Monday, March 30, 2015

Did I buy a 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ on eBay?

Junkyard Life writer, Ron Kidd, unwittingly bought a car on eBay.

My 1973 SJ gold mine.
I finally did it! I knew one day I would stumble upon a Grand Prix, one of my dream cars, in time capsule form, with the proper “SJ” pedigree. I finally bought the car to go with the tachometer that I found about three years ago. That’s the way we car guys operate, we buy parts for cars we don’t own (yet), and one day find the car to go with it.
  Presenting my 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ 455 in Valencia Gold. That’s the stuff!
One-year only design of the 1973 Grand Prix featured a distinctive decklid and tail lights. The fuel filler door is beneath the bumper and hard to reach.

  I bought a bucket list car, however, that is not the end of the story. Junkyard Life Brother, Scott Andrews of Indiana, happened upon a story that Jody and I had written on a Colonnade-era Grand Prix. Scott, always a fan of this forgotten generation of Pontiacs, got excited and hit the Internet looking for an SJ Grand Prix of his own. He found one, a beautiful blue 1974 SJ. He blamed the whole transaction on me! So for revenge, he conspired with Junkyard Life Brother, Anthony, and Jody to find me a Grand Prix. 
  Darn them, they did. They found a few but I always turned them down for some reason or another. Just not the right car or the right time, until Anthony got the call. Scott found an incredible 1976 Grand Prix LJ on eBay and told Anthony to make me look at it. I did. 
  Wow! It was spectacular.

Notice my new Ames Pontiac floor mats. Also, note the power window block-off plates. Cool! Say, is that African Crossfire Mahogany? Yes. Yes, it is.

Hold the phone
  But... hello... remember me? The guy NOT wanting to buy one now. So, doing what someone who doesn’t want to buy a car does – I expanded the search and found this one.
  Oh, no! And it’s Valencia Gold! 
  I could hear Scott and Anthony laughing deep in my soul.

You must buy it
  “You have to buy this car!,” said Anthony. “This one! Right here!”  
  I still said no. He convinced me to bid on it. Actually, Anthony bid on it for me. I didn’t even look. Jody kept calling, telling me how many people were watching it. A couple of dozen, at least. That only assured me further that I was not getting the car. 
  Surely, someone had that cheating software that outbids you in the last micro-second of the auction, thus most of us, mere mortals, could not stand a chance. 

Who won?
  Whew! When the bidding crossed the dollar amount that I had capped for the SJ (or thought I did), I relaxed. I was glad for whoever just paid a lot of money, but still a very fair deal, for a car of that caliber. I just didn’t know it was me. I will never forget when Anthony called to tell me what the car sold for. 
  I asked, “Who won it?”
  “Um... You did,” he replied.

Pontiac 455 V8 engine need a clean-up and updated gaskets to look new.
The SJ has a 455-V8 engine, that in spite of low miles and running really well, is in need of detailing, and as long as I am at that, I may as well replace and update wear parts like the pumps and gaskets. My list always snowballs when I put it into words. In my head it doesn't sound that complicated.

Trucking to Arkansas
  My Grand Prix, now known as Valencia, or Val, was in Batesville, Arkansas. The gentleman who owned it, and several other Grand Prix collectibles, met us in Memphis, Tennessee. I then became ‘Valencia’s Lesser Accomplice’ as Anthony likes to call me.  
  So, what is this strange and beautiful Pontiac that has taken residence in the Junkyard Life shop? The car has the SJ package, that included the 455 engine and a rear sway bar. Equipped with rally gauges and the famous horse collar bucket seats. A beige interior that is really more of an “off-white” with a chocolate brown dash and carpets. Deluxe lighting package with a power trunk release in the lighted glove compartment. It has 3:23 gears, so it could use an overdrive. It has the way cool, finned hubcaps, that set off the classic Pontiac styling very well.

Marshall, at Shawn Thorson Auto in Moody, Alabama, took an extra liking to Valencia. Marshall wet sanded and buffed, taking extra care of the original paint. It turned out better than I ever expected. Thanks, Marshall.

