Bring a Trailer offered an almost unique 1979 Grand Prix for auction recently. It had a four-speed manual transmission—quite rare in 1979 and no longer available in 1980. With only 858 miles on the odometer, this Grand Prix sold for $35,000.
… carries Grand Prix sportiness to the max
1980 was the final year for the SJ designation on Pontiac’s Grand Prix. SJ had been a Grand Prix equipment level since the first year of the second generation Grand Prix in 1969. By 1980, SJ indicated something like “moderately sporty.”
The 1980 Grand Prix returned to a vertical bar grille and featured new taillight lenses with “GP” logos. A three-speed automatic transmission became standard equipment on all Grand Prix models, and the two-barrel 4.9 liter/301 ci Pontiac V8 was replaced by a new 4.3 liter/265 ci V8 rated at 125 hp.
The SJ’s powertrain choices were slightly loftier. The standard non-California powertrain was a W72 170 bhp 4.9 liter/301 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor mated with a three-speed automatic transmission. California cars swapped in the LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor. 0-60 came in a little under 10 seconds in a car with a 3,291-pound curb weight—spritely for a personal luxury coupe in 1980. EPA fuel economy ratings for the non-California cars were 17 city/25 highway by the day’s standards. With an 18.1-gallon gas tank, an SJ‘s owner could expect a range of 310 to 340 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
With a base price of $6,219, standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Grand Prix’s included dual rectangular headlamps, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P195/75R14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch wheels with hubcaps. Interior features included door pull straps, an inside hood release, and an electric quartz clock.
For $7,295, the SJ added Custom finned wheel covers, body-color Sport mirrors, wide rocker panel moldings with extensions, accent stripes, and, of course, SJ identification to the exterior. Inside, SJ buyers got rally gages with clock and trip odometer, Lamp Group, and added acoustical insulation. SJ trim and upholstery included a Custom Sport steering wheel, a simulated brushed aluminum instrument panel, a Custom stitched-appearance instrument panel pad, Custom pedal trim plates, and SJ-specific front vinyl bucket seats.
Options and Production Numbers
Options were many—exterior options included two-tone paint in two different styles, cornering lamps, Soft Ray glass, a removable hatch roof, and a power sunroof (either glass or metal). Air conditioning (Custom or climate control), power door locks, and power windows were among the available interior options. Trim and upholstery options included Viscount leather front bucket seats with vinyl bolsters, a power driver’s seat, a tilt steering wheel, and a litter container.
Audio options included dual rear extended range speakers, two power antenna options, and six different stereo radios, including two 8-track tape choices, one cassette tape choice, one CB radio choice, and an ETR radio choice. A buyer looking to make their SJ as sporting as possible would have ordered 205/75R14 tires (which included the Rally Handling Package), Rally II wheels, and rally gages with an instrument panel tachometer (which required either the digital clock or the ETR radio).
Though the Grand Prix sold pretty well overall, the SJ did not—only 7,087 left dealer lots in the 1980 model year. This total meant that the SJ was a mere 6% of Grand Prix sales and hints strongly at why it was gone for the 1981 model year, with the new Grand Prix submodel being the Brougham. Pontiac would use the SJ designation on the sportiest versions of the compact Phoenix until the end of the 1984 model year.
The View From 2022
Grand Prix’s of this generation are not generally considered collector cars—Hagerty does not track any Grand Prix newer than 1977. These cars are sometimes available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As we have seen, these Grand Prix’s also show up at auction.
Make mine Bordeaux Red, please.