People born the year that GM pulled the plug on Oldsmobile will turn 18 in 2022. That means they grew to legal voting age having never seen a new car from Lansing. They might vaguely remember seeing a new Pontiac, as that brand’s demise came about after GM’s bankruptcy, bailout, and subsequent restructuring around 2009. Perhaps these hypothetical 18-year-olds might aspire to buy the new Buick Electra electric vehicle that Flint unveiled in September—if it ever progresses from a bold-looking concept car into production. Also, as long as they grew up in China, where the concept was shown and where this new Buick EV is slated to be built and sold.
Times have most definitely changed for Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac but one thing hasn’t—the popularity of the cars those storied marques produced from the prewar era through the 21st century. The B-O-P issue of HMN is one of our most popular, both with readers and with sponsors. It’s for good reason: GM’s middle three divisions produced some of the most innovative, exciting, reliable, luxurious, sporty, etc. vehicles in history and they remain popular with old-car buffs today.
Recently we polled the HMN staff to find out what B-O-P vehicles intrigue them the most and why. Some of the results were surprising and clearly there was a dearth of 1950s- and 1980s-era vehicles that we’ll need to address in a future issue. Here for your perusal are the results.
1922 OLDSMOBILE 43A
Oldsmobile already had decades of production on the road when the 1920s dawned, and the division continued to innovate. Three model lines were available for 1922: the Model M43A “Four,” which relied upon a 224-cu.in. inline-four; the Model 47 “Smaller Eight” that used a 233-cu.in. V-8; and the Model 46 “Larger Eight,” which sported a 246-cu.in. V-8. The M43A sold best, representing 14,839 of the 22,758 Oldsmobiles built that year. Sending its 40 hp to the wheels via a torque tube, the four-cylinder was an advanced design that included three main bearings, a two-stage carburetor, and overhead valves, the latter disappearing after 1923 and not returning until Olds debuted the 1949 Rocket V-8. The entry-level model came as a Roadster, Coupe, Sedan, or Tourer; it was much pricier than the contemporary mass-produced Ford Model T, the range of $1,195 to $1,795 being roughly equivalent to $19,510-$29,310 in today’s dollars. Marque enthusiasts covet surviving examples.— Mark J. McCourt
1926 BUICK STANDARD
Buick was a star of the middle-price market in the 1920s. In fact, it held third place overall in the industry four times in the 1919-’29 period, an era in which Ford was virtually unchallenged and where Chevrolet never wavered from the number-two spot. Model year 1926 was the peak of this period: Flint cranked out 266,753 units, of which 40,113 were $1,195 Standard two-door sedans like the car illustrated, making it the third-most-popular iteration of the third-most-popular car of 1926. Even a Standard was demonstrably better than a $645 Chevrolet Superior or a $580 Ford Model T, while the $1,395 Master was better yet. The Standard chassis had a 114.5-inch wheelbase, while the Master was 5.5 to 13.5 inches longer. Both cars used six-cylinders, with the Standard receiving a 60-hp, 207-cu.in. engine and the Master boasting 75 hp from 274 cu.in.— David Conwill
1932 PONTIAC MODEL 302
Established as a part of GM’s “companion makes” program in the 1920s, Pontiac proved so popular that not only did it long outlive the other companions (La Salle, Marquette, and Viking), but when its own parent faltered in the early years of the Great Depression, Pontiac absorbed it into its operations. The Model 302 was the former Oakland chassis, wearing an enlarged version of the Pontiac Six bodywork. The Model 302 also bore the 1930-vintage Oakland V-8, an 85-hp, 251-cu.in. flathead with a flat-plane crank—which caused considerable vibration but was easier to manufacture with the industrial tech of the time. The next year, the V-8, with its complicated mounts and vibration compensator, would be replaced by the first example of the long-running Pontiac straight-eight family, a 77-hp, 223-cu.in. unit, in a chassis derived from Chevrolet designs—a longstanding part of Pontiac’s formula.— David Conwill
1941 PONTIAC CUSTOM TORPEDO
In the immediate prewar era, Pontiac went upmarket, stepping further from Chevrolet and blurring the division lines between it and Oldsmobile—the next rung in the GM hierarchy—by introducing the full-sized Custom Torpedo line. These glamorous long-wheelbase cars shared their premium Fisher Body “C” bodyshells with the Oldsmobile 90 series Custom Cruiser, Buick Roadmaster, and Cadillac Series 62, with the Pontiac version offered in sedan coupe, sedan, and wood-trimmed station wagon forms. Under their long hoods sat a division-traditional 90-hp, 239.2-cu.in. L-head straight-six or optional 103-hp, 248.9-cu.in. L-head straight-eight. Total production of the 1941 Custom Torpedo Six and Custom Torpedo Eight amounted to just 25,448, with 8,257 and 17,191 units built, respectively. Arguably the most attractive, the two-door Model 29 Custom Torpedo Eight Sedan Coupe is thought to be the rarest variant remaining, making it a prize for collectors.— Mark J. McCourt
1962 PONTIAC GRAND PRIX
When its new car lineup was announced for 1962, Pontiac pitched the freshly minted Grand Prix as, “The personally styled car with the power personality!” It was a fine way of suggesting that the two-door hardtop was a new personal-luxury car, or gentleman’s grand tourer, before outlining just what it came equipped with. It turned out to be quite a list: recessed grille and tail panel design unique to the GP, a lower roofline to enhance its sleek profile, a standard 303-hp 389-cu.in. V-8 engine with a true dual-exhaust system, three-speed manual transmission (although a four-speed and Hydra-Matic were optional), aluminum wheels, an acceleration-friendly axle ratio, Morrokide bucket seats, center console, and full instrumentation that included a tachometer. In short, all the performance of a GTO, combined with the rich appointments of a Bonneville, tucked into a package the size of a Catalina. Starting at $3,490 (or $30,302 today), it found 30,195 buyers; this number quickly increased in the ensuing years.— Matthew Litwin