During the early '70s, the Firebird Trans Am was Pontiac's performance flagship, and it excelled in every measurable category except room-iness. Sensing a need for an intermediate-sized vehicle with Trans Am-like performance, and the personal-luxury cues of the Grand Prix, Pontiac developed a new model based on the division's redesigned A-body platform for 1973-the "Grand Am."
The Grand Am was introduced...
The Grand Am was introduced in 1973, and included myriad performance features aimed at creating the ultimate road car. A 400ci engine, power steering and brakes were standard features, as was Radial Tuned Suspension-a suspension package boasting of radial tires, 1.125-inch front- and 0.813-inch rear-sway bars, and specific coil springs and shock absorbers.
Heralded as Pontiac's all-American road car, the Grand Am was available as a coupe or sedan, and boasted a long list of standard features including a 400ci engine, instrumentation to monitor the engine's vitals, articulating bucket seats with center console, and Radial Tuned Suspension. It also contained a wildly styled, yet appealing, flexible nose that doubled as a front bumper, which was totally compliant with that year's new federal 5 mph crash standards.
The Grand Am's combination of striking beauty and hardcore performance immediately caught the eye of then-teenaged Lakeland, Tennessee, resident David Johnson. "The Grand Am was totally different than anything before. The sloped nose, louvered quarter windows, and angled dash panel gave it a real performance car look, and I dreamed of owning one someday," recalls the now 53-year-old Lucite Corporation control room operator.
As enamored with the new Grand Am as David was, it wasn't something a teenager could afford, and, like most of America's youth at that time, he was eventually smitten by the Firebird Trans Am's ultimate performance image. "I planned on buying a Grand Am when I could afford one, but my friend had a Trans Am, and once I drove it, I instantly got sports-car fever. It was fast, good-looking, and handled great," he recollects
Over the course of the next several months, David dreamt of owning a fire-breathing Firebird, and it wasn't long thereafter that he was ready to purchase one. "I got a good paying job when I was 21 and decided to replace my '72 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a new Trans Am. I went straight to Sid Carroll Pontiac in Memphis, spoke with family-friend, Pete Gay, and ordered a Stellar Blue '75 Trans Am with a 400 and automatic transmission."
David anxiously awaited his Trans Am's arrival, and began arranging his finances in anticipation of it. "I found after I ordered the car, that the Trans Am's insurance premium was nearly double that of my Olds. There wasn't any way I could afford it," he admits. "I explained the situation to Pete, and fortunately, he was very good about it. He refunded my $100 deposit, and said to come visit him when I was in the market for another new Pontiac."
Disappointed, David began looking at other new vehicles that might be cheaper to insure. "My dad was selling tractors for Memphis Ford Tractors at the time, and he tried to get me into a Ford Elite through his connection at Dobbs Ford in Memphis. The dealership made me a great offer, but the ride was too soft, and the handling was in an old man's league. It just wasn't for me," he says.
That same dealership had a Sterling Silver '75 Grand Am on the lot, and it immediately rekindled David's interest in the Pontiac model. "I took it for a test drive, and found its road feel was like no other vehicle I'd driven-it was everything the Pontiac brochures claimed it to be. Once I found the Grand Am's insurance premium was the same as my Olds', I knew right then, that it was the car for me."
A Grand Decision
Holding true to his end of the bargain when canceling his Trans Am at Sid Carroll Pontiac, David went back to Pete and ordered a Grand Am. "I really like black," David says emphatically, "so I ordered a Starlight Black coupe. It was accented with colorful vinyl stripes, and I added a black Landau top, burgundy cloth interior, and Rally II wheels with white-lettered tires. I wanted a 455 for added performance, but the country was in the midst of a gas crunch, so I chose the 400 because it was more economical. We agreed upon a sale price of $6,500.
"I took delivery of the car on May 14, 1975, and I couldn't have been happier. It was absolutely beautiful," he recalls. "I was just dating my wife, Lisa, at the time, and used to pick her up in it. A year later, we took it on our honeymoon." For the next several years, the Grand Am was the young family's primary mode of transportation, and it required only routine maintenance in its tenure as a driver. In the spring of 1989, with 132,000 miles on its odometer, David retired the Grand Am from daily service, and its restoration began.
Owner David Johnson replaced...
Owner David Johnson replaced the original Endura nose with an N.O.S. unit during the restoration, but it, too, started cracking within a few years. He ultimately replaced it with a fiberglass reproduction from Indesign in San Jose, California, about six years ago. "It required a bit of fitting, but I think it turned out pretty well," he says.
While the vertical taillight...
While the vertical taillight treatment was introduced in '74, the body-colored rear bumper was new for '75. Louvered rear quarter windows were standard on Grand Am coupes, while a formal rear window (AB8) was a no-cost option. The CB1 Landau top added $99 to the price tag.
The Grand Prix and Grand Am...
The Grand Prix and Grand Am shared a dash panel that wrapped around the driver in true cockpit fashion, while an African Crossfire Mahogany appliqu added a touch of class. The Custom Sport steering wheel and electric gauges were standard Grand Am features. Other options include N33 Tilt Wheel, CD4 Controlled Cycle Wipers, and C60 Custom Air Conditioning.