1971-1972 Hurst SSJ Grand Prix

Filed in Pontiac Grand Prix by on January 3, 2018 • views: 15

The Hurst Performance Research Corporation gained notoriety in the mid-’60s producing factory-installed and aftermarket manual and automatic transmission shifter components. But in the late-’60s, Hurst’s popularity soared due in part to its partnership with Oldsmobile and the modifications made to models like the 4-4-2 that resulted in the Hurst Olds and other musclecars.

It wasn’t until Pontiac advertising executive Jim Wangers visited Hurst one day in his own ’69 Grand Prix that the SSJ would come to be. Wangers’ white Grand Prix had its raised hood area and roof accented in gold, mimicking the Bobcat paint scheme offered by Royal Pontiac. It was from this that the SSJ appearance package was developed for the ’70 model year.

Purchasing an SSJ entailed going to a Pontiac dealer and ordering a Grand Prix Model J or SJ (1970 only). There were restrictions for body and interior color and mandatory wheel and tire options, which will be discussed in detail in their respective sections.

After completing the Pontiac order form, the salesman would then fill out a Hurst order form that specified the SSJ package and any additional Hurst options the buyer desired. Once the Grand Prix was assembled, it was drop-shipped to a Hurst facility, where it was converted into an SSJ.

Exterior color choices were Cameo White (code-C or 11) or Starlight Black (code-A or 19) with body-colored sport mirrors. Both were again trimmed in Fire Frost Gold-which now extended onto the decklid to accentuate the boat-tail styling. Interior colors for the SSJ were limited to Ivory or black for both years and Sandalwood in ’71 with Saddle possibly replacing it for ’72. Buckets or a notchback bench seat with a pull-down center armrest were available with Morrokide (vinyl), or cloth and Morrokide.

An electrically operated sunroof was installed, a black or white landau-style half-top was applied, the wheels were painted Fire Frost Gold metallic, and die-cast SSJ emblems were added to the front fenders, decklid and console.

Hurst sales literature for 1971 boasts of several extra-cost options for the SSJ. Although 14×7 Rally II wheels were required, gold-painted 14-inch Honeycomb wheels and aluminum five-spoke American Racing wheels with gold centers in either 14- or 15-inch sizes were also available. White-stripe G78 x 14 tires were also specified by Hurst, and BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires up to size GR60-15 were yet another option.

Other available equipment included a Hurst Auto/Stick shifter (available with bench-seat only), Hurst’s exclusive front-brake lock called Roll/Control, and a digital computer for calculating vehicle speed, economy, and performance.

Unpublished options consisted of complete engine blueprinting, high-performance tuning similar to that offered by Royal Pontiac, a theft-deterrent system, a black-and-white television, and even a mobile telephone (this work was done by Wisco, otherwise known as the Webasto International Sunroof Corporation)

According to Hurst documentation, the customer could pick up his new SSJ at Hurst or it could be shipped to the dealer. The retail cost of the SSJ package was $1,147.25 (the Hurst window sticker for our featured ’72 SSJ reveals that the price later increased to $1,275.00) over the price of the Grand Prix. Dealers paid $975 for the conversion.

Published production numbers are 272 for ’70 and 157 for ’71. An approximate production number of 60 for ’72 was printed in the past, though more recently, a figure of 52 SSJs has been published. Conversely, Jim Mattison of PHS Automotive Services feels that production could be as high as 200 for ’72, based on his research.

These figures do not include possible dealer-converted SSJs that were not built by Hurst. Former Hurst General Manager and SSJ Project Manager Don Morton explained in “Pontiac SSJ Grand Prix–A Grand Story” published in High Performance Pontiac magazine that some dealers built their own versions of SSJs with various options.

One way to tell an authentic Hurst-converted SSJ is by examining the Pontiac factory documents, which can be ordered from PHS Automotive Services (www.phs-online.com). For ’71-’72 models, a drop-ship code of “50 012,” found on the lower right of the factory invoice, indicates that the GP was delivered to Hurst in Roseville, Michigan, for the conversion. (In 1970, the code was “50 010” for Southfield, Michigan, or “50 011” West Los Angeles, California.)

Also, while the ’70 SSJ could be ordered on the Model J or Model SJ, the ’71-’72 SSJs were based only on the Model J because the new factory striping on the Model SJ conflicted with that of the SSJ package.

