R.I.P. Pontiac: Saying Goodbye To An American Brand

November 8, 2010
Bob Ingrassia and a Pontian LeMans Sport

Bob and his (former) car in 1999

Pontiac is dead.

General Motors announced last year it would phase out the brand as part of a huge restructuring plan. Kind of like a trapped animal chewing off its own leg in a desperate attempt to save itself.

The end officially came last week, when GM’s contracts with the remaining Pontiac dealers expired.

I’m not a motor head, but I’m sad to see Pontiac go away. I’ve got great memories of owning a 1971 Pontiac LeMans Sport convertible. I bought the car in the mid-1990s for $3,500 while I was living in Dallas. Single, no kids, disposable income … added up to the chance to drive a cool car for a few years. After I landed a job in New York City, I sold the car to a pal.

gto

When you think about how much investment went into building the Pontiac brand over the decades, it’s amazing to think all that equity will just vanish. Pontiac, launched as a brand in 1926, helped define the American muscle car era of the 1960s. Many aficionados consider the early GTOs the ultimate muscle cars.

Smokey and the BanditPontiac was seared into the consciousness of young men of a certain age with the release of “Smokey and the Bandit” in 1977. The film, starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field, featured a black Special Edition Trans Am that remains instantly identifiable nearly 25 years later.

Another memorable Pontiac relic is the slogan, “We Build Excitement.” I heard that one thousands of times — and the slogan sticks with me to this day.

Even the ill-fated Pontiac Fiero, manufactured from 1984 to 1988, won some converts. Check out this story from KARE11 to see how powerful a certain car and brand can be. It’s the story of a young man obsessed with restoring a Fiero — and the kind strangers who help out when tragedy strikes.

So goodbye, Pontiac. It was nice knowin’ ya.