Oldsmobile and Pontiac are history. Buick, which has been hugely popular in China, currently sells only bean-shaped, badge-engineered sport-utility vehicles in North America—one of which is manufactured exclusively in China. All of the new Buick trucklets have model names as forgettable as their styling would suggest and none are badged with “Buick” emblems. This isn’t an attempt to eventually wipe the slate clean of all things Buick, assures GM—the company that in the last two decades has shuttered Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Hummer. Instead, we’re told, the Tri-Shield logo that appears on all new Buicks is recognizable enough to stand alone, thus making the name “Buick” redundant. Yes, we hear it too. The sound of David Dunbar rolling in his grave.As bleak as the future looks, the historic, collectible vehicles of Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac, are alive and well thanks to the efforts of passionate enthusiasts—several of whom work for Hemmings. Recently, we went around the virtual room (the offices in Bennington, Vermont, are still closed and we’re all working remotely) to determine which B-O-P vehicles from the last 100-plus years intrigue us the most. It was tough to narrow it down, but here’s what we came up with.
1910 Buick Model 10
Early in its history, Buick was in a tight race for the number-one slot in the domestic auto industry, spearheaded by its Model 10. Introduced in 1908, it used an 88-inch-wheelbase chassis that cradled a 165-cu.in. four-cylinder engine and two-speed planetary transmission. Noted for its ease of control, the model’s standard equipment included acetylene headlamps, oil-burning side and taillamps, and a bulb horn, all at a very attractive $900 price tag. Buick built 4,002 Model 10s in ’08, which climbed to 8,100 a year later when its wheelbase was lengthened to 92 inches, coupled with the expansion from one to three body styles. Bolstered by its success in race trim, along with improved cooling by changing from a gear-driven water pump to a centrifugal type, the Model 10 reached its popularity zenith in 1910 when an impressive 11,000 units were built—more than a third of Buick’s staggering 30,525- unit output for the year. That was enough to catapult the Flint-based company to first place in the industry. —Matthew Litwin
Automotive history books are brimming with iconic vehicle names, both domestic and foreign, that have left an endearing legacy in the minds of millions. They’ve originated from all eras, no matter how narrow or broad each is defined: brass, prewar, postwar, and so on. And while each era can arguably claim a rich legacy like no other, perhaps some of the most indelible names appeared when the first, true postwar designs from Detroit emerged in the late 1948-’51 period.Take General Motors, for instance, and its collaboration with Fisher Body that resulted in the first mass-produced hardtop body style.
Buick took full advantage of it in 1949, using it first in the Roadmaster series when the Riviera moniker was applied to the striking design. Cadillac called its hardtop the Coupe de Ville within the Series 62 line, while Oldsmobile chose to name its hardtop the Holiday coupe. Chevrolet’s Styleline series received the Fisher hardtop a year later and called it the Bel Air. The same year, Pontiac’s Chieftain Eight and upscale De Luxe Eight lines received the hardtop, which was bestowed with the Catalina name.In due time, nearly all the carefully selected hardtop names—which obviously or subliminally provided a greater sense of exotic driving pleasure— graduated from trim level nomenclature to full-fledged stand-alone series.
Among them was Catalina, which became Pontiac’s new entry-level model when it replaced the Chieftain line in a calculated move that coincided with GM’s corporate-wide 1959 redesign. The all-new Catalina, offered in five body styles (in addition to six- and nine-passenger station wagons), all with a bevy of standard equipment and a price tag that ranged between $2,633 and $3,209, attracted 231,561 buyers in its freshman year. It also eclipsed the prior year’s Chieftain series by nearly 103,000 units.
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.
Unlike the “Old Man” cheerfully unwrapping his can of Simoniz in A Christmas Story, my track record with scoring car stuff as holiday gifts has been notably poor, but it’s all my own fault.For years, family members have asked what I would like for my endless projects, but I’ve always felt guilty about taking them up on their offers, since what I needed was usually too expensive for a gift (at least in my mind), so I told them not to worry about it.Nevertheless, thinking about cars and Christmas did remind me of the best automotive-related present I’ve ever gotten—my 1967 GTO.
