Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix

Brown 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix

Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to have fun while doing so. The Pontiac Grand Prix made it’s debut in 1962 as basically a re-styled Catalina. It was built as a full size, two door hardtop, than blended performance and luxury into a tasteful package. The full-size Catalina-based Grand Prix did very well through the 1960s, and is often credited with the move towards minimal exterior trim seen during this period. The Grand Prix also had a much stronger performance image than its competitors, as it was available with the full range of Pontiac Power, from the 303 HP 389, to the Tri-Carbed 389 HO producing almost 350 HP. The Grand Prix kept pace with the full size Pontiac, but it was rapidly losing sales to other personal luxury cars. The low point is the subject of this edition, with a one year only styling. Introducing the 1968 full size Pontiac Grand Prix.

Pontiac 1968 Grand Prix Sport Coupe

The Pontiac Grand Prix was restyled, as were all full size General Motors products, for the 1965 model year. They had a more rounded appearance, with a distinctive “Coke Bottle” waist, sharing the 121″ wheelbase with the Catalina, but with a distinctively formal roof line. Sales were acceptable, and the Grand Prix received minor updates for 1966. The only year you could purchase a Grand Prix Convertible was 1967, and a little over 5,800 were produced, with total production of around 43,000.

1968 Pontiac Grand Prix

The Pontiac Grand Prix was redesigned again for 1968, but it looked heavier, which further hurt sales. The Grand Prix now had a new peripheral front bumper and a massive pointed nose dividing a split, cross-hatched grille. It had hidden headlamps with the parking lights that were now exposed at the corners of the gravel pan. At the rear, large horizontal taillamps were house inside the bumper and were no longer hidden behind the grilles or slats. The rear side window lost its sharp trailing edge. Standard equipment included all GM safety features, Deluxe wheel discs, fender skirts, dual exhausts, padded bucket seats with contoured backs and armrests, center console, three speed manual transmission with floor shift and a 400 cid V8. The Strato bench seat and cloth upholstery could be substituted. Also available was a “halo style” vinyl top that unfortunately looked a bit awkward as it tended to exaggerate the lower half’s size even more than before. As for the powertrain, the two 400 cid engines were carried over, but the two 428 engines were improved. Four speed manual transmissions were limited to 428 cid engine vehicles. This would be last year that the Grand Prix would be based on the B-body. Pontiac only produced 31,711 of these 1968 models.

Red 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix

Engines availability ran from the 265 HP, 400 CID V8, to the High Output 428 producing 390HP. That little upturn in Grand Prix sales of 1967 proved to be short-lived, as 1968 sales fell almost to the disastrous 1966 level. Bill Collins, assistant chief engineer in charge of Pontiac’s body engineering group, has been quoted as saying “Our 1968 Grand Prix was a disaster,” and that “nobody bought it. It looked like a big fat turkey . . .” The hidden headlamps were retained, in combination with a rather garish full-width eggcrate grille.

1968 Pontiac Grand Prix

All of which is not to suggest that the 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix was not a fine automobile. Car and Driver, impressed by the its quiet, smooth ride, observed that “The performance and roadability of the Grand Prix is excellent. Only its size (a 121-inch wheelbase) and its weight (well over 4,000 ground-crushing pounds) would keep the Grand Prix from being a Super Car.” But time had run out for the original Grand Prix. Either something radically different was called for, or the series would have to be dropped altogether. Happily, at the urging of John Z. DeLorean, Pontiac’s former chief engineer, who in 1965 had taken over the general manager’s responsibilities, the first alternative was chosen.

1968 Pontiac Prestige -10-015

Thus, for 1969 the Grand Prix reemerged as a mid-sized car. Based on the LeMans series, it was built on an exclusive 118-inch wheelbase, and its crisp styling and smaller size helped make it the sensation of the 1969 season. Sales of this new edition leaped ahead by an astonishing 255 percent.

1968 Grand Prix from "GoodFellas"
This 1968 Grand Prix is used by Ray Liotta’s character, Henry Hill in the movie “GoodFellas”

So there you have it, a full sized, 2 door hardtop, competing with the Ford Thunderbird, Buick Riviera, Oldsmobile Toronado, and even the newly introduced Cadillac Eldorado. It’s a big car, weighing in at over 4,000 pounds, but it packs a V8 punch, and was available with a 4 speed stick (though very few were so equipped). It sports a one year only body style, that some have found questionable, but it did spawn a very successful successor with the new 1969 Grand Prix. Is this heavyweight obscure enough to include in the garage, or is it just an overweight pretender? Let me know.

[poll id=”168″]

Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

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29 responses to “Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    Wow, the '68 GP. I'd take mine with either the 8-lugs, or the 15" Rally IIs. The 15" Rally IIs are very rare, and they allow you to use the optional front disc brakes, while the 8-lugs are 14", and drums are part of the wheel (like the old 5-lug Volkswagens). The cornering lights shown on a couple of them here are the same style that were on my '68 Bonneville 4-door sedan.

  2. GTXcellent Avatar

    I'd take a '68 L72 Impala over the GP any day of the week, but I'd still try to make space in the garage for this big poncho – especially with a 4 speed.

  3. dukeisduke Avatar

    The 265hp 400 was an optional low-compression (8.6:1) regular fuel engine with a Rochester 2-barrel, a step-down option (I've seen a couple of GTOs equipped with them). The standard engine was the 350hp 400, 10.5:1, with a Quadrajet. My Bonneville had the standard Bonneville engine, the 340hp 10.5:1 Q-Jet "YE" code 400.

  4. Sjalabais Avatar

    Fender skirts really push this away from sport and muscle into the luxury-suit-with-a-hat-category. Beautiful to look at, and I certainly wouldn't mind being seen driving around in it. But I throw my 2 ct in the shallow "not a muscle car"-pond.

