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Pontiac old times

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Hi there again!

I'm going on with the search about Pontiac. Now we are looking for the Pontiac's old times. I mean between 1959 and the early 80's.

Im trying to understand who was the average customer.

Why did he bought those cars? Was it a wanted product among young people?

Why Pontiac's image survived till now?

Thank you!

Pinzi Pictures


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You should consider contacting the Pontiac-Oakland museum. Tim Dye retains one of if not the largest collection of Pontiac-Oakland Information and/or memorabilia. They offer a resource service for inquiries such as yours and are far better suited to answer your question with accurate facts.

Best of Luck.




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Sprint 6 is correct in contacting Tim Dye as his museum houses the complete Pontiac-Oakland Club International's library on all things Pontiac, Oakland and GMC.

That said I can give you some generalities and I would encourage my fellow FP members to give their opinions. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pontiac was re-designing its cars, longer and sleeker than the tri-five era (1955, 1956, 1957). Performance was on the increase thanks to Bunkie Knudsen's encouragement. Also Pontiac began the Widetrack Era by widening the stance of their cars a few inches which functionally improved handling over its stable mates Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Buick.

Pontiac began winning races at NASCAR and at the drag strip in the late 50s and early 60s. So the adage "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" became true. With Pontiac's potent 389 for mid-size and 421 for large cars, the average Pontiac customer at the time wanted a car that could get out of its own shadow, look good, but was still reasonably priced. Pontiac was still priced just above Chevrolet models at the time.

The tables really turned for Pontiac as the performance division of GM when Pontiac started selling the GTO. Prior to the GTO, GM and most of other auto companies had an unwritten rule of 1 cubic inch of displacement for every 10 pounds of curb weight. So that way, a Tempest or Lemans that weighted 3200 pounds got a 326 cubic inch V8. The larger 4100 pound Grand Prix and Catalina got the 389 and later 421s. The GTO violated this unwritten rule by putting the 389 engine in the Tempest/Lemans body! So the muscle car era began. 

The GTO was the main stay of the muscle car era until it end in 1974. By then the GTO had become harder to sell. Insurance premuims were making it expensive car to insure, GM had switched from gross to net horsepower ratings on their engines which appeared that all GM cars (including Pontiac) were losing horespower, and demand for the GTO declined. The torche was thus passed to the Pontiac Firebird, Formula, and Trans Am for performance. This carried on until the 2nd generation line died in 1981. Pontiac used a combination of Oldsmobile 403 V8s and its own 400 motors through 1978. Some 1978 motors were used in limited edition Trans Am in 1979. By 1980, a 301 Pontiac or 305 Chevy V8 was all that was available in the effort to reduce weight, and improve emissions and fuel economy. The muscle car era was now completely over.

Pontiac made one more attempt to bring back a GTO-ish car called the CAN-AM in 1977 only. Less than 2000 were made because the mold for the plastic rear spoiler broke. Pontiac installed the 400 engine, hood scoop in a white 1977 Lemans Sport Coupe and installed the Grand Prix interior in the car. These cars are somewhat collectible today and certainly have a GTO-like appeal to them.

So Pontiac was still seen as the performance division by virtue of the last of the GTOs, the Firebirds and Trans Ams, and the Can-Am. Pontiac introduced the Grand Am in 1973 that had a lot of European styling with the 400 motor. The rest of Pontiac line would down size in the mid-70s due to the Arab Oil Embargo. Pontiac and much of GM's styling would get rather boxy and unimaginative at this point. The early 80s saw GM and much of the US auto industry convert to front wheel drive cars as well, thus abandoning much of the RWD platforms and engines for FWD and smaller, more fuel efficient styling and engines.



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The average consumer was and is, someone who wants to step slightly to the left of GM's mainstream. but has no love for Ford or Chrysler. Even today, when the last Pontiacs were little more than rebadged corporate sleds ... the arrowhead is still a deciding factor to a Pontiac nut .. just as the rocket emblem is to the Olds crowd. You seldom hear anyone crowing for Buicks in a similar fashion .. for all that the Grand National was packing the most power to be had for it's short lifespan.


Given the choice between a Caddy or a Bonneville (or Parisienne) ... the Caddy would stay parked.

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I'd like to know more about Pontiac racing. I can't find more information about that. I read that was famous for thaht, but I can't find a detailed history.

I read about the Daytona 500, but i don't understand. it's seems that the number of wins isn't so high.

Thank you!

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