Pontiac Before World War II
The history begins in 1907 with Edward Murphy who founded the company as the Oakland Car Company of Pontiac, Michigan. Eventually his company was acquired by GM and rebranded as Pontiac in 1926.
GM established the automotive brand by building mid- to low-price vehicles in a variety of body styles. One of the company's early successes was the Pontiac Chief, which was released in 1927 and featured a straight six-cylinder engine. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Pontiac gained popularity by introducing a number of affordable coupes, sedans and wagons.
Pontiac After World War II
Even in the years immediately following World War II, Pontiac had yet to establish itself as a high-performance brand. The early-1950s models were known for being sturdy and dependable. However, all that changed with the introduction of the Bonneville in 1958. The Bonneville was the first vehicle to offer performance along with luxury. Its widespread success helped Pontiac establish itself as GM's performance car division in the 1960s.
The Tempest was an entry-level compact introduced in 1960. The base model of the Tempest did fairly well on the market; however the car's more powerful GTO option gave Pontiac its biggest success to date. The GTO version of the Tempest was fitted with a massive 389-cubic inch V-8, helping to usher in the muscle car era. The car brand followed on the success of the GTO by introducing the Firebird and the Firebird Trans Am.
In the 1970s, Pontiac continued to produce muscle cars, but it also added more fuel-efficient compacts such as the Ventura and the Phoenix to the lineup. This helped the company to stay in step with the changing concerns of American drivers. About 10 years later, Pontiac produced the Fiero, which found success with the American auto buyers by merging sports car performance and style with the fuel economy of a compact.
The Pontiac brand virtually disappeared during the 1990s, unable to distinguish itself from other GM brands. However, in the new Millennium, the company took steps to counter this and released progressive-minded new models like the Vibe, the Solstice and the G8. These new brands helped reestablish Pontiac with American drivers for a time, but the collapse of the U.S. auto industry in 2008 forced GM to downsize its divisions and phase out Pontiac in 2010.
The Bonneville sedan was the backbone of the Pontiac vehicle line for more than 50 years. Although it wasn't considered a luxury or a sports car, the Bonneville was a classic American four-door sedan that was discontinued in 2005.
During its initial run from 1964 through 1974, the Pontiac GTO was often regarded as the first American muscle car. It's fitting that Pontiac briefly reintroduced a more refined and upscale GTO between 2004 and 2006.
The Sunfire was a compact sedan produced between 1995 and 2005. The vehicle was available as an affordable sedan, coupe or convertible.
The Montana was a minivan produced by Pontiac from 1997 until 2005. It had a brief second life as the Montana SV6, which was essentially the same minivan styled to resemble an SUV
Introduced in 2001, the Aztek was a midsize crossover vehicle that was widely passed on during its four-year run of production, mainly for its awkward appearance.
Produced between 2005 and 2009, the Pontiac Solstice was an affordable sports car available as a convertible and a coupe. While automotive critics felt the Solstice had promise, it wasn't produced long enough to benefit from its potential.
The compact Vibe was introduced a couple of years earlier. This vehicle was an appealing hatchback that held the distinction of being the last car produced by Pontiac before the brand was liquidated at the end of 2010.
The Grand Am was one of Pontiac's most popular models throughout the otherwise dismal days of the 1980s and 1990s. Available as a practical four-door sedan or a moderately sporty coupe, the Grand Am was finally discontinued in 2005.
While the Pontiac brand may be no more, the company has left an inspired legacy of American performance cars. This legacy is best exemplified by models like the GTO, the Firebird, and the Trans Am. It's unfortunate that GM was forced to shutter the brand since the company was producing inspired vehicles such as the Solstice and the Vibe even at the time of Pontiac's demise.