Muscle In Disguise? 1973 Pontiac Grand Am

The 1973 Grand Am represented Pontiac’s attempt to take on European manufacturers by playing them at their own game. The aim was to produce a car with the performance credentials of the Trans Am with the luxury leanings of the Grand Prix. Their targets were various models being offered by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. However, fate conspired to ensure that the 1st Generation Grand Am wasn’t the sales success that the company had envisaged. Barn Finder Larry D spotted this rare survivor for us, so thank you for that, Larry. It is located in Morgantown, Pennsylvania, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. I suspect that the solitary bid of $500 may be well short of the reserve because the owner also offers a BIN option at $11,990.

There are a hardy group of individuals within our community who crave a performance car that also offers the versatility of four doors. That was what Pontiac envisaged with the Grand Am, and the result of this effort was a car with plenty of interior space wrapped in a distinctive body. This one appears to be an original survivor, and while it presents well, it does need a few minor issues addressed if it is to present perfectly. The Desert Sand paint shines impressively, with only a few minor chips and marks. However, it appears that there is some rust beginning to develop where the Brown vinyl top meets the rear deck filler panel. It hasn’t progressed far, meaning that attending to it now would be a wise move. Otherwise, there appears to be no further rust for potential buyers to consider. The panels look clean, while the underside shots reveal little more than the occasional dusting of surface corrosion. The trim is in good order, while the glass appears to be flawless.

The seller uses the phrase “muscle in disguise” when describing this Pontiac, and had the car been launched earlier, that description could have been appropriate. However, the company released the car for the 1973 model year, which meant that its 400ci V8 was being strangled by tightening emission regulations. As a result, the power output was pegged at 185hp. Combine that with a drivetrain that featured a 3-speed TH400 automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes, and it seems that the muscle was very well disguised! Pointed at a ¼ mile, the journey would take a relatively leisurely 17.3 seconds. Further adding to the pain was the car’s thirsty nature. Average fuel consumption proved to be 10.6 mpg, which could never be classed as efficient. Today, that probably doesn’t make this classic a viable commuter option. It would be ideally suited for the weekend family jaunt or a trip to a Cars & Coffee. The news generally seems pretty good with this car. The seller has recently replaced the transmission selector cable due to a fault, and the car runs and drives well. The brakes feel excellent, the 400ci V8 feels strong, and the ride quality is also impressive. It sounds like it is ready for its next owner to load up the family and hit the road.

When I first looked at the interior, it left me scratching my head. Overall, the condition is pretty impressive. However, the front door trims are nothing if not odd. The seller suggests that both lower sections may be faded or have been replaced by a previous owner. That got me thinking, so I searched for shots of ’73 Grand Am door trims on the internet to see if I could spot a similar effect. As I had no success, I tend to believe that these are replacements. This is a shame because it rates as one of the few faults we find inside this classic. The timber veneer on the console top is bubbled, but beyond that, there’s nothing that requires attention. The dash looks crisp and clean, while the seats and remaining upholstered surfaces present well. There is minimal wear on the carpet, and the headliner looks okay. The original owner ordered this Grand Am with a few optional extras to accentuate the luxurious feel. These include air conditioning, power windows, a power driver’s seat, an AM/FM radio, a tilt wheel, and a remote driver’s mirror.

I’ve previously discussed how timing can be everything in the automotive world and how it can mean the difference between a sales success and a significant disappointment. You would have to think that if Pontiac had developed and released the Grand Am for the 1970 or 1971 model year, it might have been a runaway success. As it was, the company launched the car during what was almost a perfect storm. Pontiac had to contend with tightening emission requirements which sapped the performance of the V8 that was standard equipment in the Grand Am. It was also a thirsty beast that was introduced during the Arab oil embargo. With fuel supplies severely limited, buyers were beginning to avoid cars that they perceived as gas guzzlers. The American economy was going through a rough patch in the early 1970s, and it was a combination of these factors that sealed the car’s market fate. The 1973 model year marked the high point, with 43,136 buyers handing over the cash to park one of these in their driveway. Of those, a mere 8,691 opted for the four-door version. From there, sales went into freefall. In 1974, total sales amounted to 17,083, while in 1974, the final year of production, the number fell further to 10,679. Today, it is rare to see one of these on the market, and good ones struggle to achieve far beyond $14,000. This one looks like a nice example that seems to need very little. That makes the BIN look pretty competitive, but a single bid and seven people watching the listing suggests that it hasn’t set pulses racing. If you find the car an attractive proposition, it might be worth watching the listing. Depending on where the seller has set the reserve, it could prove to be a bargain buy for the right person.


