Pontiac Falls From Muscle Car Glory to Graveyard
October 29, 2010
By Nick Bunkley
DETROIT — Pontiac, the brand that invented the muscle car under its flamboyant engineer John Z. DeLorean, helped Burt Reynolds elude Sheriff Justice in “Smokey and the Bandit” and taught baby boomers to salivate over horsepower, but produced mostly forgettable cars for their children, will endure a lonely death on Sunday after about 40 million in sales.
It was 84 years old. The cause of death was in dispute. Fans said Pontiac’s wounds were self-inflicted, while General Motors blamed a terminal illness contracted during last year’s bankruptcy. Pontiac built its last car nearly a year ago, but the official end was set for Oct. 31, when G.M.’s agreements with Pontiac dealers expire.
“They were C.P.R.-ing a corpse for a long time,” said Larry Kummer, a retired graphic artist who has owned more than two dozen Pontiacs and runs the Web site PontiacRegistry.com.
The G.M. brand that was advertised for “driving excitement,” Pontiac brought Americans the Bonneville, GTO, Firebird and other venerable nameplates. Sportier than a Chevrolet but less uppity than an Oldsmobile or Buick, the best Pontiacs, recognizable by their split grille and red arrowhead emblem in the middle, were stylish yet affordable cars with big, macho engines.
Its biggest triumph was the GTO, developed by Mr. DeLorean, the brand’s rebellious chief engineer, in violation of a G.M. policy dictating the maximum size of a car’s engine. The GTO was a hit, and the age of the muscle car had begun.
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