Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ode To The Pontiac

General Motors really knew how to break my heart this weekend when late on Friday it was announced that the Pontiac Division will be axed. Darn that was a heartblow to me. For years, the Pontiac Division built some of the coolest looking and high performance cars that were largely customized versions of the Chevrolet line, but often with far cooler looking styling cues.

During the 1970's those Pontiac Firebird Trans Am cars were the want of nearly every young guy. I owned a 1973 Firebird myself. Many a young guy growing up in the 1970's had some fond memories of dating and taking girls out in his Firebird. And girls really dug these cars too!

In fact, some cars like the Firebird Trans Am were such a success that going into it's final years, little American Motors even produced a smaller ripoff version of the Trans Am calling it the 1979 AMX. This was built out of a customized 1979 Spirit, with the wheel wells were cut out to insert custom fibreglass panels and other add-ons. These AMX cars are very rare with only around 5,000 ever built in their 2 year model run in 1979 and 1980. However only the 1979 models featured a V8 engine.

But in the mid-70's Pontiac and their big 455 cubic inch engined muscle cars like the Trans Am became less popular when long gas lines were the rule in 1975, and suddenly car buyers wanted cars that got more than about 10 or 11 miles per gallon. When cheap gas and plentiful gas bgan to quickly disappear, Pontiac's reign as a high performance brand seemed out of step with reality, and the slow fall of this once proud brand began.

GM also marketed cars in competing markets as well, and faced some of the same marketing problems that Ford had faced back as far as the late 50's. Ford attempted to market the new Edsel brand in a market of cars costing more than Ford, but less than Mercury, which really wasn't much of market to begin with. All that survived of the Edsel cars was the little Mercury Comet which was re-badged as a Mercury as Edsel began to fail, and this found some market for a few years in the 60's as a higher priced compact car.

GM unfortunately had Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick cars are competing in roughly the same market as cars that cost more than Chevrolets, but less than Cadillacs. This meant that many Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks were often the same cars, but with trim or exterior appearance differences. And as GM needed to belt-tighten, this name game drew old with many GM buyers, and the Oldsmobile line became the first to go. Now Buick will be left as the sole car line costing more than Chevrolets, but less than Cadillacs. And with serious money problems at GM, the Saturn line is facing an uncertain future as well, where GM would love to sell this brand to some other maker. However it is unlikely that any buyer is really interested. In reality, Saturn is causing money problems for GM and they really need to unload this brand because they could use the money.

Axing Pontiac is very sad for me. I loved to collect those AMT model kits during the 60's and 70's of Pontiac cars. And I never cared much that those huge Pontiac Bonneville kits of the 60's were really just a customized Chevrolet Impala, Caprice or other full size Chevrolet because those Pontiacs always looked so cool and had such big engines. Model car collecting and building has also became another lost art as well. Kids long ago abandoned this old hobby as computers, computer games, and other things changed what kids bought. Model kit collecting is mainly for the older guys these days, who will still pay huge amount of money for old kits they sought to own on EBay or at swap meets.

Likely axing Pontiac won't be at all enough of what GM needs to do to stay in business. It is probably a way too little, way too late bid. Saturn and Hummer both probably need to go as well for the company to stop losing so much money. And likely, maybe that isn't hardly enough to counter all of the huge debt problems of this company.

The death of Pontiac is yet another sad passage of time me. Yet another fond memory from my life gone. R.I.P. dear old Pontiacs.


Post a Comment

<< Home