Hold the Shag
Pontiac's Watergate-era GT stab.
From 1964 and forward Pontiac had earned their meat in awesome straight-on muscle car image with the GTO and Firebird/Trans Am plates. They were nothing but fits for Hemis, Cobra Jets, and inner family feuds with Chevelles, Camaros, 442s, and GSXs. It was all fun until federal regulations distorted front and rear ends with heavy 5 mph bumpers and plastics. Then catalytic converters became atmospheric saviors to cities choking on their own product. Would the power survive? No, even this faded as net horsepower rating systems took over amidst a growing oil supply crunch that effectively strangled muscle cars by '73.
Sure the cars still felt the same, but seeing almost 100 less horsepower for a familiar engine sapped some sting. Then you've got these lines for gasoline where they only serve people based on odd and even tag digits, making the "cool car" a risk to pilot regularly. Accompanying the field of crises, insurance rates often made muscle cars something reserved for affluent folks. Muscle cars were not born to spearhead another form of class struggle. So what if Pontiac said, "Pull back on touting pony and pound feet numbers and market a car that turns like those foreign jobs because we're entering a new, dark age."
PMD sure tried with their Grand Am. It got upgraded bushings, rear sway bar, and shock absorbers to name a few basic ride and handling tweaks. Minor heightening provided some additional suspension travel. The Grand Am wouldn't ride like a Cadillac all numb to the road, but nobody would lose a filling over minor bumps. Did Pontiac plant the Super Duty 455 into it by chance? No, that's reserved for Firbird and Trans Am much like Chevrolet only gave Corvette the fun engines in the 60s.
Posed on optional G70 Polysteels and honeycomb wheels, the Grand Am became Pontiac's handsome offering. The nose comes to a point like an arrow and those three grille slots look like a dignified mustache. It's been said before, but that doesn't make it any less true: this is a father's car. The shape, the rather reserved color palette, and no hot rod promises in sight. Dad goes through a stack of brochures gathered from a weekend of dealer hunting, coming to this, the Grand Am. He looks above his glasses dangling from the tip of his nose, grooms his 'stache with his free hand, clears his throat, then says to an empty room, "That's a good car."
Just because the Grand Am wasn't marketed as a light to light animal doesn't mean the heroes at Pontiac didn't bring some potent ammo. An optional "base" 455 cubic inch block (L75) with single four barrel feeding topped the list. This box got you dual exhaust and 250 horsepower. Not exactly the 400 plus glory of prior years, but still front of the herd. Where it makes good is in the torque at some 370 pound feet. That's plenty to shove this sled up any incline with ease. Two 400 c.i engines (a four barrel and two barrel) waited below. 4 bbl=200 hp & 2 bbl=170 hp, easily bumped with dual exhaust.
Here's where the car gets cooler: a Muncie M21 4 speed could have rocked the coupe. Yes, an automatic was offered too. A nice comfortable, poised car with big block yanking the nose and manual trans chirping the rear tires. A comparable modern version would be the Chevrolet SS (although this was a sedan). Imagine: it's 1973 and it seems the rusted gates of regulations are coming down hard on spirited driving then Pontiac rips through the fog with this car promising to do it all.
The Grand Am led a short life at just two years when it faded in 1975, but it's a symbol of how hard it would be to put down an enthusiast market. Performance was good and it even took a turn in NASCAR. Sadly, the race engine could not survive the strains on high banks.
On the road nobody would assume a threat, but you drop the clutch...THE CLUTCH!, and anyone clinging to their depreciating Chevelle, Challenger, or Mustang CJ says, "What work did they do to that thing?" None; it's all factory, all heart, great pride coming from a shop of bright potential and feverish brains across the street.