The cars we loved.
Big coupes are becoming an endangered species in the United States. Longtime staple the Cadillac Eldorado was the lone holdout, lasting until 2002. Nearly everything else including, the Chrysler New Yorker, Ford LTD and Lincoln Contentinental had shed their coupe versions long before the event of the CD and the age of digital music downloads. There was a time when the motorist who wanted the comfort and power of a big car in a more personal coupe format had multiple choices from each of the Big Three automakers.
GM was always a proponent of the big coupe with each of its divisions fielding at least one. When Cadillac was not sharing platforms with GM’s lesser divisions, it often caused heated inter corporate competition. Chevy started the luxury race in 1958 with its new Impala. Every since then, it has along with Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac rushed to see who could make the most opulent parade float of a car. Pontiac’s range topping big coupe came in the form of the Grandville. Based the C and eventually B Body platforms, these were full-size cars with a massive 127 inch wheelbase. As a step above the Bonneville, the Grandville was a family of luxury cars that came as a sedan, coupe or convertible. Pontiac limited production of the convertible to just 5,000 units a year, insuring their exclusivity and rarity today.
As a Pontiac the Grandville was a bit on the sporty side compared to its platform mates. In the scheme of GM’s many brands, the Grandville was as luxurious as a Buick Electra and as sporting as a Chevy Impala, all cars that it shared a platform with. When the Grandville debuted in 1971, it came with the same engine as the top Trans-Am (455 HO V8). That engine would produce 325 hp, but go down to below 200 as emissions controls would strangle the big coupe. An optional 400 cubic inch V8 was offered, but there was never a more fuel-efficient V6.
Small details like hidden wipers and optional lip over the rear wheels improved aerodynamics, but had little effect on overall fuel economy with highway mpg in the high teens. The elegant look was marred somewhat after 1972 with the addition of federally mandated 5 mph bumpers. In a rush to put them on, Pontiac simply drilled holes and slapped them on. For that reason many consider the pre-73 models the most attractive, but the Grandville would look more sport oriented as time went on. With each model year the emissions emasculated Grandville would become more opulent.
Even as power went down weight did not. At well over 4,200 lbs., the Grandville still offered a level of performance expected in a Pontiac (for a while at least). Optional 15 inch rally wheels coupled with the front power disc brakes and front anti roll bar offered the driver a level of control uncommon in a big car. Inside, all the expected luxury features were present: extra acoustical insulation, power everything and a 8 track stereo sound system. The convertible did not skimp on features either. It came with a tempered glass rear window with a defogger and of course a power operated top. The large wheelbase contributed to the smooth ride as much as the computer selected spring rates in an otherwise conventional coil spring suspension setup. Variable rate power steering was standard and needed to maneuver so big a car around town. All Grandvilles were automatic, with GM’s quick and smooth shifting Turbo Hydramatic three speed transmission managing power to the rear wheels.
The Grandville was not directly replaced, but was superseded by the Catalina coupe and convertible. Pontaic never had another big coupe/convertible again after the 70’s. Today one must go very high in the market to find big coupes. Cars like the BMW 6 Series or Mercedes CL Class would mid-sized next to the Grandville. In concept these cars could be considered modern equivalent of the Grandville, but they lack the element of elegance that came with 70’s era American baroque style.