International Underdog: Pontiac Parisienne – @Hemmings


A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO, I talked about desirable rear-wheel-drive 1980s cars. A friend remarked that I did not mention this month’s International Underdog, although I did mention the Pontiac Catalina. There were a couple reasons for that. I was saving it, and it was only sold for a few years, (and if I remember correctly) mainly in the lower 48.
The Parisienne name was familiar to Canadians since the 1950s, gracing the fenders and dashboards of some very desirable automobiles. I still lament the loss of Pontiac; from the mid-1950s through the late 1970s, it built some of the most beautiful American cars of all time. Unfortunately, as the years passed, they looked too much like upscale Chevrolets and lost some of their luster. Fortunately, the cross-brand family resemblance between Pontiac and Chevrolet wasn’t as strong as it was at rival Mercury, whose cars were hardly distinguishable from Fords. The good news for both of these makes is that you can, in many cases, pick up a very nice Pontiac or Mercury for a fraction of the cost of an equivalent Chevrolet or Ford.
In 1977, GM downsized its full-size cars. While the other GM divisions prospered with their more sensibly styled and sized flagship fleet, the Pontiac Catalina and Bonneville failed to fire up the market. Sales were good but hardly spectacular, and in 1981, the Bonneville moved down to the midsize platform while the Catalina (my favorite Pontiac) was laid to rest.
But then, Americans started to swing back to larger cars due to the drop in gas prices and the improving economy. AMC, which had placed its fortunes on a complete line of compacts, felt the greatest impact from the market shift, and its Premier, eventually sold as an Eagle model by Chrysler, arrived too late to save the day.

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