For decades, GM’s Pontiac division carried the flag for the automaker as a youth, style, and performance leader. These five dream cars and concepts from the years 1955 to 2000 Illustrate where some of that style came from.
Pontiac built a number of memorable concepts and idea cars over the years, from the 1954 Bonneville sports cars to the famed Banshee series. However, we thought it might be fun to focus for a bit on a few of the lesser-known advance projects. After all, they’re equally fabulous. As much as any, these five vehicles helped to set the bar in Pontiac style.
In April of 1963, Bill Mitchell’s styling staff unveiled this full-sized fiberglass mockup to the Pontiac brass as a proposed treatment for the 1965 Grand Prix. The dramatic tapered fastback roofline, which recalls both the 1963-1967 Corvette coupe and the 1971-1974 Buick Riviera, never made it to production, obviously. But the rest of the design includes details that would find their way into Pontiac showrooms in 1965 and beyond.
The 1961 Tempest Monte Carlo was loosely based on a Tempest production car, but with radical modifications, including a large chunk removed from the midsection to convert the compact sedan into a racy two-place roadster. Other sports car cues included a metallic blue interior with bucket seats, Halibrand mag wheels, and a cut-down plastic windscreen. For the 1962 show car season, wire wheels and a conventional passenger-car windshield were swapped in, and the car still exists in that form today in the hands of a private collector.
Introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in 2000, the Pontiac Piranha concept was a kicky coupe/crossover hybrid, but with a pair of clandestine rear passenger doors. Active-lifestyle features included four removable seats with zip-out upholstery, a portable CD player, and a built-in beverage cooler in the rear cargo compartment. While the Piranha never received the green light, some of the sporty convenience items have since been offered in production vehicles by GM and others.
The Strato-Star coupe (also pictured in the lead image at the top of the page) was one of a pair of similar Pontiac show cars in the GM Motorama fleet in 1954-1955, the other being a four-door sedan called the Strato-Streak. Only 53 inches tall, the Strato-Star featured hinged cut-outs in the tops of the door openings for easier entry and exit. Air scoops above the headlamps funneled fresh air to the 235 hp V8, and though they’re barely visible in these photos, the Strato-Star wore full Silver Streak chrome hood bands.
The 1987 Pontiac Pursuit concept was intended to forecast not only the future in automotive styling, but in technology as well. Drive-by-wire four-wheel steering, active-control pneumatic suspension, and a gas/electric hybrid powertrain were among its advanced engineering features. The far-out vehicle made a brief appearance in the 1989 Hollywood flick, Back to the Future II, but alas, there would be no future for the Pursuit—or for the Pontiac brand. GM officially shuttered the division on October 31, 2010.
Photos by General Motors.