Vehicle Profile: 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix

1969 Pontiac Grand Prix

The 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix was a totally re-designed version based on the new mid-sized 118-inch wheelbase (some 3 inches shorter than the 1968 model and exclusive only to the Grand Prix for 1969) “G” body platform from General Motors. John DeLorean, then general manager for GM’s Pontiac Division (who would later become infamous for other reasons), instructed his designers and engineers to build a fresh new vehicle for the 1969 model year release. They started development in April of 1967 and ended up with what many believe to be a perfect combination of great looks, high-performance and good handling (for a car of its size), all wrapped up in a luxurious package.

The new Grand Prix would only be offered in a 2-door, semi-fastback, hardtop coupe (no convertible) and would have the longest hood (approximately 6 feet long) to appear on a Pontiac to date. The hood had a large, pointed “beak” at the front and finished off the protruding, “V” shaped grille which split the dual, same-sized, side-by-side, square trimmed, round headlamps. In fact, Pontiac claimed, in its sales brochures, its new Grand Prix had the “longest hood in the industry”. The taillights were two long, horizontal, rectangular units, set into the chrome rear bumper.

By massaging the current “A” body platform to create the new “G” body, they shaved off critical development time and major costs for most of the expense on the chassis, but the body and interior was entirely brand new. New and stylish, exterior “lift-to-open” door handles replaced the old, standard grab handle with push-button door handles. The base price for a new 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix started out at around $3,866 and went to over $6,000 fully optioned.

Of the nearly 112,500 Pontiac Grand Prixs built for 1969, the bulk of them, almost 99 percent, were ordered with the 3-speed, Turbo-Hydramatic, automatic transmission (a $227 option). The heavy-duty 3-speed manual transmission came standard (only approximately 338 were produced) and the optional 4-speed, wide or close ratio, manual transmission was only a $185 option (approximately 676 were produced), after all, this was mostly a luxury/performance vehicle, so why would you want to waste effort on all that shifting of gears?

Only two engine sizes and four powertrain choices were available for the 1969 Grand Prix. The base 400-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor, producing approx. 265 hp, the optional 400-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, producing approximately 350 hp, the optional 428-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, producing approx. 370 hp and the optional big, bad, “high-output” 428-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, producing approximately 390 hp.

The Grand Prix “J” models were considered the base models and the “SJ” models were the top-of-the-line only using the 428-cid power plants. The “J” and “SJ” model designations were rumored to have been borrowed, by DeLorean, from Duesenbergs of the past, as well as, the long hood and short rear deck areas. However, the “S” did not stand for Supercharger as it had with Duesenberg.  The “SJ” (identified by the special badging located on each front fender) also came standard with high-performance suspension components and rear axle, 8.25×14 inch wide-oval, low-profile tires on “Rallye II” styled rims, dual-exhaust, automatic leveling-control with dual-stage, vacuum activated compressor, power-brakes with front disc/rear drum, chromed valve covers, air cleaner and oil filler cap. Other options were air-conditioning and power steering of course.

On the interior of the, new for ’69 Pontiac Grand Prix, you were surrounded by an aircraft, cockpit-style cluster of “Rallye” style gauges. Once in the drivers or “Command” seat, you were enveloped with all sorts of switches and controls, conveniently located within easy reach. The “Strato-Style” bucket seats were comfortably wrapped in fully expanded “Morrokide” vinyl, fine leather upholstery or vinyl/fabric combinations with “Morrokide” were options. Also an option, at no extra charge, was a split-bench seat with center armrest. A vinyl “Carpathian Elm” burlwood appliqué was used on the dashboard keeping with the luxury “look and feel.”  All cars had a floor console, slanted towards the driver, which also contained the shifter, ashtray and a storage compartment. An integral “anti-theft” steering/ignition lock was now used on the tilt-wheel column and “pulse-action” intermittent dual-speed windshield wipers with the arms/blades “hidden” from sight (which they promoted as an industry first, which is arguable) by the back edge of that extra-long hood. Another “first” was the nearly-invisible, “hidden” antenna, which was embedded in the center of the front windshield (which frustrated owners due to poor radio reception), power windows were optional, as was a sporty, hood-mounted tachometer. A vinyl “Cordova” style roof was an available option as well as an embedded wire, electrical rear window defroster.

