- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2011

It has been 19 years since Frederick Vare got his first car. He recalls that his father made arrangements for him to get the car in May 1988 at the end of his junior year of high school in Liverpool, N.Y.

Fortunately, he and his father shared the same taste in automobiles, so he was happy to see an 11-year-old 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix appear in the driveway of their home. “It was a base model,” he says, “but it was red with a white vinyl top.”

The Pontiac saw him through his final year of high school and than he drove off in it to college in Ithaca, N.Y. After college in 1993 he moved to Bowie as a Marine Corps musician. The almost 20-year-old Pontiac made the trip soon afterward, once a transmission line that had rusted through had been repaired.

Gunnery Sgt. Vare acknowledges that his Pontiac didn’t fare well during the winters in upstate New York. Years of salt and chemicals on the highways had attacked the most vulnerable areas of his Pontiac. Still, he liked the car, so in 1994 hee began looking for a replacement 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix, an upscale SJ model this time. Of the 288,430 Pontiac Grand Prix models built in 1977, 54,442 were delivered as SJ models.

After three years of searching, he saw one advertised for sale in relatively nearby Fairfax Station. The original owner was selling the car after driving it 122,000 miles. It was originally the car was black, the carpet, upholstery, headliner, paint and vinyl top.

Frederick Vare replaced his first 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix with an upgraded SJ model, after the original succumbed to a rust attack.
Frederick Vare replaced his first 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix with an upgraded ... more >

In February 1997, with his brother-in-law, Robert Smallman, Sgt. Vare drove his red Pontiac to see the black Pontiac, which he surmises must have given the seller the idea that the car would be in good hands with him. The car was so impressive he bought it on the spot and drove it home that day.

In 1977 the base price for a Pontiac Grand Prix was $5,109. An SJ package was available for an additional $633. The SJ package included:

• Center console.

• Rally II wheels.

• SJ identification.

• Acoustical insulation.

• GR70x15 radial tires.

• Turbo 400 Hydramatic.

• Rocker panel moldings.

• Rally handling package.

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