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Pontiac V8 ready for production in 1953?


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I was just reading about the Pontiac straight 8 in Wikipedia because...well...just because. Anyway... I came across this interesting piece of Pontiac history- the Pontiac V8 was ready in 1953:

 

From Wikipedia: Pontiac straight-8 engine

History

The straight-8 was dubbed the Silver-Streak[1] at Pontiac Division. Powered by the "eight", a Pontiac was promoted as a likable automobile, with enough power under the hood to get the job done in affordable luxury.

However, by the early 1950s, overhead valve V8s from sister divisions Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile, as well as new overhead valve V8s from Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation, made the "Silver Streak" all but obsolete in power, It was a quiet, smooth running engine that served the needs of the 1930s and '40s American consumer adequately for power, if not reliability or economy, but by 1954, the engine was decidedly eclipsed not only by competing auto makers, but by General Motors' own divisions' products as well. Further hamstringing the "Silver Streak" was the aged, but cheap to produce, flathead configuration. Interesting to note that the Strato Streak V-8 was ready to go in 1953, but was held back by the protesting Buick and Olds divisions. Evidence of this is in the details of the chassis/steering of 1953 and 1954 Pontiac's which were designed for the V-8. The V8 configuration of the "Strato-Streak" 287-cubic-inch engine that replaced it in 1955 did away with all the crankshaft and L-head related problems, replacing the Depression era "cheap 8" with a truly modern, durable but yet affordable design perfectly matched to Pontiac's target market. A few years later (fall of 1956), under the guidance of Bunkie Knudsen Pontiac was determined to change its image into a performance car to boost sales, this led Knudsen to look for further talent such as in Pete Estes as chief engineer (taken from Olds division) and John DeLorean as director of advanced engineering,a former Packard and Chrysler engineer. Pontiac became known as a performance division based upon the durable, well performing V8s that came later, all of them based upon the original 287 of 1955.

 

Who Knew?!! Anyone else aware of this?

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This is what Wikipedia has to say under the Pontiac V8 engine, which I think helps answer your question.

 

From Wikipedia: Pontiac V8 engine

Pontiac began as a "companion" to the Oakland division of the General Motors line of automobiles in 1926. Pontiac successfully competed against more-expensive inline four-cylinder models with their inline flathead six-cylinder engines. After outselling Oakland, Pontiac became the sole survivor of the two by 1932. In addition to the inline 6, Pontiac used the Oakland V8 for one year, 1932, debuting an inline 8 in 1933. The two inline engines were used through 1954, when Pontiac unveiled its OHV V8 in 1955.

The development of this V8 dates back to 1946, when engineers began considering new engine designs for postwar cars. They came up with a 269-cubic-inch (4.41 l) L-head design. Pontiac engineers tested their 269 cu in (4.41 l) V8 in 1949 or 1950 against a downsized Olds rocket V8 overhead engine. The Olds engine was a 303 cu in (4.97 l), Pontiac reduced the size to 270 cu in (4.4 l) in for testing against the 269 engine. The test results showed Pontiac that a L-head engine couldn't compete with the overhead engines.

Despite their work, the division's conservative management saw no immediate need to replace the Pontiac Straight-8. By 1949 work on a 287 cu in (4.70 l) OHV V8 had begun, but moved along slowly. When Robert Critchfield took over as general manager in 1952, he launched an ambitious plan to move Pontiac into the upscale, mid-range market occupied by Oldsmobile, and that demanded V8 power. A new engine was fast-tracked, its relatively late start allowing it to take advantage of developments proven in the Oldsmobile V8 and Cadillac V8. As a result it was remarkably free of teething problems.

The main innovation of the Pontiac engine was Reverse flow cooling and the stamped rocker-arm system, which had been devised by Pontiac engineer Clayton Leach in 1948. At the request of Ed Cole, general manager of Chevrolet, the layout was also used by the Chevrolet V8 released in 1955, an exception to the customary GM policy of allowing a division one year of exclusive use of an internally developed advance.

Federal emissions standards and the drive towards "corporate" engines shared among all GM divisions led to the progressive demise of the Pontiac V8 through the late 1970s. The last "true" Pontiac V8s, a 265 and 301 cu in (4.34 and 4.93 l), ended production in 1981.

During 1951‚Äď1952, Pontiac had 23 287 cu in (4.70 l) V8-equipped 1953 model production prototypes running tests on the GM proving grounds. Pontiac planned to produce the 1953 models with the V8, but Buick and Oldsmobile appealed to GM management and earned a two year delay.

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That stinks... the other GM divisions always seemed to have their way against Pontiac. Pontiac was glad to share their engine technology with Chevrolet for their new V8, but Chevy was able to kill any Pontiac sports car.