This Poncho “gunboat” of a luxury/performance car was no slouch, just because it weighed in at about 3,900 pounds, it handled well even in corners and best of all . . . it would still go from 0 to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds or run the 1/4 mile in about 14.1 seconds at around 97 mph. (Estimated with the 390 hp, 428-cid V8). “Car Life Magazine” actually awarded the new for 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix the prestigious “Engineering Excellence Award”.  The new Grand Prix also helped Pontiac hold onto third place in the industry for model-year production, which it had held since 1962.

Find a classic Pontiac Grand Prix that you love!

Touring Mexico in a Classic VW Beetle

Photo: Jorge

A travel operator is offering people the chance to see Mexico from the unique perspective of a classic VW Beetle.

While the Beetle was first built in the late 1930s, it was actually still in production in its vintage form until 2003 at factories in Mexico, which is why you can still sometimes find classic cars of this kind that are in pristine condition.

The tour operator’s Travelling Beetle service allows you to explore many different areas of Mexico, from the central spine of the country to the gorgeous coastlines.

At the moment, you will have to be able to handle a stick shift car in order to take part in a tour, although the operator is planning to source some automatic models for the 2013 season.

Twelve people can hire six cars for large group stints, although there are of course smaller packages for two or more people.

Spokesperson, Nicolas Caillens, said that he was aware that some people would be concerned about the safety of travelling on the roads of Mexico, but pointed out that the tour specifically avoided the small number of states in which drug-related violence is prevalent, giving tourists plenty of harmless fun behind the wheel.

Copperstate contingent returns with tales from the trails

A record 94 cars participated in the 23rd annual Copperstate 1000 vintage and sports car rally, which actually turned out to be the Copperstate 1111.1 this year with a route that included not only highways and byways in Arizona but a quick crossing of part the Mohave southeastern California and even a little slice of Nevada.

The drivers and co-drivers of each of those cars have stories to share from the route, though perhaps the most dramatic of those stories is shared by John and Peg Leshinski, and it may be a poignant tale for all of you who drive open-cockpit vintage cars.

This year, the Leshinskis did the drive in their 1952 Allard K-2, a car originally purchased by Al Unser Sr., who raced it up Pikes Peak and who later won the Indianapolis 500 four times.

Because the Allard not only has on open cockpit and only a pair of very small wind deflectors instead of windshield, John wanted Peg to be as comfortable and as protected as possible, so he decided they should wear period-correct helmets on the rally. He found a French company that makes just such helmets, and with clear and full-face wind visors.

“They looked like what Phil Hill wore,” he said in reference to the only native-born American ever to win the world Grand Prix driving championship, in 1961.

It was on the northbound stretch across the Mohave that the Leshinskis encountered a southbound semi, the cab and trailer creating so much turbulence that it sucked up the Allard’s hood, breaking the leather hood strap. The hood slammed back over the passenger compartment, smacking John and Peg in their heads, or, more accurately, in their helmets.

Peg compared the impact to be “hit by a railroad tie.”

Somehow, John got the car stopped safely, neither of them was injured, and with help from others who stopped to provide assistance, they removed what remained of the hood and continued on along the route.

It was interesting that John Leshinski brought up Phil Hill’s name, because Phil Hill’s son, Derek, was on the Copperstate this year, driving a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 owned by Chris Andrews.

Also on the rally were Michael and Katharina Leventhal and their 1953 Ferrari 340 MM Le Mans Spyder, which, it turns out, is the very same car in which Phil Hill did his first race in Europe.

On the second day of the Copperstate, the Leventhals invited Derek Hill to drive their car.

“That,” Hill said later, “was very special.”

’67 Nova SS takes top honors at Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte

Fifty car clubs from the Charlotte, North Carolina, area were invited to display cars that annual Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Henry Brock’s 1967 Chevrolet Nova SS took best-in-show honors.

The project started with Brock helping a buddy restore his car, but Brock liked the Nova so much he decided not to just help with the restoration, but to take it over.

“He brought it by my house and that’s as far as it got,” Brock said. “I made it mine instead of his” in a restoration effort that consumed five years — and two paint colors.

