1975 Pontiac Grand Am - Grand Am Grand Slam
During the early '70s, the Firebird Trans Am was Pontiac's performance flagship, and it excelled in every measurable category except room-iness. Sensing a need for an intermediate-sized vehicle with Trans Am-like performance, and the personal-luxury cues of the Grand Prix, Pontiac developed a new model based on the division's redesigned A-body platform for 1973-the "Grand Am."
Heralded as Pontiac's all-American road car, the Grand Am was available as a coupe or sedan, and boasted a long list of standard features including a 400ci engine, instrumentation to monitor the engine's vitals, articulating bucket seats with center console, and Radial Tuned Suspension. It also contained a wildly styled, yet appealing, flexible nose that doubled as a front bumper, which was totally compliant with that year's new federal 5 mph crash standards.
The Grand Am's combination of striking beauty and hardcore performance immediately caught the eye of then-teenaged Lakeland, Tennessee, resident David Johnson. "The Grand Am was totally different than anything before. The sloped nose, louvered quarter windows, and angled dash panel gave it a real performance car look, and I dreamed of owning one someday," recalls the now 53-year-old Lucite Corporation control room operator.
Changing Directions
As enamored with the new Grand Am as David was, it wasn't something a teenager could afford, and, like most of America's youth at that time, he was eventually smitten by the Firebird Trans Am's ultimate performance image. "I planned on buying a Grand Am when I could afford one, but my friend had a Trans Am, and once I drove it, I instantly got sports-car fever. It was fast, good-looking, and handled great," he recollects
Over the course of the next several months, David dreamt of owning a fire-breathing Firebird, and it wasn't long thereafter that he was ready to purchase one. "I got a good paying job when I was 21 and decided to replace my '72 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a new Trans Am. I went straight to Sid Carroll Pontiac in Memphis, spoke with family-friend, Pete Gay, and ordered a Stellar Blue '75 Trans Am with a 400 and automatic transmission."
David anxiously awaited his Trans Am's arrival, and began arranging his finances in anticipation of it. "I found after I ordered the car, that the Trans Am's insurance premium was nearly double that of my Olds. There wasn't any way I could afford it," he admits. "I explained the situation to Pete, and fortunately, he was very good about it. He refunded my $100 deposit, and said to come visit him when I was in the market for another new Pontiac."
Disappointed, David began looking at other new vehicles that might be cheaper to insure. "My dad was selling tractors for Memphis Ford Tractors at the time, and he tried to get me into a Ford Elite through his connection at Dobbs Ford in Memphis. The dealership made me a great offer, but the ride was too soft, and the handling was in an old man's league. It just wasn't for me," he says.
That same dealership had a Sterling Silver '75 Grand Am on the lot, and it immediately rekindled David's interest in the Pontiac model. "I took it for a test drive, and found its road feel was like no other vehicle I'd driven-it was everything the Pontiac brochures claimed it to be. Once I found the Grand Am's insurance premium was the same as my Olds', I knew right then, that it was the car for me."
A Grand Decision
Holding true to his end of the bargain when canceling his Trans Am at Sid Carroll Pontiac, David went back to Pete and ordered a Grand Am. "I really like black," David says emphatically, "so I ordered a Starlight Black coupe. It was accented with colorful vinyl stripes, and I added a black Landau top, burgundy cloth interior, and Rally II wheels with white-lettered tires. I wanted a 455 for added performance, but the country was in the midst of a gas crunch, so I chose the 400 because it was more economical. We agreed upon a sale price of $6,500.
"I took delivery of the car on May 14, 1975, and I couldn't have been happier. It was absolutely beautiful," he recalls. "I was just dating my wife, Lisa, at the time, and used to pick her up in it. A year later, we took it on our honeymoon." For the next several years, the Grand Am was the young family's primary mode of transportation, and it required only routine maintenance in its tenure as a driver. In the spring of 1989, with 132,000 miles on its odometer, David retired the Grand Am from daily service, and its restoration began.
The Restoration
Without having to endure harsh winters, the body of David's Grand Am was completely rust-free and had just minor body dents. "It really didn't need much," he adds. "I had a friend, Roger Sheffer, prepare the body and apply single-stage DuPont Cronar Starlight Black, while Larry Gray installed a reproduction carpet, and recovered the front and rear seats."
The original YT-code 400ci four-barrel was factory rated at 185 horsepower at 3,600 rpm, and 310 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. "It always ran hard, but I figured it needed a little attention after 132,000 miles. My brother helped, and we were happy to find that it was spotless inside and didn't need any machine work. We simply replaced a few items, installed new gaskets, and sealed it back up," David says.
Retaining its original 4.12-inch-bore, the cylinders were honed and the original pistons were wrapped with stock-replacement rings. The factory 3.75-inch-stroke crankshaft was treated to a fresh set of bearings, but was otherwise untouched. A new oil pump and timing set were also installed. The original No. 066 camshaft, which boasts 273/282 degrees of duration and 0.407-inch valve lift, showed no signs of wear, and was subsequently reused.
Though most hobbyists believe No. 5C cylinder heads were used throughout the entire 1975 model year, the 6X-series was phased into production in late February 1975 and, as such, David's May-built Grand Am was originally equipped with No. 6X-8 castings. He completely rebuilt the cylinder heads using new 2.11/1.66-inch intake and exhaust valves, and since only minimal surfacing was required, the compression ratio remains near its original advertised rating of 7.6:1.
The Grand Am's odometer presently shows 150,000, and in David's words, "That's 150,000 miles of family memories. We even brought our firstborn child, Wendy, home from the hospital in it." Today the Grand Am is driven to shows or on nice days, adding around 500 miles per year. "I love cruising along at 60 to 80 mph on the highway-it really is a great road car. The 400 generates plenty of torque, and it will easily spin the tires on command," he adds.
David says rarity is what he likes best about his Grand Am. The 1975 model year saw the fewest built during the First-Gen Grand Am's three-year run-just 10,679 were produced. "It's nice to be the original owner of something so different," states David. "We've attended several P.O.C.I. National Conventions, and most recently were awarded Senior Gold at the 2007 convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Combine that success with the spectator compliments, and I'm even happier to have purchased the Grand Am instead!"

Photo Gallery: 1975 Pontiac Grand Am - High Performance Pontiac Magazine

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