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by Jay Traugott
Before it became a rental car fleet favorite, the Pontiac Grand Prix was a star of GM's excitement division.
There was a time when Pontiac was building cars with real personality that weren't simply rebadged Chevys with fancier front and rear designs. During Pontiac's heyday, the one and only John Z. DeLorean was heading up Advanced Engineering at GM's excitement division. Sadly, Pontiac was discontinued in the wake of GM's bankruptcy back in 2009. At that time, the brand was just beginning to get back to its roots with solid models like the G8, but it was never meant to be.
DeLorean, not being one to follow the corporate rules (he was later busted for cocaine trafficking while trying to fund his own company), was the brains behind such iconic models like the Pontiac GTO, Firebird, and the Grand Prix. At first, the Grand Prix was really nothing more than a Pontiac Catalina coupe with some chrome trim and a nicer interior. Remember, this is the company that soon began to rely solely on badge engineering to get by. Like the potential DeLorean saw in the Tempest - which was the basis for the GTO - the Grand Prix became a later target of his multiple talents.
First launched in 1962, the Grand Prix was originally a rather bland model. Fortunately, DeLorean was very performance-minded and when the car was redesigned for 1969, it became a bit smaller and lighter and featured a "Coke bottle" exterior design. Power came from a range of V8s, such as the 390hp 428 HO. The interior was also redone as it too became even more sporty and luxurious with its wraparound cockpit design. Throughout the 1970s, specifically with its 1973 redesign, the Grand Prix became larger and heavier. While it maintained its V8 lineup, DeLorean was no longer in charge of Pontiac as he became head of Chevrolet.
As such, the Grand Prix was no longer under his watchful and savvy eye. As GM's badge engineering habits continued to grow, specific models, such as the Grand Prix, began to lose more and more of their individuality. The fourth generation Grand Prix came out in 1978 and remained in production until 1987. Not only was this model smaller and lighter than its big predecessor, it was also the first Grand Prix not to offer a standard V8. And by the time the fifth generation was launched in 1988, the V8 disappeared completely (with the exception of the GXP in 2005) from the mainstream engine lineup, never to return.
Currently up for sale on eBay Motors is this very rare 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix featuring the factory optioned V97 option NASCAR "bubble back". It is one of only 1,200 units produced with that option. Power comes from a 5.0-liter V8 mated to a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission. The owner claims that Richard Petty himself signed the dash and there's also a photo of him sitting in the seat writing his name. There are also reportedly no dash cracks and the body is rust free. Just as important, the car has never had any damage and has just 25,512 miles on the odometer.
With a current bid of $7,300 (the reserve hasn't been met), it also comes with a lot of NASCAR memorabilia. Any NASCAR and Pontiac fan will likely find this to be a great find and, according to the seller, a sound investment that will only increase in value over time. Photos courtesy of finestuffnow.