Pontiac Models

Pontiac was produced by General Motors and sold in the United States and Canada from 1926. Pontiac is a mid-level brand in the General Motors Line-up, featuring a more sporting, performance-driving experience for a reasonable price. Its advertising tried to be fresh and more youthful.

In 1906, the Pontiac name was first used by the Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works and linked to Chief Pontiac. In November 1908, the Oakland Motor Company and Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works Company decided to merge together. They merged under the name of the Oakland Motor Car Company. The operations of both companies were joined together in Pontiac, Michigan to build the Cartercar. General Motors purchased Oakland 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'.

Until 1956 a Native American Headdress was used as a logo. The current Pontiac logo represents a Native American arrowhead. An alternate slang term among enthusiasts is “Poncho”, or in the early stages, another slang term was “Indian” ( due the subject matter of its logo).

Middle years

During the prewar time 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 that was not especially interested in performance or handling and was 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.

Performance heritage

Since the 1957 introduction of the Bonneville, Pontiac marketing has emphasized performance; the division's slogan for many years was "We Build Excitement". Traditionally, each GM division had its own market niche - Chevrolet was equated with value, Oldsmobile with technology, Buick was marketed affordable luxury, Cadillac as ultimate luxury and Pontiac embraced performance.

After the introduction of the Bonneville in 1957, Pontiac's next success was the introduction of its Wide-Track suspension layout in 1959. Wide-Track gave the car a broader stance by increasing the width between the wheels, providing greater stability and increased traction.

The Pontiac GTO was introduced in 1964 by Pontiac's John DeLorean as an option package on the Pontiac LeMans/Tempest (GM A-body) car. It was the first intermediate GM vehicle to be powered by the Pontiac division's 389 in³ V8. By being the first brand to feature a large engine in an intermediate car, Pontiac is often credited with launching the muscle car era. Throughout the 1960s, GTOs were well known for their combination of stunning looks and incredible performance.

The Firebird, introduced in 1967, was an F-body car that closely mirrored the styling and motor offerings of the LeMans/Tempest cars but was placed on a smaller, sportier platform. This body style and its underlying Chevrolet Nova chassis were shared with the Camaro, but the Firebird's engines and trim were totally different. As upscale competition for sporty cars like the Ford Mustang or the Dodge Challenger, the Firebird was perfectly positioned. After reaching record sales levels in the 1970s, in part due to such publicity as the Smokey & the Bandit movies and in part due to being one of the very few performance cars on the market, Firebird sales slowly began to fall in the 1990s and GM pulled the plug on the Camaro/ Firebird lines in 2002, after 35 years of continuous production.

Even more famous was the limited-edition Firebird Trans Am, which was first offered in 1969 and continued through the end of the Firebird in 2002. Early on, the Trans Am was most notable for having the same high-performance 400 in³ and 455 in³ V8 engines as the GTO but in a smaller, lighter body. This pattern continued through the late 1970s, after which the Trans Am became more of a luxury model than a real performance machine.

Just about the time that these muscle cars were getting big attention, emissions regulations and oil shortages quickly ground them to a halt. While production first started in the late 1950s, it did not hit its stride until the late 1960s. By 1972, few were left on the market. Most telling was the fate of the GTO - originally conceived as a powerful mid-size coupe, by 1974 the GTO option was offered only on the compact Ventura. And then, it too was gone.

From the late 1970s on to the late 1980s, while downsizing its North American operations, General Motors had little funds to spend on independent brand-specific performance platforms. That was, until the Pontiac Fiero was introduced in 1983 as a 1984 model. Drawing heavily from GM's parts bin, the Fiero was initially billed as a commuter car. While it was not performance oriented in its initial release, its final versions with improved suspension geometry and available 2.8 L V6 made the Fiero a potent mid-engined sports car. With the demise of the Fiero in 1988, Pontiac only offered badge engineered products from other GM divisions.

In 2001, Bob Lutz, the former Vice Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, was hired to help turn GM around. One of his first ideas was to bring back the GTO in order to revive Pontiac's performance heritage in light of the Firebird's demise. Finding limited numbers of smaller rear-wheel drive coupe platforms, Pontiac looked to Holden, a GM division of Australia, for the platform of their GTO.

Beginning late 2004, GM's Holden division produced a version of their Monaro coupe with Pontiac trim and all the attitude of the original 1960s editions. Debuting with the potent 350 hp LS1 V8 and a world-class chassis, the new GTO is at least as good as its predecessors. But its lackluster styling turned off many buyers and forced GM to add hood scoops and other styling touches in order to make the GTO look like the originals. GM increased the Performance of the GTO in 2005 by adding the Corvette-derived LS2 V8 producing 400 hp.

In the summer of 2005, the Pontiac Solstice sports roadster arrived, and with it the renewed promise of style and driving fun. It was launched on an episode of The Apprentice; the following day the first thousand Solstices were sold in just 41 minutes. Solstice became one of Americas hottest selling cars throughout 2005 as Pontiac reported orders far beyond their ability to produce the car, and dealer mark-ups of thousands of dollars over sticker price, a rarity for GM in this time of deep incentives. Pontiac is upping the ante even more for 2007 with a high-performance version of the Solstice, the Solstice GXP, which draws its power from a turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0 L 4-cylinder Ecotec engine producing 260 hp.

Also in 2005, Pontiac put a V8 under the hood of the Grand Prix. Called the Grand Prix GXP, it would give the Grand Prix its first V8 since 1987.

A majority of Pontiac dealerships also sell GMC trucks - the trade name used by GM executives is the Pontiac/GMC division.

According to an entry in the popular Car and Driver magazine, there are plans to convert all of Pontiac's line-up back to rear-wheel drive in the next five years. As of now, it seems the Solstice will fit that niche nicely, however the future of the successful G6 is still up in the air.


See Pontiac V8 engine Pontiac's second generation V8 engines were nearly identical, allowing many parts to interchange from its advent in 1958 to its demise in 1981. Sizes ranged from 265 in³ to 455 in³. This similarity (except the 301 & 265) makes rebuilding these engines particularly easy, as almost any Pontiac engine one can find will contain useful parts. This dimensional similarity between engines of various capacity also made it possible for Pontiac to invent the modern muscle car, by the relatively simple process of placing its largest engines into its mid-size cars, creating the Pontiac GTO. The non-traditional Pontiac V8 was the 301 and the smaller displacement 265 in³. Produced from 1977 through 1981, this motor has the distinction of being the last Pontiac V8 produced by PMD. The 301 has a 4 inch bore and 3 inch stroke, identical to the vaunted Chevrolet and Ford 302 engines.

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  in³ V8.

All Pontiac Motor Division (PMD) engines (pre-1980 unified GM) were designed around a low-RPM/high-torque model, as opposed to the ubiquitous Chevrolet Small-Block engine known for its smaller displacement and high RPM/high power design. PMD engines were unique for their rear distributor, integrated water pump and timing chain cover, and separate valley pan and intake.


PMD originally used Rochester 1-barrel carburetors for many years, but by the time of the second generation engines had switched mostly to the 2-barrel offerings. These 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.

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.

This 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.