Pontiac – What the Heck Happened?

In 1907, The Oakland Motor Car Company was formed in Pontiac, Michigan USA. The founder, Edward Murphy, had previously been involved in the production of horse-drawn carriages. With the combustion engine becoming a main force, it seemed only logical that a marriage of machine and carriage was inevitable. The Oakland Motor Car Company became a division of GM in 1909 and the ball started rolling

Pontiac Store
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The Oakland Four

In 1909, Pontiac (named after the city of Pontiac, Michigan) manufactured it’s first car, The Oakland Model A. It had a 4 cylinder engine and was available in various body sizes, including the Model 24 roadster (shown below)

Pontiac Model A
Oakland Model 24 Roadster
The Pontiac Train Keeps Rollin’

In the 1920s, Pontiac began ramping up production in order to meet demand. To avoid supply chain issues, they began assembling vehicles at the GM factory in Osaka, Japan. This continued until 1941 when the Japanese bombed pearl Harbor and needless to say, it was all over for GM in Japan

Going Mainstream

Pontiac had produced some impressive V6 and V8 muscle cars in the early days but after The Great Depression, it decided to go with simpler and more affordable versions. A notable example is using the “Straight 8” (All 8 cylinders mounted in a straight line along the crankcase). This made buying an 8-cylinder car more feasible for those who were struggling financially

Video: 1970 Pontiac GTO Humbler – Commercial
Back to the Muscle

Before and after WWII, Pontiac was known for having solid cars that were not particularly fast. That all changed, however, when they introduced the Strato Streak V8 engine. Vrooooommmm! Sales increased and Pontiac was now producing Muscle Cars (and trucks)

The Brands

Over the years, Pontiac produced some of the most memorable brands in the car business. Bonneville, Catalina, Chieftan, Fiero, Firebird, Grand Am, Grand Prix, GTO, LeMans, Pathfinder, Streamliner, Sunbird and Trans Am…just to name a few

The Fall of Pontiac

Unfortunately, the downfall of Pontiac had little to do with it’s incredible vehicles or it’s role in American History as a great auto manufacturer. It all boiled down to dollar and cents.

In 2008, the sagging financial status of GM caused it to seek a government loan in excess of $25 billion. Part of that deal was that GM would agree to dissolve Pontiac as one of their brands. The last Pontiac built was a 2010 G6, and thus marked the end of a great legacy

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3 responses to “Pontiac – What the Heck Happened?”

  1. […] Pontiac – What the Heck Happened? – AMERICAN MEMORY LANE says: June 24, 2022 at 11:26 am […]

  2. Bob Sciarro Avatar
    Bob Sciarro

    Well you could mention that all the divisions of GM were corporatized in the 70s and 80s. By that I mean that so many components were being shared including engines, that there wasn’t much difference between the divisions, except for dashboards and plastic styling pieces. Which coined the term “badgeneering”. There was probably more individuality in the ad agencies than the cars. So the government bean counters probably said: Why are you duplicating yourself? Get rid of some of these divisions or you are not getting the money.

  3. […] movie is filled with a night of car crusin’ and girl chasing. At the start of the film Steve tells Laurie (his steady girlfriend) that […]

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