Pontiac is a Marque of Automobile produced by General Motors and sold in the United States, Canada and Mexico from 1926 to the present. In the GM brand lineup, Pontiac is a mid-level brand


Pre-war years: 1926-1942Edit


The Pontiac brand was introduced by General Motors in 1926 as the 'companion' marque to GM's Oakland Motor Car line. The Pontiac name was first used in 1906 by the Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works and linked to Chief Pontiac who led an unsuccessful uprising against the British shortly after the French and Indian War. The Oakland Motor Company and Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works Company merged in November 1908 under the name of the Oakland Motor Car Company. The operations of both companies were joined together in Pontiac, Michigan (in Oakland County) to build the Cartercar. Oakland was purchased by General Motors in 1909. The first General Motors Pontiac was conceived as an affordable six cylinder that was intended to compete with more inexpensive four cylinder models. Within months of its introduction, Pontiac outsold Oakland. As Pontiac's sales rose and Oakland's sales began to decline, Pontiac became the only 'companion' marque to survive its 'parent', when Oakland ceased production in 1932.

Pontiac began selling cars with straight 6-cylinder engines with the 40 hp (30 kW) 186 ci (3.1 liter) (3.25x3.75 in, 82.5x95mm) L-head six in the Pontiac Chief of 1927; its stroke was the shortest in the American car industry at the time. The Chief sold 39,000 units within six months of its appearance at the 1926 New York Auto Salon, hitting 76,742 in a twelve months. The next year, it becoming the top-selling six in the U.S., ranking seventh in overall sales. In 1933, it moved up to producing the cheapest cars with straight eight-cylinder (inline eight) engines. This was done by using many components from the 6-cylinder Chevrolet, such as the body. In the late 1930s, Pontiac used the so-called Torpedo (car) body of the Buick for one of its models just prior to its being used by Chevrolet as well. This body brought some attention to the marque.

For an extended period of time, prewar through the early 1950s, the Pontiac was a quiet and solid car, but not especially powerful. A Flathead (side-valve) straight eight offered both the quietest and smoothest possible operation, with an appropriately soft suspension and quiet muffler offering the feeling of luxury without the expense. These combinations proved attractive to the vehicle's target market - a reserved lower middle class not especially interested in performance or handling but seeking good value and a roomy vehicle in a step up from the entry-level Chevrolet. This fit well within parent GM's strategy of passing an increasingly prosperous customer up through the various divisions. Straight 8s are slightly less expensive to produce than the increasingly popular V8s, but they were also heavier and longer. Also, the long crankshaft suffered from excessive flex, which restricted straight 8s to relatively low compression and modest revs. In this application, inexpensive (but poor-breathing) flatheads were not a liability.

Dowdy to Fun: 1946-1954Edit


Throughout this period, Pontiac models were seen as middle-of-the-road reliable cars more suited to middle income buyers of middle age. The emerging and lucrative younger, performance oriented customer eluded the brand. Although reliable cars, Pontiacs just couldn't shake their dowdy image.

From 1946-1948, all Pontiac models were essentially 1942 models with minor changes. The Hydra-matic automatic transmission was introduced in 1948 and helped Pontiac sales grow even though their cars, Torpedoes and Streamliners, were quickly becoming out of date and out of step with the growing youth market.

The first all-new Pontiac models appeared in 1949. Newly redesigned, they sported such styling cues as lower body lines and rear fenders that were integrated in the rear-end styling of the car.

Along with new styling came a new model. Continuing the Native American theme of Pontiac, the Pontiac Chief line was introduced to replace the Torpedo. These were built on the GM B-Body platform and featured sportier styling than the more conservative Streamliner. In 1950, the Catalina trim-level was introduced as a sub-series.

In 1952, Pontiac discontinued the Streamliner and replaced it with additional models in the Chieftain line built on the GM A-body platform. This single model line continued until 1954 when the Star Chief was added. The Star Chief was created by adding an extension to the A-body platform creating a wheelbase.

