Saturday, August 13, 2016

Going for the Bronze: 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix, one owner, time to sell after 47 years

One-owner Model-J Grand Prix hit the roadway with a For Sale sign. It was more than the low price of $1000 pulled us in for a closer look.

Going for the Bronze. I thought perhaps I was having my usual Grand Prix fantasy as I drove past an unassuming automotive repair shop. I do a double take on a vast array of everyday spectacles, trying my hardest to turn something into one of my top favorite carsthe Pontiac Grand Prix. If I got caught during all of my illegal U-turns, committed for the sake of seeing a car that usually turns out to not be a Grand Prix, I could kiss this license goodbye.
  Only, this time, it was a Grand Prix! Not just a Grand Prix, but one that wears my favorite exterior flavor. The amazing Castilian Bronze” paint, and furthermore, despite not being born yet, I am convinced Pontiac did it just for me.
  To make matters even tastier, they matched this Castilian beauty with parchment interior. To a car salesman, it was just a light colored interior, but to us Pontiac guys, it was downright heavenly.

400-V8 air cleaner sits inside the 1969 Grand Prix on the bucket seat.
1969 Pontiac Grand Prix parchment interior is all original and a bit worn.

For The Grand Story
  So, what is this car exactly? It is a 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix Model J. Born with paint code 89 Castillian Bronze (if I didn’t mention that already), with code 287 Parchment Interior. This GP supposedly still has its original engine. The engine designation decal was no longer on the radiator and just guessing from the other options (I know that is not an absolute), I am thinking it is a 400. The original owner thinks it is also, so I can’t argue with that!

  The rest of the car was not exactly a base model, but for a Grand Prix it was not what we would call loaded either. It has 14-inch Rally II wheels, a halo-style vinyl top, and bucket seats with a console. That is about it. It didn’t have cruise control. It didn’t have power windows or seats. It didn’t have an FM radio. It didn’t have (I don’t think) any performance or handling enhancing options. It did have air conditioning, however the compressor and brackets were long gone.

Rust has made a mark on several areas of the ’69 Pontiac.
A vinyl top covers the roof of the Castilian Bronze Grand Prix. Rust has taken hold of a few areas of the body. It should surprise no one what we may find under the vinyl top.

Original-owner history lesson
  The car was purchased new by the gentleman owner and his wife from Birmingham, Alabama. I interviewed them, to the point of interrogation, and had a great time talking to them. The couple were shopping for a new Pontiac in 1969. They liked the redesigned Grand Prix body style and wanted one. So, what do you do if you want a new Grand Prix in Birmingham? You go to Brownell Pontiac, and find the only one in Castilian Bronze on the showroom floor, and you point to it and say, “Sold!” 
  That sounds like a fantasy for most of us, but Mr. Charles and his wife did just that. His wife told me the Pontiac’s paint was her favorite color. It was not a hard sell. 

The original owner claims the Pontiac made several trips cross-sountry in the 1970s.
The original owner said the Pontiac made several trips cross-sountry during the 1970s. The 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix wears a window decal from its trip to Mexico in 1972.

Life is a highway
  Once they grew accustomed to the new fangled door handles, the Grand Prix took them around the country in style. Mr. Charles told me of touring the Grand Prix along the coast line in New Orleans and even going to “Old” Mexicotwice! The car was well traveled and super dependable. He always maintained it to a high standard. 

  When time came to replace the car, Mr. Charles still kept it. Now, he is ready for it to go to a new home. His wife wants it out of the yard. And what do you know? Along comes Junkyard Life. The car may eventually be sold, but who knows? We may be the next chapter. Keep your fingers crossed!

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

More than 112,000 Grand Prix sold in 1969. Well ahead of the 32,000 in 1968.
More than 112,000 buyers flocked to the redesigned beak on the 1969 Grand Prix. Well ahead of the 32,000 sold in 1968.

Top 10: 1969 Grand Prix Fun Facts
  1. The name “Castilian” is Spanish. It refers to the primary language that is spoken in Spain. They are mainly Castilian or Catalan in Spain. A very fitting color and name for Pontiac, who loved to make their product at home in any exotic or affluent location.

  2. The new for 1969 door handles on the Grand Prix confused unaccustomed patrons. They were Pontiac’s appropriate accent to the “cockpit”-like interior.