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stratman, Chevy always, ALWAYS gets what they want versus its sister divisions at GM and always will for the foreseeable future. It was Chevrolet that killed the Fiero! They bitched when the Buick GNX was faster than the Corvette in 1987 and the 1989 Turbo Trans Am was almost as fast the Corvette.

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11 hours ago, Frosty said:

stratman, Chevy always, ALWAYS gets what they want versus its sister divisions at GM and always will for the foreseeable future. It was Chevrolet that killed the Fiero! They bitched when the Buick GNX was faster than the Corvette in 1987 and the 1989 Turbo Trans Am was almost as fast the Corvette.

That's right... I had forgotten about the Fiero! Pontiac finally got the Fiero right in 1988, and then, BOOM!, it was cancelled. I never realized it was Chevy's fault- were they afraid it had gotten too good and was going to cut into Corvette sales?

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7 hours ago, stratman said:

That's right... I had forgotten about the Fiero! Pontiac finally got the Fiero right in 1988, and then, BOOM!, it was cancelled. I never realized it was Chevy's fault- were they afraid it had gotten too good and was going to cut into Corvette sales?

A few things to consider stratman.

1. GM's unwritten #1 rule for all of it's divisions - thou shall not beat Corvette

2. When GM killed the Fiero, GM had finished reorganizing into it's BOC (Buick-Olds-Cadillac) and CPC (Chevrolet-Pontiac-GM of Canada) car groups. Guess which execs were running CPC? Yup former Chevy execs.

3. Pontiac was rumored to be coming out with a turbocharged V6 for the planned (but never built) 2nd-gen Fiero. In the anemic 80s, this would have rivaled Corvette plus it would have been still mid-engined.

4. It was Chevy that insisted that the Fiero use parts from the old Chevette bin (e.g. the brakes) rather than develop all new parts for the car.

5. The FIero had several recalls on them, mainly risk of engine compartment fires. That didn't do its reputation any good either.

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2 hours ago, Frosty said:

A few things to consider stratman.

1. GM's unwritten #1 rule for all of it's divisions - thou shall not beat Corvette

2. When GM killed the Fiero, GM had finished reorganizing into it's BOC (Buick-Olds-Cadillac) and CPC (Chevrolet-Pontiac-GM of Canada) car groups. Guess which execs were running CPC? Yup former Chevy execs.

3. Pontiac was rumored to be coming out with a turbocharged V6 for the planned (but never built) 2nd-gen Fiero. In the anemic 80s, this would have rivaled Corvette plus it would have been still mid-engined.

4. It was Chevy that insisted that the Fiero use parts from the old Chevette bin (e.g. the brakes) rather than develop all new parts for the car.

5. The FIero had several recalls on them, mainly risk of engine compartment fires. That didn't do its reputation any good either.

It sounds like Pontiac had few champions in the GM castle, pretty much a Chevrolet dictatorship. It's no wonder GM went into bankruptcy in the 2000's and Pontiac was the first to go. I wish Bob Lutz had been there a couple of decades earlier, I think he would have put up a fight.

 

Now that you mention it, I do remember that Fiero's had a tendency to catch fire... Not exactly a good selling point, lol!

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4 hours ago, stratman said:

It sounds like Pontiac had few champions in the GM castle, pretty much a Chevrolet dictatorship. It's no wonder GM went into bankruptcy in the 2000's and Pontiac was the first to go. I wish Bob Lutz had been there a couple of decades earlier, I think he would have put up a fight.

 

Now that you mention it, I do remember that Fiero's had a tendency to catch fire... Not exactly a good selling point, lol!

Fiero Flambe is definitely not a good selling point.

The other major problem with it was the handling in snow and ice. Most people were not use to the weight distribution of a mid-engine car (especially with a stick shift) to begin with and the back end tended to kick out if they weren't paying enough attention on snowy or icy roads.

Pontiac had some champions in the front office, however, Chevrolet is the 500-pound gorilla/bully in the corporation. They out sell all other divisions combined nearly every year. Of course that is because (A) they have both cars and trucks and (B) sell virtually every line of car and truck in the corporation - some exclusively (Corvette). They are also  GM's entry price point division - save for the attempts by Saturn and GEO in the last 30 years. Chevrolet has been the main money maker for GM in North America, hands down, especially in truck and SUV profits.

Actually, if you think about it, Oldsmobile was the first to go. They were trapped between Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac. They had completely lost their vision of who their customer base was and their target price point got muddled too. They too were a victim of too much badge engineering (as was Pontiac, and Saab and Saturn to lesser degrees).

I agree with you on the Lutz point. GM needed a powerful "car guy" in the front office for quite awhile. They fired the last one, Bob Stempel, in 1992 after a recession that cost GM $7 billion and 74,000 jobs and a dozen plants. Since then, the bean counters have ruled the roast. Actually the bean counters starting ruling with Roger Smith, but Stempel was the lone exception.

Edited by Frosty
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