good news here.


        Like 13
      • Anthony

        Not original but It has a 455 in it it’s mine

        Like 2
      • Randy

        The article says 455 so ????

        Like 0
  3. Bama

    I’ve seen metal head gaskets rust and leak, especially if ran with straight water instead of antifreeze. Won’t know until you get into it.
    Went on my first date with a girl and her sister and her sisters husband in one of these. We didn’t hit it off, so never got to ride in it again.

    Like 4
    • Kent

      I prefer the look of the 1969 and 1970 models. My opinion is that the large single headlights look bulky.

      The 455 is a welcome addition, it may not get good fuel mileage, however most people are not going to buy this for a daily driver. You might take it for a Sunday afternoon drive and that’s it.

      Like 0
  4. Lee

    The eBay ad says the car has a 455 engine not a 400.

    Like 3
    • K

      He said the 400 came standard in the Model J and the 455 came standard in the model SJ. However, you could order the Model J with a 455, which is what this car has, as stated:
      “The Model J, such as this car, came standard with the 400 while the 455 was standard equipment in the higher-brow Model SJ variation. That larger engine was, however, available in the Model J too and that’s the good news here.”

      Like 7
      • Jim ODonnellAuthor

        Thank you.


        Like 3
  5. Robert Levins

    Wow, love this car! These were real jet setters, with either engine. I WOULD DEFINITELY consider this one, but really expect to have to check it out in person before “ separating the cash from the wallet “. Most likely, being these Pontiac 455’s are bulletproof, that it is a very good possibility that this 455 CAN BE REVIVED. I would take a chance on this one! Price ? Mmmm…… Hard to say, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went for LESS than 5k. Man, I sure wish I could go see it and maybe even bid on it ! Great article and good luck!

    Like 11
  6. Robert Levins

    P.S – Sorry, too tired, I MEANT TO SAY , I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells for MORE than 5k , even with “engine in question “. SUPER classy cars to tour around in AND take to cars and coffee/ shows ect. They DO love gas, but you’ll the car even more!

    Like 4
  7. Terry

    Had 3 a74 sj 75 and a 76 nice car good road car but real expensive cause in Canada pontiac motors parts expensive crapped 2 motors starters junk

    Like 1
  8. Brian Goss

    The Grand Prix from 69-72 was an outstanding driver. With the $9.89 ride and handling package , the cornering and control was better than a GTO. The seats in the blue car areNOT original but have been inserted with aftermarket cloth.
    I would think an engine rebuild would be in order.

    Like 5
  9. SteveG

    Honestly, who cares if it has a warped head?(possibly)

    The writer says, that would “give him pause”
    This car is beautiful example on how good a field find can be.
    No bubbling under the top? Absolutely amazing!
    The paint cleaned up really well considering it is over a half- century old. If the paint is original that is.
    And there may be a bonus 55 cubic inches under the hood!

    Like 4
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      I’ll tell you why and you answered it yourself with, “who cares if it has a warped head?(possibly)“. Yeah, possibly, and possibly not, it could be a lot more than a warped head – something that extends down into the block surface or water jacket, something rendering the engine as useless. Iron Pontiac heads don’t just blow gaskets – what caused it to happen? There are a lot of potential unknowns and I’d want to see the gory details before I moved forward. Yup, taking a pause.


      Like 2
      • 370zpp 370zppMember

        Seems like some of the commenters also suffer from warped heads. .

        Like 8
      • Anrhony

        I’m the owner of you want to talk here is my # 7147867888 if you want a video photos or just talk

        Like 0
  10. Travis B

    I had a 1973 Pontiac, Grand Prix, 400ci.
    It was a tank!
    Someone knock down a telephone pole late at night. I ran over it, and I did not even touch it. Maybe a scratch underneath undercarriage.
    Another time, someone ran into me in rear. It was a jeep; smoking for the radiator, and it was totaled. Mine not a scratch on it.

    Like 3

      My 73 got into with one of those large ford station wagons of that era, The station was towed away, front end completeIy gone. I could have drove home, except I had 2 flats tries and only one spare.

      Like 0
  11. DrD

    Had a ’71, light beige with dark brown top and saddle gut. Best riding car l’ve owned, performance wise second to my ’66 GTO and ’67 le mans, my ’65 drop top GTO sounded the best tho’ with the Walker RedZ-Line exhaust! Sometimes l do miss the ’70s!

    Like 2
    • Edwin Haggerty

      My friend had a 72 SJ with the 455 and iit was extremely cool. It would absolutely smoke the tires and bark second gear around 55-60 mph when the turbo 400 was wound tight. It had an intense love affair with gasoline and drank more than my 440 Cuda did but it did feed all those comfort options that mine had none of. I would definitely consider one of these cars to add to the fleet.

      Like 1
  12. George Mattar

    Restore the paint. Trash those aftermarket seat covers for Legendary interior kit, rebuild engine. Drive. Yes, iron head Pontiacs rarely blow head gaskets. Change coolant regularly. Should never happen.

    Like 0
  13. Ed

    Years of water leaking into the cyl with the blon head gasket could mean a ruined cylinder, or bottom end. I’d expect a complete rebuild with a possible cylinder head replacement. good tome for some earlier heads though

    Like 0
  14. Robert West

    I wish that they would always include an under hood engine picture. Whether it’s trashed or immaculate in the engine compartment potential buyers want to see every area possible.

    Like 1
  15. Duffy

    Nice car, no big deal blown head gasket. Just repair whatever the engine calls for. Pull the engine, rebuilt it, put it back in. Might as well check tranny for any problems before reinstalling engine. Would be a fun project for a father and son rebuild. I have owned Pontiacs since 1955, the first V8 up until they quit building them. Retired and still own a 1973 Pontiac grand prix.

    Like 1

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