Sunday, September 19, 2010
The base V8 (standard on Safari wagons and optional on other models) was Pontiac's new 301 cubic-inch engine based on the same V8 engine block as other Pontiac V8s but utilized many lightweight components. Optional V8s were pared down to Pontiac-built 350 and 400 four-barrel powerplants. The three-speed manual was the standard transmission on V6 models, while the Turbo Hydra-matic was optional and the only transmission available with the V8 engines. Those drivetrain offerings were available in 49 states.
In California, Pontiac V8s were not offered for 1977 due to the inability to meet that state's more stringent regulations. In the Golden State, the Buick V6 was standard on most models but the V8 engines offered there were Oldsmobile's 350 and 403 four-barrel engines. Turbo Hydra-matic was the only transmission offered in California.
A sporty/performance model based on the LeMans Sport Coupe called the Pontiac Can Am was a one-year only offering for 1977. The Can Am came standard with the 400 four-barrel V8 in 49 states or the Olds 403 four-barrel in California, along with Turbo Hydra-matic transmission, a Grand Prix instrument panel and console, along with Strato bucket seats, and rear spoiler.
For the final year of the Colonnade LeMans models, they were joined by newly downsized B-body Catalina and Bonneville full-sized cars, which weighed a few pounds less than the "intermediates" and rode on the same 116-inch wheelbase length as the LeMans sedans and Safari wagons and also had similar dimensions as far as length and width were concerned. The downsized big cars of 1977, would be followed up with downsized intermediates for 1978 including the LeMans/Grand LeMans and the personal-luxury Grand Prix coupe.
All models received new rectangular headlights with distinct grilles unique to the base and LeMans Sport and another one for the Grand LeMans. The Chevy-built 250 six was now standard on all LeMans and Grand LeMans sedans and coupes along with the LeMans Sport Coupe with V8 options including a new "Oldsmobile-built" 260 V8 and Pontiac V8s of 350 and 400 cubic inches with two- or four-barrel carburetion (400 four-barrel still standard on all Safari wagons), along with the return of the 455 four-barrel V8 after a one-year absence.
The three-speed manual transmission was standard with the Chevy six with Turbo Hydra-matic optional, the latter now the only transmission offered with all V8s except the small 260 which could be ordered with a five-speed manual in the LeMans Sport Coupe.
Also new for 1976 was an "Enforcer" police package on LeMans sedans with either the 400 or 455 V8s that included Turbo Hydra-matic transmission, variable ratio power steering, heavy duty power front disc brakes and suspension tuning. The following year, 1977, an Enforcer police pursuit LeMans sedan was one of the featured cars in the motion picture Smokey and the Bandit.
Base LeMans and Sport Coupe models carried over trim only slightly revised from 1974 including a revised Custom Cushioned steering wheel. Big news for 1975, however, was Pontiac's Maximum Mileage System which consisted of GM's new catalytic converter which reduced emissions while improving drivability and fuel economy, a High Energy electronic ignition, and lengthened routine maintenance intervals. Radial tires were standard on all models and a "Radial Tuned Suspension" option was available that included upgraded radial tires along with front and rear sway bars.
Engines were revised for 1975 to meet that year's emission requirements and mated to the catalytic converter, which spelled the end of true dual exhausts. The 250 cubic-inch Chevy inline six was standard on base LeMans coupes and sedans while the 350 two-barrel V8 was optional and standard on the LeMans Sport Coupe, and Grand LeMans sedans and coupes, and optional engines on all of those models including a 350 four-barrel and a 400 two-barrel. LeMans and Grand LeMans Safari wagons came standard with a 400 four-barrel engine that was optional on other models.
The 455 V8 was discontinued for all LeMans models for 1975, but still available in the Grand Am. Transmission offerings included a three-speed manual standard with the six-cylinder and 350 two-barrel V8, with the three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic optional with those engines, a "mandatory" option with all other engines in sedans and coupes, and standard on the Safari wagons. The Hurst-shifted four-speed manual was no longer offered.