The 1953 models were the first to have one-piece windshields instead of the normal two-piece units. While the 1953 and 1954 models were heavily re-worked versions of the 1949-52 Chieftain models, they were engineered to accommodate the V-8 engine that would appear in the all-new 1955 models.

Foundations of performance: 1955-1960Edit

File:Pontiac Star Chief 1955.jpg

Although completely new bodies and chassis were introduced for 1955, the big news was the introduction of a new 173-horsepower (129 kW) overhead valve V-8 engine (see Engines section below). Pontiac took a big leap ahead in the public's eye and sales jumped accordingly. With the introduction of this V-8, the six cylinder engines were discontinued; a six-cylinder engine would not return to the full-size Pontiac line until the GM corporate downsizing of 1977.

The next step in Pontiac's transformation came in 1956 when Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen became general manager of Pontiac. With the aid of his new heads of engineering, E. M. Estes and John Z. De Lorean, he immediately began reworking the brand's image. One of the first steps involved the removal of the famous "silver streaks" from the hood and deck lid of the 1957 models just weeks before the '57s were introduced. Another step was introducing the first Bonneville--a limited-edition Star Chief convertible that showcased Pontiac's first fuel-injected engine. Some 630 Bonnevilles were built for 1957, each with a retail price of nearly $5800. While new car buyers could buy a Cadillac for that price, the Bonneville raised new interest in what Pontiac now called America's No. 1 Road Car.

File:Bonneville taillights.jpg

In the 1958 model year Knudsen saw to it that the car received a completely reworked chassis, body and interior styling. Quad headlamps, longer and lower bodys, honeycombed grilles and concave rear fender panels were some of the styling changes. Additionally the Bonneville, a sub-series of the Star Chief introduced in the 1957 models, became its own line. These were built on the wheelbase of the A-body platform. An early sign of the successful changes being undertaken was seen in the selection of a 1958 Tri-Power Bonneville the Pace car for that year's Indianapolis 500.

For 1959, the Chieftain line was renamed Catalina; Star Chief was downgraded to replace the discontinued Super Chief series, and the Bonneville took over the Star Chief's four-door "Vista" hardtop and Custom Safari station wagon. This coincided with major body styling changes across all models that introduced increased glass area, twin V-shaped fins and lower hood profiles. Because of these changes, Motor Trend magazine picked the entire Pontiac line as 1959 Car of the Year. The '59s were also blessed with a five-inch (127 mm) wider track, because Knudsen noticed the new, wider bodies looked awkward on the carried-over 1958 frames. The new Wide-Track Pontiacs not only looked better, but also handled better--a bonus that tied in to Pontiac's resurgence in the marketplace.

The 1960 models saw a complete reskinning, which removed the Tailfins and the distinctive split grille (which Ford copied on the final Edsel models for 1960!). More big news was the introduction of the Ventura, a more-luxurious hardtop coupe and Vista 4-door hardtop built on the shorter wheelbase platform and falling between the Catalina and Star Chief models. The Ventura featured the luxury of the Bonneville in the shorter, lighter Catalina body, and started the Pontiac trend of increasing luxury in even its least expensive models.

The horsepower era: 1961-1970Edit


The 1961 models were again drastically reworked. The split grille returned, as well as all-new bodies and a new-design perimeter frame chassis for all full-size models, and which would be adopted on GM's 1964 intermediate-sized cars including the second-generation Pontiac Tempest and all other GM full-sized cars beginning in 1965. These new chassis allowed for reduced weight and smaller body sizes.

The all new Tempest, while sharing its basic body with the Oldsmobile and the revived Buick "senior compacts," helped Pontiac win the Motor Trend "Car of the Year" award for the second time in three years in 1961.

The Tempest combined the B-O-P Unibody design with the transaxle assembly used in the Corvair. GM had planned to launch a Pontiac version of the rear-engine Corvair for the 1961 model year, but "Bunkie" Knudsen--whose niece was seriously injured in a Corvair crash--successfully argued against the idea. Thus, the Tempest became America's only front-engine/rear transmission car, according to contemporary advertising.

