Pontiac was an automobile brand that was established in 1926 as a companion make for General Motors' Oakland. Quickly overtaking its parent in popularity, it supplanted the Oakland brand entirely by 1933 and, for most of its life, became a companion make for Chevrolet. Pontiac was sold in the United States, Canada, and Mexico by General Motors (GM). Pontiac was marketed as the performance division of General Motors for many years, specializing in mainstream performance vehicles. Pontiac was relatively more popular in Canada, where for much of its history, it was marketed as a low-priced vehicle.
1970–1982Increasing 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. This, coupled with trying to build cars as plush as GM's more luxurious Buicks and Oldsmobiles, contributed to the start of a slow decline of Pontiac in 1971.
In mid-1971 Pontiac introduced the compact, budget-priced Ventura II (based on the third generation Chevrolet Nova). This same year, Pontiac completely restyled its full-sized cars, moved the Bonneville, 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.
1971–1976 model full-size station wagons featured a 'Clamshell' design where the rear power-operated glass slid up into the roof as the tailgate (manually or with power assist), dropped below the load floor. The power tailgate, the first in station wagon history, ultimately supplanted the manual tailgate, which required marked effort to lift from storage.
The 1972 models saw the first wave of emissions reduction and safety equipment and updates. GTO was a now sub-series of the LeMans series. The Tempest, was dropped, after being renamed 'T-37' and 'GT-37' for 1971. The base 1972 mid-sized Pontiac was now simply called LeMans.
James 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.
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's factory applied hood 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 pendulum 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 Chevrolet Vega. This was the brand's entry into the fuel economy segment of the market. Astre had been sold exclusively in Canada from 1973. It was offered through the 1977 model year. 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 powered by mostly big block V8 engines. After this year, all GM models would go through "downsizing" and shrink in length, width, weight and available engine size. The 1976 Sunbird, based on the Chevrolet Vega and Monza's equivalent, joined the line. It was first offered as a Notchback, with a Hatchback body style added in 1977. The Vega Wagon body style was added in 1978, Sunbird Safari Wagon, replacing the Astre Safari Wagon. The Sunbird was offered in its rear-wheel-drive configuration through the 1980 model year. (Sunbird Safari wagon through 1979.)
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. It was first used in the 1977 Astre, replacing Astre's aluminum-block 140 cubic inch Vega engine. The 'Iron Duke' engine would later go into many GM and non-GM automobiles into the early 1990s. The 151 cubic inch L4 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 Chevrolet Citation). 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 its former self, but to give credit where due, Pontiac Motor Division did more with less than most other brands were able to in this era.
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List of Pontiac vehicles
Pontiac 2+2 (1964–1970)
Pontiac 2000 (1983)
Pontiac 2000 Sunbird (1983-1984)
Pontiac 6000 (1982–1991)
Pontiac Acadian (1976–1987, rebadged Chevrolet Chevette/Pontiac T1000/1000, Canada)
Pontiac Astre (1975–1977; 1973–1977 Canada)
Pontiac Aztek (2001–2005)
Pontiac Bonneville (1957–2005)
Pontiac Catalina (1959–1981)
Pontiac Chieftain (1950–1958)
Pontiac Custom S (1969)
Pontiac De-Lux (1937)
Pontiac Executive (1967–1970)
Pontiac Fiero (1984–1988)
Pontiac Firebird (1967–2002)
Pontiac Firefly (1985–2001, rebadged Chevrolet Sprint/Geo Metro/Suzuki Cultus, Canada)
Pontiac G3 (2006–2009 (Mexico), 2009 (US), rebadged Chevrolet Aveo/Daewoo Gentra)
Pontiac G4 (2005–2009, rebadged Chevrolet Cobalt, Mexico)
Pontiac G5 (2007–2009, rebadged Chevrolet Cobalt)
Pontiac G6 (2004–2009)
Pontiac G8 (2008–2009, rebadged Holden VE Commodore, Australia)
Pontiac Grand Am (1973–1975, 1978–1980, 1985–2006)
Pontiac Grand Prix (1962–2008)
Pontiac Grand Safari (1971–1978)
Pontiac Grand Ville (1971–1975)
Pontiac Grande Parisienne (1966–1969, Canada)
Pontiac GTO (1964–1974)
Pontiac GTO (2004–2006, rebadged Holden Monaro)
Pontiac J2000 (1982)
Pontiac Laurentian (1955–1981, Canada)
Pontiac LeMans (1962–1981, 1988–1993)
Pontiac Matiz (1998–2005, rebadged Daewoo Matiz, Mexico)
Pontiac Matiz G2 (2006–2010, rebadged Daewoo Matiz, Mexico)
Pontiac Montana (1999–2005)
Pontiac Montana SV6 (2005–2006, continues in production for Canada and Mexico)
Pontiac Parisienne (1983–1986; 1958–1986, Canada)
Pontiac Pathfinder (1955–1958, Canada)
Pontiac Phoenix (1977–1984)
Pontiac Pursuit (later G5 Pursuit) (2005–2006, rebadged Chevrolet Cobalt, Canada)
Pontiac Safari (1955–1989)
Pontiac Silver Streak
Pontiac Solstice (2006–2009)
Pontiac Star Chief (1954–1966)
Pontiac Star Chief Executive (1966)
Pontiac Strato-Chief (1955–1970, Canada)
Pontiac Sunbird (1975–1980, 1985–1994)
Pontiac Sunburst (1985–1989, rebadged Chevrolet Spectrum/Isuzu Gemini, Canada)
Pontiac Sunfire (1995–2005)
Pontiac Sunrunner (1994–1997, rebadged Geo Tracker/Suzuki Escudo, Canada)
Pontiac Super Chief (1957–1958)
Pontiac T1000 (1981–1987)
Pontiac Tempest (1961–1970; 1987–1991, rebadged Chevrolet Corsica, Canada)
Pontiac Torrent (2006–2009)
Pontiac Trans Am (1969–2002)
Pontiac Trans Sport (1990–1998)
Pontiac Ventura (1960–1970 full-size, 1973–1977 compact)
Pontiac Ventura II (1971–1972)
Pontiac Vibe (2003–2010)
Pontiac Wave (later G3 Wave) (2004–2009, rebadged Chevrolet Aveo/Daewoo Gentra, Canada)