Sobering Days

I was not watching last night’s NFL game between Buffalo and Cincinnati. When I checked my phone to see the current score I was shocked and saddened by the news that Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin had collapsed during the game, which led to its postponement. Apparently, Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest after making a tackle on Bengals’ receiver Tee Higgins.

I hope this isn’t a deflection or a case of whistling past the graveyard, but I have always been surprised that more, many more, players don’t suffer life-changing events on the football field. It is a very violent game. For example, researchers at Virginia Tech have measured impacts in excess of 100 g’s during a game.

Obviously, I hope that Hamlin can return to a normal life even if that means he cannot resume his playing career. I don’t know if no news is good news in this situation, but no updates on his condition have been released for at least 12 hours. My gut tells me that no news is not good news in this case.


I have to admit that I enjoyed Ken Block’s exploits in the 2-3 videos of his driving I have watched. Block, a world-famous professional rally driver, died in a snowmobile accident in Utah yesterday.

Obviously, Block was one of those people who believed that life had to be lived at ten-tenths or beyond. Many would argue that one cannot enjoy life if you’re dead. As someone who has lived more in my head than in the physical world, I must confess that my world view is far closer to the latter than to those of people like Ken Block.


From the late John McCain:


“Russia is a gas station run by a Mafia masquerading as a country.”


Along those lines, this video shows that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has not forgotten his comedic roots. Please watch.


On this day in 1926 General Motors officially introduced Pontiac at the New York Auto Show as a companion brand to their modestly priced Oakland line. GM President Alfred Sloan, in an effort to execute his axiom “A Car For Every Purse And Purpose,” began introducing companion makes. Of course, the Marquette (Buick’s companion) and Viking (Oldsmobile) did not last long and the LaSalle (Cadillac) lasted about a dozen years.

Pontiac proved to be so popular that it “killed” its parent make. Production of the Oakland ceased after the 1931 model year. From Barrett-Jackson, whose upcoming auction here in Arizona may be unattended by my wonderful wife and me, a picture of a 1926 Pontiac.




If this Hemmings article is correct, then by 1928 Pontiac production was nine times that of Oakland: 220,000 to 24,000. I guess it’s no wonder that Pontiac survived and Oakland didn’t.

No, I am not going to show the two pictures of my 1967 GTO again. They have been seen enough. As this post from May of 2018 (!) makes clear, Pontiac is the most important make in my automotive history. In all honesty, that attachment is the primary reason why I am considering the purchase of a Solstice GXP if/when I am in a position to store more cars on our premises.









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Cars A To Z: P

Although I have written a lot about Packard, my history with Pontiac makes it the only choice for the “P” car in Cars A To Z. Do you want some Pontiac history first? Whether you do or not, here is some history.

Contrary to what some TV auto commentators say, the Pontiac make did not exist before General Motors. Pontiac’s “parent” make, Oakland, did exist before GM having been formed in 1907 and then being purchased by GM in 1909.

In the 1920s, General Motors’ President Alfred Sloan thought that gaps had developed in the US automobile market for which GM had no products. His motto was “A car for every purse and purpose.” Out of that axiom came the development of companion makes for existing GM brands.

LaSalle was Cadillac’s companion make, Buick had Marquette, Oldsmobile had Viking and Oakland had Pontiac. Never heard of Marquette or Viking? The Great Depression made it virtually impossible for General Motors to sustain so many brands. In the case of Pontiac, though, it became so popular that its “parent” make was discontinued after 1931.

Pontiac was introduced in January of 1926 and was an instant success, selling almost 50,000 units in its first 12 months. By 1929, Pontiac sales exceeded Oakland sales by a ratio of almost 8-to-1.

For much of its history, Pontiac was far more of a family car than it would be later. It was the last General Motors division to offer a straight-eight engine, for example. However, Pontiac’s image and fortunes changed when “Bunkie” Knudsen, son of former GM President William Knudsen, became the make’s General Manager in 1956.

A new engineering group led by Pete Estes and John DeLorean (yes, that John DeLorean) developed new cars with new engines and in 1959 the “Wide-Track” Pontiac design was introduced. By 1962, Pontiac had reached third overall in US automobile sales, a position it would hold all the way through 1969. Note that Pontiac’s tenure at number three began two years before the introduction of the GTO.

Of course, the GTO was the beginning of the muscle car era that held sway from its introduction in 1964 through its demise due to government regulations and insurance company scrutiny in the early 1970s. As everyone reading this knows, a 1967 GTO was my first car.


While I doubt I would still own the car even if it hadn’t been rear-ended one night in the summer of 1980, who knows? Maybe I would have never had the “remission” in my car sickness and, by now, would have turned this into a killer restomod.

The car I have owned the longest looked like this, except it didn’t have a spoiler and “performance” wheels:



This is a 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix. I bought one new when I moved to California that year. I wound up owning the car for nine years, selling it in 2004 after we had moved to Texas and after I bought my first Corvette.

In the year before its demise, Pontiac still ranked fourth in sales among US car companies. Of course, by this time the “Great Recession” had scrambled the US car market so much that both GM and Chrysler declared bankruptcy.

