By Brendan Moore
GM is almost certainly going to announce next week that Pontiac is shutting down. The news may come as early as Monday.
GM stated initially that Pontiac would survive as a “boutique” brand, but has apparently changed its mind under pressure from the Treasury Department.
Pontiac was launched in 1926, put out bread-and-butter vehicles until the Sixties, when it kicked off the muscle-car trend with the GTO, was thereafter marketed as the “Excitement Division”, started to sag along with the rest of GM in the Seventies, and, has recently had a minor revival of sorts. The most cars Pontiac ever sold in a single year was 896,980 in 1978, which also happens to be when they were churning out mostly awful iron.
The first car I ever drove was a Pontiac Starchief convertible with a 347 with triple carbs. My father, when I was a very small boy, would slide over a bit on the seat, have me stand on the seat, and help steer the car while working the pedals. He especially liked to do this in the deserts of California on the long straight roads typical of the area while other people were coming towards us – he would duck down as far as he could behind the dash (and still be able to see the road), thereby fooling the oncoming cars into thinking a little kid was driving the car at 60 mph. Very big fun.
After awhile, I could actually steer it myself, so I did. I was driving, after a fashion.
When my mother found out, she was unhappy. And both my parents were unhappy when I got into another Pontiac sedan in the driveway a few years later, started it up and drove it down the driveway across the neighbor’s lawn and over their mailbox. I think I was seven.
Of course, my mother had a big ‘ol seven-seater Safari wagon when I was in my teens. I would borrow it when I needed a lot of friend-carrying capacity. One of my friends from a well-off family had a brand-new Pontiac Firebird given to him for a birthday, and so I ended up driving that quite a bit.
I bought a Pontiac Bonneville and a Pontiac Tempest with the OHC six in my twenties, when the cars were as old as I was. Then a long drought of Pontiacs in the late Eighties and Nineties (they weren’t making anything I wanted to buy) which has continued to this day.
I do love that G8, though. It looks as if that is going to be the last performance car that is sold by Pontiac.
The point that I am belaboring to death here is that I have a lot of memories wrapped up in that Pontiac badge.
I am not some naïf; I know all about the harsh realities of business, and, yes, it is probably time for Pontiac to go away. Except for the aforementioned G8, every other Pontiac is just a copy of something else in the GM lineup. Most consumers don’t associate Pontiac with performance or excitement anymore. There isn’t much reason for it to exist.
But despite my flinty-eyed pragmatism, the whole situation makes me a little sad. Those good feelings about those Pontiacs have staying power. I’ve been hoping all along that Pontiac would make a comeback, and that is not going to happen now. A once-great nameplate is now on borrowed time. Pontiac is a dead man walking.
Hopefully, the wonderful G8 can become a Buick or a Chevrolet.
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