The Whale: 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix Aerocoupe

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Nicknames can be a cruel thing, as this 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix Aerocoupe here on craigslist can attest. It was known as “The Whale” in some circles of NASCAR racing due to the fattened appearance of the rear end designed to accommodate the expansive glass window. Though successful on the race track, these homologation specials weren’t a big seller when new, and with only 1,118 Pontiac Aerocoupes made, they’re a rare find today. Thanks to Barn Finds reader George M. for the find! 

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After getting smoked by Ford’s sensuous Thunderbird on the oval, Richard Petty and other drivers demanded the General make changes to the vehicles to be more competitive. With the previous design, the back end got squirrely at speeds approaching 200 m.p.h., causing drivers to back off of the Thunderbirds. With the large glass bubble on the rear, drivers were able to hang tight in the corners – but the rear view is also what lead to the Aerocoupe’s unfortunate nickname.

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The Pontiac shared its unique glass canopy with the Chevy Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe, but subtle engine differences existed: the Pontiac was down on power compared to the Chevy but had 20 more lb. ft. of torque on hand. In the case of this example, it has just a tick over 53,000 original miles, and the seller claims everything works as it should. The asking price of $12,000 may seem steep to some (especially since the normal Monte Carlo and Grand Prix sell for far less all day long), but these Aerocoupes are bound to become more valuable over time, in my opinion.

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They unusual G-bodies came pretty well equipped with standard features ranging from air conditioning to a limited-slip rear end. Cruise control, cassette stereo and the FE2 Ride and Handling package were also included. But while that wind-tunnel defying glass shell was dynamite on the track, it just took up a lot of trunk room on the street versions since it didn’t operate like a conventional hatch. Is that enough to keep these Aerocoupes destined for obscurity? I don’t think so, but I’ve been known to enjoy an oddball or two.

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Comments

  1. piper62j

    This is a very cool car.. Ugly, but cool.. It’s popularity might increase due to it’s odd looks and rarity. Definitely a head turner around town on cruise night.. Just a bit overpriced in my opinion, but someone will want it and that’s what makes this hobby so unique.

    Great find… Nice car..

  2. gord

    the rear glass is NOT the same as on the monte carlo, it is specific to the GP, btw (having owned 2 of them), trunk access is pathetic as just a slot… i once considered retrofitting a corsica hatchback as it is similar to at least get some heater grids for the cold! but… more dreams than money

    nothing special under the hood… the MC i think could at least get an upgraded drivetrain
    all sold as one package/colour, no options

    you can get an aftermarket kit to convert your GP into this too though rear glass is plexiglass then

  3. rmward194 Member

    It looks like it has some type of aftermarket sunroof. IMO that hurts the value. A quick vacuum on the inside would have helped the interior picture.

    • jim s

      i too think that is an aftermarket sunroof. i have seen that style before but do not remember the name of the company that made them.

    • Mike H. Mike H.
      • jim s

        thank you.

  4. Blueprint

    These are the very last homologation specials. I wish Nascar would go back to factory templates and requirements for a production run of 500 units…

    • jim s

      that would be a good idea.

  5. Mike H. Mike H.

    I’m sure that the specific production numbers of this car makes it rare or unusual, but GM made millions of G-bodies from 1978-1988 (or 1982-1988, depending upon whether you count the extremely similar 1978-1981 A-bodies as being the same car), including the Grand National and GNX. The performance aspects of the Buick make them very desirable with excellent examples easily topping $20k, but beyond that car I’d have never thought a G-body would be worth $12k; they’re just too common.

    Of course, having been an air-cooled VW guy since the early 80’s I’d have never thought that – with the 27,000,000 or so Beetles produced over the years – the value of those cars would ever exceed the $10k mark, yet here we are today with Jerry Seinfeld selling a 1960 model just last weekend for $120k and pretty much any “nice” ones trading for closer to $15k.

    So maybe the price on this Aerocoupé is fair? I’d never pay it, but these cars were never really my thing, although I’ve owned a few of the Cutlass Supremes of the generation. Of course, I never paid more than a few hundred dollars for them, because they were common and ordinary.

  6. Mike

    Way over priced in my opinion, one sold at Barrett Jensen a while back for $6600.00.
    There is one on Carsforsale with 35K mileage and they are asking $9950.00

  7. Van

    If you find the right one I think you might have the next great collector car.
    It was a shame that GM only sent the Buick out with a bang.
    How about a Monte Carlo with a 454
    Or a Pontiac GP with a tune port 350.
    You might have gotten a respectable top speed.
    I drove the Grand National and was not impressed by the traction, cornering, or brakes. The GNX must have been dangerous.
    Stop light to stop light still would have traction issues.
    I wanted to remove the body and make a DBR1 body. Drop 1,000 lbs and see things improve.

    • AMC STEVE

      Well Van that’s because you didn’t know how to drive the GN properly. Traction was fine and we that owned them knew how to drive them.

      As for that Aerocoupe it is quite possibly the ugliest Grand Prix ever made. It certainly is no Super Bird but it did accomplish what it was designed for.

      • The Chucker

        Having owned 3 LC2 equipped intercooled Regals (2 GN’s and 1 T-Type), I tend to agree with Van. In stock form, rear traction, handling and braking are typical mid-80’s GM crap. Frames flex about as much as a rubber band. I love the cars, but let’s get real.

        Like 1
      • Van

        I’m sure steve is correct I only had experience driving a few cars.
        70 Trans Am RA4, 67 Corvette big and small block, Triumph GT6, Healy 3000, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari 308, lotus Esprit and Europa, Porsche 911 and 930 turbo. I admit that GN would easily out perform the Rolls.

