Why Your Car Sucks/Rocks: Pontiac
This is “Why Your Car Sucks/Rocks,” a place where we examine the pros and cons of a particular automaker, with a dash of hyperbole in either direction. If you have reasons why a particular make and/or model sucks and/or rocks, please drop us a line. It is not considered wise to speak ill of the dead, but since I often have to interact directly with many of the representatives from the automakers that we’ve been trashing, an automaker that no longer exists makes an easier target. Pontiac has managed to deliver both the best and worst cars of all time. Like the prizefighter, milked to exhaustion by his promoter, GM rode the performance wave of the Excitement Brand, and killed it off when it was done watering it down. Heroes deserve a hero’s death, which Pontiac did not receive. As usual, you can blame GM for that. Why Your Car Rocks:
Once again, we find ourselves examining the good years of the brand first, because for Pontiac, the good years were most certainly in the brand’s rear-view by the end of the 20th century. We could talk about the great boulevard cruisers of the 1950’s, but they are instantly outshined by Pontiac’s contributions to the Muscle Car and Pony Car genres.
From the Firebird, to the GTO, Pontiac WAS the muscle car era. Original GTO Judge examples are among the most sought-after American classics, fetching hundreds of thousands at auction. Just as memorable are the 70’s Firebird Trans Ams, with the “Screaming Chicken” hood, seared into pop culture by “Smokey and the Bandit.” The exploits of a denim-shod Burt Reynolds, driving a black-and-gold Trans Am shaped an image of American machismo for years.
Even into the 90’s, Pontiac Firebidrs, Formuals and Trans Ams featured heart-pounding, low-cost performance, concluding with the G8; a car that should have defined the brand in the future.
Why Your Car Sucks:
While performance was part of many Pontiacs, low-cost was part of all of them. Shoddy build quality, low-grade materials, and almost absentee styling for many of its cars came to also define the brand. While the presence of the Firebird meant to induce the “halo effect,” allowing buyers to make a mental connection between their base model Grand Prix and the V8 Trans Am, the attempt was laughable. Most of the cars in its lineup throughout the 80s, 90s and 00s were front-wheel drive, automatic, and powered by either anemic V6s or even more anemic I4s.
There were so many bad cars. Multiple generations of the rebranded, low-budget import, otherwise known as the Firefly. There was the Sunbird, world’s worst convertible. Hell, the Chrysler Lebaron made for a better drop-top.
Then there was the Aztek. Nothing could make up for that vehicular abomination. I occasionally hear some Aztek apologist call it an underrated car. Those people are being contrarian windbags, and would tell you the sky is red because everyone else is calling it blue. That car was shit, and it marred the brand. That car alone made Pontiac an easy target during the bailout years, but really GM sucks for pawning that car off on Pontiac. It should have worn a bowtie, because it came to represent everything that was wrong with American automakers and industry at the time.
Perhaps one day Pontiac may return, but for now, we are left to remember the good times, it before things got terrible and strange…sort of like the career of Michael Jackson.