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High Performance Pontiac: 1969 428 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ - Banished Brute

David Eisner's 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ

High Performance Pontiac: 1969 428 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ - Banished Brute

Unwanted By A Mopar Collector, This '69 428 Grand Prix SJ Exhibits High Class With High Power

Thomas A. DeMauro photographer

James Miles writer

Dec 4, 2006

The year was 1969 and the world was changing, and Pontiac was changing right along with it. John DeLorean saw buyers' tastes shifting toward a different kind of car a few years before, so he ordered a new design direction for his luxury/performance model, the Grand Prix. It would combine throw-back styling cues of the Duesenberg SJ with the thoroughly modern long hood/short deck body shell and fighter cockpit-inspired interior layout. Pontiac's version of GM's G-body was born. The result was a superb, refined machine that would look as good 30 years later as it did for its debut. One such example, still shining as brightly today as it did then, belongs to David Risner of Mansfield, Ohio.

0602_hppp_03z 1969_potiac_grand_prix_sj side

A 51-year-old dealership parts manager for the Craig Smith Auto Group by day, David bought this showboat in July 1998 for a now-unheard-of-sum of $3,000. The SJ-optioned Grand Prix had an odometer reading of 131,000 and was numbers-matching throughout. It also had options like a Cordova top, an automatic trans, an AM/FM radio and 8-track stereo, a remote control mirror, Rally II wheels, variable ratio power steering, a tilt wheel, tinted glass, power windows, and A/C. Sounds like a good deal?

Wait, it gets better.

According to David, "I have always been a car buff, and I have worked in dealerships for 30 years. I had numerous musclecars prior to getting married and raising a family. With our family now grown, my wife and I decided to look for a classic Pontiac."

Searching high and low, David discovered this GP SJ in a local newspaper. He called for more details and to set up an appointment to examine the Pontiac. What he heard was a familiar voice on the other end of the line. As it turned out, the owner was a business acquaintance who felt the SJ didn't fit in his garage-and not just because of its "longest in the industry" hood. You see, he was a Mopar buff, so the Pontiac had to go.

0602_hppp_02z 1969_potiac_grand_prix_sj back

The decision to buy wasn't an overnight one, but with the help of a second opinion from long-time friend Mike Kelly, David discovered the GP's important numbers-matching qualities. At the time, the '69 was painted red and was replete with a black Cordova top. But, as Dave told HPP, "The car was over 90 percent there and only needed some trim work, engine and interior detailing, and some TLC." With the pleasantries and cash exchanged, Dave drove his new ride home. Until the fall of 1998, the SJ served as cruise-in and show transportation. It was toward the end of the year the real fun began.

That October, Dave decided to tend to some of the GP's needs. Giving the Pontiac a good once-over, the missing pieces were accessed. The absent A/C compressor and brackets were found shortly thereafter in a salvage yard, while an N.O.S. air lift pump for the Automatic Level Control system was found at an Ames Performance Pontiac Nats swap meet before the close of the year.

Next, the front clip and suspension came off the car for a good detailing, while the frame received Eastwood Chassis Black in the spots Dave could reach. After the work underneath, he reinstalled the underpinnings. Looking the GP over, you'll find 14x7 Rally II's wrapped with G70x14 Firestone narrow whitewalls at all four corners, 10.9-inch power discs, stock springs and Delco shocks in front and 9.5-inch drums and stock springs in back. The '69 rides on a cloud thanks to the rear factory Automatic Level Control air-ride system with AC Delco air shocks.

0602_hppp_04z 1969_potiac_grand_prix_sj engine

With the chassis worked out, the 428 engine was next. Upon its removal, Dave found the original body color paint on the firewall-Castillian Bronze-a "special paint" hue that cost $12.64 in 1969. The factory 428, 370-horse powerplant (a 390hp H.O. was optional that year) was treated to a stock rebuild by a previous owner with a 0.030 overbore and other machine work performed by Met's Auto Supply in Mansfield, Ohio. For that reason, only exterior engine detailing was required.

This engine features a Q-jet carb on a cast-iron dual-plane intake manifold. The heads are casting number 62 and are fitted with 2.11/1.77 valves. Rated compression ratio is 10.5:1. An 066 grind cam with 273/282 degrees duration and 0.410/0.414 lift was used by Pontiac, but a hotter 068 cam with 288/302 degrees duration was installed during the rebuild. The XF-code 428 four-bolt main block is home to a cast crank, rods, and pistons. Ignition is Delco single-point, and the exhaust is handled by standard log manifolds and dual pipes and mufflers. Replacement parts were employed where needed, and aside from the overbore and cam upgrade, no other specs were altered from stock in the process. Even the original M40 Turbo 400 transmission and 3.23 rear were untouched.

0602_hppp_05z 1969_potiac_grand_prix_sj interior

The GP was reassembled and shown with its "as purchased" red paint until 2002. In that year, David started an on-the-frame restoration using PHS documentation as a guide. It was on the frame because David says, "The underside was immaculate and the body mount bushings were still soft and not dry rotted." The SJ was stripped to bare metal for a repaint, when a discovery was made. It had been in an accident several years ago and the left rear quarter-panel was in pretty rough shape thanks to an improper repair. This entire panel would need to be replaced, so Dave drove more than 900 miles to retrieve one he uncovered in Tennessee. The new panel was installed, and he then spent his available time over the next several months working on the body before the entire car was covered in three coats of Sherwin Williams' primer and three coats of PN U7-3426 Castillian Bronze made by the same manufacturer-no wet-sanding in between. Next, three coats of SW's clearcoat were applied with a 1,500-2,000-grit wet-sanding used to smooth everything out to a show-quality finish.

Attention was then turned toward the interior. Ames provided a new carpet and seat covers for the black knit and Morrokide bucket seats, while Mansfield Seat Cover of Mans-field, Ohio, stretched the stock-like material over the original seat frames. Mansfield then signed on to replace the Cordova top. Everything else-the aircraft-inspired dash, the AM-FM radio and 8-track (mounted behind the console), and the Rally gauges-were still in excellent condition.

In early 2004, Dave completed the SJ with help from Mike Kelley, and he was ready to present it to the Pontiac hobby. Out of the gate, his (as he calls it) "luxury man's musclecar" picked up a First in Class in the Grand Prix class at the Ames Performance Pontiac Nats in 2005. Pretty good for an undesired Pontiac!

Dave's not stopping here, though. The POCI member is contemplating a future body-off and perhaps purchasing a '67-'69 Firebird for his wife. Who knows, maybe he'll find another "unwanted" Poncho soon. Nevertheless, DeLorean would be proud of how his vision has endured through this '69 Grand Prix SJ.


The Turbo Hydromatic transmission was in as good of shape as the rest of the car. Here you can see the standard sport shifter that allowed for manual upshifting, much like a Hurst Dual Gate.

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