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  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    “Performance car” and “185 hp” don’t really go together.

    Like 17
    • CJinSD

      Certainly not when the car weighs significantly more than two tons.

      Like 8
    • Dave Peterson

      Context, my friends. Remember the parable of the one eyed man in the land of the blind. Besides, by 1979, a coupe with performance suspension was a reasonable option driver. That they killed it puts it in good company.

      Like 5
  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Interesting car, not commonly seen. I think it would make a fun cruiser and a worthy entrant at Cars & Coffee.

    A comment on the visual presentation. Many sellers do a poor job (few pictures, bad pictures, cluttered background). This dealer includes lots of pictures but with the completely white surroundings, it does draw all the attention to the car but comes across to me as stark.

    Like 12
  3. Sam Shive

    Two, Too Many Doors ……..

    Like 16
    • Jim

      For you maybe….not for everyone.

      Like 34
      • nlpnt

        For myself the four-door sedan is my favorite Colonnade body style, but it would be 100% better sans vinyl top.

        Like 11
      • Motorcityman Member

        I think the body lines r ruined by the 4 doors Jim.

        Like 2
    • Mark

      4 doors are for grandpa’s luxury liner cadillac. The thoughts of hotrod 4 doors make me laugh like hotrod station wagons.

      Like 6
      • TimS Member

        I bet you drive something that has that many doors now.

  4. Jim

    Some major corrosion issues are indicated around the door jams, the back window, the headlight bezels and the other chrome shown. I have a feeling this one has been touched up (since it’s a dealer) just long enough to get it off the lot. Be wary.

    Like 10
  5. Steve Clinton

    It might be a 400 V8, but it is no muscle car, IMHO. And only 1 bid with 1 day left confirms it.

    Like 2
    • Motorcityman Member

      The baby crap cream paint color isn’t helping it sell thats for sure!

  6. MoragaPulsar

    This car has been listed in Hemmings (at $11,900) for a long! time. Interesting to note the that the seller (consignment at Classic Auto Mall) has decided to now list/sell on EBay (at a somewhat higher price). Is EBay then pretty good?

  7. B.S.

    winter beater

    Like 6
  8. Abi

    I don’t know if it is GM shoddy assembly or bodywork done over the years but doesn’t anyone else find the body panels fit horribly? Or am I just too anal.
    Maybe the later as the clock is the same size as the speedometer and directly in front of you – I’d be staring at it every time I looked at the dash noticing the clock doesn’t work (same time in 2 pictures). If it was off to the passenger side it would be different.

    Like 5
    • Jim

      Looking at the pictures, I’d say the poor alignment is a result of the quicky rust repairs and body work rather than the original fit and finish.

      Like 1
      • A.G.

        The finish isn’t original. The door latch pins have been painted.

        I thought these were ugly then and my opinion hasn’t changed.

        Like 8
  9. Ike Onick

    The 3rd and 4th doors really disguised the “muscle”

    Like 3
  10. Pete R.

    You can see a bunch of these get all sorts of messed up if you watch “Smokey and The Bandit”. I bet those cars didn’t have buckets and a console.

    • chuck dickinson

      Those were all LeManses, not Grand Ams (tho’ they shared the same body).

  11. Mike Stephens Staff

    Looking at the photos on eBay, one of the big surprises for me regarding performance credentials was the single exhaust pipe coming from under the engine. I like the car though, for a 1973 four door Pontiac it’s sharp and the interior looks linviting.

    Like 4
  12. ptinnes

    I parted out one of these thirty years ago for the motor, was a two door thou and had 400 2 barrel

  13. 4spdBernie 4spdBernie Member

    More doors…for more friends…to enjoy the ride…in style!

    Like 9
    • JoeNYWF64

      2 doors back in the day were always more stylish & sporty & better looking. & were always meant for YOUNG people back then. & EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN CAR! prior to ’76 was avail as a 2 door & maybe a 4 door. NONE of the american subcompacts back in the day were 4 door. The 4 door Chevy Spark IMO could not look worse, especially the early ones.
      Today, 2 doors are few & far between & VERY expensive & are for older rich singles. What a shame.
      & FYI, yes, there was a back seat in all 2 doors back in the day for JUST as many friends as in 4 doors – except in american sports cars, ’68-70 AMXs, & some base gremlins & chevettes.
      & FYI, all my friends laffed at me back in the early ’70s, driving my mom’s FOUR door falcon. Couldn’t WAIT to get my own TWO door – anything, as well as my driver’s permit at 16 yrs old.