The Tempest's engine--a 194.5 CID four-cylinder engine--was essentially the right bank of the Pontiac 389 cubic inch V-8, which enabled the car to be built on the same line as the full-size models from 1961 to 1963. A flexible steel driveshaft connected the engine and the transaxle. While this design did not prove durable in actual use, the early Tempests were the most popular of the GM senior compacts, and helped move Pontiac into third place among American car brands for 1962, a position Pontiac would hold though 1970.

In 1961, Knudsen moved to Chevrolet and Estes took over as general manager. He continued Knudsen's work of making Pontiac a performance car brand.

For 1962, Pontiac capitalized on the emerging trend toward sportier bucket-seat coupes of that time by introducing two new models. Those included the Tempest LeMans in the compact line, and the Grand Prix in the full-sized line.

Although GM officially ended factory support for all racing activities across all of its brands in 1963, Pontiac continued to cater to performance car enthusiasts by making larger engines with more power available across all model lines. That same year, the Grand Prix received the same styling changes as other full-sized Pontiacs such as vertical headlights and crisper bodylines but also received its own distinctive squared-off roofline with a concave rear window, along with less chrome and more emphasis on bodylines.

In 1964, John Z. De Lorean replaced Estes as general manager and he too continued Knudsen's work. It would be under his leadership that Pontiac lead the charge into the muscle car and pony car "horsepower wars" of the mid-to-late 1960s, offering a wide range of cars with solid performance credentials. By 1964, the Tempest had reverted to a more conventional front engine rear wheel drive layout, and spawned the original muscle car, the Gran Turismo Omologato, copying Ferrari's lead, which had proved popular internationally; better known as the Pontiac GTO. In spite of a GM unwritten edict against engines larger than 350 cubic inches in intermediate cars, DeLorean (with support from Jim Wangers from Pontiac's ad agency), came up with the idea to slip in the Tempest "option" GTO with a 389 cubic inch engine rated at 325 or , depending on carburetion as a 1964 mid-year entry. By the time the GM brass had a chance to question the move, DeLorean had over 5,000 orders for GTO's in hand.

The entire Pontiac lineup was honored as Motor Trend's Car of the Year for 1965, the third time for Pontiac to receive such honors, mainly due to the division's efforts to create salable cars for the mass market along with niche models such as the GTO musclecar and the Grand Prix. The February, 1965 issue of Motor Trend was almost entirely devoted to Pontiac's Car of the Year award and included feature stories on the division's marketing, styling, engineering and performance efforts along with road tests of several models.

Due to the popularity of the GTO option, it was split from being an option on the Tempest LeMans series to become the separate GTO series. On the technology front, 1966 saw the introduction of a completely new overhead camshaft 6-cylinder engine in the Tempest, and in an industry first, plastic grilles were used on several models.

The 1967 model year saw the introduction for the Pontiac Firebird Pony car, a variant of the Corvair that was the brand's answer to the hot-selling Ford Mustang. Intermediate sized cars (Tempest, LeMans, GTO) were mildly facelifted but the GTO lost its Tri-Power engine option though it did get a larger 400 cubic-inch V8 that replaced the previous 389. Full-sized cars got a major facelift with rounder wasp-wasted bodylines, a name change for the mid-line series from Star Chief to Executive and a one-year-only Grand Prix convertible. 1968 introduced the Endura 'rubber' front bumper on the GTO, the precursor to modern cars' integrated bumpers, and the first of a series "Ram Air" engines, which featured the induction of cold air to the carburetor(s) for more power, and took away some of the sting from deleting the famous Tri-Power multiple carburation option from the engine line up. This line culminated in the Ram Air IV and V round port cylinder headed engines. The Ram Air V garnered much auto press publicity, but only a relative few were made available for sale. Full-sized cars and intermediates reverted from vertical to horizontal headlights while the sporty/performance 2+2 was dropped from the lineup.

