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This or That – Season 2: 1970 Chevy Monte Carlo SS454 or 1972 Pontiac GP Hurst SSJ?

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1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 454 (top); 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix Hurst SSJ. Images by the author.

Editor’s note: This or That is not a comparison report between two vehicles, but rather a feature that enables us, in an idyllic world, to add a collectible vehicle into our dream garage on a weekly basis, but with a catch: We can only pick one vehicle from this pairing, and it has to be for enjoyment purposes rather than as an investment.

We’ll launch Season 2 of This or That with a pair of high-powered personal luxury cars: a 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 454 versus a 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix Hurst SSJ. Both of these hot performers were former features in our Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine. Unlike last season, we’ll get right to each car’s DNA after a very brief introduction.

When Chevrolet finally jumped into the personal luxury car market, it did so with its new-for-1970 Monte Carlo. Based on the Chevelle, engineers and stylists massaged the platform into larger, more comfortable proportions that rivaled Ford’s Thunderbird, all while providing an array of power and comfort options to complement the coupe’s design and handling. One such option was the SS 454 package that added $420.25 to the car’s $3,123 base sticker price. That hard-earned cash supplied a 360-hp version of the Mark IV big-block, along with a Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 transmission that was linked to a Positraction differential containing a 3.31:1 gear set. In addition, the package mandated the installation of the F41 suspension (heavy-duty shocks and springs, additional frame stiffeners, boxed lower rear control arms, larger 1.125-inch diameter front and 0.88-inch rear anti-roll bars), dual exhaust system, 15 x 7-inch Rally wheels fitted with G70-15 tires, the G67 Automatic Level Control System with Superlift rear shocks, and rather discrete “SS454” emblems within the rocker panel moulding extensions on each front fender. With an overall length of 205.8 inches riding atop a 116-inch wheelbase chassis, the Monte Carlo tipped the scales at a little over 3,560 pounds without options; however, the 500 lb-ft of torque from the V-8 was enough to scoot the car down the quarter-mile in 14.90 seconds @ 92 mph (a 0-60 mph trap speed was achieved in 7.0 seconds) per Motor Trend’s November 1969 road test. Monte Carlo SS 454 production culminated with 3,823 units for 1970.

Meanwhile, Pontiac had nearly a decade of experience in the personal luxury car market with its Grand Prix. Having been introduced in 1962, the Grand Prix’s evolution brought its critical dimensions to a 118-inch wheelbase by ’72, with an overall length of 213.6 inches and a weight of 3,898 pounds. Though long synonymous with grace, power, and styling, George Hurst and his Hurst Performance Research Corporation worked with Pontiac to produce a special version of the model, named the SSJ, which first became available in 1970. For ’72, the Hurst SSJ was offered with either the standard 250 (net) horsepower engine that provided 325 lb-ft of torque, or the optional V-8 that, interestingly, was also rated for 250 hp, but more torque at 370 lb-ft. Both engines would have been backed by a Turbo Hydra-Matic 400. Torque was then transferred through Pontiac’s 10-bolt differential–containing a standard 3.07:1 or optional 3.31:1 gear set–when the engine was installed; or a C-type 12-bolt (with an 8.875-inch ring gear) in conjunction with the 455 engine. Safe-T-Track was available with either scenario. Part of the $1,147.25 package also consisted of–but was not limited to–14 x 7-inch Rally II or Honeycomb wheels painted Fire Frost gold and shod with white-stripe G78-14 tires; Hurst Fire Frost Gold metallic accents added to the hood, roof, doors, and decklid, outlined with hand-painted pinstripes; an electrically operated sunroof; black-or-white landau-style half-top; and die-cast SSJ emblems affixed to the front fenders, decklid, and console. Although several options were available, the most notable was the heavy-duty suspension that, aside from beefier springs, increased the anti-roll bar diameter, as well as the aluminum American Racing wheels finished with gold centers; GR60 x 15 BFG T/A Radials; Hurst’s Auto/Stick shifter could be specified for bench-seat SSJs; and a Hurst Digital Performance Computer that calculated ET and mpg. Total production of 1972 Hurst SSJ Grand Prixs vary–anywhere from 52 to 60 based on prior published reports; however, based on research, Jim Mattison (of PHS Automotive Services) indicated that figure could be as high as 200. No matter the number, it does not include possible dealer-converted SSJs not built by Hurst. Though we couldn’t immediately find a copy of contemporary road test results of a Hurst SSJ, Motor Trend did test a 370-hp, 455-equipped 1970 Grand Prix. Published in the November 1969 issue, the car was driven down the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds @ 88 mph (with a 0-60 mph trap time of 7.8 seconds).

Armed with this big-block powered, personal luxury car knowledge, which of the two would you add to your stable and why?