Pontiac


The History of Pontiac

   

Pontiac is a marque of car first produced in 1907 as Oakland Motor Company, and in 1926 was renamed to "Pontiac Motor Co." Pontiac was sold in the United States, Canada, and Mexico by General Motors (GM). Pontiac has been marketed as the performance division of General Motors for many years, specializing in mainstream performance vehicles.
On April 27, 2009, amid ongoing financial problems and restructuring efforts, GM announced that it would phase out the Pontiac brand by the end of 2010 and focus on four core brands in North America: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC.
The Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works was incorporated in July of 1899 by Albert G. North and Harry G. Hamilton. By 1905 they had taken over the manufacturing of the Rapid Truck (from the Rapid Motor Vehicle Co.) that had been introduced two years earlier. In 1907 they decided to produce a car.
The first Pontiac car was introduced that fall by the Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works. It was a highwheeler weighing 1,000 pounds and powered by a two-cylinder water-cooled 12 hp engine. The prototype was displayed in October 1907 at an exhibition sponsored by the Carriage Dealers' Association in New York City's Grand Central Palace. In December of the same year several of the new Pontiacs were exhibited at the Chicago Automobile Show. Well received by the press, the car featured final drive by double chain and a friction transmission. The wheelbase was 70 inches, front wheels 38, with 40s in the rear, and solid tyres all-around.
On Aug. 28, 1907, Edward M. Murphy incorporated the Oakland Motor Co. Murphy is said to have chosen the Oakland name for his car venture because the company was located in Oakland County, Michigan. Crosstown rival Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works already was making a high-wheel motor wagon under the Pontiac name. Both companies decided to merge together in November 1908 under the name of the Oakland Motor Car Company. The headquarters and manufacturing were in Pontiac, Michigan.
In January 1909, General Motors President William C. Durant purchased a 50% interest in the Oakland Motor Car Company. Later that year GM bought out the other 50% after the unexpected death of Edward M. Murphy at the age of 45.
The Pontiac brand was introduced by General Motors in 1926 as the 'companion' marque to GM's Oakland division. Within months of its introduction, Pontiac was outselling Oakland. As a result of Pontiac's rising sales, versus Oakland's declining sales, Pontiac became the only companion marque to survive its parent, with Oakland ceasing production in 1932.
Pontiac began by selling cars offering 40 hp (30 kW) 186.7 ci (3.1 litre) (3.25x3.75 in, 82.5x95mm) L-head straight 6-cylinder engines in the Pontiac Chief of 1927; its stroke was the shortest of any American car in the industry at the time. The Chief sold 39,000 units within six months of its appearance at the 1926 New York Auto Salon. The next year, it became the top-selling six in the U.S., ranking seventh in overall sales. By 1933, it had moved up to producing the least expensive cars available with straight eight-cylinder (inline eight) engines. This was done by using many components from the 6-cylinder Chevrolet, such as the body. In the late 1930s, Pontiac used the so-called torpedo body of the Buick for one of its models, just prior to its being used by Chevrolet. This body style brought some attention to the marque.
From 1946-1948, all Pontiac models were essentially 1942 models with minor changes. The Hydra-matic automatic transmission was introduced in 1948 and helped Pontiac sales grow even though their cars, Torpedoes and Streamliners, were quickly becoming out of date.
The first all-new Pontiac models appeared in 1949. Newly redesigned, they sported such styling cues as lower body lines and rear fenders that were integrated in the rear-end styling of the car.
Along with new styling came a new model. Continuing the Native American theme of Pontiac, the Chieftain line was introduced to replace the Torpedo. These were built on the GM B-Body platform and featured sportier styling than the more conservative Streamliner. In 1950, the Catalina trim-level was introduced as a sub-series.
In 1952, Pontiac discontinued the Streamliner and replaced it with additional models in the Chieftain line built on the GM A-body platform. This single model line continued until 1954 when the Star Chief was added. The Star Chief was created by adding an 11-inch (280 mm) extension to the A-body platform creating a 124-inch (3,100 mm) wheelbase.
The 1953 models were the first to have one-piece windshields instead of the normal two-piece units. While the 1953 and 1954 models were heavily re-worked versions of the 1949-52 Chieftain models, they were engineered to accommodate the V-8 engine that would appear in the all-new 1955 models.
Completely new bodies and chassis were introduced for 1955. A new 173-horsepower (129 kW) overhead valve V-8 engine was introduced. Sales increased. With the introduction of this V-8, the six cylinder engines were discontinued; a six-cylinder engine would not return to the full-size Pontiac line until the GM corporate downsizing of 1977. An overhead cam six cylinder engine was used in the Tempest model line starting in 1966, as well as on the Firebird. It was the first mass produced engine in America utilizing an overhead camshaft configuration.
1958 was the last year Pontiac Motor Division would bear the "Indian" motif throughout the vehicle.
With the 1959 model year, Pontiac came out with its "V" emblem, with the star design in the middle. The "V" design ran all the way up the hood from between the split grille, and on Starchief Models, had 8 chrome stars from the emblem design bolted to both sides of the vehicle as chrome trim. The car received a completely reworked chassis, body and interior styling. Quad headlamps, and a longer, lower body were some of the styling changes.
The Chieftain line was renamed Catalina; Star Chief was downgraded to replace the discontinued Super Chief series, and the Bonneville was now the top of the line, coming equipped with a fuel-injection system. The Star Chief's four-door "Vista" hardtop was also shared by the Bonneville. This coincided with major body styling changes across all models that introduced increased glass area, twin V-shaped fins and lower bonnet profiles.