Though Hurst stated that the available colors for ’71-’72 were Starlight Black or Cameo White, George Hurst’s personal SSJ was a silver ’72, and we have seen a green ’72 SSJ; the author has also photographed a Bluestone Gray (’71- color) ’72 SSJ, and there have been rumors of other colors, such as maroon, over the years.

Engine:

For 1971, two engines were offered. The standard 300-hp L78 400-cu.in. engine (255 hp net) produced 400 lb.ft. of torque (340 lb.ft. net) and had a 4.12-inch bore and 3.75-inch stroke with 3.00-inch mains and two-bolt caps. It featured 8.2:1 compression to run on 91 octane low-lead or no-lead fuel. The top-end was comprised of a Quadrajet carburetor, cast-iron dual-plane intake manifold, casting-number 96 D-port heads with 2.11/1.77-inch valves and a “067” cam with 273/289-degrees advertised duration and .410/.413-inch lift with 1.50:1 stamped-steel rocker arms. Its bottom end consisted of a cast crank, (6.625-inch) rods and pistons. A Delco breaker-point type distributor and log-type exhaust manifolds were employed, as was dual exhaust.

Pontiac’s engine code for this 400 was “YS,” and like other Pontiac engines, it could be found on the front of the block on the passenger side just below the cylinder head deck. A partial VIN beginning with a “2” to denote the Pontiac division was also located on the passenger front of the block, adjacent to the timing cover.

The 325-hp L75 455-cu.in. engine (260 hp net) produced 455 lb.ft. of torque (380 lb.ft. net) and was essentially the same design as the 400, sharing its external dimensions, carburetor, intake, ignition and exhaust manifold designs, as well as cam specs. However, the block, crank and heads were different castings than the 400, as the 455 had larger 3.25-inch mains and a 4.150-inch bore, the crank had 3.25-inch main journals and a longer 4.210-inch stroke, and casting-number 66 heads featured larger chambers to keep the compression at the same 8.2:1 with the increased bore area. The carburetor and distributor were tuned for the larger displacement, and the engine code for the Grand Prix 455 was “YC.”

Both of these engines were virtually carried over for 1972, except for updated emissions requirements and net power ratings. As a result, the 400 was rated at 250 hp and, oddly enough, so was the 455, but the torque ratings were 325 lb.ft. and 370 lb.ft., respectively. Engine codes for the 400 were “YS,” with “YT” for high altitude applications, and for the 455 they were “YC” and “YA.” The cylinder-head casting number changed to “7K3,” for the 400 and “7M5” for the 455, as did those for the carb, intake and distributor.

A unitized distributor was optional on the 455 engine. This system eliminated the breaker points, and its wires were captured in the cap.

Transmission:

Though manual transmissions were still offered early in the model year in the ’71 Grand Prix, the SSJs documented to date had the optional Turbo 400. On May 1, 1971, the Turbo 400 became standard on the Grand Prix.

The Turbo 400 was one of the Hydra-Matic division’s greatest achievements. It was well designed and rugged, and enjoyed regular upgrades to improve durability and performance. It featured a 2.48:1 first, 1.48:1 second, and 1.00:1 third gears.

For both years, the transmission code with the 400 engine was “PX.” With the 455 engine, the code for ’71 was “PW” and for ’72 it was “PR.” The code was located on an aluminum tag affixed to the passenger side of the transmission case.

Differential:

For 1971, the 400 engine was backed by a standard 3.08:1 (code “AEP”) or optional 3.23:1 (“AFP”) rear axle ratio with an 8.2-inch ring gear in a Pontiac 10-bolt differential. Optional Safe-T-Track added a cone-type limited-slip unit and the codes were “BEP” and “BFP,” respectively. For 1972, the 3.08:1 and 3.23:1 axle codes were “ABP” and “AFP.” With Safe-T-Track, they were “BEP” and “BFP.”

With the 455, a C-type 12-bolt with an 8.875-inch ring gear was employed, and a clutch-type limited-slip unit came with the optional Safe-T-Track. The standard 3.07:1 rear axle ratio was code “WTK.” It was “XTK” with Safe-T-Track for both years. In 1972, the optional 3.31:1 ratio was “WUK,” or “XUK” when adding Safe-T-Track.

Regarding the codes, the first two letters identify the differential type and rear gear ratio, and the third letter is the axle manufacturer–“P” is Pontiac and “K” is GM of Canada. The code is on the passenger-side front of the axle tube adjacent to the carrier.

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