    • Mike H. Mike H.

      I had a roommate in the mid-90’s who put a BBC into a Monte Carlo; what a catastrophe that thing was. The perimeter frame wasn’t intended to support real torque numbers and that car performed poorly both in a straight line and going around a corner.

  8. JW454

    There has been one of these sitting next to a house near my house for many years. I’d like to know it’s story.

  9. Andrew

    There is one of these sitting in the side of US 1 in northeastern MD. Never moves. Been there for at least 5 years.

  10. Howard A Member

    Several, ( many? no, wait, what’s in between several and many) years ago, I drove a friend’s truck, and he asked me if I wanted to buy his ’87 Monte Carlo. Since I’m not interested in ANYTHING 1987, I said, well, I’ll take a look at it. Turns out, it was an AeroCoupe. At the time, I never heard of it and passed, but it was like new. Guess I should have went for it. Could have gotten it cheap I bet.

  11. AMCFAN

    Saw one of these once done as a Richard Petty race car replica. Refreshing since there were no other paint options. When these were only a few years old dealers would sell as a premium used car. I was able to buy a new 5.0 GT for about the same price. The fun factor compared to the above or a Monte SS no comparison. GM really did little to build these into anything else then a stock GP with a nose and big back window. Too gimmicky and production numbers prove new car buyers didn’t fall for it. Nothing special and certainly an unrealistic asking price. My thought is if one insists on an unusual Pontiac that is not a Firebird or T/A the 77 Can AM would be a better alternative.

    As far as a Buick Grand National I didn’t desire to own one or lust after them. My best friend bought one new. I drove it quite a bit back then and wasn’t impressed. No manual transmission option. Straight line performance was OK but the longevity of the turbo V6 wasn’t. He still has it and has had to install two new short blocks. Not a good trade off and only around 80,000 miles today. The car handled like a ’70 Electra 225 and stopped as good as one too. Traction? Forget it. I always had the impression and sure felt like that GM half assed installed a turbo on a V6. then put it in a stock body . Certainly very little if any engineering went into it. These cars had to appeal to both men and women drivers. That’s when the brass at Buick should have put their foot down to make no compromises with its performance. But then again why would GM let that happen? Corvette buyers could have more choices for performance and in many cases a better car. It has always been the same with both old and new GM. The Corvette is the flagship. They will never offer something better faster or cheaper. That is why the typical Vette buyer today is approaching 70 years of age. The only way to afford one is by cashing in the 401K. No thanks.

  12. Van

    Performance is a relative term.
    I think a second gen Trans Am performed better than a Grand National.

    By the time I drove the GN I had driven a 930 turbo. Apples and oranges yes but, the Porsche had giant rear tires, and brakes. Not rocket science or prohibitively expensive as the vet had 4w disk in 65, and giant tires in 84.

  13. Mr. TKD

    The sunroof is aftermarket. I had one installed in a Mercury Lynx many years ago. It was manufactured by Don-Mar Enterprises. I had no problems with it. The outside tracks meant you didn’t have to remove the glass for open-air motoring. Most importantly, it didn’t leak.

  14. edh

    I remember loving the look of these in the ’80s…I was a stupid teenager.

  15. Dave

    As a product of the 80’s that worked at a gas station in high school and was always a gear head I gotta tell you, give me the one with 35K on it for under $10K. Nothing wrong with a little 305 love. I’d rather have the 442 from the same era but eh. The GN’s have all shot up in the last two years. And I think all the MC’s were either summarily executed or are still alive but are very traumatized and better left alone.

  16. Rick

    I had a ’66 2+2 convert in the mid /late 70s, (’67 was the last year for a 2+2 in the U.S., ’70 in Canada), anyhow I was impressed with Pontiac when they reintroduced this 2+2 back in ’86 (even if it was just one year only), anyhow had a chance to buy one of these for $7100 (and passed) back in the early 90s, was a very clean example Wonder if these came with a manual trans? Wonder if the Monte Carlo SS Aero was offered with a manual trans? Be cool if they did.Have never seen either with anything but an auto trans. I’d install a GM crate motor and have much improved performance.

  17. Rod_Munch

    While not having the performance that their looks implied, these cars were comfortable for everyday cruising. The 2+2 option was loaded with standard features — including a high sticker price.

    You will attract some attention wherever you go. Just don’t plan on packing anything into the trunk.

    Rare and unusual when new — and today.

  18. steve

    I have had a couple 2+2s, an aerocoupe Monte, and still have one 2+2 on the project table. They are the Boston Terrier of cars…ugly and annoying to some…cute and fun as hell to others!!!

  19. Russell noel

    I have one with 1300 miles on it now all original. Bought it from the original owners family with only 55 miles on it only comes out on nice days

  20. RoughDiamond

    Always thought these looked awkward. The aftermarket sunroofs, which no doubt were popular at the time, are deal killers in a lot of instances. Now if only the 140 equaled MPH.

  21. krash

    ….would it really kill the seller to throw a decent floor mat in prior to taking the driver’s side interior photo…..

    (sloppy oversight when asking a buyer to fork over 12k)

  22. Mike H. Mike H.

    After (4) months I see that this car is back, still advertised for $12k. No new photos.

    http://columbus.craigslist.org/cto/5685743369.html

    Albert Einstein was quoted as saying “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Perhaps the seller is insane? Were it me, I’d have considered that the price was not in line with its value and adjusted appropriately.

  23. Sarcasmo

    The Grand National is low budget compared to the Superbird… Not even in the SAME league. Stop playing!!

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