The History Of Grand Am
Intoduction The Pontiac Grand Am was originally a mid-size car and later a compact car that was produced by the Pontiac division of General Motors. The Grand Am had two separate 3-year runs in the '70s: from 1973 to 1975 and again from 1978 to 1980. It was based on the GM A platform.
Production of the Grand Am was canceled in 1980 when it was replaced by the Pontiac 6000. The Grand Am was reintroduced in 1985 when it replaced the Pontiac Phoenix. It was Pontiac's only best selling car and later replaced by the Pontiac G6. All Grand Ams between 1985 and 2005 were built in Lansing, Michigan at the Lansing Car Assembly.
1973-1975 The First Generation The original Grand Am was introduced in the fall of 1972 as a 1973 model. It was based on the GM A platform along with other cars such as the Pontiac LeMans, Pontiac GTO, Chevrolet Chevelle, Buick Century, and the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The GM A-body platform had major design revisions in 1973 that included the elimination of pillarless hardtops due to proposed federal rollover standards, but with frameless windows similar to that of a hardtop. No convertibles were produced due to those same federal rollover standards (that never were enacted). In addition to federal emissions regulations that reduced performance, new federal standards required a 5 mph impact-resistant front bumper and a 2.5 mph impact-resistant rear bumper, which increased to 5 mph for 1974.
The Grand Am, coined by Pontiac with a name derived from two other cars in its lineup ("Grand" signifying "Grand Prix luxury" and "Am" for "Trans Am performance") was designed as American's answer to European luxury/sport sedans and available as a 4-door Colonnade sedan or a 2 door Colonnade coupe. 43,136 Grand Ams were built during the first year of production (both two door and four door models). The Grand Am could be had with a standard 400/2bbl engine, a 400/4bbl engine, or a 455/4bbl engine. The 400 engine was available with a Turbo-hydramatic 400 automatic or a 4-speed manual transmission. It is unknown how many of the 1973 model year Grand Ams had the four-speed manual transmission, but it is estimated to be in the 600-900 range. The four speed manual transmission was available only with the 400 in� engine. All 455 equipped cars were automatics.
Inside, the Grand Am came standard with Strato bucket seats upholstered in Morrokide vinyl or cordoroy cloth featuring recliners and adjustable lumbar support - both features common on European-style sports/luxury sedans but unusual for American cars of that time. Also included were an instrument panel from Pontiac's Grand Prix coupe featuring a Rally Gauge Cluster with full instrumentation, three-spoke steering wheel with large hub and Genuine Crossfire Mahogany trim on the dash facing as well as the center console between the front seats (only 1973 models featured the "real" wood trim on the dash as it was replaced by simulated trim for 1974-75 due to reports of splintering though the console retained the real wood for all three years). Grand Ams also were among the first U.S.-built cars to come with a turn-signal mounted headlight dimmer switch that had been common on imported cars for decades.
Additionally, Grand Ams featured a "Radial Tuned Suspension" as standard equipment which included the radial-ply tires, Pliacell shock absorbers and front and rear sway bars for improved ride and handling. This basic suspension tuning also came standard with the Grand Prix SJ option in 1973 and optional on two other Pontiac models that year including the full-sized Bonneville and the sporty Firebird. The Grand Am was one of only three GM cars to come standard with radial tires and appropriate suspension tuning in 1973 with the others being the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon and Chevrolet Monte Carlo S.
Pontiac also produced a single 1973 Grand Am station wagon as a feasibility study. This was a LeMans wagon converted to a Grand Am. A functional ram-air induction system was developed for the Pontiac A-bodies utilizing twin NACA openings in the hood, but the option was dropped due to inability to pass federally mandated drive-by noise standards. A few functional Ram Air systems were sold over the counter, but are extremely rare. The twin-scoop NACA hood was an option for any Pontiac A-body for all three years, but was non-functional.
The 1973 Pontiac Grand Am style had a unique flexible urethane front fascia, a total of 6 grille openings with vertical bars, round front turn signals, horizontal rear taillights, and chrome rear bumper. The 17,083 1974 Grand Ams had a refined front fascia with a redesigned nose and grille with 12 openings with horizontal bars. The rear end styling was redesigned for the new 1974 5mph crash standards and had vertical rear taillights. The 1975 model looked the same as the 1974 model, but had vertical front grille bars, a body-colored rear bumper, and a single-exhaust catalytic converter. 10,679 were built in 1975 and was the last year for the first generation Grand Am due to declining sales and rising gas prices as a result of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. All 1973-1975 Grand Ams were built at the Pontiac, MI assembly plant, which was the home plant of the Pontiac Motor Division.