      Like 12
      • Timbo

        My best friend’s mom took delivery on this beast-of-a-car in 73. She got it as a 2-door, in gold-cooper metallic. The 400 hp with huge duel exhaust pipes. At the time my friend was only 16 and I was 15. He got use for our nights out and trips to Ocean City MD. This bi@#$ was a muscle car!!! We had her flying at times at 160 mph, even with all the emission crap holding her back. We could blow the doors off most every car on the road too, from a dead stop from 0-60.

  14. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Sorry Pontiac lovers but never had a warm-and-fuzzy for the GrandAms. To me this is a winter beater car, nothing more.

    Like 3
    • Ike Onick

      Grand Am coupes were cool back in the day. A friend had a white over “burgundy” or whatever GM called red cloth back then. Plus how many cars had a clown nose you could could squeeze? Too bad it didn’t squeak.

      Like 3
  15. Charles Atlas

    I’ll stick to my 1986 White Ford Escort Pony 4 speed.

    Like 15
    • Norm

      I agree!

    • nlpnt

      Pics or it rusted out sometime in 2001.

      Like 6
    • Steve Clinton

      WE DON’T CARE!
      We’ve heard enough about your Escort!

      Like 15
      • Chadwick Olsen

        I enjoy hearing about the 1986 Ford Escort Pony 4 speed !

      • Capt. Crunch


    • Dave Peterson

      At least you’re consistent.

      Like 7
    • Mark

      Even the best Escorts are garbage.

      • Motorcityman Member

        Hold on now…..back in 83 I traveled all around the coast of Michigan’s peninsulas in my blue 1.9ltr Escort with, yes, a 4 speed manual.
        Only problem I ever had with that car was a ignition stator that gave out.
        Have to admit it wasn’t a “bad” car!

  16. jerry z

    Its amazing that the 1973 models could also get a 4 spd option, 2 dr and 4 dr! If this car had the 4 spd, I’d be all over this like gravy on potatoes!

    Like 1
    • bull

      Six 400 four speed 4 door Grand Am’s built in 1974.

      Got one that’s still completely original paint, original interior and Hog Leg between the bucket seats!

      Like 3
  17. Thomas Jovanovich

    I’ve never seen a four door Grand Am before and I lived near the GM Tech center at that time.

    Like 1
  18. Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking car. It’s the same age I am. Given its condition for its age, assuming everything works like they should, I think it’s worth the $11,990 asking price. I’d buy it in a heartbeat and enjoy it. I hope this goes to a good owner, one who will enjoy it and keep it as original as possible.

    Like 2
  19. BigBlocksRock

    Compared to the 67 Grand Prix featured the other day,
    not some of Pontiacs best work.

    Like 1
  20. Jasper

    Actually a pretty nice survivor. I had one with rust in all the usual places and know where they rust. This one looks decent. The 400 two barrel, in my opinion, performed beyond expectations. For a big American car, it handled pretty tight.

    Those lower door panels are just discolored. Their outgasing probably caused birth defects in the offspring of all who rode in it. My ox blood lower panels were more strawberry pink and dry.

    And either someone payed good money for a re-pop nose or that’s an original not all crumbled to the fasteners.

    The cars in Smokey and the Bandit were all plain LeMans (probably not the rare Enforcers either). The Grand Am really was a much more satisfying ride.

    $7500-8500 would be a good price to pay.

    Like 3
  21. Timmy V

    Oddball survivor. Kind of a miracle that it exists at all. This was the kind of car that populated my high school parking lot in the mid-80s as grandpa’s hand-me-down. In an era when so many things were half-assed, at least Pontiac were still making a stab at style. The coupes were pretty. The extra two doors don’t do the body style any favors but you can’t say it’s not distinctive, even in a color combo that has me jonesing for a Werther’s. Bud Lindemann liked the ‘73 colonnades and loved the Buick Centurion (same car, to a point). Of course he was driving the coupe with a 455.

  22. fran

    Is that nose correct? I thought it was only on a 2 door car.

