1967 was a year of decline for the Pontiac Grand Prix, with a simplified engine list, a swelling new look, and diminishing returns on its development budget.¹ Pontiac viewed the Grand Prix as the flagship of its high-style, high-performance lineup, but its business case was looking so poor that early in ’67, Pontiac even considered dropping the Grand Prix completely.² Though this Grand Prix has been maintained and pampered to look fresh out of the 1960s, in the past forty-four years it has completely shrugged off its showroom slump.
Parked out on Clarkson street, this old personal luxury car gleams with a coy innocence. The world has largely forgotten how bloated the ’67 GPs looked compared to their early ’60s predecessors. Amongst the cars of the twenty first century, this old Pontiac looks incomparably vibrant.
This Grand Prix has aged in reverse – it began its life in the Fall, cooling off from its hot early ’60s Summer. Its winter was to come in the uncompetitive and mammoth 1968 model. The Grand Prix welcomed spring with an innovative ’69 rethink of the car’s design, with another hot summer of healthy sales in the 1970s. As Grands Prix grew ever more pedestrian through the late ’70s and through till the demise of Pontiac just a few years ago, the once-frowned-upon ’67 and ’68 models readily adopted an august reputation.
For some years now, just about any stylish Sixties american car will be seen as real classic, and the especially style-driven Grand Prix is no exception. It has all the key hallmarks for recognition as a Detroit wonder: the long-legged overhangs looking highway-bound, the stretching pillarless hardtop, and a varied array of time-capsule details all across the car. Retractable headlights, coke-bottle curves, shining metal trim and a glittering wide dash are only some of the particulars that make this car stand out from today’s crop of automobiles, as well as make this ’67 Grand Prix fade into anonymyty amongst its contemporaries. Time wore down the differences between the ’67s and their predecessors – only an ever-shrinking population can readily differentiate a ’67 from a ’65 or ’66 and certainly fewer still know the sales dramas between those cars.
Much like the 1950 Chevrolet out in Williamsburg, this 1967 Pontiac has lost much of its original identity, only to have been clothed in a new classicism by the same passage of time.
What I love about this Grand Prix in specific is how it toys with the idea of sportiness. The 1960s Grands Prix always marketed themselves as sporty, and they had an engines options list to back up any marketing hype about performance, but they were softly suspended luxury cars more than anything else. They certainly were not sports cars, but they had styling cues that somehow conveyed speed as much as style and gave the Grand Prix a more thrusting image than more overtly luxurious, chromed contemporaries int he same price range.
Jim Wangers, Pontiac’s chief marketing manager of the time, described how by 1967 the Grand Prix had lost any innate sports-car credibility it might have had in years prior, and sold only on its carefully cultivated image. “It was propped up by some very good advertising and marketing…It really didn’t have anything else going for it.”³
This validity through shallow image has only intensified over time, as even the biggest-engined ’67 Grand Prix will be slow compared to an average modern car. Sitting in the far West Village looks stunning and still plays on its sporty reputation from the early 1960s. It cultivates a very different air than a more staid Oldsmobile or Buick, though it might have almost nothing different about its dynamics or mechanical components. Though it has no physical modifications other than a set of muscle car rims, the eyes of the public themselves have changed. This Grand Prix has lost no weight, it has had no facelift, but it is stronger, leaner, and fresher than when it first came out of the factory.
1. Don Keefe, “Grand Prix Special Section, Luxury and Performance Part 2: Homing in on a changing market 1967-1972,” High Performance Pontiac. August 1990, 1, http://www.pontiacserver.com/gph2_1.html (accessed April 4, 2011).
2. Aaron Severson, “Less Is More: The Pontiac Grand Prix and the Politics of Downsizing,” Ate Up With Motor, http://ateupwithmotor.com/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/100-less-is-more-pontiac-grand-prix.html (accessed April 4, 2011).
Specific information about the dimensions or specifications of the 1967 Grand Prix and the brochure image were taken from oldcarbrochures.com and can be found here: