From the time of John DeLorean’s money-printing 1962 Grand Prix through the model’s demise two years before the Pontiac Division itself got Old Yeller-ized by The General, Americans bought huge numbers of the sporty-looking Grand Prix. I’ve documented these cars in junkyards going back to 1969, but the LS-powered Grand Prix GXP of the Grand Prix’s final generation had eluded me… until now. Here’s one of those rare machines in a Denver-area yard.
The Grand Prix began life as a full-sized hardtop based on the same platform as the Impala, then moved to a lengthened version of the midsize Chevelle platform for 1969. In the 1988 model year, the Grand Prix began its new life as a front-wheel-drive mid-sizer on the Chevy Lumina‘s W Platform, and that’s where it stayed until the ax fell in 2008. A sedan version appeared in 1990, and every Grand Prix was a four-door starting in 2003.
The era of real performance for the W-Body Grand Prix dawned in the 1997 model year when GM stuffed the supercharged 3.8-liter Buick V6 under the hood of the Grand Prix GTP. Thus was the Juggalambo born. For 2005, things in the Grand Prix world got even more interesting, as the 303-horse LS4 V8 went into the new GXP. That’s right, better than three hundred horsepower shredding the front tires!
The W-based Chevy Impala and Monte Carlo also had the LS4 available during the mid-to-late 2000s, along with some really rare Buick LaCrosses. For added traction (and, ideally, protection from the kind of throttle-lift oversteer wipeouts that plague red-misty pilots of front-wheel-drive cars), the Grand Prix GXP received front tires that were fatter than the rears, to the tune of 255s versus 225s.
That feature might have tamed the handling of today’s Junkyard Find, but its final owner installed a set of Big Bangs with mean-looking low-profile rubber. I didn’t think to check the tire widths while I was photographing this car, but I suspect that all four were the same size.
We have no way of knowing if this crash damage was caused by a case of lift-off oversteer in an overpowered front-drive car, but at least the crash wasn’t bad enough to fire the airbags. For that matter, this car may have been mashed by a drunk while parked.
The stickers all over the rear windows suggest that the final owner loved this Pontiac, so we should feel sadder about its demise than we would for, say, a discarded G3.
GM didn’t have a W-Body-suitable manual transmission that could survive life bolted to the most powerful Grand Prix engine since the 370-horsepower 455-cubic-inch V8 of 1970 (actually, I’m willing to bet that the GXP made more net power than any of its predecessors), and so all of these cars had automatic transmissions. They did get the “TAPshift” feature, though, which had steering-wheel-mounted buttons that shifted the four-speed slushbox.
I wasn’t expecting to find one of these cars in a U-Wrench self-service car graveyard since they remain sought-after by enthusiasts, but then I thought that about the Solstice. Perhaps I’ll even manage to find a G8 here!
Built… for driving.
In 2006, it seemed that Pontiac still had a chance for long-term survival (though the founder of this site didn’t think any GM marque deserved to live, back then). The Solstice, GXP, and GTO were genuine factory hot rods and the G8 was on the way. Then, well, bad things happened at The General’s headquarters and Pontiac got its death sentence in 2009.
For links to more than 2,200 additional Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
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