The History of General Motor’s Pontiac Automobile

December 21st, 2022 by

history of pontiac

The Pontiac brand had a memorable run from 1926 to 2008. The Pontiac company’s history is defined by a long line of sporty vehicles. There is more to it than muscle cars, but some of the company’s most famous vehicles were known for being stylish and fast. Fan favorites include the GTO, Firebird, and Trans Am. Explore the history of Pontiac to learn more about what made the brand so special.

Origins of the Pontiac Car Company – Who Made Pontiac?

The Pontiac company’s history ends with cars, but that isn’t how it started. Edward M. Murphy launched the Pontiac Buggy Company in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1893. Edward could tell that motor-powered vehicles threatened the existence of his horse-drawn carriage company, so he pivoted the business. 

Murphy collaborated with a car designer to relaunch his business as the Oakland Motor Car Company in 1907. The first vehicles from the Oakland Motor Car Company had two cylinders. In 1909 the company introduced a line of four-cylinder vehicles, which were better received. That same year, GM bought Oakland. By 1916, the Oakland brand had its first six-cylinder engine.

In 1926, the Pontiac Series 6-27 became available as a junior brand to Oakland. This six-cylinder sold for a relatively affordable price, consistent with Pontiac’s long-term legacy of high performance for reasonable prices. The Pontiac quickly became the more popular option and became its own GM division upon Oakland’s cancellation in 1931. 

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General Motors Pontiac Doubles Down on Style and Performance

In 1933, Pontiac supplemented its attractive style with a new eight-cylinder engine. From there, the brand added even more body and engine options. At this point in the Pontiac company’s history, the brand became known for stylish vehicles that wouldn’t break the budget. Like many other automotive companies, however, Pontiac began to struggle after the Second World War.

Specifically, Pontiac had a hard time competing with Chevrolet models at the time. Semon E. Knudson became the General Manager of Pontiac in 1955 and brought a new style to the brand. The recognizable 1958 Pontiac Bonneville is a prime example of the new appearance. It looked different enough to turn heads and featured a powerful 345-horsepower engine.

General Motors Pontiac’s Muscle Car Era and Beyond

Pontiac came into its own in the 1960s and 1970s. The brand cranked out hits, including the Grand Prix, the GTO, the Firebird, and the Grand Am. The GTO, in particular, was one of the most iconic vehicles in the American muscle car era, lasting for six generations. 

Unfortunately, Pontiac’s success wasn’t the same starting in the 1980s. The brand redesigned some of its greatest vehicles but couldn’t quite recapture the magic. During the financial crisis of 2008, General Motors cut the Pontiac division, effectively ending the Pontiac company’s history by 2010.

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Shop the Most-Wanted Classic Cars

Here at LaFontaine Classic Cars, we’re proud to connect classic car enthusiasts with a wide variety of options. That includes several of the best Pontiacs for those who love classic American muscle cars. Please explore our online classic car inventory or contact us for more information.

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Featured Images: TKalinowski / otto norin / Marvin Stellmach

Posted in Classic Cars