  3. 1969 was a total body style change that went over very well. Thanks to our hero, John DeLorean, sales doubled in 1969 over the 1968 model year. Well received, indeed.

  4. 1969 was the first year for the “SJ” option that could provide a buyer with luxury and performance options galore. 

  5. A rumor bounced around Pontiac circles for years that the “Model J” and the “SJ” were a reflection of John DeLorean – standing for “John” and “Super John”. The name was actually a nod toward the heritage and influence from Duesenberg.

  6. Not a fact, but a fun and very real possibility that a few of the first 100 1969 Grand Prixs to roll off the assembly line went to Stutz.

  7. In 1969, it was possible to get a 370HP or a 390HP 428 C.I.D. and a manual 4-speed transmission in a Grand Prix. Imagine!

  8. New glass for 1969 Grand Prix buyers. They could impress their friends with a new game called “Find the Antenna” (It was located in the windshield).

  9. Grand Prix owners could also wow their friends with the new electronic defroster in the rear window-keep in mind this was a time when a rear defrost equipped car was merely a fan mounted in the package shelf. This consisted of elements inside the rear glass, like we have in modern cars today.

  10. There is something special about a 1969 Castilian Bronze Grand Prix — and that’s a fact!
Plenty of room to work under the 6-foot long hood.
Original 400-V8 engine under the 6-foot-long hood of the 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix. Plenty of room to work!

Castilian Bronze paint was a special order color on 1969 Grand Prix.
Model J fender emblem on the 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix. Not quite as powerful or luxurious as an “SJ”.

Not many 1969 Grand Prix are still owned by the original title holder. Do you think you’ll keep your car 47 years? Would you sell it for $1,000? 

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Monday, June 27, 2016

She’s Real Fine, My 1964 Chevrolet Impala 4-door station wagon 409 in the woods

Mississippi car collector keeps 600 cars scattered across his property, among them a rare 409 w engine Impala wagon.
Big block surprise. 600 cars, and Bubba, and Katy Perry. Speechless. It was almost Thanksgiving and I found myself staring at a 1964 Chevrolet Impala wagon with a 409 engine in a field full of classic cars near Oxford, Mississippi. So much to see, but this car stopped me in my tracks.
  Bubba and his wife, Allyson, (a genuine Katy Perry look-alike), emailed an invite to the Junkyard Life crew to come and visit their vast backwoods car collection. They even encouraged us to drag along a tow dolly, in case we saw some rusty gold that we might want to buy. Finding only one derelict dream car among hundreds was the problem. After a first-class tour and four-hour junkyard hike, the 409 Impala wagon was at the top of my tow-worthy list. An original 409 Impala with pure patina, and it’s a wagon! Let’s take a closer look.

Mississippi car collector has 600 cars scattered across his property, among them a 409-equipped 1964 Impala wagon.

More than meets the eye

  The tour came to a halt when the 409 emblems were spotted. At first glance, it just looked like a cool, old wagon from the X-frame era of GM’s full-size chassis. Decades of life out in the elements left few traces of metallic Fawn paint clinging to the flanks of the long roof ’64 Chevy. 
  I asked Bubba for permission to lift the hood to see what we hoped was the big block W-engine. Despite junkyard dreaming, we didn’t expect to see the original 340hp 409 engine under the hood. Who would believe us? Sitting in a field is an original 409 Impala 4-door wagon with the drive train intact.

Owner collected the rare wagon to save it from the crusher and for a possible for a future restoration.
Chevy 409 engines are seldom seen at car shows, or cruise-ins, and never seen during our typical junkyard adventuring. This is the base L-33 340hp 409 engine that was equipped on all automatics.

History lesson
  This ’64 Impala was special ordered as a service vehicle. No rear seat. Perhaps a funeral home looking to boogie down with the Beach Boys ‘409’ song? 
  “The wagon sat on the dealer lot, ordered without a backseat and without carpet but loaded with other options,” said Bubba. It had power steering, power brakes and tilt column. The dealer eventually had to add the rear seat to sell the car.”
  Despite the decades of neglect and a few parts stolen by a local parts thief, the 409 wagon begs for a restoration. Bubba thinks the car had less than 100,000 miles on it when he bought it. The tag on the rear bumper was registered in 1988.