For 1969, Pontiac moved the Grand Prix from the full-sized lineup into a G-body model of its own based on the A-body intermediate chassis, but with distinctive styling and long hood/short deck proportions to create yet another niche product - the intermediate-sized personal-luxury car that offered the luxury and styling of the higher priced personal cars such as the Buick Riviera and Ford Thunderbird but for a much lower pricetag. The new GP was such a sales success in 1969 as dealers moved 112,000 units - more than four times the number of Grand Prixs sold in 1968. Full-sized Pontiacs were also substantially restyled but retained the same basic underbody structure and chassis that debuted with the 1965 model - in fact the rooflines for the four-door pillared sedans and Safari wagons were the same as the '65 models, while the two-door semi-fastback design gave way to a squared-off notchback style and four-door hardtop sedans were also more squared off than 1967-68 models. The GTOs and Firebirds received the Ram Air options, the GTO saw the addition of the "Judge" performance/appearance package, and the Firebird also got the "Trans Am" package. Although originally conceived as a 303 cubic inch model to compete directly in the Trans Am racing series, in a cost saving move the Pontiac Trans Am debuted with the standard 400 cubic inch performance engines. This year also saw De Lorean leaving the post of general manager to accept a similar position at GM's Chevrolet division. His replacement was F. James McDonald.

The 1969 Firebirds received a heavy facelift with swoopier sheetmetal but otherwise continued much the same as the original 1967 model. It was the final year for the overhead cam six-cylinder engine in Firebirds and intermediates, and the Firebird convertible (until 1991). Production of the 1969 Firebirds was extended into the first three months of the 1970 model year (all other 1970 Pontiacs debuted Sept. 18, 1969) due to a decision to delay the introduction of an all-new 1970 Firebird (and Chevrolet Camaro) until after the first of the year - Feb. 26, 1970 to be exact.

Changed focus: 1970-1982Edit

Although MacDonald tried to keep performance in the forefront of Pontiac's products, increasing insurance and fuel costs for owners coupled with looming Federal emissions and safety regulations would eventually put an end to the unrestricted, powerful engines of the 1960s. Safety, luxury and economy would become the new watch-words of this decade. Engine performance began declining in 1971 when GM issued a corporate edict mandating that all engines be capable of using lower-octane unleaded gasoline, which led to dramatic drops in compression ratios, along with performance and fuel economy.

In trying to adjust to the changing market, in mid-1971 Pontiac introduced the compact, budget-priced Ventura II (based on the third generation Corvair) to better compete against the Dodge Dart and Mercury Comet. This same year, Pontiac completely restyled its full-sized cars, moved the Bonneville from its longtime top of the line spot and replaced it with a higher luxury model named the Grand Ville, while Safari wagons got a new clamshell tailgate that lowered into the body while the rear window raised into the roof.

The 1972 models saw the first wave of emissions reduction and safety equipment along with the standard round of updates. The impending demise of the muscle cars could be seen in the fact that once again the GTO was a sub-series of the LeMans series. Finally, the car that formed the foundation of the Pontiac muscle car line, the Tempest, was dropped, after being renamed 'T-37' and 'GT-37' for 1971.

MacDonald left the post of general manager to be replaced by Martin J. Caserio in late 1972. Caserio was the first manager in over a decade to be more focused on marketing and sales than on performance.

File:'73 Pontiac Grand Am.jpg

For 1973, Pontiac restyled its personal-luxury Grand Prix, mid-sized LeMans and compact Ventura models and introduced the all-new Grand Am as part of the LeMans line. All other models including the big cars and Firebirds received only minor updates. Again, power dropped across all engines as more emissions requirements came into effect. The 1973 Firebird Trans Am saw the first introduction of the famous (or infamous depending on which automotive historian you talk to) large Firebird graphic. This factory applied decal, a John Schinella restylized interpretation of the Native American fire bird, took up most of the available space on the hood. Also in 1973, the new Super Duty 455 engine ("Super Duty" harkening back to Pontiac's Racing Engines) was introduced. Although it was originally supposed to be available in GTOs and Firebirds, only a few SD 455 engines made it into Firebird Trans Ams that year. One so equipped was tested by 'Car and Driver' magazine, who proclaimed it the last of the fast cars. But the pendelum had swung, and the SD 455 only hung on one more year in the Trans Am.

