More than half a century after its introduction, the Grand Prix remains one of the most influential models to ever fly under the Pontiac banner. Combining the luxurious appointments of the larger Bonneville in the smaller, more athletic Catalina platform, the Grand Prix's tasteful restraint exuded the idea that less is more.
Less chrome meant more emphasis on the sculpting of the body, while its trimmer proportions helped deliver on its performance message. Grand Prixs featured a unique grille design, checkered-flag emblems, and a tailpanel treatment. Only a two-door hardtop was offered, as product planners didn’t want to water down the concept on a full range of bodystyles.
The Grand Prix’s performance level was also better than both the Catalina and the Bonneville, at least in base engine form, as the GP had more horsepower than the base Cat and was lighter than the Bonneville it shared its base engine with. The standard 389 four-barrel put out a respectable 303 horsepower with optional versions up to the mighty 405-horse 421 Super-Duty. Manual and automatic transmissions were offered, and a variety of rear-axle ratios could be tailored to the owner’s individual desires. Anything from a sedate daily driver to a full-blown racecar could be ordered, or just about any variation.
Joe’s ’62 Grand Prix came with a full array of original paperwork, including this warranty
Grand Prixs instantly became the vehicles of choice for young executives and others looking to take advantage of Pontiac’s performance message in a model that was a little more subtle and practical than a Corvette, and without the temperamental nature of a more exotic foreign car. A total of 30,195 units were built in its debut year, cementing the model’s permanence in the lineup.
It would remain a B-Body through 1968, before being re-invented as an upscale mid-sized car. Indeed, the Grand Prix managed to adapt and survive, and the nameplate continued on uninterrupted through the 2008 model year, almost as long as the division itself was allowed to survive.
This particular Grand Prix was built at Plant No. 3 in Southgate, California, on February 15, 1962, and was delivered to Allison Pontiac in San Jose, California, on March 19. It was ordered with the base 303-horse 389 four-barrel, Slim Jim Roto-Hydramatic, a 3.23-geared rear, and a total of 24 options, including power windows and those gorgeous 8-Lug wheels. The sticker price totaled $4,595.57. It was subsequently sold the same month to Peggy Currall, who owned the car for the rest of her life.
In the ensuing 32 years, Ms. Currall took extremely good care of the Pontiac. When she passed away, her son Bob inherited the Grand Prix but decided after a few years that it was time to sell it. Knowing just how much she loved the car, Bob joined the POCI and began his search for a new owner for her Grand Prix. Both he and the Grand Prix got very lucky when a certain Pontiac fan from Ohio called Bob for more information. Enter Pontiac Joe ...
Pontiac Joe Semanik, of Parma, Ohio, is a true fan of the marque -- after all, you don’t get a nickname like that by bouncing around between Fords and Chevys. His first-year ’62 Grand Prix is an exceptionally well-preserved original, a testament to its three owners.
Back in 2003, Joe was searching for a collector Pontiac, and, like any good POCI member, he started with the classified section of Smoke Signals. He was looking for something he could show and drive to North Coast Chapter events, but he wasn’t interested in doing a restoration. This Grand Prix looked like an excellent candidate. There was one problem, though -- it was in California, and he was not.
Despite his deep interest, Joe was anxious about the prospect of flying out to look at the GP. He had never been on a plane and liked to stick fairly close to home. Fortunately, his fellow North Coast members “encouraged” him to fly out there, and fellow member Larry Cholensky went with him for moral support and to provide a second opinion on the car’s condition.
Fortunately, there was no disagreement on the viability of this car as a purchase candidate. Peggy had taken extremely good care of her Pontiac in the 30-plus years she owned it, and Bob had followed in his mother’s footsteps. The GP had remained in original condition and still had its factory-applied paint, interior, powertrain, glass, and chrome. The only non-original parts on the Grand Prix were the tires, battery, fuel pump, hoses, and belts. At 41 years old and with 91,000 miles, that is a very rare occurrence.
The ’62 Grand Prixs came with a tachometer on the center console to keep an eye on engine
Like the rest of the car, the interior is 100-percent original owing to the care its two o
The standard 303-horse 389 four-barrel is original to the Grand Prix and has been detailed
Joe took one look under the car and realized it was an exceptionally clean and rust-free example -- it was essentially like new. He fell in love, worked out a deal, and had the Grand Prix shipped back to Parma.
Deciding that he was going to show the Grand Prix at the annual Ames Performance Tri-Power Pontiac Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, as well as at POCI Conventions, he did extensive cleaning and detailing, and was able to carefully bring back the original shine to the paint. There are a few nicks in the nose, and just enough patina to indicate this is an original car and isn’t restored.
In order to get the Grand Prix correct under the hood, he replaced the non-original pieces with NOS hoses, clamps, belts, fuel pump, battery, and other items. He credits his good friend Jerry Steinbrick with helping him locate these now-scarce parts. Joe then renewed the correct factory finishes under the hood and repainted the engine in the correct light blue.
Then, in tribute to the original owner, Joe had the name “Peggy” painted on the tail panel. Her name is now the Grand Prix’s name and Joe always refers to his car by it. He still keeps in touch with Bob Currall and hopes to have him out to a Pontiac event in the near future.
The ribbed applique on the tailpanel mimicked the grille mesh and emblem. Joe shows the Gr
Joe’s efforts have rewarded him with a nearly new ’62 Grand Prix that has won Second Place at the 2012 Pontiac Nationals. Not only that, it has appeared on the cover of Smoke Signals, was used on the 2012 POCI promotional material and in a J.C. Taylor insurance ad, and has been featured on the Pontiac Nationals website.
There is still more to come -- Peggy recently became the subject of a 1⁄25-scale resin-cast model kit by Missing Link Resin Cast. A release date hasn’t been announced yet but it should be before the end of the year.
Pontiac Joe is very satisfied with the outcome of his preservation efforts on his Grand Prix and has no plans to ever sell her. There is little doubt that his California Girl will spend the next 50-plus years in the same shape she is in now!
In addition to Jerry Steinbrick and Larry Cholensky, Joe also thanks Jim and Jack Pinchot; Tim Carls; General Bob Dusek; the crew at Axelrod Buick-GMC, where Joe works; and God for making it all possible.