1986 Pontiac Grand Prix Original-Owner Rapid Rarity
The sporty Grand Prix was an instant hit with performance enthusiasts when it debuted in 1962. The newly redesigned model was just as popular with that same market segment when introduced in 1969. A brainchild of John Z. DeLorean, the '69 Grand Prix took the competition by surprise, boasting of its redefined personal luxury attitude and classy long-hood and short-deck body shape-cues taken from vintage Duesenbergs. Today, many consider both year Grand Prixs to be true American classics.
The Grand Prix Experience
Omaha, Nebraska, resident Butch Colanino was drawn by the Grand Prix aura in 1962. "I saw a new '62 Catalina and fell in love with its styling. As soon as I saw the sportier Grand Prix, I knew that's what I wanted," recalls the 65-year-old telephone manufacturing company retiree. He ventured into Stan Olsen Pontiac in Omaha and ordered a Mandalay Red Grand Prix, with a 389ci Tri-Power engine and a four-speed manual transmission.
"I loved that car," says Butch, who kept it for roughly a year. "I ordered a 409ci-powered '63 Impala as its replacement, and while waiting for the 409 to arrive, I saw a '63 Grand Prix and immediately changed my mind. I cancelled the Impala order and placed an order with McKenzie Pontiac in Omaha for a new Grand Prix. It was Grenadier Red, and had a 389 Tri-Power engine and a four-speed." Butch drove it for about a year, selling it when he decided to relocate to California.
It wasn't long after that he returned to Omaha, but Butch wasn't in the market for a new vehicle until late 1968. "The '69 model-year cars were just coming out, and I looked at every performance model imaginable, including the Corvette, Camaro, and Barracuda, but none excited me as much as the '69 Pontiacs. I was torn between a Firebird, GTO, and the new Grand Prix. I ultimately chose the Grand Prix because I had owned two in the past, and I really liked its new styling. It also had the largest engine with the most available horsepower," he says.
The Order Process
Returning to McKenzie Pontiac in December 1968, Butch began the order process for a new '69 Grand Prix. "I wanted the performance-oriented SJ package because it contained the 428 engine, and I opted for the 428 H.O. over the base offering. I initially planned to order a four-speed manual transmission, but the salesman talked me out of it, saying that the manual stick would hurt resale value, and that air conditioning wasn't available with it."
Butch sparsely equipped his Grand Prix with options to not only maintain the model's performance attitude, but also to keep costs down. "Along with the A/C, I added an AM radio, reverb speaker, Custom Sport steering wheel, tilt column, and a Safe-T-Track differential. Though I initially ordered a hood-mounted tachometer, I then decided against it. I thought it looked great on a Firebird or GTO with Ram Air scoops, but I didn't think it'd look good on the Grand Prix's long hood."
Special Order Color
The two previous Grand Prixs that Butch owned were both red, and he strongly considered ordering his '69 in a similar hue. "I didn't care for the shade of red that was available that year, and while deciding upon another color, a bronze GMC Sprint displayed in the showroom caught my eye. I really liked that color, and asked if it was available on the Grand Prix, but the salesmen said it wasn't," he recollects.
Undeterred, Butch asked the salesmen to inquire about the possibility of having his GP in that color. "The salesmen left to phone Detroit and returned stating that the color, Castilian Bronze, was indeed available on the Grand Prix, but only on an extra-cost, special-order basis, and that it would take about three months to build. I wasn't concerned about the production delay-I wanted that color! It also meant that my car would likely arrive after winter, which was fine with me."
Taking Delivery
Holding true to its stated production schedule, Butch's Grand Prix was built at the Pontiac, Michigan, assembly plant during the first week of March 1969, and was delivered to McKenzie Pontiac in mid-March of that year. "It arrived right around my birthday, and I paid $4,850 for it," he recalls. Within a few weeks, the first modification was made. "With 311 miles on the odometer, I replaced the dual-exhaust system's original mufflers with glasspacks, which were very popular at the time."
The Grand Prix was driven daily the first year, but it wasn't driven in the rain or snow. "It was always garaged and wasn't ever dirty. It's only been washed a few times its entire life. About a year later, I installed aftermarket wheels and tires, and modified the suspension to raise it up at all four corners. It became a toy at that point, and was driven sparingly after that," he adds.
Butch was acquainted with many of the area's top racers, and he often found himself at the track with them. "I kept hearing, 'Why don't you see what that big boat will do in the quarter-mile?' Well, one summer day at Cornhusker Raceway Park just outside Omaha, I made a few passes with it. It turned a best of 15.49 at nearly 92 mph in the summer heat, setting a J/Stock Automatic track record. I remember that it was so hot that day, I even made a pass with the A/C on-and it slowed down considerably."
Retirement Years
By the mid '80s, Butch officially retired his Grand Prix from service with just 12,000 miles on its odometer. He began showing it in local shows, and found that it was quite the attention-getter. "I reinstalled the Rally II wheels and original tires, and suspension pieces, but left the glass-packs in place. I regularly attended a number of local shows including the annual Pontiac-GMC-Oakland show in the Omaha area."
Butch says that he's added 25 to 30 miles to the Grand Prix's odometer each year since its retirement, and sees about that many added each year in its future. There is some preservation required with any vehicle that's nearing 40 years old, however. "A few years back, the glasspacks and tailpipes rusted through, so I had modern turbo-style mufflers and stock-replacement tailpipes installed. I've still got the original mufflers I took off when it was new, and may reinstall them some day, but I chose the turbo mufflers thinking it may be a little louder when I do drive it."
When asked what he likes best about his Grand Prix, Butch replies, "Everything! The beautifully styled body and cockpit-type dash panel couldn't complement each other any better. The bronze exterior and black-and-white interior are the perfect combination in my eye. But I really love the power of the 428 H.O. Looking back, I should have never let the salesman talk me out of the four-speed manual, but who knew I was going to keep it this long!"
Butch says the fact that he bought it new, its rarity, and his sentiment toward it are all reasons he plans to never part with his Grand Prix. And when asked what its future holds, he replies, "I plan to own it as long as I can drive. My 4-year-old grandson, Garrett, loves cars already, and I'm hoping he and my son, Anthony Jr., will take an interest in the Grand Prix so I can pass it on to them." With the GP's long hood, 428 H.O., cockpit-interior styling, and low mileage, what's not to like?

Photo Gallery: 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix Original-Owner Rapid Rarity

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