I purchased my Mandalay red 1962 Grand Prix in May,1988 after finding it for sale at a swap meet in Iola, Wisconsin. Purchase price: $5,000.00; mileage: 54,000.
After getting it home, I found the engine burned oil and decided to fix it. This led to a complete body off restoration. I literally have removed, cleaned, re-plated (when needed) and re-installed every nut, bolt and screw on this car. I rebuilt the engine, boring it .30 over and installing a 348 hp (425a) cam. The Slim Jim transmission had been replaced with a 1963 economy engine unit. I rebuilt it and replaced the "guts" with correct parts for a Tri-Power car, including the valve body and accumulator valve. The 8 lug drums are all dated early 1962 (build date on the car was March 14, 1962 at the Wilmington, DE plant). And the rims are also dated early 1962. The starter is dated March 2, 1962. The original 3.23 open rear end is dated B 8 2 (February 8, 1962) and is stamped with the correct code, "9". The starter is dated March 2, 1962 and the clock is dated February 1962. The distributor, # 1110996, is dated February 6, 1962. The car came with the Super Deluxe radio, but the dealer installed a Wonderbar radio and rear seat speaker.
As with many Tri-Power cars, the vacuum linkage had been removed and replaced with a mechanical setup and the original large dual snorkel factory air cleaner was missing. I purchased a correct factory air cleaner in 1989 and I have been able to locate all the original vacuum parts and have had the carbs put back together with the correct vacuum system. (Thanks to Jon Haven of Jon’s Tri-Power Service for all the information and the great, correct rebuild on the carbs).
Over the years (before eBay) I spent many hours combing through junk yards looking for even the smallest original piece to replace things that were missing (Like the clips that hold down the battery cable on the inner fender well and the original brown Delco coil). I was lucky that 30 years ago many of these parts were still around. In 1989, after much research, I made contact with a Chicago area re-producer of spark plug wires (Lectric Limited) and had them make a set of wires with not only the correct dates, BUT the correct configuration. I had to argue with them until convincing them that my research showed the correct angles for the distributor boots.
I had been fortunate to find the "little" original things that were missing, such as the yellow instruction tag for transmission dip stick, an original breather for the automatic transmission and original, stamped transmission radiator cooling hoses and an NOS radiator petcock with correctly facing ears.
I parked the car in 1994 in my heated garage while I got into motorcycle touring. In 2013 I started a "refresh" project and I went all out; things like a NOS lighter and ashtray liners. I had the power brake booster rebuilt, complete with the factory anodized plating.
The car has a documented 57031 miles. The frame number matches the VIN and the engine, code 27J, has the VIN stamped on it as well as the production number listed in the PHS report. I found a hand-written "track sheet" under the rear seat which lists codes for most of the accessories the car was built with. These include the 27J (318 Hp, Tri-Power, 389 cu in.) engine, Roto Hydramatic transmission with a 3.23 open rear and 8 lug wheels. The Production Record from Pontiac Historical Service (PHS) shows the same options.
Not counting the “service” items (hoses, belts, spark plug wires, etc) the only parts replaced with reproduction items are the carpet, the headliner/package tray and the trunk liners. The seats are all original, although the driver’s seat had one section repaired. While the original steering wheel was “good” (no cracks), in 2015 I opted to have a core wheel restored.
From years of being a collector car enthusiast, I understood the importance of documentation and did lots of research. I was able to obtain the original shipping documentation from both PHS and the National Automobile Theft Bureau (NATB) showing the car was originally delivered to Bob Neill Pontiac, Winston-Salem, NC. I learned that the first owner was Jerry W Speaks of Winston-Salem, NC. He paid $4436.39 for the vehicle and financed $3370.68 through GMAC.
Speaks owned the car for about 2 years before trading it back to Bob Neill Pontiac. After that, the history goes "underground" with the next title found in Akron, OH in 1978 with 47,987 miles. After my purchase, I contacted the last "personal" owner in Ohio. He told me he had the car repainted in the factory Mandalay red using lacquere.
After the restoration, which I did myself, I began showing the car at local and regional car shows, most often walking away with 1st place and/or Best of Show or Best GM trophies. The shows included World of Wheels, Chicago, the Pontiac, Illinois All Pontiac show and the James Dean Run in Fairmount, IN where I took first place in the 1940 to 1964 stock class which included over 60 entries.
In 1989, at one of the shows, representatives of the Collectible Automobile magazine approached me. They explained that they were writing an article on early Grand Prixs and wanted to use my car for the magazine. Obviously, I was honored and quickly agreed. The article appeared in the June 1990 issue, with the car being featured on the back cover and the "centerfold", as well as other photos. Since then, it has been used in a number of books on muscle cars, including Muscle Car Chronicle; Great American Automobiles of the 60s and Automobiles of the 60s. It was pictured in the December 1989 edition of High Performance Pontiacs as part of an article on Chicago cruise drive-ins.
The car was last shown in 1994. I had gotten back into two-wheel touring and I parked the Prix in my heated garage, where she waited patiently for me to pay attention to her again. In the fall of 2013, I came to my senses and started playing with the car. I began refreshing my 25 year old restoration and hope to have it back on the "circuit" soon.
I had always wished the car was a 4 speed and, in 2018, opted to convert it. I found an original console and shifter on eBay. (Herb Patton who used to own the Don Gay Catalina). I then worked with Herb to purchase almost all the parts needed for the conversion. A few of the parts I couldn't get from him were things like the shifter bellows, the clutch rod boot, I was lucky to find after exhaustive internet searches. Since during my original restoration, I installed a 425A cam, I also bought a set of the original 425a exhaust manifolds from Herb.
On July 10, 2019, for the first time in 25 years, I fired her up. On the 22nd, she rolled out of the garage under her own power and we took her to the muffler shop for all new exhaust.
In June 2020, I retired and moved to Florida, obviously bringing the car with me (hey, we've been together for over 32 years, not the time for a "divorce" now)
I am proud that my car has only been trailered 5 times since I have owned it. Once when I took delivery, once as part of the original restoration when it was taken to the muffler shop for new exhaust, once to take it to downtown Chicago in the middle of the winter for World of Wheels in the snow. (I drove it home after the show) and, in 2018 I trailered it to the paint shop where, after I prepped the car (read that hours of block/wet sanding), my friend shot it and lastly, one more trip on a trailer to the muffler shop in July 2019.
8 lugs drums Right rear: B 1-24 62 Left rear: D 2-2 62 Right front: C 1-22-62 Left front: A 2-20-62 8 lug rims all dated January & February 1962 Starter: Part # 1107781 Date Code: 2 C 2 (March 2, 1962) Rear axle: Code: 9 (3.23 open) Date code: B 8 2 (February 8 1962) Distributor: Part # 1110996 Date code: 2 B 6 (February 6, 1962) Clock: Dated Feb. 62 Tach: Dated Jan 62