Though I’ve discussed some of its aspects before, I have yet to delve into how I found it and what the test drive was like.I’m sure you’ve seen the seemingly endless ads each holiday season that depict people receiving a car for Christmas by simply walking out their front door and finding the latest and greatest model, already in their driveway wearing a big red bow and ribbon. Yeah… that didn’t happen to me.
Back in the day, those seeking outdoor adventures may have called upon the station wagon as one means to lug their gear to their travel destination. So, let’s take a step further back in our latest edition of This or That by offering four dream garage options from the immediate postwar station wagon market, when such cars were still built with a healthy amount of lumber. Commonly called woodie wagons, they are among the few vintage cars that are icons of the industry and pop culture alike. Here’s a closer look at some that Detroit offered, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.
1947 Chevy Woody Wagon, 350 crate engine, 330hp, power steering, AC/heat, 700R4 transmission, new paint, great driver, eye catcher, award winning car.
Let’s start with Chevrolet. Although the division began offering the all-steel Suburban Carryall in 1935, regular production woodie station wagons didn’t technically appear until 1939. We say ‘technically’ because wood-bodied wagons from Chevy had been available through its dealership network on a special-order basis, with bodies furnished by a number of independent suppliers, such as the Springfield Body Company and Hercules Products.
Like others, Chevrolet’s station wagon production were among the last models to be resumed after the end of World War II. Offered only on the upscale Fleetline series, just 804 were produced as 1946 models, but that number jumped to 4,912 units a year later, this 1947 Fleetline among them. Costing $1,893 new (or $22,626 today), it originally contained the division’s svelte 216.5-cu.in. six-cylinder, which was rated for 90 hp; however this stock-appearing “woodie” has been warmed up a bit with modern mechanical enhancements.
The GM Y-body senior compacts (Buick Special/Skylark, Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass, and Pontiac Tempest/Le Mans) were practically sized cars with some interesting mechanical innovations, including an all-aluminum V-8.
The Tempest/Le Mans sported a flexible driveshaft and a rear transaxle.When they came out for the 1961 model year, one thing none of the three offered was a convertible body. Buyers could choose from a sedan, hardtop, or station wagon. The hardtops were plenty sporty, of course, but up to that point two-seat open cars were still the ne plus ultra in performance.General Motors had a two-seat open car, of course: the Corvette.
Despite its newfound performance reputation, Pontiac did not. Nor would it get one, but not for lack of trying. Later in the decade, John DeLorean would attempt to get the two-seat Pontiac Banshee into production, but instead the division got its own version of the F-body—the 1967 Firebird.The Y-body was also the predecessor of the famed GM A-body, so arguably here is the spiritual predecessor of the Banshee, the Firebird, and the GTO.
Dealers are in the business of selling cars, not keeping them around. They gotta move the metal, and the longer a car sits on the books, the more it looks like it oughta just be discounted to the bone or farmed off to a rental fleet.
But every now and then, a car slips between the cracks for one reason or another and goes without a title well past its sell-by date. We’ve heard of Mopar wing cars going decades without a title, but this 1985 Pontiac Sunbird for sale on Hemmings.com may be the oldest J-body we’ve seen still in the original dealer’s possession.
Nor has it suffered from neglect the last 35 years – it still looks more or less unused. From the seller’s description:
While the Sunbird was a car aimed at the mainstream, the convertible version was not. It cost nearly double the price of the base Sunbird, and only 2,114 were made in 1985 (less than two percent of total production.) So this one was already rare when new, and that rarity has certainly grown with age. After all, when was the last time you saw one? But this particular example has done more than just survive; it has thrived. The original dealer held this car since new up until very recently. It was never titled, because he just kept it for occasional use and parades. In fact, it has been with the original dealer up until this summer, and so that means it lasted a decade longer that the actual Pontiac brand! It also means this was only given its first title a few months ago. So that makes for a terrific story, and also you may want to research if there are even any other Pontiacs out there with a first title this late in life. It’s this kind of history that has created a time capsule of a car. The Light Russet Metallic paint shows all signs of original, and it has a terrific shine. The deep luster loves to showcase the well-fitting panels and distinctly pointed urethane front end. Wire wheel covers and the trunk luggage rack love to show off the classic premium style. Plus, the condition of details, like the clean black rub strips, clear window glass, and complete badging just really give the full impression of a car that was treated to top-quality respect for decades.
