So, you think you know your cars now, do you? Well, consider this to be a test of your knowledge of Pontiac history. Classic Pontiacs are featured here: some are later models while others are truly classic in every sense of the word, dating back to the 1950s.
Classic Pontiacs: Bonneville 1958–2005
The Bonneville (known as the Parisienne in Canada until 1981), and its platform partner, the Grand Ville, are some of the largest Pontiacs ever built; in station wagon body styles they reached just over 19 feet (5.8 m) long, and were also some of the heaviest cars produced at the time (2.5 short tons, 5,000 lb or 2,300 kg). The full sized Pontiac sedan excitement retired in 2005 after more than 40 years of service. Part of GM’s massive restructuring and retiring of top model names.
Classic Pontiacs: Catalina 1950–1981
Initially, the name was used strictly to denote hardtop body styles, first appearing in the 1950 Chieftain Eight and DeLuxe Eight lines. In 1959, the Catalina became a separate model, as the ‘entry-level’ full-size Pontiac. For 1959, Pontiac dropped the name Chieftain for its entry level model and renamed it Catalina. This model hearkens back to the mid 60s when two door hard tops ruled the day. Discontinued during the late 70s during GM’s “down sizing” shell game days.
Classic Pontiacs: Fiero 1984–1988
The Fiero was designed by George Milidrag and Hulki Aldikacti as a Pontiac sports car. The Fiero was the first two-seater Pontiac since the 1926 to 1938 coupes, and also the first and only mass-produced mid-engine sports car by a U.S. manufacturer. Many technologies incorporated in the Fiero design such as plastic body panels were radical for its time. The word “fiero” means “proud” in Italian, and “wild”, “fierce”, or “ferocious” in Spanish. Alternative names considered for the car were Sprint, P3000, Pegasus, Fiamma, Sunfire (a name which would later be applied to another car), and Firebird XP
Classic Pontiacs: Firebird 1967–2002
The Firebird was introduced the same year as GM’s platform-sharing model, the Chevrolet Camaro. This coincided with the release of the 1967 Mercury Cougar, which shared its platform with another pony car, the Ford Mustang. It goes without saying that this “pony” car is sorely missed. While primarily Pontiac-powered until 1977, Firebirds were built with several different engines from nearly every GM division until 1982 when GM began to discontinue engines.
Classic Pontiacs: Grand Am 1973–1975, 1978–1980 & 1985–2005
With its 1973 debut, the Grand Am quickly became the division’s mid-range performance car. Retired in 2005 with a host of other Pontiac model names. The Grand Am had two separate 3-year runs in the 1970s: from 1973 to 1975, and again from 1978 to 1980. It was based on the GM A platform. Production of the Grand Am was canceled in 1980 when it was replaced by the Pontiac 6000. The Grand Am was reintroduced in 1985 when it replaced the Pontiac Phoenix. It was Pontiac’s best selling car and later replaced by the Pontiac G6, so named as it was intended to be the 6th generation of the Grand Am.
Classic Pontiacs: Grand Prix 1962–2008
Hidden tail lights and a concave rear window marked the Grand Prix’s 1963 debut. It was essentially a standard Pontiac Catalina coupe with minimal outside chrome trim and a sportier interior (bucket seats and a center console). The performance-minded John De Lorean, head of Advanced Engineering at Pontiac, contributed greatly to the development of both the Grand Prix and the GTO. Early models had full access to the Pontiac performance option list, including the factory-race Super Duty 421 powertrain installed in a handful of 1962 and 1963 cars.
Classic Pontiacs: GTO 1964–1974
Introduced in 1967, the GTO was a true coupe turned sports car. It was a muscle car classic of the 1960s and 1970s era. Although there were earlier muscle cars, the Pontiac GTO is considered by some to have started the trend with all four domestic automakers offering a variety of competing models. From 1964 until midway through 1973 it was closely related to the mid-sized Pontiac Tempest/LeMans. The 1974 GTO was a one-year only optional package available on the compact-sized two-door Pontiac Ventura. The GTO model was revived from 2004 to 2006 model years as a captive import for Pontiac, a left-hand drive version of the Holden Monaro, itself a coupé variant of the Holden Commodore.
Classic Pontiacs: LeMans 1962–1981 & 1988–1993
Originally a Tempest model, the LeMans became its own model once the Tempest name was retired in the 1970s. In 1971, the Tempest nameplate was completely retired and Pontiac promoted the Le Mans nameplate to full-series status to identify all of its intermediate models, which still included the GTO. Manufactured across six generations, the Le Mans was replaced by the downsized Pontiac Bonneville for the 1982 model year and resurrected for model years 1988-1993 as a rebadged Daewoo LeMans.
Classic Pontiacs: Parisienne 1959–1987
The Parisienne entered the production lineup as a sub-series within the Laurentian line in the 1958 model year. Parisienne became a separate model in 1959. For most of its life, the Parisienne was the Canadian nameplate for the top of the line model sold in GM of Canada’s Pontiac showrooms. Parisiennes were distinct from other Canadian Pontiac models by their standard features: the luxuriousness of upholstery fabrics; standard equipment such as courtesy interior and trunk lights; bright trim mouldings in the interior; distinct exterior accent chrome pieces; and availability of 2 and 4-door hardtops and convertibles.
Classic Pontiacs: Tempest 1961–1970 & 1988–1991
From the early sixties until the early seventies, the term “muscle car” befit this hot coupe. Especially nice as a convertible! The Tempest was introduced as an entry-level compact in September 1960 for the 1961 model year. Sharing the new monocoque (unibody) Y platform with the Buick Special and Skylark, and Oldsmobile F-85 and Cutlass, the model also appeared under the LeMans nameplate (largely beginning with the 1962 model year, though Pontiac also manufactured a few 1961 Le Mans coupes).
Classic Pontiacs: Aztec 2001–2005
Ugly is as ugly does. This crossover vehicle ashamed the Pontiac fleet for two years during the early 00s. As a four-door crossover with a front engine and four-wheel drive, the Aztek featured a four-speed automatic transmission with a V-6 engine. Marketed by Pontiac as a “sport recreational vehicle,” The Aztek used a shortened platform shared with GM’s minivans (e.g., the Pontiac Montana) featuring 94 cubic feet of cargo room capable of carrying a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood with its rear seats removed. The design employed conventional rear swing-open rather than sliding doors and a bi-parting rear tailgate, the lower section formed with seat indentations and cupholders. Other features included a rear center console that doubled as a removable cooler, rear stereo controls in the cargo area, a sliding cargo floor with grocery compartments and an available camping package with an attachable tent and inflatable mattress.
So, there you have it. At least another half dozen models were left out from this time period plus many models that dated back to the division’s founding as part of the Oakland Automobile Company in 1926. Pontiac excitement have you caught it yet?