  23. charlie Member

    Had the 400 in my ’67 Bonneville wagon and it MOVED. Strangled in this, maybe, depending on where you live, you can destrangle this one. Here in the boondocks of CA they check to see that the check engine light is off (and it is on when you turn on the ignition but not start the engine) and if so, you pass, and, you never have to be checked again. Now the smoke from the forest fires far exceeds what a few cars like this will emit. And, from my observations, you see very few of these in the northeast, of any of the 4 GM makes, since they rusted out by the 1990’s, unlike their full sized counterparts, or their predecessors. Maybe the unibody or cheap steel was to blame while the Caprice’s and their GM counterparts, and the ’68 -’72’s soldier on.

    Like 2
  24. Utes

    These really were never given the “power-chance they so-deserved, commensurate w/their phenomenal handling & so unique styling. Had they received the SD 455 as initially listed in the sales lit., it would’ve played a WHOLE different tune! The 76 & ’77 B09 police version was a bulletproof package re. its durability & HD features! Sure, they weren’t street rockets, but they lasted forever! In ’73 & ’74, you could even order a bucket-seated, colonnade sedan w/a factory 4-speed! I’d give “my left one” right now to have THAT!

    Like 2
  25. Utes

    My referencing Pontiac’s ’76 & ’77 police-version A-bodies were in fact LeMans colonnades, but that was my point. That same body & its commensurate underpinnings were a step ahead of the rest of the pack in those years, & the Grand Am was a gussied-up example, w/unique class & option-laden ability.

  26. Patrick Curran

    The 1973 Grand Am was the first American car to have the hi beam switch on the steering column instead of the floor and some of the automotive press criticized the move. Go figure.

    Like 2
  27. R.J. Rains

    My Dad bought a “73 white with white vinyl roof, red interior. It was a well balanced car that could pull 400-500 miles per day at 75 MPH effortlessly. Compared to the other sedans of the day (previous car was a sports car, a two door Buick Electra 225) it was comfortable and quiet with plenty of torque. As with many cars of the era it provided enough steel to build two or three toyota’s when scrapped out…

    Like 1
  28. Lance Platt

    I think almost missed the point of the car entirely. The Grand Am was designed to offer a comfortable American alternative to European sedans of its time which often had four doors, small 4 cylinder gas engines and even diesels but handled nicely. The Grand Am was roomier and had gobs more horsepower and Pontiac’s best Radial Tuned Suspensions to make the bigger car handle decently. As for performance my 1974 Grand Prix had the 4bbl version of the 400 V8 and accelerated very smoothly. Remember this was the start of the 55mph Era along with gas lines so the car was designed for its time. I think Pontiacs other sales problem was that the Grand Am had a small niche between its own Lemans with the last GTO type options in 1973 and the Grand Prix with big displacement, classy style and equal handling.

    Like 2
  29. Nessy

    My parents bought a fully loaded black 455 Cutlass Salon sedan version of this Grand Am new. The cars were similar but the luxurious Olds won them over. The car is still in my parent’s garage today although we have not moved it since 1988 when they bought a new Cadillac but at least I convinced them to keep the rare Olds.

    Adam, Those faded green door panels are correct and original. The hard tan GM plastic faded out to this greenish which you see here. The upper panels were softer and did not fade. GM red plastic faded to pink. GM blue plastic faded to white. After we bought the new 73 Salon, my aunt bought a new 74 Grand Am 455 coupe with this same tan interior and by the early 80s, those same panels turned green. So did the carpet in fact. Anyways, great rare Grand Am sedan but it has been up for sale a long time, well over a year which makes you wonder what is hiding underneath….

    Like 7
  30. glen kay

    had a 79 grand am like this one drives realy nice smooth nice cae not crazy about collar but nice

  31. alan hubbard

    My Dad had a ’73 Grand Prix which is the same car, but with two less doors. These were nice driving cars, but they got worse every year after that.

  32. 87Ragtop

    Well I had a 1973 Grand Am 455 4 barrel loaded out with….. 4 doors had factory front and rear sway bars and 2” dual exhausts! I fooled many a hot car ! It would bark the tires when you shifted into I believe it was called super (2nd) it would pass anything but a gas station cruise at 80 to 90 all day!! Car was only 2 years old when I bought it! Yep 10.5 mpg 11.5 with AC off! Yes it had the endura bumper …. Rubber nose

    Like 1

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