For me this is the best rescue build series on YouTube, you see Ronnie buy the Fiero for $100 and drag it out of a wood, and two years later he’s nearly finished the restoration. He learns all the skills required along the way, it’s a truly inspiring series. Don’t get me wrong even though this is his first car restoration he had plenty of skills already in many areas, as you can see in the rest of the videos on his Fingerprints Workshop Channel.
A Labor Of Love: The Story Of The Revival Of A 1985 Pontiac Fiero is one of a numberof articles about Ronnie and the Fiero by Bryan McTaggart at BangShift in which you can follow the build along.
I’m amazed to see how many people have jumped onto the car rescue bandwagon, especially on YouTube. Each video of somebody diving deep into an engine bay, scrubbing lichens off of body panels, or spends time detailing an interior back to life feels like one gigantic middle finger to every claim that nobody under the age of 35 can be bothered to look up from their phones long enough to do something. Far from it, many of these people are actively putting in the work needed out of a desire to either make it big on YouTube, or to share the passion they have for a project. Making it big on YouTube isn’t easy, but sharing the knowledge learned from diving head-first into the deep end of the pool is always cool.
Yes, believe it or not, legitimate barn finds are still out there. Whether it’s tired old junk that was left somewhere and forgotten decades ago or a beloved and preserved family heirloom that no one knows what to do with, automotive gems can be found everywhere—especially in someone’s backyard. Mike Finnegan has never seen a real one himself, but he’s always heard of them through friends, connections from his time as an automotive journalist, and the exploits and adventures of automotive archeologist Ryan Brutt. But now, his day has come!
While filming the social-distance budget-build grudge-match against Tony Angelo (Roadkill Episode 111), Brett from Paradise Dragstrip, “The guy who pretty much runs the place,” asked if Mike had seen the junkyard yet. Finnegan has been to Paradise a couple times this year, for the second episode of Faster With Finnegan and the previously mentioned episode of Roadkill, and was curious about what the small, private junkyard had to offer. The forest around Paradise had plenty of cool old junk sitting around, but the barn was the piece de resistance. Inside was something Mike Finnegan was not expecting—a Pro Streetstyle 1967 Pontiac Firebird big-tire drag car. So, of course, he had to buy it.
In our latest round of This or That we deliver to you a fresh round of four options to fill yet another bay in your unlimited Dream Garage, this time from the pony car market. But rather than offer up your typical selection of Sixties steeds, it’s time to dig out your favorite cassette tapes and the old stone-washed denim jacket: We’re going back to the Eighties. Let’s examine a few that are available now in the Hemmings Classifieds and hopefully serve as thought-starters for your automotive wish list.
Today we’ll start with one of the more obscure performance pony cars from the decade: this 1985 Mercury Capri ASC/McLaren convertible. Unlike other ASC/McLaren conversions of the era, folks within the Mercury division were more focused on image that outright performance, so the stock 5.0-liter engine remained unaltered while the body and suspension were modified. The ASC/McLaren Capris were built in limited numbers, as explained by Mark McCourt in his detailed report of an ’86 edition that appeared in the February 2005 edition of Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine. As to this one currently available, the seller states:
This car, along with one other Mclaren, was purchased by a Canadian man from Hines Park Lincoln Mercury, Plymouth Mi., and brought to BC., where the purchaser mainly stored the two cars for 25 years. He drove one car occasionally. He eventually moved to Atlanta, Georgia, taking only one of the Mclarens with him, and passed my car on to its second owner, who also mainly stored it for 6 years. He intended to pass it on to his son, however, the son showed no interest in the car and it was sold to me. I have driven it infrequently….mainly to car shows.
The car is as it left the dealership, with absolutely no changes to it other than a battery or two, and possibly tires. It is possibly the purest ASC Mclaren on the market. The accompanying photos show its originality, and that it is a true survivor.