We told you months ago Pontiac was dead, but today GM CEO Fritz Henderson made it official. Now that the pointy-arrow brand is gone, we'll mourn by celebrating our ten favorite examples of driving excitement.
A Pontiac which never got much love till the end of its life was the Fiero. Burdened by the sluggish 2.5-liter "Iron Duke" four-cylinder and suspension bits from the lowly Citation, the Fiero started off with lead weights around its neck. By 1988 though, GM had seen the light and given it a proper suspension, eye-catching styling and improvements to both the four-cylinder and V6. It also gave the car the axe once it reached desirability. Seems there are parallels between the Fiero and the Pontiac brand.
Pontiacs of old could be reliably counted on as the stylish, more sporting brother to their more staid Chevrolet counterparts. The '56 Pontiac Star Chief lineup can be considered the pinnacle of the Chieftain line, with a selection of sedans, convertibles and wagons all bringing the heat with beautiful body work and powerful V8 engines.
The 2002 Pontiac Trans Am WS6 was the final F-Body muscle car to come out of Pontiac, with a 325 HP LS1 V8, six speed manual and the last iteration of that famous "Ram Air" hood, it was a performance bargain at $28,000. The final year got the special yellow and black livery and if you've got one, it just went up in value.
If you were a boy growing up in the 70s or early 80s, the '78 Pontiac Trans Am in the black and gold "Bandit" livery, complete with the flaming chicken vinyl on the hood, sat right next to the Lamborghini Countach in your fantasy garage. For '78, the compression was bumped in the top-line V8 and this end-of-malaise era automobile made a stout (for the time) 220 HP. Burt Reynolds, along with that repressed little redneck inside all of us, will miss the '78 Trans Am.
The second generation GTO picked up right were the first generation left off, adopting a more modern fastback styling language and hugely powerful 400 cubic inch V8's rated all the way up to 370 HP. The Judge package was kinda hokey but also pretty cool, with wild color options, matching decals, spoilers, a Ram Air hood and a T-handle Hurst shifter. Bring on the Judge.
The Bonneville was Pontiac's longest surviving nameplate, running from 1957 to 2005 when it mercifully got the axe. As lackadaisical as the car had been for the last 20 or so years, there were some gems throughout its history. The 1999 SSEi had woeful build quality, but when it held together the FWD 240 HP supercharged V6 was a hoot (as was battling torque steer). The monstrous '71 Bonnie wore a 455 cubic inch V8 and four barrel carb good for 325 HP and the '59 model wore outrageous quadruple fins.
The 2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe solves the main problems we have with the Solstice/Saturn Sky twins with actual cargo space and no more pain-in-the-butt convertible top to operate, while keeping the 260 HP Ecotec inline-four and a six speed manual driving the rear wheels. It's a targa-topped Miata competitor and faithfully re-interprets the awkward little British coupes we love and loathe. Buy one now as the take rate is so slow you could park it in the garage and sell it for a profit.
They say to have loved and lost is better than to have never loved at all. We call baloney on whoever says that. GM tantalized us with the 2010 Pontiac G8 ST ahead of the 2008 New York Auto Show and our dreams of a modern, tire-smoking, truck-car, mullet-machine were so close to reality. A year later GM squashed the G8 ST under the force of the Carpocalypse, and now Pontiac follows it to the grave.
The 1964 Pontiac GTO was little more than a hot-rodded LeMans, but the 325 HP, 389 cubic inch V8 with a Carter four-barrel carb, dual exhaust and a three-speed Hurst manual transmission ignited the original muscle car wars. It lit a fire in Pontiac showrooms, selling three times the projected annual sales and it will always have a special place in every car guy's heart.
Finally America had gotten it right — by importing a car from Australia. The 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP had everything — raucous styling, a 415 HP 6.3-liter V8, six speed transmission and rear wheel drive. Our own Wes Siler posited GM should be saved for no other reason than to put the G8 GXP on the road. If you've managed to get your hot little hands on one, hold onto it, like an artists painting, it'll be worth much more once Pontiac is dead.
We will miss the Aztek for two main reasons: First it was a breath of fresh air in a then-burgeoning SUV market, with incredible functionality and great features, the Aztek pointed out how underfeatured many of the more expensive entries were. Of course, that breath of fresh air was tainted by its fart of styling. Not since the Edsel was a vehicle so universally panned for the stylistic abomination it was. So the second reason we'll miss it is because it was so easy to make fun of. In many ways, that's what the Pontiac brand's been all about. We'll miss it.
UPDATE: NPR Questions Jalopnik 's Inclusion Of Pontiac Fiero In Top Ten List