General Motors announced today that they will phase out Pontiac from their product offering. By the end of 2010, one of the iconic makes of the American automobile industry will be no more. To pay homage to Pontiac, let’s look back at some of the great, or at least, memorable, cars of Pontiac’s past.
Pontiac Series 6-27
Haven’t heard of it? Well, that’s okay because Wikipedia doesn’t even have a page on it. The 6-27, which was offered as both a sedan and a roadster, was Pontiac’s first car. It had a 3.1 litre straight-six engine… And that’s all that I could dig up about it. So let’s move on.
Here’s the first really big Pontiac model. The Bonneville is credited with helping propel Pontiac up to third in American car sales in the 1960’s. From 1959 until the model’s demise in 2005, it was the top-of-the-line car in Pontiac’s offering and was priced competitively with Cadillacs, not your bog standard cars. In ’59, the Bonneville was used to introduce to key parts of Pontiac’s image: The split grille design and the Wide Track slogan. It also had a fuel-injected motor as standard, rare for that time. By the late seventies, Pontiac had sucked the coolness out of the Bonneville, leaving it to slowly die.
Introduced in 1961, the original Tempest bore a passing resemblance to the Oldsmobile Cutlass. Underneath, designer John DeLorean (yes, that DeLorean) had made a great car for a great price. It had the most powerful four-cylinder engine available at that time, a flexible driveshaft, and four-wheel independent suspension. It was among the most advanced American cars at the time. From ’64 to ’70, second generation Tempest was up-sized to a mid-sized car so it lost some of its uniqueness. However, the V8 package on the Tempest was so popular that Pontiac spun it off as its own model: The GTO.
This is Pontiac. Ask anyone that loves cars and the first Pontiac to come to mind is the GTO. As mentioned above, the GTO was originally an option package on the Tempest. Those first GTOs had a 345 horsepower, 389 cu. in. V8 engine that could do 0-60 MPH in under 7 seconds. By 1966, the Goat (as it was also known) was considered its own model in the Pontiac line. It had already been differentiated from the standard Tempest with hood scoops, restyled dashboards, unique lights, flared rear fenders, and bucket seats. In ’69, the GTO made another leap forward with the introduction of The Judge. This was an option package that was designed to be the ultimate performance package on the street. It had the 366 hp Ram Air III engine, Hurst shifter, wider tires, and a rear spoiler. Talk to anyone who grew up in the era of the muscle car and they will all speak fondly of the GTO and The Judge.
Pontiac Firebird/Trans AmThe Firebird was the Pontiac take on the Chevy Camaro platform and was designed to take on the Ford Mustangs (and the Mercury Cougar that was built on the Mustang’s platform). The Trans Am was the highest performance specification of the Firebird with improved power and handling. Despite the similarities between the Trans Am and the Camaro, I always thought that the Trans Am was the better looking of the two cars until a poor redesign in 1991. Of course, the Trans Am was a Hollywood star with features roles in Smokey and The Bandit, Hooper, and Knight Rider. Interestingly, Pontiac had to pay the SCCA $5 for every Trans Am sold because the SCCA had the Trans Am name trademarked for use as the name of a racing series.
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