Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Pontiac Grand Prix Tach story: Buying parts for cars you don't own, a priceless garage tip

Buy now, save later. Living the Junkyard Life, you have those days when nothing falls into place. The scarce parts we long for hide themselves well. Usually. Today, I no longer had the truck in “park” before I saw 'it' there. A late seventies Grand Prix LJ. Oh my Darling Disco Era Personal Luxury Mama. 

The car was a 1977 Grand Prix LJ, very well decked out. I wondered… could it have… 

It did! The ever so elusive tachometer! Call off the dogs, the search is over! 

Mine! Mine! Mine!
  I didn’t buy the car, just a very important part. I bought the seldom seen tachometer and gauge package that will someday reside in my Grand Prix. If you follow Junkyard Life you may have come to the conclusion that we dig Grand Prixs. You may be thinking “When did those Galoots get a Grand Prix? What year? What color? What package?” Well, here’s the thing: I don’t actually have one. So here is where the women stop reading. They find it perplexing that we could spend good money on parts for a car we don’t even own.

Find a Pontiac Grand Prix tach and buy it!

Bought it
  Now I can see the RPM’s. Now I will know just when to shift as I am smacking second gear pulling away from Anthony’s '74 Grand Am or Jody’s '73 GTO. The first hurdle is that I don’t have a Grand Prix, but neither of those guys have those cars either. So, it is really more of a day dream than a street race.

Love it  

  Yep. I have a tachometer. Now I can watch the RPMS as I glide down the highway in my SJ. I don’t have any figures as to how many Grand Prixs left the factory with a cool tachometer like mine, but I did learn a few things:

Idiot lights

  Pontiac offered the base model Grand Prixs with only a speedometer and a gas gauge. All the other vital signs were assigned warning lights referred to as “idiot lights”. They didn’t really keep an eye on things; they just told you when it was too late. Pull over. Filling the large spot on the left pod was usually a clock. It was big and easy to read. If not a clock, a vacuum gauge to tell you if you’re driving was doing well on fuel or not. Wow. It’s a good thing they told us or else we may get 8 mpg instead of the possible 12. Not me. You know why? I have a tachometer.

Rally Gauges
  The next step up was Rally Gauges. This package was usually found in the SJ and LJ models. However, the name was a little misleading. If you ordered Rally Gauges, you got real analog gauges to monitor everything with real numbers and needles. However, you still had to guess your revs, because the Rally Gauges did not include the tachometer. You had to specify it. I wonder how many buyers ordered their Grand Prixs with the Rally Gauges thinking they would have the tach and upon arrival…. ”So sorry. You should have said something, if you wanted one.” I thought I did. All through the years, most GM cars had a division specific version of Rally Gauges. Most of them included a tach. Yep. A tachometer, like the one I have.

This Grand Prix had the Rally Gauges as all analog and the gigantic clock. No one was late in the seventies!

Bought a junkyard Rally Gauge cluster with tach, now I need a Grand Prix.

What now?

  So now that I have a tachometer, what am I going to do with it? Despite contemplating building it it’s own garage, (something like a shrine) I am going to take it apart to clean and polish everything. Then put it back together and store it away in a climate controlled environment. Being knee deep in a Chevrolet Bel-Air restoration, I shouldn’t be buying parts for cars I don’t own. (yet). I will. Mark my words-I shall have a '74 or '75 Grand Prix SJ or LJ ! Now that I have a tachometer, I need a rocking Grand Prix to go with it!

Ron Kidd

- Junkyard Life

Know of a junkyard I need to visit or want to send me photos and info about a car or junkyard?  Send emails to Ron at or Jody at


Anonymous said...

If the face was spun aluminum instead of black plastic I would ask you to sell that to's otherwise PERFECT for my low RPM 1980 Buick LeSabre Limited manual conversion, in which a modern 5 degree sweep one million RPM tachometer would be worthless.

Someday I'll find a 270 degree sweep 6000RPM tachometer like that and I'll either deal with an unmatched face or give it a new face.

77mali said...

Elusive is an understatement.

Anonymous said...

When it rains, it pours. I too am on the hunt for a '74 GP like Grandma's car. Meanwhile, I've been collecting options for the day when I get one. The option list is impressive so far: 8-track stereo, Pulse wiper motor/switch,cruise control unit w/ turn signal switch, cornering lights w/ harness, tilt wheel, reclining lumbar support horsecollar bucket seats, set of honeycomb wheels (15", of course), "SJ" fender badges & perfect black console from same car, trunk release, '74 455 (came from a Grand Ville), bumper guards & a deluxe dome light. I enjoyed your article because it took me four years to find a rally gauge cluster - and then I found FOUR within 6 months: three with tachs and one with a fuel economy gauge. So, as soon as I find a nice Custom Sport Pontiac steering Wheel & a '74 Grand Prix (one with a factory astro-roof would be killer!), I'll have a very well-optioned GP!