The Best Worst Thing About The Pontiac Le Mans Might've Been This Ad

Le Mans is the most grueling track test for both drivers and cars of any race on the planet. 24 hours long, much of it spent over 200 MPH, and all of it in France. So surely a car named "Le Mans" will reflect those qualities, right? Enter this lilliputian monstrosity, the 1988 Pontiac LeMans.


When it was originally introduced, General Motors had a problem, I imagine. Here was a crappy little hatchback, originally an Opel and then a Daewoo, and they had to sell it as a Pontiac, somehow. Yes, Pontiac, the maker of the storied nameplates like the GTO, and the Mónica Cruz to the Camaro's Penelope, the Firebird.

What to do, these GM execs wondered. "Crappy hatchback, storied names... crappy hatchback, storied names... I'VE GOT IT, JENKINS! We give the crappy hatchback a storied name!"

And thus, the Lilliputian Monstrosity, the 1988 Pontiac LeMans, was born.

It was a monstrosity mainly because it deserved a name like "Solandra" or "Porfetto" or whatever else was a good name for a hatchback at the time, but instead it got a name like LeMans, which was the basis for the original GTO.

It was named LeMans, and it had 96 horsepower. It was one of the most misleading badges of all time.


Which leads us to this ad, which was one monstrosity marketing another, which we originally saw on TTAC. The marketing geniuses over at GM clearly weren't done with their horribleness, as they decided to pair a Jennifer Beals lookalike, with the worst of garbled American mispronunciations of the French language:

LeManssssss, LeManssssssss...

No. It is not "LeManssssss." If you're going to name it after the race in France, and there's no way you could claim you didn't, leave off the "S." Otherwise, we'll start calling the GTO the "Ge-too." I get that that's Pontiac's "special" way of pronouncing it, but if you're going to mangle the badge, don't mangle the name of the race it's named after, too.


And as for the "driving excitement" part?

No, just no.

But at some point, this ad becomes so bad it's good. Which makes it the best worst part about the Pontiac LeMansssssssssss.


parkrndl is enjoying his midlife crisis

Ok, so I'm ashamed to admit this, but here goes:

Back around 1988, MTV did this traveling marketing show called something like "The Museum of Unnatural History". They took it to shopping malls around the country. It consisted of sales/information kiosks for companies that I assume advertised on MTV and its sister stations. (Picture the mall full of chicks dressed like Debbie Gibson and lots of those horrible fake Wayfarers with the neon plastic temples. But I digress.) At any rate, Pontiac had a booth there which pretty much consisted of a huge TV screen that was broken into 16 smaller screens arranged 4 by 4. On it, on infinite loop, played either the video I'm linking or one very similar to it.

I was a college freshman at SUNY Stony Brook at the time, and I worked at The Gap in the SmithHaven Mall. I spent WAY too much time on my breaks and before and after work at that booth, watching this video over and over again and dreaming of owning a V-8 Firebird or V-6 Fiero. That "Ride Pontiac Ride" theme is forever imprinted in my brain. Don't judge.