Pontiac: The Most Successful Performance Division of General Motors
Although as a demise brand of American automobile manufacturer General Motors (GM), no one could deny the Pontiac has made a big difference in the automobile industry since its appearance. Pontiac originated as the Pontiac Buggy Company in Pontiac, Michigan and the Oakland Motor Car Company founded by Edward M. Murphy in 1893 and 1907 respectively, then it was acquired by General Motors in 1909. Pontiac was first introduced by General Motors in 1926 as the companion marque to GM's Oakland division to cope with the financial turmoil in the early 1920s. What is funny is that Pontiac was discontinued also because of a financial crisis in 2009 and a restructuring effort failure.
Pioneer of Muscle Cars
As a matter of fact, at first, Pontiac was positioned as less expensive line of cars to compete with the lower-priced Ford Model T. And as soon as its introduction, it outsold its parent Oakland within months and even became top-selling six in the United States, ranking seventh in overall sales. Until the mid-1950s, Pontiac still made a reputation for offering reliable, quiet and comfortable cars, leaving power battle to other divisions of General Motors. However, before the muscle era began in the early 1960s, Pontiac took ahead of the game as it had already introduced a 173-horsepower V8 to replace the long-running moderately powered straight six. More accurately, it helped spark the muscle car power race in 1964. Started with the stamped steel valvetrain rocker arm designed by Clayton Leach and was picked up by nearly every OHV engine manufacturer, then a V8 engine equipped with a high-performance racing camshaft and dual 4-barrel carburetors saw Pontiac become a major player during the muscle car and pony car era. However, due to another gas crisis of 1974, it had to switch its focus to six-cylinder engines and smaller cars. Even it was not just a test bed for performance but also design, its power was not a priority for most new car buyers but the economy, which brought about its demise eventually.
As the pioneer of muscle and pony car, some of Pontiac's most notable models were ushered in at the height of the horsepower wars of the 1960s under the guidance of division head John DeLorean, such as the Grand Prix, GTO, Firebird and so on. As a performance-oriented model, Grand Prix had been produced through seven generations as a personal luxury car, mid-size car and full-size car, positioned below the larger Bonneville in Pontiac's model lineup. It received a big success and helped define the burgeoning muscle car category. During early 21th century, Pontiac continued to produce performance-oriented vehicles with introduction of G6, G8, and the drop-top, two-seater Solstice. 2005 saw a sport utility vehicle Torrent was introduced for the 2006 model year but it was discontinued after the 2009 model year when General Motors having dropped the Pontiac brand. The model with most devious development history, Grand Am had two separate 3-year runs in the 1970s, from 1973 to 1975, and again from 1978 to 1980, then was reintroduced in 1985. It was Pontiac's best-selling car but was replaced by the G6 in 2005. In 1980s, Pontiac launched a mid-engine sports car Fiero, which beat out the new 1984 Chevrolet Corvette to be the official Car of the Indianapolis 500 for 1984.
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