by That Car Guy
So 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, their slogan was "We Build Excitement", which was hardly what you would expect from a Sedan DeVille. When The Monkees needed a cool car, they got a Pontiac, fully customized by Dean Jeffries. And before David Hasselhoff began patrolling the beach, he drove KITT.
During the Muscle Car heyday, Pontiac was out front. John DeLorean had a huge part developing the trend with the original GTO. Nobody else could claim that a "Wide Track" would help your car's handling.
Pontiac's most memorable cars might be the Bonneville, Firebird (And Trans Am), Fiero, Grand Prix, GTO (All of them), and the original LeMans. Other notables include the Catalina, Trans Sport (The best name ever on a people carrier), G8, and "The Judge"; they all can't be named here. From Native American headdress hood ornaments to screaming chicken decals on the hood, Pontiac always made a bold statement about style and performance.
Of course, there were a few duds. But these were usually just other terrible, rebadged GM cars like the Vega-clone Astre, Chevette-knock-off T1000, Cobalt-derived G5, and (Dare I say it) the Korean-built LeMans.The Aztek created emotions of its own doing.
Maybe the saddest part of this is that Pontiac was on the edge of a rebirth. Bob Lutz' Solstice was making new ground with a 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) was almost in 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 during the "Road Test Magazine" years. 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. Right now, I can't help but wonder where the last Pontiac will go.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
Wikipedia, Google Images, and Chevrolet provided the materials for this post.