Pontiac was an automobile brand established in 1926 as a companion make for General Motors' Oakland. Quickly overtaking its parent in popularity, it supplanted the Oakland brand entirely by 1933 and, for most of its life, became a companion make for Chevrolet. Pontiac was sold in the United States, Canada, and Mexico by General Motors (GM). Pontiac was marketed as the performance division of General Motors for many years, specializing in mainstream performance vehicles. Pontiac was relatively more popular in Canada, where for much of its history it was marketed as a low-priced vehicle.
On April 27, 2009, amid ongoing financial problems and restructuring efforts, GM announced it would discontinue the Pontiac brand by the end of 2010 and focus on four core brands in North America: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC. The last Pontiacs were built in late 2009, with the final dealer franchises expiring October 31, 2010.
Style trademarks and logo
A Native American headdress was used as a logo until 1956. This was updated to the currently used Native American 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 center of the hood. 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 although the '62 Grand Prix 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 1980s and 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. From 2004 onwards, new Pontiacs had cleaner, more premium styling, but retained the traditional split grille.
In Canada, the post-WWII Pontiac brand sold well. General Motors cleverly offered a line of full-size Pontiac cars that were styled like U.S market models, but were actually Chevrolets under their skins. Model lineup during this period included the base Strato-Star, midrange Laurentian, and top-of-the-line Parisienne series. Under their exteriors, however, these cars featured Chevrolet frames, engines, interiors (except for instrument panels which were Pontiac-based), and even dimensions. Thus, during the early 1960s, Pontiacs featured the controversial "X" frame used on the big Chevys, as well as the complete Chevy lineup of OHV straight Sixes, small-block 283 and 327 cubic inch V8s, and the big-block 348 and 409 V8s. This scheme was used well into the 1980s, and the Caprice-based 1984 and later Parisienne made it into U.S. Pontiac showrooms to replace the recently-discontinued Bonneville. This strategy helped keep the price of the cars to a minimum, as was needed in the less-affluent Canadian marketplace. GM of Canada was already building Chevrolets in Ontario; they only needed to stamp Pontiac-styled body skins (these were styled like, but not interchangeable with, US Pontiac body parts) and import Pontiac-specific trim from the United States, to convert these Chevys to Pontiacs. It also reduced the cost of tariffs GM would have needed to pay, had they imported US-market Pontiacs Up North.
GM of Canada also executed right-hand drive versions of Pontiac for export. These cars were popular in Australia, where GM faced competition from the big Ford Galaxie and Dodge Phoenix.
Pontiac dealers in Canada also sold smaller Chevrolet-based cars under the Acadian and Beaumont badges. These models are often referred to as Pontiacs, but in fact were never marketed as such, nor did they ever wear Pontiac badges (although the Acadian and Beaumont emblem was in fact, similar to the Pontiac Arrowhead).
Pontiac engineer Clayton Leach designed the stamped steel valvetrain rocker arm, a simplified and reliable alternative to a bearing-equipped rocker. This design was subsequently picked up by nearly every OHV engine manufacturer at one point or another.
Pontiac began work on a V-8 configuration in 1946. This was initially intended to be an L-head engine, and 8 experimental units were built and extensively tested by the end of the 1940s. But testing comparisons to the OHV Oldsmobile V-8 revealed the L-head could not compete performance-wise. So, in addition to building a new Pontiac Engineering building in 1949–1951, the decision to re-direct the V-8 to an OHV design delayed its introduction until the 1955 model year.
In mid-1956, Pontiac introduced a higher-powered version of its V-8. Among other things, this version of the engine was equipped with a high-performance racing camshaft and dual 4-barrel carburetors. This was the first in a series of NASCAR-ready Super-Tempest and Super-Duty V-8 engines and introduced the long line of multi-carburetor equipped engines that saw Pontiac become a major player during the muscle car and pony car era of the 1960s. Interestingly, the enlarged 1956 Pontiac V8 found its way into light-duty GMC pickup trucks.
Pontiac's second generation V-8 engines shared numerous similarities, allowing many parts to interchange from its advent in 1959 to its demise in 1979. Sizes ranged from 265 cubic inch to 455 cubic inch. This similarity (except the 301 & 265) makes rebuilding these engines relatively easier. This feature also made it possible for Pontiac to invent the modern muscle car, by the relatively simple process of placing its second largest-displacement engine, the 389 cid, into its mid-size car, the Le Mans, creating the Pontiac GTO.
From their inception in the 1950s until the early 1970s, Pontiac engines were known for their performance. The largest engine was a massive 455 cubic inch V-8 that was available in most of their mid-size, full-size and sports car models. At the height of the horsepower era, Pontiac engines reached a powerful 390 rated horsepower (SAE gross), though other engines achieved considerably higher outputs in actuality. Federal emissions laws eventually brought the horsepower era to a close and resulted in a steady decline for Pontiac's engines. One holdout to this industry-wide slide was the Super Duty 455 engine of 1973–1974. Available only in the Firebird Formula and Trans Am models, this was rated at 310 hp (230 kW) net initially but after having issues passing EPA emissions tests, the camshaft was changed to the old RA III cam and with the change, came a 290 hp (220 kW) net rating. The engine was the pinnacle of Pontiac engine development and was a very strong performer that included a few race-specific features, such as provisions for dry-sump oiling. This engine and its legacy drive the SD Trans Ams and Formulas as one of the more, if not the most, desirable Pontiacs ever produced.
The only non-traditional Pontiac V-8 engines were the 301 cubic inch and the smaller displacement 265 cubic inch V-8s. Produced from 1977 through 1981, these engines had the distinction of being the last V-8s produced by Pontiac; GM merged its various brands' engines into one collectively shared group in 1980, entitled General Motors Powertrain. Interestingly, the 301 had a 4-inch (100 mm) bore and 3-inch (76 mm) stroke, identical to the vaunted Chevrolet small-block engine and Ford Boss 302 engine.
Pontiac engines were not available in Canada, however, but were replaced with Chevrolet engines of similar size and power, resulting in such interesting and unusual (at least to American car fans) models as the Beaumont SD-396 with a Chevrolet big-block 396 cubic inch V-8.
PMD originally used Carter 1-barrel carburetors for many years, but by the time of the second generation V-8 engines had switched mostly to 2-barrel offerings. These also were the basis for the Tri-Power setups on the engines.
The Tri-Power setup included one center carburetor with idle control and two end carburetors that did not contribute until the throttle was opened more than half way. This was accomplished two ways, mechanically for the manual transmission models, and via a vacuum-switch on the automatics. This went through various permutations before being banned by GM as a factory installed option in 1967, and totally in 1968.
PMD also had a square-bore 4-barrel at the time, but this was rated at a lower power than the Tri-Power. This carburetor was later replaced by the Quadrajet, a spread bore. 'Spread-bore' refers to the difference in sizes between the primaries and secondaries.
By the end of the muscle car era, the QuadraJet setup had become the nearly ubiquitous choice on PMD engines, due to its excellent economy and power characteristics. While QuadraJets have been occasionally derided as being poor performers, with proper understanding and tuning it can compete at most levels with other designs short of the full race inspired set-ups such as the Holley Double-Pumpers, which incorporated accelerator pumps on the primary and secondary carburetor circuits.
This Q-jet design proved good enough to last until 1990 (Oldsmobile V8 applications), with added computer controls in order to meet federal and CARB standards.
Mon, 30 Jun 2014 15:30:00 EST
General Motors today announced a truly massive recall covering some 8.4 million vehicles in North America. Most significantly, 8.2 million examples of the affected vehicles are being called back due to "unintended ignition key rotation," though GM spokesperson Alan Adler tells Autoblog that this issue is not like the infamous Chevy Cobalt ignition switch fiasco.
Fri, 13 Jun 2014 15:44:00 EST
For the sake of perspective, translated to US population, this total recall figure would equal a car for each resident of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, the District of Columbia, Vermont and Wyoming. Combined. Here's how it all breaks down:
7,610,862 vehicles in North America being recalled for unintended ignition key rotation. 6,805,679 are in the United States.
The repairs needed for the faulty airbag inflators supplied by Takata continue to expand. Toyota initially announced a recall of 766,300 vehicles equipped with the bad part on June 11 as a followup to a campaign from 2013. Soon after, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a preliminary evaluation into five automakers who also used the component in their models. Now, NHTSA has released the official announcement of the latest Toyota recall listing 844,277 affected cars, including the newly added 2003-2004 Pontiac Vibe.
Tue, 20 May 2014 11:54:00 EST
While NHTSA's document didn't include a model-by-model breakdown, General Motors spokesperson Alan Adler estimated to Autoblog that roughly 85,000 Vibes in the US would be covered under the latest recall. Like the rest of the affected models, the airbag inflator could rupture in a crash causing the bag not to work correctly, possibly spraying metal fragments at the occupant.
Toyota spokesperson Cindy Knight told Autoblog that the reason for the disparity between the earlier press release and NHTSA document was that Toyota was continuing to comb through VINs to create a list of affected vehicles. The original number was an estimate of that process at the time. Scroll down to the recall report from NHTSA.
General Motors has announced another set of recalls, covering some 2.42 million cars in the United States. For those keeping track, The General has now recalled over 15 million cars worldwide this year due to various issues.
Thu, 15 May 2014 09:57:00 EST
Here's the breakdown for this most recent set of recalls:
1,339,355 - Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia models from the 2009 to 2014 model years; Saturn Outlook models from the 2009 to 2010 model years
The recalls keep rolling in from General Motors, evidently keen to avoid repeating the mistakes of the ignition-switch debacle and clean house. This time they're all coming at once, with five separate recalls announced together covering approximately 2.7 million vehicles.
Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:30:00 EST
The largest of the five actions involves over 2.4 million units of the previous-generation Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx, Pontiac G6 and Saturn Aura in order to fix brake light wiring harness, which have been found to be susceptible to corrosion. The recall is separate from the 56k Aura sedans which GM recently recalled over faulty shift cables, not to mention the previous massive recall of 1.3 million vehicles - some of them the same models - but appears to have resulted from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation that started with the G6 almost a year ago.
The second-largest campaign involves the 2014 Chevy Malibu, specifically those fitted with GM's 2.5-liter engine and stop/start system, approximately 140,000 examples of which has been found to have problematic brakes. The issue does not appear to be connected to the recall of 8k Malibu and Buick LaCrosse sedans (also involving brake woes) which we reported upon last week. Four crashes have been reported in such models, but GM admits it's not yet clear if the problem was a contributing factor in the accidents.
General Motors has confirmed to Autoblog that the Pontiac Vibe is included in Toyota's just-announced recall action. The Vibe and the Toyota Matrix share a large number of parts, including the affected cable to the airbag.
Tue, 08 Apr 2014 19:30:00 EST
"About 40,500 Pontiac Vibes from the 2009-2010 model years are included in the Toyota recall. Toyota designed and engineered the Vibe for Pontiac. GM will service customers with these vehicles when Toyota makes the parts available," said GM recall spokesperson Alan Adler to Autoblog in an email.
The recall covers 1.3 million Toyota units in the US, including 2009-2010 Corolla, Matrix and Tacoma, the 2008-2010 Highlander, the 2006-2008 Rav4 and 2006-2010 Yaris, plus the addition of the 2009-2010 Vibe. The models all have their airbag module attached via a spiral electrical cable. The connections on this cable can be damaged when turning the steering wheel. Once broken, the airbag deactivates and the airbag warning light comes on. Toyota has an improved part, but it's still making preparations to begin repairs. It will begin notifying owners soon.
If you're an automotive engineer being tormented by an immortal being made of fire, then wouldn't you think it best to have a custom coupe called the FireBreather for your getaway car? That's the FireBreather in the image above, adorned by the red wings that once fronted the Pontiac Firebird, running away from a black cloud of evil in a trailer for the movie Jinn.
Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:03:00 EST
The Jinn is eternal evil, always waiting for the chance to make things float across rooms before going on homicidal urban rampages. The FireBreather is a Gen-V Chevrolet Camaro - from the V6 to the ZL1 - that's been through Classic Design Concepts' extensive list of exterior and interior modifications, including entirely new front and rear fascias and side skirts, sway bars and springs, Pirelli P Zeroes and an available Edelbrock supercharger.
The movie - FireBreathing chase scenes and all - was shot in Monroe, Michigan. You can watch the trailer below, but since the FireBreather only get a couple of seconds on screen, you can find out more about it on Street Legal TV and its official site.
Depending on when and where you grew up, the name David Hasselhoff likely conjures up images of Knight Rider, Baywatch, pop singer, or possibly a washed-up TV actor, but one thing that can never be taken away from The Hoff is his connection to one of the greatest automotive icons in pop culture. The Knight Industries Two Thousand, usually shortened to simply KITT, was the real star of Knight Rider for many fans. Based on a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, the car combined snarky quips for comedy relief and stunts to provide much of the show's actions. Now, Julien's Auctions is selling Hasselhoff's own replica as part of a larger sale of the actor's personal memorabilia collection.
Mon, 31 Mar 2014 16:53:00 EST
This recreation is based on a 1986 Firebird and comes with all of the tech on the inside that now seems hilariously outdated, like the yoke steering wheel and plethora of buttons. The interior also thoughtfully includes a voice box with over 4,000 sound clips from the show. With a 5.0-liter V8 and an automatic transmission, performance is likely adequate and period correct. According to the listing, this car was created by fans and given to the Hoff. Sadly, the replica doesn't convert to Super Pursuit Mode like KITT could in later seasons, and we most associate KITT with conventional front-hinged doors to go with the power t-tops and ejector seats.
Bidding currently sits $27,500 with eight bids, since starting at $15,000. Julien's predicts it will sell for between $30,000 and $50,000. If there is some nostalgia for KITT in your heart, there is still plenty of time to bid.
When it rains, it pours. General Motors has announced yet another major recall, covering 1.3 million units in the American market over concerns that the power steering could suddenly fail. As reported by The Detroit News' David Shepardson, GM has now recalled nearly ten times as many cars as it did all of last year.
Mon, 10 Mar 2014 17:03:00 EST
It's important to note that should this problem arise in these cars, the steering won't fail completely, however, power steering could suddenly stop functioning. Manual steering would still be possible, but as GM says, there's an increased risk of accidents, particularly at lower speeds.
Like the ignition switch recall, this latest problem covers a wide range of vehicles from Chevrolet, Saturn and Pontiac. Normally, we'd give you the full rundown in paragraph form, but the variety of models and model years means a list is just easier. So, have a look, directly from GM's press release:
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart is making good use of his nickname Smoke in new videos inspired by the 1970s classic Smokey and the Bandit. The original is one of the quintessential automotive movies of its era with a fantastic combination of slapstick comedy and great car stunts in a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. If you've never seen it, check it out immediately.
Tue, 25 Feb 2014 16:00:00 EST
In the new six-part Smoke IS the Bandit web series, Stewart takes on the role of Burt Reynolds' famous character complete with huge mustache. But instead of trying to smuggle cases of Coors beer it's Mobil 1 oil. The series promises to recreate many of the famous scenes from the movie and includes cameos from other NASCAR drivers.
To complete the look, future videos just need a quality replacement for a young Sally Field to ride shotgun. It would also be really cool if Reynolds could make a brief appearance at some point. Scroll down to check out the trailer and the first episode in the series.
588,000 Saturn Sky, Saturn Ion, Pontiac Solstice and Chevy HHR models join the 778,000 cars already being recalled.
General Motors has announced a massive expansion of a 778,000-unit recall we told you about two weeks ago, doubling not only the total number of cars affected but expanding the recall beyond Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models previously mentioned. The recall originally centered around ignition switches that could slip out of the "run" position if jostled or if any weight was applied to the key in the cylinder.