Though it was promoted and advertised by Pontiac as an alternative to European sport/luxury sedans, the fact was the Grand Am was considerably larger and heavier than its intended imported competition which was more in the size and weight class of U.S. built compacts - and much bigger than the largest cars built in most nations outside of North America. By the time the Grand Am was discontinued in 1975, other Detroit offerings included upgraded luxury compacts such as the Ford Granada, Mercury Monarch and even Pontiac's own Ventura SJ, along with the similar-bodied Chevrolet Nova LN, Buick Skylark S/R and Oldsmobile Omega Salon offered much the same luxurious interior appointments and primo suspension bits as the Grand Am, but in smaller packages better designed to challenge the imported sedans. Furthermore, the Grand Am's "Radial Tuned Suspension" package that was unique when the GA was introduced in 1973 would become optional equipment on all other Pontiac models (as well as similar cars from other GM divisions) in 1974 and made standard equipment throughout most car lines by 1975, so the Grand Am's lost yet another bit of "uniqueness".
Also, the 1973-75 Pontiac Grand Am, despite its Euro-style interior and exterior touches, was really not the first U.S.-built four-door sport sedan with bucket seats, console shift and other sporty touches more commonly found in two-door coupes as similar offerings were on the market a decade earlier such as the 1963-64 Ford Galaxie 500 XL, Buick Wildcat and Chrysler 300 four-door models, none of which sold in large numbers with bucket-seat sportiness combined with four-door utility.
1978-1980 The Second Generation The Grand Am returned in 1978, based on the Grand Prix's A platform. The Grand Am's interior contained new features including power windows, power locks, sunroof, an automatic transmission, full gauges, and power seats. The new Grand Am had either V6 or Pontiac V8 engines. This generation of the Grand Am is very rare. In 1979, the Grand Am was featured in the NASCAR Grand National circuit. 1980 was the second-generation Grand Am's final year, with only coupes available. The Grand Am was discontinued after 1980 and was replaced by the Pontiac 6000 for the 1982 model year.
1985-1991 The Third Generation The 2.5 L Tech IV engine was standard from 1985 to 1991. Although the engine was noisy and a bit underpowered in earlier models, it received balance shafts and an upgrade in power for 1989. A 3.0 L V6 was optional from 1985 to 1988. Since the Pontiac Sunbird's redesign in 1989, it surpassed the Grand Am in length. From 1987 to 1989, a turbocharged 2.0 L four-cylinder making 165 hp was optional on SE models. The 2.3 L Quad-4 was optional in 150 hp form from 1988 to 1989 on all models. A high output version of the Quad-4 that produced 180 hp was initially offered as an option on mid-1989 SE models and remained the top engine choice through 1991.
1992-1998 The Fourth Generation This generation was available with various four or six-cylinder engines. The top engine choice from 1992 to 1994 was a 2.3 L 16-valve High Output Quad-4 which produced 170-180 hp (130 kW) at 6200 rpm and 155-160 ft�lbf (210 N�m) at 5200 rpm depending on year. The other engine of choice for 1994 and 1995 was the 3.1 L V6 that produced 155 hp. There were some cosmetic changes made in 1996, and the last year of this generation of Grand Am was 1998.
1999-2005 The Fifth Generation Oldsmobile Cutlass, from which the Grand Am was derived, were close cousins). It was reported that the very first 1999 Grand Am rolled off the assembly line on June 15, 1998; however, it is more likely that this occurred even earlier, perhaps April or May, as 1999 Grand Ams had been spotted on lots as early as late May 1998. The standard engine remained the DOHC 2.4 L I4 with the 3.4 L V6 optional. The 2.2 L Ecotec I4 replaced the 2.4 L as the standard engine in 2002. In 2003, the design was further refined by removing the ribbed body cladding for a "cleaner" appearance. There was also a special 30th anniversary package offered on the GT trim level. This was a limited production, collector's edition Grand Am that sported hood scoops, unique polished exhaust tips, leather seats with special "30th anniversary" stitched emblems, and badges on the front doors' lower panels.
This generation of the Grand Am was sold in five variants, the SE, SE1, SE2, GT, and GT1. Each variant added various features such as power windows and locks, dual rear exhausts, a rear spoiler, a more powerful engine (3.4 L V6) than the Ecotec, or alloy wheels. Safety features such as dual front airbags and anti-lock brakes were now standard throughout the line, as well as traction control (ETS). However ABS and ETS (Traction Control) were optional on the 2003 to 2005 Grand Am SE, but standard on SE1, SE2, GT and GT1 models. The Grand Am enjoyed success as a compact car filling a niche as a comfortable, affordable, reliable, yet sporty car.
Despite its success, the Grand Am finally came to an end. The last Grand Am sedan rolled off the assembly line on December 10, 2004. The coupe was dropped at the end of 2005, with the Grand Am being replaced by the Pontiac G6, which is based on the GM Epsilon platform. It is interesting to note that the Grand Am was Pontiac's best-selling car before being replaced. The last Grand Am rolled off the Lansing, Michigan assembly line on May 6, 2005, because GM had reportedly closed the plant.
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