Base LeMans coupes retained the fixed full triangular rear side windows while Luxury LeMans coupes got a smaller vertical opera window similar to the Grand Prix along with an optional Landau rear quarter vinyl roof. LeMans Sport Coupes were now available with two rear side window treatments - the louvered triangular version carried over or the opera window with Landau vinyl roof from the Luxury LeMans.
All engines were carried over from 1973 including the 250 inline six, and V8s including the 350 two-barrel, 400 two- and four-barrel and 455 four-barrel. New to the option list for 1974 was a 350 four-barrel. The same assortment of three- and four-speed manual transmissions were carried over for 1974 along with the three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic. New to the option list for 1974 on all models were GM-specification radial-ply tires manufactured by GM's usual tire suppliers that included revised suspension tuning.
Engine offerings were carried over from 1972 with revisions to meet the 1973 emission requirements. Standard on base LeMans sedans and coupes was Chevrolet's 250 cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine, while the LeMans Sport Coupe, Luxury LeMans sedans and coupes, and all Safari wagons got Pontiac's 350 cubic-inch V8 with two-barrel carburetor rated at 150 horsepower standard (optional on base LeMans models). Optionally available on LeMans, Sport and Luxury LeMans was a 400 cubic-inch V8 with two-barrel carb and 170 horsepower, a 230-horsepower 400 four-barrel (standard with the GTO option) and a 250-horsepower 455 four-barrel was optional on all models. Planned and listed as an option for the 1973 GTO but never materialized was a 455 Super Duty V8 rated at 310 net horsepower for which introduction was delayed by Pontiac management due to emission issues until the spring of 1973 and then only in the smaller Firebird Formula and Trans Am ponycars.
A three-speed manual transmission with column shift was standard on LeMans and Luxury LeMans models while the GTO came with a floor-mounted three-speed with Hurst shifter. Available at extra cost was the three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic with all engines while a four-speed manual with Hurst shifter was available with the 230-horsepower.
Rear side windows were now of a fixed design that could not be opened and in a trianglar shape. New federal laws for 1973 demanded front bumpers capable of withstanding 5 mile per hour impacts with no damage to the body (5 mph rear bumpers became standard in 1974). The result was the use of prominent and heavy chrome bumpers front and rear.
The overall styling of the 1973 Pontiac A-body intermediates (LeMans, Luxury LeMans, GTO and Grand Am) was generally not well received by the car buying public.
In contrast, the Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which were also derived from the intermediate A-body, were much better received because of their squared-off styling and formal rooflines with vertical windows. Pontiac's sister division, Oldsmobile, received better reviews from the automotive press and the car-buying public with the similar-bodied Cutlass.
Again, the 1973 GTO option was offered on two models including the base LeMans coupe or the LeMans Sport Coupe. The base LeMans coupe featured a cloth-and-vinyl or all-vinyl bench seat while the more lavish LeMans Sport Coupe had all-vinyl interiors with Strato bucket seats or a notchback bench seat with folding armrest. The LeMans Sport Coupe also had louvered rear side windows from the Grand Am in place of the standard triangular windows of the base LeMans.
The standard 400 CID V8 in the 1973 GTO was further reduced in compression to 8.0:1, dropping it to 230 hp. The 400 engine was available with any of the three transmissions including the standard three-speed manual, or optional four-speed or Turbo Hydra-Matic. The 455 CID V8 remained optional but was dropped to 250 hp and available only with the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. The 455 HO engine did not reappear, but GM initially announced the availability of a Super Duty 455 engine (shared with the contemporary Pontiac Trans Am SD455), and several such cars were made available for testing, impressing reviewers with their power and flexibility. Nevertheless, the Super Duty was never actually offered for public sale in the GTO. Also, eight (8) 455SD Grand Ams were also built for testing, and eventually all were destroyed as well.
Sales dropped to 4,806, thanks in part to competition from the new Grand Am and the lack of promotion for the GTO. By the end of the model year an emerging energy crisis quashed consumer interest in muscle cars.
Engines: 400 V8 230 bhp @ 4400 rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm. 455 V8 250 bhp @ 3700 rpm, 370 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm.