One Owner: 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix LJ – Norm Mort – NORTH AMERICAN MOTORS
Archie and Katherine Haig, who dwell in southeastern Ontario, have owned their stylish 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix LJ two-door hardtop since day one. Archie ordered the luxury cruiser from the GM dealership where he was apprenticing as a mechanic those 45-years ago. Yet, not only was the big Pontiac purchased new, Archie even has images of the Grand Prix’s delivery, sitting on the car carrier at Davidson Pontiac/Buick dealer in Trenton, back in 1976. In its day, the LJ luxury package was a $365 US option that included velour cloth seats and a matching Cordova vinyl top.
Whereas, a large number of Chevy Monte Carlo models have survived, the Pontiac versions are seldom seen today.
The outstanding original condition of this pristine Pontiac is due to key facts. The Haig’s 1976 Grand Prix has only 56,506 original miles on its clock and it has rarely seen a day of rain and never winter driven since new.
The two-door hardtop was repainted once in its original black finish because the original factory finish was rather thin and deteriorated to the point a resprayed was required back around 1990. Archie made sure all the chrome and trim were removed for painting and decided on a slightly new look, half vinyl top was added rather than the factory installed original full vinyl top and gold pinstriping was applied too, for added pizzazz and personalization. Since then, the paint finish shows only minimal imperfections along with the rather all too common cracking on painted black plastic behind bumpers. Despite these minor annoyances, overall the paint remains in very good to excellent “showroom” condition over twenty-five years later.
While the look of the engine and engine compartment are not Concours, for an all original, factory detailed motor, it suffers from only a little surface rust and some worn paint. The engine compartment itself exhibits the same minor maladies, yet even the hood insulation bear’s minimal wear. And, that very original and reliable 180 hp 400ci (6.6L) V8, has required only one new fan belt and a heat duct only.
Meanwhile out back, the Grand Prix’s trunk still sports its’ like new original black boards and black factory nylon carpeting and spare tire cover. Underneath, the original chassis and floors look solid thanks to a well oil sprayed surface over the years. The body panels show absolutely no signs of rust or rot, dings or dents, thanks to careful parking and the fact the Pontiac has been garaged since new.
The all original tinted glass, with its then novel aerial in front windscreen, shows no evidence of wear. Not surprisingly the chrome is all original. The grille, bumpers, front and rear head and taillight bezels, door handles, medallions and script, along with the sweeping side stainless trim, remain in very good condition with an excellent shine.
One item that is not factory original, yet is original is Archie’s Pontiac, is his choice of wheels. Before the Grand Prix was even officially delivered, Archie changed the standard factory steel wheels for a set of aftermarket Cragar SS chrome wheels with spinner caps. He had decided on that look right from the time he had ordered his Pontiac.
Mechanically, the Grand Prix LJ has been an easy car to maintain, but then Archie was a former Pontiac dealer mechanic and checks it at least annually from front to back. The Pontiac still has its original single steel exhaust.
Velour during the seventies and into the 1980s was the material of choice for interiors and although it may not be popular today, it always looked rich and wore well. The Pontiac’s original maroon velour front driver’s bucket seat shows minimal wear, only on the red vinyl side piping, yet overall continues to look inviting and comfortable. The passenger bucket seat and rear bench seat remain like new.
The original maroon vinyl moulded dashcap and facia, faux woodgrain inserts, controls, grab handle, etc., are still in superb condition and all instruments continue to be in excellent working order along with the original pushbutton AM radio. The maroon and black console, shift and shiftgate trim were like new, as was the original factory plastic steering wheel and the factory fitted red carpet.
After all these years the Pontiac has become a member of the family. Archie and Katherine Haig’s like new, sporty, performance touring 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix LJ 2-door hardtop, is a remarkable survivor and they look forward to enjoying the cruises and shows this summer as things get back to normal.