Thank NASCAR for the Weirdo 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix Aerocoupe 2+2
To beat Ford on high-speed ovals, GM gave the Big Prize an odd window.
When you think of homologation specials, cars that automakers sell in order to meet various racing series' requirements that production-based vehicles are actually, you know, produced, this Pontiac probably wouldn't leap to mind. If you think first of wild rally cars or some exotic supercar, you didn't watch NASCAR in the '80s.
The 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix Aerocoupe 2+2 was built to fix a major issue with General Motors' G-body coupes (which also included the Chevrolet Monte Carlo). Their blocky, squared-off styling and rooflines simply weren't very streamlined, and at the increasingly high speeds seen around NASCAR's large oval tracks, the cars suffered from aerodynamic drag and rear-end lift. Ford's Thunderbirds were slipperier, and their racing drivers could stay in the power through corners; Grand Prix and Monte Carlo pilots needed to let off through turns.
In a bid to help its G-bodies catch up, GM approved Chevrolet and Pontiac to develop aerodynamic improvements for the street cars that could be then raced in NASCAR. Chevy's efforts produced the Monte Carlo Aerocoupe, while Pontiac's admittedly similar work generated this, the 1986 Grand Prix 2+2 Aerocoupe. Yes, chief among the cars' upgrades were their glass rear bubble windows, which effectively bridged the trailing edge of the cars' rooflines with their rear decklid spoilers. But this took a lot more work than appearances let on.
Transforming the notchback G-body into an Aerocoupe required an all-new rear deck to sit beneath that tapered glass, including a new and significantly stubbier trunklid. The trunk opening narrowed considerably as a result, although trunk space was unchanged. So, if you could fit whatever you were planning on bringing with you through the mail-slot opening, technically, the Aerocoupe was as practical as a notchback G-body. Technically.
GM also needed to whip up a huge fiberglass rear parcel shelf to span the rear seats to the farthest reaches of that back window. Don't ask us why this was needed, especially given how the Aerocoupes could have benefitted from a Corvette-style under-glass cargo area or, say, a hinge to allow the glass to lift up like a hatch. NASCAR doesn't care about cargo space, so neither should Aerocoupe buyers, we suppose. An aggressive ducktail spoiler was added to the rear deck, too, while the nose of the Grand Prix (as well as the Monte Carlo) was wholly replaced by a new, smoother plastic piece, adding some much-needed slope to the Pontiac's face.
The result? Well, consider the subjective aspects mixed. From a modern perspective, the G-body Pontiac Grand Prix in its normal form was hardly a looker. Pontiac's Aerocoupe enhancements, if anything, worsened things—in period, many publications panned the beaky plastic nose and odd rear-end styling. Pontiac also didn't fit the most powerful 180-horse High Output engine that it had at the time, so the Grand Prix Aerocoupe came with the next-tier-down 165-hp V-8 option. Performance, at least in the street car, was middling.
On the track, the NASCAR racers Pontiac fielded indeed saw improvements in aero performance, with a more planted rear end and a much lower drag figure. Was that enough to cement this homologation special's place in history? Not so much. Pontiac is said to have produced 1,225 Grand Prix 2+2 Aerocoupes, and like some other NASCAR specials—including the now-prized, be-winged Dodge Daytona—many didn't sell at first. Most shipped with heaps of options and convenience features and were priced significantly higher than their typical Grand Prix counterparts. All were painted silver, with charcoal-colored lower body trim accented by a red stripe. Unlike the famous Daytonas, these Aerocoupes never achieved gilded-unicorn status. For example, the low-mile Aerocoupe pictured in the gallery was posted for sale on Bring a Trailer, with bidding ending well under $10,000. Looked like a golden opportunity to get score some primo 1980s weirdness, if you ask us.
The 1983 Nissan 240RS Is One Obscure, Gnarly Homologation Special
The 2020 Toyota GR Yaris Is a Tiny, 268-HP Ball of Rally-Bred Fury
The Ford RS Cosworth Is the Best Rally Special from the 1990s