With the era of the 1960s-style muscle car ended by the ever-more-stringent emissions regulations, insurance costs and higher gasoline prices of the early 1970s, GM’s Pontiac Division was ready with a lineup of flash-enhanced machines packed with (alleged) European-style performance and styling. Three of them were based on the midsize A Platform for 1973: the LeMans, the Grand Prix and the brand-new Grand Am. The 1973 Grand Am was cheaper than the luxed-up Grand Prix, but still had a BMW-ish interior and wild exterior styling; sales weren’t great, but the 30th anniversary of this car seemed sufficiently momentous for Pontiac to create a special-edition package for its soon-to-be-axed successor. Here’s one of these rare machines, spotted recently in a Denver car graveyard.
The original rear-wheel-drive Grand Am was built for the 1973-1975 and 1978-1980 model years, but its similarity to the much cheaper LeMans kept sales numbers unimpressive. When the Grand Am name was revived for a Pontiac-badged compact on the front-drive N Platform in the 1985 model year, however, it became a big seller right away and stayed that way into our current century.
The N-Body Grand Am was built through 2005, with platform updates for the 1992 and 1999 model years. Along the way, it was sibling to such cars as the Oldsmobile Calais, Buick Somerset, Chevrolet Beretta and Oldsmobile Alero.
By 2003, though, the ground was shifting under Pontiac’s feet. The iconic Firebird had been discontinued the previous year, and even the Grand Prix’s days were officially numbered. Oldsmobile would be gone after 2004, and the entire Pontiac vehicle lineup would be shaken up soon after. The last year for the Grand Am (and the Sunfire) would be 2005, with the G6 taking its place. With all that going on, why not offer a 30th Anniversary package? After all, the Grand Prix got a 40th Anniversary Edition for 2002.
Our reviewer described this car as “leaner, trimmer and more contemporary” at the time, but made no mention of the 30th Anniversary Edition. The VIN says this car is a top-grade GT1 sedan, with an MSRP of $22,325 (that’s about $39,920 in 2023 dollars).
Two engines were available in the 2003 Grand Am: a 2.2-liter Ecotec four-cylinder with 140 horsepower and a 3.4-liter pushrod V6 with either 170 or 175 horsepower.
This car has the 175-horse V6, complete with “Ram Air” cold-air induction. That name goes way back in Pontiac history.
Amazingly, a five-speed manual transmission was available on the ’03 Grand Am, but only if you got the Ecotec. This car has the four-speed automatic that was required on the V6 version.
With 175 horsepower and a curb weight of just 3,168 pounds, this car would have been among the quickest Grand Ams (though the lighter 1989-1991 model with the screaming 180-horse Quad 4 could beat it in a drag race).
It’s like living a dream!
Air conditioning and a radio at no extra cost.
If you’re dodging protactinium armadillos and neptunium tumbleweeds in a radioactive-metal world, you’ll want a new Grand Am.