Brock had the car painted gold, but decided he didn’t like it, so his wife, Mary, picked the fusion orange shade.

Each of the car clubs participating in the Food Lion AutoFair was judged individually, with a Best of Show picked for each club.

Barrett-Jackson’s $21+ million boosts Florida season total

Barrett-Jackson closed out the Florida portion of the 2013 classic and collectible car auction season with the sale of more than $21-million at its 11th annual Palm Beach event.

Add that total to $120 million generated by auctions earlier this year and the season’s total for Sunshine State tallies more than $151 million.

Now, add that to the $200 million generated in January in Arizona, and to the totals generated elsewhere around the country already this year — including the Mecum sale at Houston (see below) — and the 2013 sales season is off to a very good start.

“We kicked off the year strong in Scottsdale and are thrilled that our 11th year at Palm Beach has kept that momentum going,” said Craig Jackson. “We were able to offer a unique lineup of rare, high-end automobiles that helped to bring out an enthusiastic crowd and we are proud to see that the collector car hobby is going strong. We’re very pleased with the event’s overall results.”

The auction attracted 55,000 people despite severe thunderstorms. To make the event auction more attractive to new collectors, Barrett-Jackson staged an “introductory auction” featuring what figured to be more affordable classics on the Thursday of the auction weekend.

The high-dollar sale of the weekend was $1 million for the first 2014 Chevrolet corvette Stingray convertible. The first new C7 Corvette coupe was offered for sale at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale event. Both cars sold for charity, with the convertible’s sale benefiting the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Some $1.8 million was generated for charities at the auction, with a 2009 Ford F-150 King Ranch Super Crew pickup truck formerly owned by President George W. Bush brining $350,000 for the National Guard Youth Foundation.

Other top sales included $330,000 for a 1968 Shelby GT500 Ford Mustang convertible, $275,000 for a 1970 Oldsmobile 442 convertible and $258,500 for a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle LS6 convertible.

A tiny Texas town hopes to reclaim fame by celebrating classic cars

For much of its length, the Red River separates Texas and Oklahoma. Nocona is a Texas town just south of the river, and in its heyday was known for producing cowboy boots and baseball gloves.

Native son Pete Horton is working to revive the town’s acclaim, and is doing it with classic cars.

Horton, a veteran of the oil and wire line service industry, has restored several buildings in town — including old Ford and Chevrolet dealerships — and has filled a couple of them with his 120-vehicle (and growing) car collection.

During the weekend of April 19-20, Nocona, population around 3,000, will celebrate not only Horton’s classics but hundreds of others as well with Cruisin’ Nocona. Events include a Classic Car Poker Run and a 200-lot Vicara Classic & Muscle Car auction.

Featured vehicles at the auction will include a 1964 Pontiac GTO “Tri-Power” convertible, a pair of Chevrolet Corvettes — a ’62 “Big Brake” coupe and a ’63 split window Z06 — that have been stored since the 1980s, and several golf karts designed to mimic classic cars, including a ’34 Ford, ’57 Chevy, ’57 Thunderbird and even a Ford F-250 pickup truck. For details, visit www.vicariauction.com.

Vehicle Profile: 1932 Ford 5-Window Coupe

1932 Ford 5 window Coupe

The 1932 Ford Coupe (more commonly known as the “Deuce Coupe”) is the epitome of the true, original American Hot Rod. The 1932 Ford Coupe is one of several 2-door models, of the new Model B series from Ford.  The car that started it all was born at the end of the Ford Model A run. It was a one-year model that transitioned the Model A series into the upgraded 1934 Ford model lineup (the 1934 and 1935 B models were significantly changed from the stand-alone 1932’s).

As our boys returned home from the theatre of WWII in the early 1940s, they found an outlet in hot rodding old cars (if you consider a 1932 “old” in the 40s).  They were expressing themselves with new energy, restlessness and maybe a bit of rebellion. The older cars to hot rod were readily available in large numbers and the 1932s were even more desirable than Model As, or even Model Ts, due to their more powerful Flathead V8 drivetrains (the Flathead V8s were actually marketed as the Model 18, in their day).