All Federal emissions and safety regulations were required to be in full effect for 1974 causing the demise of two of the three iterations of the big 455 cubic inch engines after this year. The last version of the 455 would hang on for two more years before being discontinued.

For 1975, Pontiac introduced the new sub-compact Astre, a version of the Corvair. This was the brand's entry into the fuel economy segment of the market. 1975 would also see the end of Pontiac convertibles for the next decade.

The 1976 models were the last of the traditional American large cars with large engines. After this year, all GM models would go through "downsizing" and shrink in length, width, weight and available engine size. The Sunbird joined the line as a more sporty option to the conservative Astre.

For 1977, Pontiac replaced the Ventura with the Phoenix, a version of Chevrolet's fourth generation Nova. Pontiac also introduced its 151 cubic inch "Iron Duke" 4-cylinder overhead valve engine. This engine would later go into many GM and non-GM automobiles into the early 1990s. The Iron Duke and the 301 cubic inch V-8 were the last two engines designed solely by Pontiac. Subsequent engine design would be accomplished by one central office with all designs being shared by each brand.

The remainder of the 1970s and the early 1980s saw the continued rise of luxury, safety and economy as the key selling points in Pontiac products. Wire-spoked wheel covers returned for the first time since the 1930s. More station wagons than ever were being offered. Padded vinyl roofs were options on almost every model. Rear-wheel drive began its slow demise with the introduction of the first Front-wheel drive Pontiac, the 1980 Phoenix (a version of the Corvair). The Firebird continued to fly high on the success of the 'Smokey and the Bandit' film, still offering Formula and Trans Am packages, plus a Pontiac first- a turbocharged V-8, for the 1980 and 1981 model years. Overall, Pontiac's performance was a shadow of it's former self, but to give credit where due, PMD did more with less than most other brands were able to in this era.

Return of performance: 1982-1988Edit

File:417096 94 full.jpg

The beginning of Pontiac's second renaissance started with the vastly redesigned Firebird for the 1982 model year. The wedge shaped Firebird was the first major redesign of the venerable pony car since the early 1970s. It was an instant success and provided Pontiac with a foundation on which to build successively more performance oriented models over the next decade. The Trans Am also set a leading production aerodynamic mark of .32 cd.

The next step in Pontiac's resurgence came in the form of its first convertible in nine years. Seeing Chrysler's success with its K-Car-derived convertibles, GM decided it needed a competitor and quickly adapted the J-body cars. The all-new for 1983 2000 (later renamed Sunbird) had a convertible as part of its line.

Next came the 1984 Fiero. This was a major departure from anything Pontiac had produced in the past. A two-seat, mid-engined coupe, the Fiero was targeted straight at the same market that Semon Knudsen had been aiming for in the late 1950s: the young, affluent buyer who wanted sporting performance at a reasonable price. The Fiero was also an instant success and was partially responsible for Pontiac seeing its first increase in sales in four years.

Pontiac also began to focus on technology. In 1985, a Special Touring Edition (STE) was added to the 6000 line as a competitor to European road cars such as the Mercedes 190. The STE sported digital instruments and other electronics as well as a more powerful V-6 and retuned suspension. Later iterations would see some of the first introductions on Pontiacs of anti-lock brakes, steering wheel mounted radio controls and other advanced features.

With the exception of the Firebird and Fiero, beginning in 1988 all Pontiacs switched to front-wheel drive platforms. For the first time since 1972, Pontiac was the number three domestic car maker in America. Pontiac's drive to bring in more youthful buyers was working as the median age of Pontiac owners dropped from 46 in 1981 to 38 in 1988.

