1973 Pontiac Grand Am. Brochures from author’s collection.
I’ll admit up front that I’ve always preferred vintage two-door performance cars to those with four-doors. That said, it doesn’t mean that I’d never own a four-door version, but it begs the question which one?
In my case, I think my first choice would be a 1973 or 1974 Pontiac Grand Am. Odd pick you say? Well hear me out. I’m aware of the fact that some of the most powerful engines the 1960s and early 1970s had to offer could be optioned into four-door models from various automakers. And the HD drivetrains and HD suspensions to support them were also available. However, these hot four-door versions were rarely discernable from lesser engine examples of the same models except for possibly an engine displacement callout emblem or decal.
1974 Pontiac Grand Am.
The European-inspired Grand Am of 1973-to-1975 was based on the Colonnade A-body and designed as a luxo/performer right out of the gate in two-door 112-inch wheelbase and four-door 116-inch wheelbase configurations. It had style to spare from its pliable color-keyed protective beak to its sculpted sides, large-glass-area roof, and pinched tail.
It was available with an optional 455 four-barrel engine, a 400 four-barrel engine, or the standard 400 two-barrel engine. (The SD-455 was listed as an option for 1973, but it was cancelled and none were sold to the public.) Though they may have no longer been the screamers of a few years before, the four-barrel engines were still capable…while gulping less-expensive regular fuel. A Turbo-400 was standard and a four-speed was optional with certain engine restrictions, but was dropped for 1975.
Inside was both sporty and elegant with the Grand Prix instrument panel, gauges and clock, a thick –rimmed three-spoke steering wheel, bucket seats with adjustable seatback rake and lumbar support, and a console. Already cool features in a two-door, these attributes were that much more so in a four-door. Though common in cars later on, the headlamp dimmer switch was moved to the turn signal stalk.
The suspension was tuned with handling and touring in mind featuring specially selected coil springs and bushings and front and rear sway bars to augment the characteristics of the standard 15-inch steel-belted radial tires.
As had been a Pontiac tradition, there was a comprehensive list of optional equipment offered as well. Thus buyers could personalize their Pontiacs to their tastes.
Though I certainly wouldn’t turn down a 1975 Grand Am, for the purpose of this “what if” article, I’d stick with the ’73 or ’74 because both featured true dual exhaust. For 1975, the catalytic converter-equipped single exhaust system and further engine detuning adversely affected power output.
Four-door versions are rarer than the two-doors for all three of the production years mentioned, so seeing another on the road or parked next to mine at a cruise night isn’t likely, which just adds to its exclusivity.
The Grand Am name returned a few years later on a mid-sized Pontiac and then appeared again on a front-wheel-drive platform that was produced for many years, but my favorites are those of the first generation. If I were to purchase a vintage four-door car with luxury/performance intentions, it would be a ’73 or 74 Grand Am.
Since many of you likely have a different personal choice in mind regarding a four-door performance car for your enjoyment, here’s your opportunity to tell us what you would choose instead.