Some 409 Chevy wagons were equipped with a factory 7,000 RPM Sun tach above the steering column.
Some 409 Chevy wagons were factory-equipped with a 7,000 RPM Sun tach above the steering column. All 1964 409 engines with automatic transmissions (Powerglide) were 340hp engines (L33). 

Original interior remains on seats of the 1964 Impala 409 wagon.

Junkyard Life brother, Keith Lively, and Bubba talk big block 409 horsepower.

Load her up, wait...
  Trying to work out a deal with a guy who has collected hundreds of classic cars is no easy task. I tried bundling another ’64 SS Impala that he owned into a deal. The SS had a better body and interior, plus Bubba only wanted the SS for its drive train. Those negotiations never got off the ground. The trailer came home empty. 
  We enjoyed the trip and found too many dream car projects to count. Maybe, next time the sleeper station wagon 409 comes home with me? Or the Road Runner, or the ’56 Ford, or the AMC Rebel, or the ’Cuda, or the GTO... ?

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Distinctive 1964 Chevrolet grill has taken its fair share of abuse.

Cargo area of the 1964 Impala wagon is huge. Imagine a funeral home using a 409 wagon to haul you to the Heavenly Gates.

The big 409 Chevy wagon has no seat belts. Hang on tight!
Seat belts were still optional on 1964 Impalas. This big 409 Chevy wagon has no seat belts. Passengers were told, “Hang on, tight!”

1964 Impala wagon. Long roof, long car. Great lines.

Car has been sitting since 1988 according to tag.
Rear door panel on 1964 Impala 409 wagon.

Wheels sink into the earth on the 409 wagon.

Like a ship out to sea. The 409 wagon has weathered many storms.

Fawn paint clings to the 1964 Impala wagon quarter panel.

All glass is intact on the 1964 Impala wagon.

Tag from 1988 hangs on rear bumper of the 1964 Impala wagon 409.

Trees push against the bumper of the 409 wagon.

My first sighting of 409 emblems in the wild.

Chrome air cleaner is missing from the 409 engine.
The original chrome air cleaner is missing from the 409 engine. High compression, solid lifter variations of the 409 engine produced as much as 425hp.

She’s real fine, my 409. Nothing can touch her but time.

Ron Kidd, Allyson M., and Jody Potter
Special thanks to Bubba and Allyson, for showing us around their fantastic car collection. She’s a Katy Perry look-alike, am I right? 

Know an interesting car collector or about a junkyard that we need to visit? Tips for our projects? 
Send emails to Jody Potter at

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memories, honor, and a 1969 Dodge Super Bee on Memorial Day

Danny Waters still drives the car his brother bought new. 

Never forget. Vietnam veteran honors brother, and fellow vet, by continuing to drive the 1969 Dodge Super Bee his brother left behind. 
  Tom Waters bought the yellow Super Bee in March of 1969 after serving a tour in the U.S. Marine Corps. The 22-year-old returned home to Statesboro, Georgia just long enough to fall in love with the Y2 paint, 383-equipped Mopar on the dealership lot. Tom’s payments were $111 per month. 
  A few months after buying the Super Bee, Tom drove his younger brother, Danny Waters, to Estill, South Carolina. Danny was on his way to Vietnam courtesy of the U.S. Army. The memories from that trip in Tom’s Super Bee would last a lifetime.

Danny Waters sits behind the wheel of the 1969 Dodge Super Bee bought new by brother in 1969.
Vietnam vet Danny Waters drives the 1969 Dodge Super Bee his brother bought in March of 1969.

Last ride with brother
  The trip to South Carolina in the Super Bee would be the last time the Waters brothers would see each other. Before Tom made his fifth payment on the ’69 Dodge he succumbed to leukemia.
  Danny received emergency leave from the Army to attend his brother’s funeral. The family attributes Tom’s sudden illness, and untimely death, to time spent at Camp Lejeune (evidence of contaminated water supply). 

Quarter panel of 1969 Super Bee displays Rumble Bee logo.
Dodge built less than 28,000 hardtop and coupe Super Bees in 1969.

