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Sunday, 28 April 2019


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What's in a name? Alanson Brush's middle name was Partridge. He co-founded the Oakland in Pontiac, Michigan which was in Oakland county.

The early history of the automobile industry is in many ways similar to the digital transformation many of us have witnessed. Rapid technological advances with winners and losers, colorful personalities and plenty of money made and lost.

There's a swamp pop rock number dedicated to the'73 Pontiac Grand Prix. Try as I might I can't find a link to it.

If anyone has one, please send it on! A link, I mean. The car would be a bit beyond my ability to keep going.

Pontiac also gets a plug right at the start of the song Tulsa Time which is great. They really look like they're enjoying themeelves.



Pontiac is also the name of my favorite book by Gerry Johannson, who is one of my favorite photographers.

Unfortunately, the book has become collectible and is now priced accordingly on the secondhand market.

The 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP was described by the motoring press as a less expensive BMW M5. Chevrolet continued to sell the similar SS until 2017.

The Pontiac Soltice was a Miada like two-seater convertible with a 177HP Ecotech four. The Soltice GXP was sorta a mini Corvette, with a 290HP turbo Ecotech engine.

The Holden Ute was scheduled to be the G8 ST, an El Camino-esq car/truck. Pontiac was a badge engineered brand—so a Firebird version of the new Camaro was a possibility. Too bad we'll never know.

"There was supposedly another GTO in the works at the time"
Remember reading about this, most probably in 2008, in one of the automobile/motor magazines. My father had purchased several Pontiacs back then including a 1956 two tone pink & gray Pontiac and a 1973? Tempest. When my brother read the article about another GTO being in the works, told me that he'd buy one in a pinch in honor of my father.

As soon as I clicked "post" I realized that there is a considerable disagreement about whether most engines turn clockwise or not, whether they are described standing in front of the car or riding in the car, and whether Corvair engines rotate backwards or not, never mind Citrons and Renaults.

So instead, I will mention that Pontiac is the county seat of Oakland county Michigan hence the name. I know way more than I ever wanted to about Oakland county Michigan because I get a lot of mail from people taking a wild guess how to contact this guy.
Weird huh?

As an enthusiast of cars of the 1950s, I'm struck by how many brands GM managed to allow to fail. Pontiac and Oldsmobile had real followings at one time. Buick had a superb image in that era. Over the years Cadillac became synonymous with vulgar tat, Chevrolet (once a symbol of aspirational Americana) has (overseas at least) become associated with cheap family tin boxes manufactured somewhere obscure; and the Vauxhall and Opel brands in Europe, both of which had enormous potential in the 1950s, withered as a result of uninspired design, and quality issues. You only have to read the account of the rushed development of the FA-series Vauxhall Victor in the 1950s on the vauxpedia website (recommended) to see what a nightmare it was dealing with Detroit. Cheapness and cynicism, plus parochial thinking. Neither Vauxhall nor Opel really got over that era. Ford of Europe got themselves into a similar hole, but later and not so deep.

I remember Bob Lutz saying how they had a great new SUV lineup in 2008 that was going to save GM when gas was $4 a gallon. Now he is a frequent commentator on CNBC and constantly rails against Tesla. He has been amazingly wrong, but the American auto industry has a long history of this type of thing.

I think there must be some mathematical model that predicts the likelihood of corporate failure (F) as a function of the number of middle managers (m) as a proportion of the workforce (w) and the relative size of the marketing budget (M) compared to the R&D budget (R).

Over the years we put about 350,000 miles on a couple of Saab 900s models, one a 1985 900s four door stick and the other a 94 900s drophead with a slushbox. Both were great fun but neither was particularly reliable. Both were pre-GM designs.
I don't think the GM Saab match was good for either brand. The fondness for digging into the Opel parts bin diluted the Saab brand and rebadgeing Chevy Trail Blazers and Subaru Imprezas as Saabs was just stupid.
Who knows what would have happened to Saab if it remained independent.
Near the end of the brands life some automotive writers suggested that nobody in their right mind would pay up for a luxury (or near luxury) car with only a turbo four up front. Been to a car dealer lately?
Our Saab days are far behind us now. Today I commute in a 2007 CRV and Mrs Plews is in a 2015 Passat 4cyl turbo and we love them both.
Still I do miss a summer evening drive through the Loess hills with the top down and Mrs Plews and Chet Baker for company.
After GM bailed Saab sputtered along with a series of attempts to keep the business alive. Kind of reminds me of Rolleiflex, another mechanical device for which I have deep fondness.

My late Granny Dunbar always bought Pontiacs. My first memory of one of her Pontiacs is the wonder of push button automatic transmission. Oh! (with the motor not running, of course) little toddler me could sit behind the wheel and PUSH BUTTONS!

Granny always said she bought Pontiacs because she could more than afford a Chevrolet but not an Oldsmobile. So Pontiacs had much of the caché of an Olds but not the higher price tag and were intended to serve those who were in middle class but not quite "upper middle" - at least that was my take.

The Catalina was usually her cup of tea, the last one being a '67, if I recall and classifying as a "land yacht" at least in my mind. You didn't drive down the highway, you sort of floated.

My Dad bought a new Pontiac every two or three years from about 1952 to 1965 (When he bought a Mustang convertible!)
I went with him to the dealership in 1963 and watched him buy a blue Catalina with a personal check for $2300.
Times change.

I’ve mentioned my Pontiac 2009.5 G8 GT a couple of times here. A Holden with Pontiac sheet metal, it’s nonetheless the quintessential American performance sedan. My wife is annoyed (she considers it to be the most uncomfortable car she’s ever driven) and amazed at the number of people who will stop and complement me on my car. Once a Jehovah’s Witness came to the door and spent most of his time talking about the car instead of trying to evangelize me.
I attend the New York Auto Show every year and I always my visit the New York State Police exhibit. Year after year they’ve had a Police Caprice, a Holden with Chevy sheet metal, on display and I can often find a trooper knowledgeable about all things Holden. This year, however, there was no Chevy. I mentioned to a friendly, gearhead trooper that they must miss the Holden. According to him, not at all. While the car handled, braked, and accelerated well, he said 10 hours in the car’s seat was excruciating. I, and my back, can’t say he’s wrong. The car on display this year, which the trooper loved and said the state police were going to buy exclusively, the Dodge Charger.

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