With its brilliant melding of style and performance, this GM division left a lasting impact
In 1926, Pontiac was born from GM division Oakland to fill a niche, specifically the spot in the brand hierarchy above Chevrolet but below Oldsmobile. It thrived from the beginning by emphasizing value, soon rendering its parent division obsolete. Over the decades, Pontiac was associated with many things—style and reliability to name a few, but it wasn’t until Bunkie Knudsen began to rework the division’s image in 1956 that performance really came to the forefront. The 1957 Bonneville was intended to send a message to the world that Pontiac was a performance brand, and soon the division was promoting its Wide-Track stance, which delivered longer and lower looks and improved handling. The Pontiac V-8 continued to gain larger displacement variants and more power, and had developed a reputation on the street and on racetracks for its power production. Then, in 1964, John DeLorean snuck an A-body option package called “GTO” past company brass, installing a 389 V-8 in an intermediate chassis in direct conflict with corporate edicts. The muscle car era shifted into gear. For the next few decades, Pontiac was GM’s “Excitement” brand, delivering performance and style at an affordable price across a variety of segments. Sadly, the 2008 economic downturn hit GM hard, and one of the casualties was the shuttering of the Pontiac brand, even as it was offering the exciting V-8/rear-drive G8 sport sedan and sporty Solstice two-seater. Gone but never forgotten, Pontiac lives on through its memorable automobiles and ever-loyal fans, many of whom have shared their own Pontiac stories with us for our Special Section dedicated to this legendary marque.