Keeping the memories alive
  When Danny returned from active duty in Vietnam, his parents decided to continue driving Tom’s Super Bee. The car was new dependable transportation. Despite manual steering, and manual drum brakes, Danny’s mother became the primary driver of the Super Bee.
  “Insurance paid the balance owed on the car,” said Danny. “The fifth payment slip is still in the book.”
  Other family members also took turns behind the wheel, as the Mopar served duty for college commuting and daily errands.

Tom and Danny Waters’ Vietnam-era dog tags displayed on the dash of the 1969 Dodge.

Bent but not broken
  The Dodge did suffer a few dents and dings. Someone rammed into the quarter panel and the right rear corner also took a hit. Traces of a patch panel can be seen on the side behind the driver’s door. Most of the original Y2 paint remains. Some of the damaged areas have been covered with black primer. The damaged rear bumper was straightened and the Super Bee remained a one-family-owned driver.
  By the early 1990s, Danny’s mom grew weary of the difficult steering, and manual everything. The Super Bee had been sent to the shed
  “My mother handed me the keys when the Dodge had less than 80k miles,” said Danny. The odometer now shows just over 87k miles.

The 1969 Super Bee remains mostly original with 87,000 miles.

Only original once
  Dog tags for Tom and Danny can be found on the dash of the Dodge. Waters’ military uniform name patch is also on the dash. Vintage Mopar and Vietnam-era stickers can be found inside and outside of the Super Bee. A few missing interior items, such as the headliner, carpet, and door panels give the car a true hot rod appeal. Every dent, scratch, and decal has a story.

The quarter panel was patched after the Super Bee was t-boned.

Taking it to the streets
  Danny shows the car at the occasional cruise-in, which is where I caught up with him in Fultondale, Alabama. I noticed the Dodge pull in among the nearly 200 classics, and muscle cars. The cammed-up rumble of the exhaust and "Joe Dirt” vibe got my junkyard radar buzzing. 
  Some ask me when I’m going to paint it, others tell me not to,” says Danny. “What do you think?”

Danny Waters and the 1969 Dodge Super Bee provided a Memorial Day tribute to Danny’s brother Tom Waters.

My take – the story beneath the rust counts
  If you paint it, you’re covering up all those stories. Nobody else has that. Anybody can buy a new car. Your family and those stories are what make the car special. Otherwise, its new paint, just like a new car. No heart. No character. 
  Finding out the story on this 1969 Super Bee on Memorial Day weekend was a treat for me. Thanks for sharing Danny. Thank you for your service!

Jody Potter
– Junkyard Life

The original 383-V8 engine recently received an upgraded cooling system.

Rumble Bee stripe on tail of ’69 Super Bee.

Several period correct decals can be found on the Super Bee.

The Super Bee was Dodge’s “B” body, mid-sized, 2-door.

Danny Waters added bigger fuel lines and a fuel cell in the trunk of the Bee.

Twin forward-facing scoops were part of the “Ramcharger” air-induction hood.

Vietnam-era stickers adorn interior roof. Missing headliner provide a race car look.

Bench seat, with no power options – this was a standard, low-buck muscle car.

Weathered paint, dull mirrors, big V8. This Super Bee looks dangerous in a good way.

Swoopy rear glass is a sight to behold. I’ve grown to love the subtle curves and design cues that litter the 1968-1970 Mopar intermediates.

Bumper was straightened after rear end collision. Scars to the body remain under black primer.

Dodge Super Bees had a 1-inch longer wheelbase (117-inch) than Plymouth Roadrunners.

Coke bottle styling rocked the automotive landscape in 1968. In 1969, things got wilder with more scoops and stripes.
The Super Bee emblem decal package was well received but sales of the Plymouth Roadrunner dwarfed the Bees 3-to-1 in 1969.

Worn paint identifies the high contact areas of the hardtop Bee.

Ramcharger air-induction hood was a new option on the ’69 Super Bee.

The animated Super Bee emblems are chrome-plated diecast medallions.

Dodge’s 383-V8 engine delivered 335-hp at 5,200 RPM when new.

Trim tag identifies all the Mopar goodies on this ’69 Super Bee.

Styling elements from the Dodge Charger melded with the Coronet-based Super Bees of ’68-70 vintage.

Steelies and dog dish hub caps up front, straight steel wheels out back.

48 years worth of memories. I’d say this Super Bee has been worth every penny.

Know an interesting car collector or about a junkyard that we need to visit? Tips for our projects? 
Send emails to Jody Potter at