The 1932 Fords were produced in many variations of both 2 and 4-door models but the 2-door models seemed to make the best Hot Rods and Street Rods. There were also many different styles in which to modify these cars, like the Highboy, Lowboy, Lake, Bobbed, Gasser and Rat Rod, just to name a few. Each one became an individual expression of the owner’s (or creator’s) idea of what he thought a Hot Rod or Street Rod was meant to be.

There was a lot of part, component and drivetrain swapping going on and some people got very creative with fabrications.  Many businesses sprang up as a result of these early pioneers, builders and dreamers, and still exist to this day in what has become known as the enormous automotive aftermarket. In fact, many of the innovations born from the Hot Rodding and Street Rodding world, have been adopted by and installed on production vehicles from all the major automobile manufacturers in the world.  If it wasn’t for the early pioneers of the Hot Rodding and Street Rodding cultures, I doubt we would have all the beloved and prized muscle cars running around out there.

Auctions America does $17.5 million at Fort Lauderdale

Auctions America by RM opened its 2013 calendar with a sale at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that generated more than $17.5 million in transactions. The sell-through rate was 74 percent.

The high sale was $880,000 for a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL gullwing coupe. A 1963 Shelby Cobra went for $553,500, a 400-mile 2012 Lexus LFA brought $319,000, a 1932 Lincoln KB duel-cowl sport phaeton sold for $275,000 and a 1931 Cadillac V12 dual cowl sport phaeton brought $203,500.

Another highlight was the sale — for $88,000 — of a 1951 Chevrolet Styleline DeLuxe convertible formerly owned by Steve McQueen.

For further information on upcoming events, along with full results from the 2013 Fort Lauderdale collector car auction, visit auctionsamerica.com.

Classic car owners help Hagerty teach young driver to shift gears

Scottsdale, Arizona – resident Jim Bauder admitted “a lot” of hesitation about turning over the driver’s seat in his immaculate 1958 Triumph TR250 to someone who never before had manipulated a manual transmission. But, Bauder said, “I taught my three children to drive a stick and had only one failure” — when his daughter burned up the clutch. Undaunted, Bauder fixed the car and his daughter tried again, and became so skilled at coordinating clutch pedal and shifter that she not only moved to San Francisco, but bought and drove a stick-shifted Honda Civic.

We share Bauder’s experience, and that of other Phoenix-area classic car owners who offered up their manually shifted cars — including a 1958 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spyder Veloce, a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and a 1960 Ford Galaxie — when Hagery Insurance called for cars and car owners to participate in the Hagerty Driving Experience, which the company says is “a rare opportunity to receive hands-on instruction on how to drive some of the most unique and iconic classic cars on the road.”

The program starts with classroom instruction and then moves outside for a lesson on routine vehicle maintenance — including checking air pressure and fluid levels — before anyone turns a wheel.

Hagerty launched the program to celebrate the inaugural Classic Car Appreciation Day in 2011. Hagerty makes arrangements to block off a section of private pavement — here in the Phoenix area, it was the driveways in front of the Scottsdale Automobile Museum. Hagerty staff provide classroom instruction and lunch.

In addition to clientele’s privately owned classics, the program has become supported by the Ford Motor Co., which provides some brand new cars for the youngsters to drive as well. Driving starts with the car owner or instructor at the wheel. After a couple of laps, instructor and student swap seats.

Yes, the students often chug the cars to a stall. But the car owners are impressively patient.

“He helped me a lot and was very supportive,” 17-year-old Paul Heinrich said after repeatedly stalling out Mark Esbenshade’s ’58 Alfa.

For his part, Esbenshade brushed off any strain on his car’s components. “Hey, somebody taught me to drive stick” he said.

Students and their parents offered various reasons for seeking such instruction, though only a few had manually shifted cars at home.

Dorrie Sibley said she brought her 16-year-old son, Breslin, because someday he might be out with friends who’ve been drinking and regardless of the vehicle they’re in, she wants her son to be ready to step in as designated driver and get everyone home safe and sound.

Hagerty has several more such sessions planned this year: April 13 at Houston, June 7 at Denver, July 12 in Orange County, Calif., Aug. 2 at Toronto and Sept. 21 at Las Vegas. If you get a call about offering up your car, please don’t hesitate to respond in the affirmative.