1968 – The Grand Prix
Sometime around 1966, I acquired a black 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix. I had always liked the design and lines of this car, but I thought it could look so much better…………..maybe even hot.
First thing: a snazzy new paint job. This particular blue was a popular color on the Chevy Chevelle in the mid-60s. I thought it would be perfect.
Next thing: jack it up with the front end a bit higher than the rear. Hackensack Auto Spring took care of that.
It already looked unlike any Grand Prix ever created, but it needed chrome-reversed wheels – deep-dish in the front and regular in the back (deep-dish wouldn’t fit in back).
Pinstriping was added, the wheel wells were painted white and the tires and seats were made shiny with silicone. You almost had to wear a seat belt because you might slide right off the seat.
The finishing touch was a name for the car – something that was semi-popular at the time. After much thought, there could be none other than “Prix-fection”.
I hired a boyhood friend named Dickie Kunath to paint the name on the car. He had just opened a sign shop in Teaneck and was really good (he went on to become the guy who – among many other things – painted all the logos on the field at Yankee Stadium for special games like the World Series, etc.).
There was, however, one drawback to naming the car: stupid people.
One day while stopped at a light, a car pulls next to me. The guy yells out, “Hey, beautiful Grand Prix!”
(I have to spell this one phonetically) “But what does ‘Pricks-fection’ mean?”
I eventually added glass-pack mufflers to the car, so it sounded as good as it looked. More than one person thought it was a GTO (which was much smaller).
Inside the car, music was king. Remember 8-track tapes? A friend and I were the first ones in Bergen County to buy 4-track tape players for cars. The music selection was terrible (“The Best of the Ray Conniff Singers” – which I did NOT buy) and the only place that sold them was in East Paterson (now Elmwood Park).
So what did I replace it with? An unsmall 45-rpm record player under the dash that held 12-45s……..upside down……..and crowded passengers’ legs. An upside-down tone arm with a needle played the bottom record. When it finished, the arm would move out of the way while the just-played single would drop down and the process began again with the next single.
Additionally, I had a small reverb unit installed under the dash. In theory, this combo should have provided great sound, but because of the stiff ride provided by the lifts in the springs that raised the car, riding over a pebble sounded like someone kicked the reverb at full volume. I had to remove it.
I sold the car in 1969 and got a real GTO, which I remember racing against an XKE on my way down the shore late one night. At 140mph, the Jaguar walked away from me – how embarassing.
By the time I went back to college in September, 1970, I had an Austin-Healey Sprite convertible that was about the size (and consistency) of a tin can. But with the top down, it was the best car ever for zipping through midtown Manhattan traffic at night.
Late addition: I just found a picture of a car that’s identical (down to the color scheme) to my first car: a 1956 Dodge Custom Royal. I bought it from a high school classmate in 1965 and blew the engine two months later on the night before my prom – so much for impressing my date (my mother’s battleship gray, 4-door, ’61 Chevy didn’t quite measure up).