Buick survived the bankruptcy while Pontiac did not primarily because the former was very popular in China, the world’s largest automobile market. Even with its relatively good ranking in the US car market, Pontiac was not particularly profitable in its last decade, either. I have not been able to unearth the total number of vehicles Pontiac manufactured from 1926 to 2010, but I can tell you that in the 1960s alone, Pontiac produced 6.76 million cars, including the one that was my first car.

Here are some “random” Pontiac pics:


See the source image

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Long live Pontiac!






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Sunday Pontiac: July, 2019

Pontiac was established by General Motors as a companion make to Oakland in 1926. Unlike the other such makes created at that time (Marquette for Buick, Viking for Oldsmobile and LaSalle for Cadillac) Pontiac was so successful that it “killed” its parent as Oakland production ceased with the 1931 model year.

My first car was a 1967 Pontiac GTO, shown here. The car I’ve owned the longest, at least as of now, was a 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix that I purchased new upon moving to California and that I owned for nine years. I am a big fan of many Pontiac models up to and including the Solstice. Given my personal connection I probably lament the loss of Pontiac more than that of any other defunct American make.

From Mecum Auctions a picture of a 1962 Pontiac Catalina convertible offered for sale at their Kissimmee auction in 2016:


See the source image

See the source image


The second picture is also from Mecum and is of a ’62 Catalina convertible offered at their Indianapolis auction in 2015. Note the famous Pontiac eight-lug wheels on the second car.

Pontiac produced 16,877 Catalina convertibles in 1962. They also offered a convertible in the Tempest (20,635 produced) and the Bonneville (21,582). The famous Pontiac 389 cubic-inch V8 with the Tri-Power setup, three Rochester two-barrel carburetors, was offered on the Catalina. It was rated at 318 HP/430 LB-FT of torque. Buick had a reputation for making motors with lots of torque, but Pontiac engines did as well. Some sources list the Super Duty 421 cubic-inch engine with dual four-barrel carburetors as being available on the Catalina. According to this article, most of the 180 or so Super Duty engines made in 1962 were installed in Catalinas. This engine was conservatively rated at 405 HP, but was probably closer to 450. The actual torque output was almost certainly at least 500 LB-FT.

I acknowledge that some/most of my interest in this car stems from the fact it’s a Pontiac. If you’re a Pontiac fan I would very much like to hear from you and/or post your thoughtful comments.








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Paean for Pontiac

I meant to write this last Friday, which was the 9th anniversary of that sad day when General Motors announced the end of Pontiac. That make has probably meant more to me than any other. First, a little history.

Pontiac was created in 1926 as a companion make to Oakland. Alfred Sloan, then President of GM, believed that more market segments existed than the company had cars. Around the same time, General Motors also introduced the Viking as a companion to Oldsmobile, the Marquette as a companion to Buick and the LaSalle as a companion to Cadillac. Obviously, Pontiac was the most successful of the GM companion makes as only LaSalle even made it to 1940 and Pontiac was so successful that it “killed” its “parent,” the Oakland.

Pontiac finished third in US sales, behind only Chevrolet and Ford, for nine consecutive years from 1962 to 1970, inclusive. Note that run began two model years before the introduction of the GTO in 1964. Of course, the GTO is considered to be the first modern muscle car and the car that, therefore, started the US muscle car boom that lasted until the early 1970s.



Two pictures of my 1967 Pontiac GTO. This was my first car and I still miss it to this day. I have written about that car before, both in this blog and my previous one. Pontiac engines were known for their torque; the base 400 cubic-inch V-8 engine (the one I had) was rated at 335 HP, but 441 LB-FT of torque. My car actually ate a pair of motor mounts. I guess I had more of a lead foot in those days.  🙂


See the source image


From a picture of a 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix. I bought one of these new when I moved to California and it holds the distinction of being the car I owned the longest: 9 years. It was also the first car that I owned in multiple states as I took it to Texas when my wonderful wife and I moved there in 2000.

Speaking of my wonderful wife, she also has a Pontiac connection:


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From a picture of a 1979 Trans Am. My wonderful wife once owned one of these although I did not know her then. She still speaks highly of that car.

General Motors is no longer manufacturing cars with the Pontiac name, but is still using the name to make money as it sells products with the Pontiac logo(s). Yes, the automobile market and world have changed, but don’t forget that Pontiac was axed in favor of retaining Buick only because Buick is popular in China, which is the world’s largest auto market. Take a look at this table of US sales by calendar year:

 Pontiac   Buick
2000 542,427 404,612
2001 456,664 373,924
2002 441,203 370,549
2003 408,673 259,348

I can’t seem to find more recent sales data. Both makes saw declining sales, but Pontiac consistently outsold Buick and was third in sales, behind only Chevrolet and Ford, in all four years. Maybe the data from 2004-2008 was different, but how different could it have been?

The badge engineering begun by GM in the late 1950s, and which accelerated in the late 1970s, didn’t do any of the makes any good in the long-run even though it may have been good for the company in the short-run. As the differences between makes disappeared customer behavior changed in a negative way for GM. Going off on a tangent, I still think GM should let Buick have a revised and improved version of the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky as a halo car.

Anyway, Pontiac was a very important make in the history of the US automobile industry. It was also important in my history. Long live Pontiac!