The Times Journal & Russell County News
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Cruisin': Pontiac, Just a Memory
In May 30 Issue
Russell County News
By Ron Cowell, Columnist

Wow! It’s hard to believe, no more Pontiac. As far back as I can remember everyone waited for the new cars to come out. On TV they would have a commercial and the new car would be in the picture but had a car cover over it. A BIG deal was made for the day they would reveal the look of the new car.

Each Car looked different and everyone was excited to see the new look for that year. Back then you not only could tell a Chevy from a Pontiac but you also knew from a distance if it was a Biscayne or an Impala. Unlike today when all the cars look alike and there is no big fuss over what the new car looks like.

Among those cars everyone wanted to feast their eyes on was the Pontiac. In 1926 General Motors introduced the Pontiac as the “companion” marque to GM’s Oakland Motor Car line, but the Pontiac name was used back as far as 1906 by the Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works. They got the name Pontiac from an Indian Chief, Chief Pontiac, who led an unsuccessful uprising against the British shortly after the French and Indian war.

Two companies merged together in 1908, The Oakland Motor Company and Pontiac Spring and Wagon and named the company The Oakland Motor Cartercar.  Then in 1909 General Motors purchased the company and based itself in Pontiac MI.  The first Pontiac was an affordable six cylinder intended to compete with the more expensive four cylinder car.

Within a few months of the introduction of the Pontiac, it was outselling the Oakland. At that point Pontiac became the only companion marque to survive its parent and the production of the Oakland was stopped in 1932.

Pontiac started selling the Pontiac Chief in 1927 with a 40horse power,  186.7 Cubic Inch straight six cylinder engine. The Pontiac Chief sold 39,000 cars within six months of its appearance at the 1926 New York Auto Show and hitting 76,742 units within 12 months.

In the pre-war years, the early 1950’s the Pontiac was a quiet, solid car but didn’t have a lot of power, it came with a flathead straight eight. The Straight eight was a little less expensive to produce than the more popular V8 but they were also a lot heavier and larger. Also the large crankshaft suffered from excessive flex, restricting straight eight’s to a low compression ratio with a modest redline. That was the beginning.

Jumping ahead to December of 2008, General Motors announced that it was considering eliminating the Pontiac in order to appease congress in hopes of getting a 25 billion dollar bail out.

Then came the bad news on April 27th of this year that General Motors will drop production of the Pontiac and all of it’s remaining models will be phased out by the end of 2010. Pontiac will be the second brand that General Motors has eliminated in the last six years.

In 2004 Oldsmobile met the same fate after being phased out more slowly over a four year period. Pontiac has now become the fifth American automobile brand since 1997 to be phased out, after Geo, Eagle, Plymouth and Oldsmobile.

General Motors may be closing the door on the Pontiac but not before it made a big impact on America’s Pop Culture. The very first Pontiac came along in 1926 but the company cemented it’s reproduction for power and performance in the 1960’s and the 1970’s thanks to John DeLorean.

So much so that it made it hard to talk about Pontiac without thinking of the legendary GTO, the Pontiac Firebird. I can still see the commercials on TV in the 60’s and 70’s for Pontiac. I think most of us will remember the Firebird from Smokey and the Bandit and from Kitt in Night Rider and in movies and on TV all the way into the 80’s.

Yes, the Pontiac may be gone but you can bet your last dollar that they will still be around for a long, long time at Car Shows and Cruise Ins across the country. I’d almost bet they will jump in popularity with the Classic Car Collector also now that they are no longer in production.  So we say goodbye to Pontiac but it will never be forgotten.

If your Car Club is having an event and you would like us to tell everyone about or someone who you would like to see featured in this article send all information to, .

All information on upcoming events needs to be in at least two weeks before the event.

If your Club or church or group is having an event and you would like to display some classic cars at that event let me know at least two weeks before the event.

I will put you in contact with one of the clubs that will gladly bring their cars out for display.

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The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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