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Pontiac Motor Division
General Motors Corp.
Pontiac, Michigan 48053
The Pontiac named was first used on an automobile in 1926 by the Oakland Motor Car Company, a division of General Motors. In 1932, the Oakland Division was closed and the Pontiac Division was established.
In 1926, the Oakland Motor Car Company, a division of General Motors, introduced their new line of cars named the Pontiac Six as a lower-priced model. The Pontiac was offered in two body types, a five-passenger coach and a two-passenger coupe. The new Pontiac was a success with sales of over 140,000 cars its first year.
The Pontiacs for 1930 were virtually unchanged from the previous year. Prices ranged from $665 to $785.
The 1931 Pontiac Six again remained little changed from the 1929 version. However, the wheel base was increased two inches to 112 inches.
Pontiac became a division of General Motors in 1932. Sales at Oakland had continued to fall and GM closed the Oakland division. Production of the Pontiac was moved to the Chevrolet plant to reduce manufacturing costs by sharing of bodies, chassis, and other major components. At the same time Alfred P. Sloan, GM President, merged the sales operations of Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac requiring dealers to sale all three brands. This continued into 1933.
The rough-running Oakland V-8 became the 117-inch wheelbase Pontiac but still had trouble finding buyers. The Pontiac Six, now with a 114-inch chassis, out-sold the V-8 by a six-to-one margin.
By 1933, Pontiac had started rebounding from the Depression-related drops in sales and built more than 90,000. The well-liked, more streamlined designs of the 1933 Pontiacs were done by the Pontiac Division design chief, Franklin Q. Hershey.
The wheelbase was again increased in 1933, this time to 115-inches. The big news for 33 though was the introduction of an all-new 77-horsepower straight-8 designed by Benjamin Anibal, the Chief Engineer at Pontiac. The new motor was smaller and much smoother than the Oakland eight-cylinder engine it replaced.
The 1934 straight-eight engine featured an increase in horsepower to 84, up from the 77-hp 1933 version. The wheelbase was increased to 117.5 inches and featured a notable innovation in GM's "Knee-Action" independent front suspension.
Though Pontiac and Chevrolet shared many parts, chief designer, Franklin Q. Hershey, convinced the legendary GM styling director, Harley Earl, of the need for more-streamlined Pontiacs, and designed a Bentley-type radiator and skirted front fenders and horizontal "speed streaks" for the 1934 cars.
Also new for 1934 were "trunkback" sedans with built-in, closed luggage space to replace the trunk racks on the rear of the car. This was the forerunner of what we Americans now know as the "trunk" on all of our cars.
After two years for just building eight-cylinder cars, Pontiac reinstated six-cylinder models in 1935. With 208 cubic inches of displacement, the "new" six was actually a bigger-bore version of their old 200-cid six. This larger six produced 80 horsepower, only 4 fewer that the eight-cylinder motor.
Standard Sixes cost about $100 less than comparable Eights, a lot of money in those days, and for the rest of the decade would outsell the Eights by a wide margin.
Chassis changes included a wheelbase shorten to 116.6 inches for the eight-cylinder models. GM's new "Turret Top" construction elimanated traditional fabric roof inserts.
The 1953 Pontiacs also had completely new bodies. The styling was of the rounded "potato" school. Pontiac added distinction with their "Silver Streak" trim, bright-metal bands running forward from the cowl, over the hood, and down the front of the radiator. These changes have been variously credited to Hershey, "Big Bill" Knudsen, and a young designer named Virgil Exner, who would become known for his work with Studebaker and Chrysler.
The Pontiac straight-eight engine for 1936 was rebored to 232 cid and produced 87 horsepower, up from the 84-hp of the previous year.
The design and appearance of the 1936 Pontiac cars were little changed from the previous year.
Sales at Pontiac reached over 200,000 units again for the first time since 1928 in 1937.
For 1937, Pontiac issued new styling for a trimmer line of DeLuxe Sixes and Eights on the General Motors "B" body. Whellbases were lengthened five inches on the Sixes and six inches on the Eights, giving better proportions, and a racy reshaped nose, some would say similiar to the Auburn Speedster, but with vertical streaks overlaying a larger wrapped radiator.
The Anibal-designed straight-eight engine was further enlarged to a 249 cubic-inch-displacement. This highly reliable motor would continue to be used, basically unchanged, through 1949. Changes in the bore and stroke of the six-cylinder engine increased the displacement to 222.7 cubic inches and the horepower to 85. This revamped six would be used through 1940.
Pontiac sales tumbled to 97,000 in 1938 after making selling over 200,000 cars in 1937.
The new models received little more than a minor facelift with a new barrellike radiator with thick horizontal bars and vertical instead of horizontal hood vents. A four-door station wagon was added to the DeLuxe Six series.
The 1939 Pontiacs received new styling with wider "ponton" fenders, reduced overall height, larger glass area, and smaller pod-style headlamps well inboard of the front-fender crowns. The radiator featured four groups of horizontal chrome bands overlaid with Silver Streaks.
Four-door convertibles and rumble-seat styles were removed from the 1939 lineup.
A new series was added for 1939, the Quality Six, to join the DeLuxe Six and DeLuxe Eight. The new series featured a 115-inch wheelbase and was priced from $760 to $990 range.
Sales for 1939 improved to over 144,000 cars thanks to the improving US economy.
For 1940, Pontiac offered four series: Special and DeLuxe Sixes and DeLuxe and Torpedo Eights. All the series had a newly designed front with painted prow, still Silver Steaked, dividing a lower-profile horizontal bar grille. The front fenders were wider and had fully intergrated sealed-beam headlights. Sales improved to 217,000 cars for the model year.
In 1961, Motor Trend magazine awarded the title of "Car of the Year" to the Pontiac Tempest, designed by John Delorean. One of the innovations was a rear-mounted transmission that improved weight balance and minimized the "hump" for the transmission and driveshaft.