More of the same: 1989-1996Edit

With the focus back on performance, Pontiac was once again doing what it did best. Although updating and revamping continued throughout the 1990s, the vast change seen during the 1980s did not. The period between 1989 and 1997 can best be described as one of continuous refinement. Anti-lock brakes, GM's Quad-4 engine, airbags and composite materials all became standard on Pontiacs during this time.

All new models were produced but at more lengthy intervals. The 1990 model year saw the launch of Pontiac's first Minivan, the Trans Sport. An all-new Firebird debuted in 1993 while the Sunbird was replaced with the Sunfire in 1995.

Return to yesteryear: 1997-2004Edit


Beginning in 1996, Pontiac began mining its historic past. The all new Grand Prix debuted with the Wide Track chassis making a return spearheaded by the "Wider is Better" advertising campaign. In 1998 Ram Air returned to the Trans Am. It would eventually make its way to the Grand Am.

The 1999 model year saw the replacement of the Trans Sport with the larger Montana minivan.

Faced with declining sales and a saturated sports car market, GM killed the Pontiac Firebird and its sister Chevrolet Camaro after the 2002 model year.

All other Pontiac models carried on until the end of the 2004 model year with only minor revisions and updates.

All change: 2005-presentEdit

For the 2005 model year, Pontiac embarked on a series of major changes not seen since the 1980s. Within four years, all of their cars would be replaced completely, both in design and name.

First to fall was the Pontiac Firebird, it was replaced in 2004 by the GTO. Next was the Bonneville which had no direct replacement. The same year, the Pontiac Grand Am was replaced with an all new model called the G6. The Sunfire was replaced with the G5 in the 2007 model year. Next in the line will be the G8; scheduled for the 2008 model year it will be a replacement for the Grand Prix and fill the void left by the Bonneville.

In an attempt to return Pontiac's focus to strictly performance oriented vehicles, the Montana was discontinued after the 2006 model year (2010 for Canada). Also for 2006, Pontiac fielded the unique Solstice roadster. Equipped with a pair of 4-cylinder engines, the Solstice is intended to compete with cars like the Mazda Miata, and the Honda S2000. GM's Saturn division came out with the Solstice's higher end twin, the Saturn Sky, the following model year. However, these attempts took a step backward with simultaneous release of the Torrent Crossover SUV. However, it is scheduled to be discontinued after the 2008 model year, marking Pontiac's exit out of the light truck market until the introduction of the G8 in the fall of '08.


File:Pontiac Chieftain 1952 1.jpg
File:Red Pontiac at Power Big Meet 2005.jpg

An American Indian Headdress was used as a logo until 1956. This was updated to the currently used American Indian red arrowhead design for 1957.

Besides the 'Indian head' 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 Silver 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)and 'grilled-over' (in the 1960s), or multiple-striped taillights. This later feature originated with the 1963 Grand Prix, and though the '62 GP also had rear grillework, the taillight lenses were not behind it.


Pontiac, Chevrolet and GMC were the final GM North American marques to offer a V-8 (GMC's V-8 was, in fact, the Pontiac unit). Pontiac engineer Clayton Leach designed the stamped steel valvetrain rocker arm, a simplified and incredibly 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 it's 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.

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-dispalcement 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 net and was a very strong performer that included a few race-specific features, such as provisions for dry-sump oiling.

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 brand's engines into one collectively-shared group in 1980, entitled General Motors Powertrain. Interestingly, the 301 had a bore and stroke, identical to the vaunted Corvair 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.

All Pontiac engines were designed around a low-RPM/high-torque model, as opposed to the ubiquitous Corvair known for its smaller displacement and high RPM/high power design. Pontiac engines were unique for their integrated water pump and timing chain cover, and separate valley pan and intake.


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 well into the 1980s with emissions modifications, while most others carburetors were dropped for the easier to build fuel injection when economy mattered.