The Tempest's popularity helped move Pontiac into third place among American car brands in 1962, a position Pontiac would hold though 1970. The Buick 215 V8 would remain in production for more than thirty five years, being used by Britain's Rover Group after it had bought the rights to it. GM attempted to buy the rights back, however, Rover wished, instead, to sell the engines directly.
Increasing insurance and fuel costs for owners coupled with looming Federal emissions and safety regulations would eventually put an end to the unrestricted, powerful engines of the 1960s. Safety, luxury and economy would become the new watch-words of the 1970s. Engine performance began declining in 1971 when GM issued a corporate edict mandating that all engines be capable of using lower-octane unleaded gasoline, which led to dramatic drops in compression ratios, along with performance and fuel economy. This, coupled with trying to build cars as plush as GM's more luxurious Buicks and Oldsmobiles, contributed to the start of a slow decline at Pontiac in 1971.
For 1975, Pontiac introduced the new sub-compact Astre, a version of the Chevrolet Vega. This was the brand's entry into the fuel economy segment of the market. Astre had been sold exclusively in Canada from 1973. It was offered through the 1977 model year. 1975 would also see the end of Pontiac convertibles for the next decade.
The 1976 models were the last of the traditional American large cars powered by mostly big block V8 engines. After this year, all GM models would go through "downsizing" and shrink in length, width, weight and available engine size.
The remainder of the 1970s and the early 1980s saw the continued rise of luxury, safety and economy as the key selling points in Pontiac products. Wire-spoked wheel covers returned for the first time since the 1930s. More station wagons than ever were being offered. Padded vinyl roofs were options on almost every model. Rear-wheel drive began its slow demise with the introduction of the first front-wheel drive Pontiac, the 1980 Phoenix (a version of the Chevrolet Citation). The Firebird continued to fly high on the success of the 'Smokey and the Bandit' film, still offering Formula and Trans Am packages, plus a Pontiac first- a turbocharged V-8, for the 1980 and 1981 model years. Overall, Pontiac's performance was a shadow of its former self, but to give credit where due, PMD did more with less than most other brands were able to in this era.
The 1984 Fiero was a major departure from anything Pontiac had produced in the past. A two-seat, mid-engined coupe, the Fiero was targeted at the young, affluent buyer who wanted sporting performance at a reasonable price. The Fiero was also an instant success and was partially responsible for Pontiac seeing its first increase in sales in four years.
With the exception of the Firebird and Fiero, beginning in 1988 all Pontiacs switched to front-wheel drive platforms. For the first time since 1970, Pontiac was the number three domestic car maker in America. Pontiac's drive to bring in more youthful buyers was working as the median age of Pontiac owners dropped from 46 in 1981 to 38 in 1988.
With the focus back on performance, Pontiac was once again doing what it did best. Although updating and revamping continued throughout the 1990s, the vast change seen during the 1980s did not. The period between 1989 and 1997 can best be described as one of continuous refinement. Anti-lock brakes, GM's Quad-4 engine, airbags and composite materials all became standard on Pontiacs during this time.
On December 2, 2008, General Motors announced that it was considering eliminating numerous brands, including Pontiac, in order to appease Congress in hope of receiving a 25 billion dollar loan. On February 17, 2009, GM originally proposed the elimination of its Saturn division, the sale of Saab, and either the sale or elimination of Hummer, depending on whether a buyer could be found quickly. In the original plan GM also clarified that Pontiac would have begun to focus on "niche" models aimed at the "youthful and sporty" segment, but did not provide specifics. Pontiac was to trim its number of models to four, although there was talk of retaining only one model. By April 2009 several car websites and business publications were reporting that GM was doing a study suggesting it might eliminate the brand altogether, along with sister truck brand GMC. On April 23 a report was published stating the company would be dropping the Pontiac brand while preserving the GMC truck line, as well as the Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick brands. The decision to eliminate Pontiac was made primarily due to the increasing threat of a bankruptcy filing if the June 1 deadline could not be met. On April 27, 2009, GM officially announced that Pontiac would be dropped and that all of its remaining models would be phased out by the end of 2010.
In December 2009, the last Pontiac-branded vehicle to roll off an assembly line was in the Canadian-market Pontiac G3 Wave, manufactured in South Korea by GM Daewoo.
An American Indian headdress was used as a logo until 1956. This was updated to the currently used American Indian red arrowhead design for 1957. The arrowhead logo is also known as the Dart.
Besides the logo, another identifying feature of Pontiacs were their "Silver Streaks" - one or more narrow strips of stainless steel which extended from the grille down the centre of the bonnet. Eventually they extended from the rear window to the rear bumper as well, and finally; along the tops of the fins. Although initially a single band, this stylistic trademark doubled to two for 1955 - 1956. The Streaks were discontinued the same year the Indian Head emblems were; 1957.
Other long-familiar styling elements were the split grille design (from 1959 onward), pointed 'arrowhead' nose (in the 1960s and 70s), and "grilled-over" (in the 1960s), or multiple-striped taillights. This later feature originated with the 1963 Grand Prix, and though the '62 GP also had rear grillework, the taillight lenses were not behind it. Less longstanding but equally memorable is the 'cladding' common on the doors and fenders of Pontiacs produced in the 90s. Rather than minimizing the side bumper, Pontiac designers put two troughs going along the length. Reviews were generally negative but bumpers with this appearance were found on nearly all Pontiacs until the arrival of the G6.

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