How many of us lament the fact that we didn’t have the forethought to squirrel away our favorite Pontiac back in the day to preserve and enjoy it for years to come? Well, Mike Clay of Keyport, New Jersey, doesn’t have that regret. He purchased this ’73 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ brand new, and when he became a car salesman and was given a demo to drive, he decided to retire his GP from regular road duty just eight months after he purchased it.
Living the “life of Riley” as a weekend fun machine has resulted in the Starlight Black SJ accumulating just 15,400 miles since its purchase, and inside storage has preserved its original paint, interior, suspension, and drivetrain. In fact, Mike says that except for the tires and an underhood cosmetic restoration, the GP remains as it was delivered to him in 1973.
“In 1972, I got the itch to buy something that was sporty and had a luxury feel to it,” Mike remembers. “I looked at T-Birds, Rivieras, and Monte Carlos. In the end, I found some to be too big, and others not flashy enough or quick enough. Then I checked out the Grand Prix SJ. I was taken with the fact that it had a 455 engine, which I knew was fast. It had style and luxury, and I liked that it had bucket seats.”
Mike says he knew the Super-Duty 455 engine was optional and he probably would have specified it, but it wasn’t available when he ordered the car, and as we know, ultimately, it wasn’t installed in a GP.
Downes Pontiac in Matawan, New Jersey, had a GP prominently displayed in the showroom. “I immediately fell in love with it and placed an order in October 1972,” Mike says. The order was for an SJ with the striking color combo of Starlight Black with white interior and a host of options (see the window sticker).
Mike’s hope of taking delivery of his new GP within a few weeks were dashed when he learned that he would be placed on a three-month waiting list, which was later extended to five months, resulting in delivery in March 1973. “Actually, I was kind of relieved since the car didn’t experience the harsh winter months,” he says.
Custom finned wheel covers were part of the SJ package. The original Uniroyal Radial GR70-
Under the hood, the 8:1 compression 455 pumps out 250 hp and features a Q-jet on an iron intake with EGR, 4X heads with 2.11/1.66 valves, and an 067 cam with 273/289 degrees duration and 0.410/0.414 lift. The bottom end consists of a two-bolt-main block and cast crank, rods, and pistons.
Spark is delivered by the rare Unitized Ignition system, also part of the SJ package, which was a forbearer to HEI. The exhaust is full duals fed by log-type manifolds. The Turbo 400 was the only trans offered, and it sends torque to a 3.08-geared rear.
The braking system consists of 11-inch front discs and 9.5-inch drums in the rear. The SJ package includes GR70-15 radial tires, and adds computer-designed springs, bushings, Pliacell shocks, and a 0.812-inch rear swaybar (to augment the 1.125-inch front bar) to exploit their ride and handling qualities.
The 250-horse 455’s engine bay is quite clean. About seven years ago Mike had the front cl
Mike relates, “Approximately five years ago I was searching for an original Unitized distr
According to the owner, the Starlight Black paint on his ’73 Grand Prix SJ is original.
Pontiac used African Crossfire Mahogany on the GP dash, console, and door panel inlays for
“I loved the way it drove, the way it looked, and the way it handled,” Mike remembers. “I was completely satisfied with my choice. My mother named it ‘Mike’s Black Beauty.’ In the first six months, I put approximately 5,000-7,000 miles on my GP.”
In October 1973, the first OPEC oil embargo hit and fuel prices soared. It was a bad time for drivers, especially for those who owned cars with large-displacement V-8 engines. Luckily for Mike, “I became a car salesman in October of 1973 and received a demo to drive. It was no longer necessary for me to put miles on my new Pontiac, so I began to garage it and only took it out for special occasions.”
One such event was his wedding in 1976. “It was special to drive through my neighborhood in it on my wedding day. It was a big decision to pick someone that I trusted to drive the car. Alan was one of the first friends I had made when I moved into a new neighborhood back in 1962. He and a group of us guys would drive in Long Beach Island every weekend to go surfing, so I knew I could trust him and he would treat my GP like I would.”
Except for some discoloration on the driver-side seatback, the white Morrokide interior ha
Mike has enjoyed his Grand Prix on the open road from time to time for 39 years and shows no sign of tiring of his prized Pontiac. Of the 153,899 Grand Prixs made for 1973, just 20,749 were SJs. Thanks to his meticulous care, it has won the People’s Choice Award at a car show in Matawan and First Place in its class at the 2010 Pontiac Day at Englishtown. It remains an excellent example of the breed.
Here’s the original key case that came with the GP.
Note the 1982 inspection sticker. Mike registered the GP as a historical vehicle, which ex
Mike did not skimp on the options.