GM’s now defunct Pontiac brand is said to be the car brand that sparked the beginning of the muscle car era in the mid-1960s with its iconic GTO muscle car. The Pontiac Firebird muscle car also helped to cement Pontiac’s iconic status as a muscle car manufacturer, especially when the Firebird Trans Am was featured in Burt Reynold’s Smokey and the Bandit movie in 1977.
However, Pontiac was not always about large, V8 muscle cars. Its story started in 1926, when GM wanted to create a brand that would ‘accompany’ its more expensive Oakland brand. This new brand was to slot in under the Oakland brand but just above the Chevrolet brand in GM’s brand hierarchy. GM named the brand after Chief Pontiac, the famous native-American war chief who led a resistance against the British military from 1763 to 1766. Pontiac, Michigan, where GM would produce its first Pontiac cars, was also named after Chief Pontiac.
The first Pontiac car, the 1926 Pontiac, was cheaper and had a shorter wheelbase than the average Oakland car; it also came equipped with a six-cylinder engine. This cheaper yet sufficiently powerful car offering resulted in high sales for Pontiac, and by 1929, Pontiac had outsold Oakland by over 163,000 units. In 1931, GM discontinued the Oakland brand and merged it into Pontiac. Pontiac continued producing affordable, reliable, and sufficiently powerful cars over the next two decades.
In the 1950s, however, Pontiac car sales dropped, and Semon Knudsen, Pontiac’s General Manager at that time, tried to rebrand Pontiac to change the brand’s fortunes. To get people to regard Pontiac cars as sporty, performance-focused cars, Semon tried introducing Pontiac cars to racing and motorsports competitions like NASCAR and the NHRA drag racing championship. It worked to a large extent, but the biggest breakthrough, in this regard, came in 1963 when John DeLorean inspired the introduction of a V8-powered GTO (Grand Turismo Omologato) option for the Pontiac Tempest coupe. The GTO soon became separate car offering under Pontiac. It became exceedingly popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s and inspired the production of many other muscle cars during that time. This is why the GTO is said to have ushered in the muscle car era.
However, when the gas crisis hit in the mid-70s, people no longer wanted to buy muscle cars, so Pontiac had to go back to the drawing board again. Its Fiero coupe of 1984, an affordable, sporty yet fuel-efficient coupe, was an instant success. However, through the 1990s and right into the 21st century, Pontiac’s sales continued to plummet. It tried to reinvent itself again with vehicles like the Aztec compact SUV, the re-badged 2004 GTO, the Solstice roadstar, the G8 large sport sedan, and several others, but to no avail. GM closed the operations of the Pontiac brand in 2010.
Even though the Pontiac brand was discontinued, you can still get Pontiac parts and accessories for your Pontiac car, van, or SUV. We at GrokAuto.com have networked with many established Pontiac auto part/auto accessory dealers around the country, so we can get you the Pontiac parts and accessories that you need.