Pack Automotive Museum

Performance - Hot Rods - Custom - Antiques - One Offs Many with valid Race and Movie Build Histories

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PONTIAC

  Named after an Ottawa Indian Leader of the 1700’s who fought bravely to rid the Detroit area in Michigan of British influence, the Pontiac Brand from The General Motors Corporation arrived in 1926 as a subsidiary to GM’s Oakland Motor Car Line.  Previously, one other auto manufacturer had used the name Pontiac around 1906.  Enough for trade-name protection.

As with all other car lines, the Pontiac was created as a niche-price vehicle to go against competition.  This time, however, Pontiac was positioned as a 6 cylinder going against a 4 banger.  As sales blossomed for Pontiac, they shrunk not only for competition but also for GM’s own Oakland and eventually Pontiac had won this battle as it was the last line standing.  Oakland disappeared.  By the mid-fifties, Pontiac meant performance with the early slogan, “We Mean Excitement” and the introduction of racing icons like the Grand Prix and Bonneville. After Pontiac’s introduction of the Bonneville, came the successful intro of it’s “Wide-Track” suspension.  For many of us in the Dallas, TX area, we’ve grown up with a local Pontiac dealer and his Great Dane mascot, “Wide Track”.  Well now you know where he got his name.  Basically the wide track design provided a wider stance and allowed for less body roll while cornering and more traction.  Two pluses you’d like to have on any performance oriented car.  By 1964, John Delorean at Pontiac introduced the GTO (commonly referred to affectionately as the GOAT) on GM’s A-body platform (Tempest & LeMans) and it was immediately successful with its high powered 389 ci V/8 and independent suspension whereas the LeMans had the 327.

Continuing with performance, it was in the late sixties that the F-body Firebird was unveiled.  Even though the Firebird closely mirrored the Tempest/LeMans cars, the Firebird was placed on a smaller chassis as well as sharing other underpinning with its sisters Nova and Camaro. With stiff competition coming from the muscle cars of the day like the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challanger, Pontiac and the Firebird were perfectly positioned.  Unfortunately it was also a changing time for American’s and their taste in cars and, with more imports bringing economy, quality and price, by the 80’s the sales were falling for Pontiac faster than Fireball Roberts drove his Bonnevilles to victories in the sixties (and that was a lot).  Eventually by 2003 , with a four-to-one sales beating from the Ford Mustang alone, the Firebird was gone.

By 1974, the GTO option was only available on the compact Ventura (a Nova is disguise) and then it vanished until a limited run recently on a car with no design appeal or sales volume to mention.  By 2005 Pontiac was introducing the 2-seat, small sports car called Soltice in hopes of spicing up sales and it did. They also added a V/8 engine to the Grand Prix, something Pontiac had not done since the late eighties. With no defined segment buying audience, the Pontiac continued to search for identity and buyers until the auto crisis of 2009 when it was announced the forthcoming closure of the company within 1 year.
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