Gold mine details
  My Grand Prix has Valencia Gold paint. No vinyl top (cool!) No cruise control (it will). No tilt steering (it will), and no power windows (I’m kind of glad). 
  The ’73 Pontiac does have the optional cornering lamps, which I love. I find myself looking forward to turns on a residential street, so the cornering lamps will light up the signs. 
  It also has some of the best African Crossfire Mahogany I have ever seen. If you don’t know what that is, African Crossfire Mahogany is a Grand Prix geek word meaning the wood grain on the dash and door panels. 
  Bumper fillers and trunk dividers are still intact. I even got the original warranty papers in the deal. This luxo cruiser rides well and runs even better. I am really happy with what I got. This car was well cared for and preserved and I intend to continue the tradition. Plus, I kind of promised the last owner, who promised the previous, who promised the original. So what choice do I have? 
  Who am I kidding, I would have anyway – I love these cars!

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Marshal at Shawn Thorson did such a good job on these wheels, that I am putting together a set of Rally II’s to swap out these occasionally to preserve them. The center piece is a bit faded, but there is zero curb rash on these babies. They really work on this color car. Imagine a set of red lines….

Ron’s Grand Prix Fun Facts:
  1. The Pontiac Grand Prix styling and trim levels, J and SJ, were borrowed from Duesenberg Automobile Co. I don’t know where LJ came from. I think it stood for “Luxury.”  Weird. The last half of my #1 Fun Fact was an opinion. 
  2. The LJ was introduced in 1975. The most distinctive feature was the two-tone paint. It seemed to include tons of luxury features, but the gauges and the 455 still had to be specified. My favorite Grand Prix interior is the burgundy velour from the 1975 LJ. Now that’s a fact. And it's fun.
  3. Stutz, from 1969-1973, were styled after the Pontiac Grand Prix and not vice versa. In the early 1970’s, Stutz didn’t try to hide it, they used Pontiac running gear – but, to be fair, they also used several other American drive trains.
  4. It is rumored that the first 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix off the assembly line was purchased by Stutz for re-styling and shipped overseas.
  5. In 1973, roughly one-out-of-every eleven Grand Prixs were of SJ trim.
  6. We named the car Valencia Julius McMullen because of …wait for it…more fun facts!
  7. My SJ was delivered to the famous McMullen Pontiac in Pontiac Michigan. McMullen was the dealership where Pontiac employees took delivery of the cars they ordered for themselves. They built them, but they couldn’t sell them, so, McMullen handled that for them.
  8. The original owner was a project engineer for Pontiac. The SJ was a company car for him. He bought the company car for his wife when he got the next one.
  9. John DeLorean was his boss for many years.
  10. Early brochures state that a Grand Prix could be had with a Super Duty 455. Sadly, that option never came to be in the Grand Prix. If that would have happened, it would have been geared with a 3:42 axle ratio. One prototype that I know of, (black with a NACA hood) was built.
  11. 1973 was the first year for the headlight dimmer switch housed within the turn signal lever. This did not show up in the Firebird until 1979. Previously, it was activated by a foot action switch on the floor.

These seats are pure Pontiac heaven. Confession time, I knew that cloth was offered in the Grand Prix in 1973, but I have never seen it. I really thought it was just an option in the brochure that didn’t make it to the assembly line. I stand, or sit corrected!

I lost my clock! The tach install went very well. Sort of. But now I have my ideal Grand Prix gauge cluster – the Rally gauges with a 120 MPH Speedometer, a trip meter and the every highly coveted... I waited for it... tachometer.

I actually own the very cool original tag that hung from the turn signal in the dealership to tell owners where the location of the new dimmer switch. I am very proud of weird things like this.

Pontiac treasures from McMullen Pontiac!

Original Valencia Gold paint shines on this 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ.

Similar, plastic-finned hubcaps were also available on 1973 Corvettes.
1973 Pontiac warranty books included.
Ron Kidd and his 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ will be cruising to the Pontiac Nationals soon.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  

Send emails to Jody at or Ron at


Jim said...

I've got 2 of the rally clusters with tacs.One is 73-74 and the other is 75-77.

Unknown said...

I owned a Gran Prix exactly like this one, same year, color, everything..only it did have the vinyl top.. I loved it, those seats were so comfortable! I drove it everywhere, felt very safe in it, it was so big! then eventually gave it to my little brother who didn't take as good care of it as I did 😒 Sure was a good car though🙂. Yours is gorgeous!