The Pontiac Grand Prix Part One: 1962

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix front view left image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix closeup front view left, click to enlarge

Grand Prix racing in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was an exciting time in motor racing. Drivers of these cars were dare devils, often braving crashes and other life threatening situations. The races were always exciting to watch no matter the outcome and it was a period in motor racing that carved the future of cars today. Pontiac was looking for a new direction to take for their car line wanting to add excitement of Grand Prix racing to their line of cars.

In 1961 Pontiac Engineers John De Lorean and Semon “ Bunkie “ Knudson dreamed up a new model for the 1962 model year. The Grand Prix was born of the thought of adding performance and style in a large 2 door car to cater to the increasing performance car market segment of the day. For the first 7 years the Grand Prix platform was based and really was a Catalina with different trim and grille treatments. Using the Grand Prix name was a brilliant stroke of genius, as the very name conjured up racing to mind bringing that level of excitement to the very idea of the car.

For 1962 this platform meant a 120 inch wheelbase, 211.6 inch overall length but differing from the Catalina, the overall height was 54.5 inches as opposed to 55.9 inches in the Catalina. This minor height difference gave the Grand Prix a lower sleeker look. The car was a big car, but not the biggest of the line; that was reserved to the Star Chief and Bonneville cars at 218.6 inches long.

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix left side image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix left side, click to enlarge

What the new Grand Prix did take from the Bonneville cars was the was trim levels. The exterior of the car had less chrome pieces on the side of the cars, and a finer detail grille up front. The rear of the car was treated to a distinctive valance above the bumper rear on the trunk that the Catalina didn’t have. The tail lights are the same as the Catalina.

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix dash 1 image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix dash, a dash so big it takes two pictures to take it all in, click to enlarge

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix dash 2 image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix dash, a dash so big it takes two pictures to take it all in, click to enlarge

The interiors were more sports car styled with Morrokide vinyl bucket seats complete with console shifter. The rear bench seat featured a fold down center armrest as well as speaker grille cover. Ordering the upgraded radio system could make this speaker functional. The dash board featured lots of chrome trim , brushed tin and painted surfaces. A padded dash was standard. Gauges were minimal, the odometer dominating the dash. Water temperature and fuel were the main in dash gauges. The console came with a tachometer or a vacuum gauge could be ordered in its place depending on order preference. A small clock was over to the left side for the passenger.

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix interior image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix interior, click to enlarge

While on about the interior, there was nylon loop-blend carpeting covering the floor and lower door panels. The door panels also featured chrome trim pieces, and extra lighting group could be ordered to enhance the door and interior lighting. Power windows were common options ordered as well as air conditioning. Vent windows were usually manual operation but power versions were available as well. The overall effect of the restyled interior in the Grand Prix was giving the driver and passengers a sporty feel (even if the car was really a bit of a boat in the handling department).

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix 389 V8 Engine image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix 389 V8 Engine (this one is the 303 HP version), click to enlarge

A powerful V8 engine was standard fir in the GP. The base engine was a ‘Trophy’ 389 cid V8 making 303 HP @4600 rpm and 425 ft-lbs torque at 2800 rpm. The engine featured 4 bbl carburetor, 10.25:1 compression, and the Grand Prix’s came standard with dual exhaust systems. The real joy when you ordered the GP was you had access to all the performance engine options that Pontiac had to offer. This included 2 different tri-power carburetor engines, one making 318 BHP and the heavy duty version making 348 BHP. The heavy duty engine also was available as a 4 bbl engine and made a slightly less 348 BHP.

1962 Pontiac Super Duty 421 V8 Engine image1962 Pontiac Super Duty 421 V8 Engine, finding this engine in your collectible GP will propel the cars selling price into the high $180 thousand dollars!, click to enlarge

The fun didn’t stop there, a tame racer version of the Super Duty 421 cid V8 race engine was also available for ordering later in the 1962 model year making 320 BHP. The 421 featured a single 4 bbl carburetors and other performance goodies. If you had the money you could order the Super Duty 421, 405 BHP dual 4 bbl engine. The price of this engine wasn’t cheap adding $2,250 USD to the base Grand Prix price of $3,490 USD. The bottom line was you could build a car to suit your driving style and wishes.

Standard was a three-speed manual transmission, while optional transmissions included a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed with Hurst shifter or the three-speed Roto Hydra-matic. A performance “Safety-T-Track” locking rear differential was standard and a variety of gear ratios were paired to the engine transmission choice. The standard engine automatic transmission came with 3.08:1 gears and the manual had 3.42:1 ratio. The standard tri-power with manual transmission had 3.42:1 ger whereas the auto could come with three choices, 2.69:1, 3.08:1, or 3.23:1. The heavy duty engines all came with 3.42:1 ratio with all transmission choices. Special order ratios were 3.64:1 and 3.90:1 gears for the extra excitement.

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix right side image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix right side, click to enlarge

Chassis details included 11” drums brakes front and rear with vacuum power assist optional. Manual steering was the base for all the Pontiac’s with overall ratio of 29:1. Power steering assist equalled 22.5:1. Front suspension was coil spring control arm design with torsion bar stabilizer. The rear suspension used coil springs with angle mounted rubber pivot upper and lower control arms. Rear shock absorbers were angle mounted hydraulic type. Tires were 8 X 14 on 14X6 inch wheels were standard and air conditioning cars had 8.5 X 14 tires. Aluminum wheels were a new option, see below.

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix front image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix front view, click to enlarge

Lets talk options. Power seats, power windows, power brakes and steering, cruise control, and air conditioning headed up the list of popular options. “Separa-Phonic” rear speaker was part of what was called ‘Deluxe Basic Group’ that also included automatic signal seeking radio, back-up lamps, air foam cushion seats, and heavy duty air cleaner. A Wonderbar radio was also available. Ordering the ‘Lamp Group’ added lamps in the glove and luggage compartment the latter being a demountable extension lamp. The group also added courtesy lamps, ash tray and cigar lighter lamps. The lamp group also came with a parking brake warning light.

A new option for 1962 were aluminum wheels and brake drums that were claimed to be virtually immune to brake “fade”. “Soft-Ray” tinted glass was a popular option. Paint for the Grand Prix was “Magic Mirror” acrylic lacquer on all models. Incidentally , windshield washers were still an option on Pontiac’s so you had make sure it was checked it off when ordering.

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix rear image1962 Pontiac Grand Prix rear view, click to enlarge

This pretty much sums up Part One of our Pontiac Grand Prix series. Over the coming many, many months we will go into detail of the subsequent cars from this inaugural year of GP and ending in 1981. The Grand Prix name lived on past this year up until the demise of the Pontiac name however the newer year cars go beyond the scope of this website. See you soon. Happy Hunting!! :)

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