In Memoriam: Pontiac Motor Division (1926-2010)
We all saw it coming. Like an airplane falling from the sky, GM had to drop some weight. First came the demise of Oldsmobile; now, reportedly, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Hummer are on the way out. Who knows? Soon other GM divisions may follow this sad lead.
It was not a surprise on April 24, 2009, when the news came. According to Wikipedia, "GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson said the Pontiac brand would be closed by 2010, calling it an 'extremely personal decision.' In addition to speeding up decisions on Saturn, Saab, and Hummer, GM will be left with four brands--Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac."
Pontiac was GM's youth division. At one time, its slogan was "We Build Excitement," which was hardly what you would expect from, say, a Sedan DeVille. When The Monkees needed a cool car, they got a Pontiac, fully customized by Dean Jeffries. During the muscle car heyday, Pontiac was out front. John DeLorean had a huge part developing the trend with the GTO. And nobody else could claim that a "Wide Track" car would help handling.
Pontiac's most memorable cars might be the Bonneville, Firebird/Trans Am, Fiero, Grand Prix, GTO, and LeMans. Other notables include the Catalina, Trans Sport, G8, and "The Judge;" they all can't be named here. From Native American headdress hood ornaments to screaming chickens on the hood, Pontiac always made a bold statement about style and performance.
Maybe the saddest part of this is that Pontiac was on the edge of a rebirth. Bob Lutz' Solstice was making new ground with an attractive coupe version that had just been recently introduced.
The G8 is a highly respected performance sedan, and a utility coupe version (the G8 ST, shown here) had almost reached the showrooms. But time was not on Pontiac's side. Again, a case of too little, too late.
If history had repeated itself, Pontiac would have sold a version of the upcoming Chevy Cruze and other small front-wheel-drive cars. When this economic slowdown is behind us, who will make the fuel-efficient cars that we will need?
I had a few Pontiacs through the years ... a 1970 Firebird while in college, the disastrous T1000, and a red Fiero 2M4 while I was working for Road Test Magazine. I miss the Firebird and Fiero.
Car names like Chief, J2000, Montana, SD-455, Tempest, and Ventura will be gone for a while, if not forever. But Pontiac's legacy will be with us in our driveways, on used car lots, and in museums for a very long time. I can't help but wonder where the last Pontiac will go.
Wikipedia, Google Images, and Chevrolet were sources for the materials in this post.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)