    1. GTXcellent Avatar

      Yes, you 'could' have a Grand Prix with fender skirts and a 2bbl carbbed thrifty engine, but unlike the big Mercury from before, this car could have also been ordered with almost 400 hp and a 4 speed. The former is most certainly not a muscle car, but the latter definitely fits the bill.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Handshake on that clarification.

  5. TurboBrick Avatar

    No. This one does nothing for me. This "muscle car" looks like it did monster sets of leg presses and ended up with a giant ass and nothing else. I'd rather take the Riviera or Toronado.

    1. I Think Not Avatar
      I Think Not

      You do realize that apart from the twin-engined Hurst Hairy Olds and Jay Leno's creation, the Toronado was FWD, right? If there's one thing a muscle car can never be, other considerations aside, it's FWD.
      Hurst Hairy Olds because why miss an opportunity to remind everyone that this creation exists:
      <img src="http://www.speedhunters.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/hairy2.jpg"&gt;

      1. TurboBrick Avatar

        Yes, I do know Toro is FWD, I brought it up because Jim referred to it in the last paragraph. I don't care how you want to classify it, I'd still prefer it over this Pontiac baroque boat.

  6. Alff Avatar

    Herb Tarlek's muscle car.

  7. skitter Avatar

    Beyond the spirit of Hooniverse, is immediately accepting these as muscle cars a generational thing? The era is right, the power is huge, and a manual shift is bonus points. I look at this, and I see little to no difference in terms of size, styling, and intent than any sort of 'canon' muscle car. And I never identify those right anyway. Someone is probably going to spike out like a puffer fish when I call a Dodge Charger a typical muscle car. And then I'll point out that a lot of those came with 318s, and some came with Slant Sixes. Are those muscle cars? Not so much. I guess my criterion is: Is there a hot version? The hot version is a muscle car.

    1. MVEilenstein Avatar

      I don't know if it's a generational thing. I tend to think of muscle cars as midsize or fullsize cars, mostly stripped down to the essentials, with a big engine and a manual transmission.
      That said, I'm no purist, and I don't think there is a "correct" definition.

      1. rustylink Avatar

        Us older guys are suckers for nostalgia…

        1. MVEilenstein Avatar

          That's not a bad thing.

  8. hubba Avatar

    Wow, that's an ugly car.

  9. stigshift Avatar

    Growing up in Maryland, I would occasionally see a black '68 GP. It was a 428 4-speed car, with a hood mounted tach. I usually saw a lady driving it, but a few times it was a guy. One day while riding my bike, I saw him stopped at a light. A '71-2 Mustang all jacked up and loud pulled next to him and the young guys started revving their engine. GP man paid them no mind, or so I thought. When the light turned, both eight-lug wheels broke loose and smoke was was still pouring from under those fender skirts as he left the open rear automatic Mustang with a luxurious shot of Grand Prix tail lights. I have loved sneaky-fast, fender-skirted muscle cars ever since.

  10. mac350 Avatar

    Fast, furious, 4-speed, fender skirts – I'm all in.

  11. Jim Brennan Avatar
    Jim Brennan

    So, is everyone seeing the poll at the end of this posting. Usually by now, we would have between 50 and 90 votes…. as of right now, we have 4. Let me know in the comments…

    1. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

      I see it. Just doesn't work for me. (firefox)

    2. MVEilenstein Avatar

      I saw it, and voted. I'm confused why there are only four votes.

    3. skitter Avatar

      Multiple tries, two computers, three browsers, still cannot vote or view results.

    4. Van_Sarockin Avatar

      I knew it was rigged…

  12. PushrodRWD Avatar

    I am a huge fan of old GM cars, but this one always struck me as odd. So while it is a nice curiosity and I would look at one at a car show, but I would rather own the same year Riviera.
    <img src="http://www.fleetwoodcountrycruizein.com/private_collection/Photos/1968riviera.jpg"&gt;

  13. Dave Leatherman Avatar
    Dave Leatherman

    You wouldn't believe me if I told you that I had a 1968 428 HO, 4-speed manual, pontiac grand prix. And this next part I STILL can't believe, I sold it. Had no idea what a rare car I had until after I sold it. One of the biggest mistakes I have ever made. Loved that car. Could easily chirp all four gears. Definitely should be on this list.

  14. salguod Avatar

    Nope, but look up the '64-'67 2+2. That's muscle.

  15. Bear Dawson Avatar
    Bear Dawson

    Nice article,
    We are some guys here in Sweden who likes this car. It is quite different against all Chevy and Fords from late 60´s. People turns their heads around when we driving around. it is a red one from 68. And for the moment we mounting a 428 which totally rebuild.

  16. Raffi sh Avatar
    Raffi sh

    Wow I'm a Pony car Muscle car Guy and I Love Pontiacs! This car (if it can be found) in HO form would be unreal! I currently own a restored 69 Pontiac FB 350 coupe 4spd with a transplanted modified 455 engine & the Hp+Tq are incredible! I Believe an HO car lke this 428Poncho woud be an incredible find! Between this 68 GP and the 67 Catalina 2+2 with the same HO engine with Hidaways!! Awesome pieces of Muscle car history!!

  17. raymondvela3 Avatar

    Wow, I really enjoyed seeing my car on this website, mine is the Red GP with the black top pictured at the Baytown TX car show (3'rd one down). The only time I see 68 GP's is on the internet. The best thing about owning one of these cars is there are only a few around, rarely see one for sale. The tough part of owning this 68GP is finding parts can be challenging….

  18. Hendo337 Avatar

    She’s a big girl that I take in a heartbeat in good solid clean shape for a sane price.

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