Pontiac in MotosportsEdit

  • Autohaus Motorsports, Stevenson Motorsports, and Banner Racing run Pontiac GXP.R race cars (based on the G6 GXP coupe) in the Rolex Sports Car Series. Meanwhile, Matt Connolly Motosports run the Pontiac GTO, a car that was abandoned for the GXP.R shortly after production stopped on the Pontiac GTO.
  • Pontiac also provides a 5.0L V8 for the Daytona Prototype class of the Rolex Sports Car Series.
  • Rhys Millen drove a factory backed Pontiac GTO for three seasons of both the D1 Grand Prix and Formula D drifting series. In 2006, the GTO was painted in the Red Bull scheme to match the new Solstice. The Solstice was not driven in 2006 for the Formula D series until 2007. The GTO was retired after the 2006 season.
  • The latest body style used in the IROC series was that of a Fourth Generation Pontiac Trans AM.

Pontiac in popular cultureEdit

  • An alternate slang term for the marque among performance enthusiasts is Poncho.
  • Another slang term used in the early stages of brand was "Indian" due to the subject matter of its logo.
  • During the 1954-1955 season of the TV series I Love Lucy, the Ricardos drove a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief convertible.
  • Ronny and the Daytonas sang about the Pontiac GTO in their 1964 song Little GTO.
  • Nicknames for the Pontiac GTO include "Goat" and "The Great One"; the latter name was inspired by a popular Pontiac ad campaign.
  • Tom Lehrer: "Rover was killed by a Pontiac, and it was done with such grace and artistry that the witnesses awarded the driver both ears and the tail." From "In Old Mexico"
  • Larry Hagman drove a 1965 Pontiac GTO convertible in his role as Maj. Tony Nelson in the first season of I Dream of Jeannie.
  • From 1964 through 1972, Fred MacMurray and other members of the Douglas family drove Pontiacs in the TV series My Three Sons.
  • The Davis family in the TV series Family Affair drove Pontiac station wagons.
  • While the black Pontiac Trans Am Burt Reynolds drove in the movie Smokey and the Bandit added luster to Pontiac's performance image in the 1970s, Jackie Gleason drove (and wrecked) LeMans Enforcer police cars while chasing the Bandit in the popular movie series.
  • In the TV series Knight Rider The Knight Industries Two Thousand KITT is based on a 1982 Pontiac Trans AM. Pontiac later asked the show writers to refer to it as a "T-top" after several owners recklessly attempted to copy stunts from the show.
  • In the TV series Life Goes On actor Tommy Puett (as Tyler Benchfield) drove a 1968 GTO.
  • The video of Paul Carrack's song "Don't Shed A Tear" included a 1972 Pontiac Catalina hardtop coupe.
  • In the Transformers (film), an Autobot named Jazz transforms into a Solstice.
  • In the chorus of his 2007 song "Johnny Cash (song)", country singer Jason Aldean sings, "Done gassed up the Pontiac."
  • In the fourth stanza of their 2004 song Something to be Proud of country duo Montgomery Gentry sings "I learned real quick those GTOs don't run on faith."
  • The orange car driven by Pickford in the movie Dazed and Confused (film) was a '70s Pontiac GTO.

Pontiac G8 Launch CommercialEdit

Starting March 16th 2008, “Spy Hunter” will run nationally, as the :30 is largely inspired by the massively popular action/driving game of the same name from the early 80s. (The object of the game was to drive an armed sportscar and destroy enemy vehicles while protecting civilian vehicles.) In the Pontiac spot, the mission is the same, with the first ever G8 GT starring as the hero car. The :30 enjoys several of the same top-down vantage points as the original game – and gives people a look at what this “world” would look like in 3D from other angles. Perhaps most enjoyably for enthusiasts, the “Spy Hunter” music (an arrangement of the Peter Gunn theme) plays a major role in the spot as well.


See alsoEdit

  • Category:Pontiac vehicles
  • Pontiac V8 engine
  • Pontiac Straight-8 engine
  • Pontiac Straight-6 engine
  • List of GM engines
  • Chief Pontiac



External linksEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.