Five Far-Out Pontiac Concepts That Never Came To Be

1955 Pontiac Strato Star WaldorfFor 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.


1963 April Pontiac 1965 GP proposal rear 600In 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.


1961 Pontiac Tempest Monte Carlo hi resThe 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.


2000 Pontiac PiranhaIntroduced 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.


1955 Strato Star frontThe 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.


1987 Pontiac PursuitThe 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.  

22 thoughts on “Five Far-Out Pontiac Concepts That Never Came To Be

  1. That Strato-Star coupe sure does look a lot of the 1957 Eldorado. G.M. knew a good look when they saw it, just couldn’t commit themselves to competition. The front fender openings are exaggerated Buick from a prior year I can’t remember…lol

    • I believe the Buick you’re thinking of is the ’54 Skylark, which applied the treatment to both the front and rear arches.

  2. The Monte Carlo was a great design and it’s too bad GM didn’t have the foresight to produce it – it actually foreshadowed the Javelin/AMX concept of shortening a chassis to make a sports car with common parts. Just imagine iit with a Mickey Thompson triicked 4.

  3. Picture #2…The ’74 Buick Riviera no longer had the boat tail back end. The boat tail only existed on ’71-’73 models. That Grand Prix concept is gorgeous.

    • I agree about GMC. I don’t see how they can justify a whole division for a vehicle that the only difference between it and a Chevy is the decal on the tailgate.

      Buick is a different story. GM makes too much money off of Buick in China. Sadly, with the new GM plant in China less and less of this money will make it’s way into the American economy.

      It was always my understanding that the Obama administration forced GM to dump Pontiac and Oldsmobile as a precondition for the government bailout.

        • Hate to disagree with facts, but Obama was sworn in in January 2009. Pontiac was “ended” in October 2010, almost 2 years into the Obama presidency. Not G W Bush…

        • Don’t forget Saturn. GM was forced to dump them too even though their cars were selling. They really Should have gotten rid of Buick & kept Oldsmobile.

        • By 2010, Pontiacs were simply glorified Chevys anyway. Whatever Chevy had, Pontiac had too. The biggest farce was when Pontiac got a version of the Daewoo they named Lemans. It sure wasn’t holding up to its heritage any more.

      • Blaming a president, regardless of who it was, for what happened to GM in the 2000s is like blaming the Russians for our weather problems. Their own car designs and oil price affects on the economy combined to do them in.

  4. IMO big ’60’s Pontiacs were maybe the best looking cars of the era. The 1965 GP concept looks great with the fast roof and formal side DLO. The tail lamps are very stylish, too.

  5. Sad day when Pontiac disappeared. My first car was a 1956 4-dr Chieftain hard top with no B-pillars, two tone blue. It was a great cruiser

  6. Oldsmobile had an entrenched image as an old man’s car by the time it was killed. Buick carries that image to this very day and I doubt GM will be able to reverse it, no matter how hard it tries with commercials. Pontiac had the image of a car with an optional performance personality. GM should have kept the Pontiac brand alive, as its performance image would have helped it compete in today’s sports sedan market. Buick will always be an anchor around GM’s neck, and this will get worse as the generation that favors this brand die off.

    • I agree with your thoughts on Pontiac Bill, but maybe the old generation of Buick buyers will pass on and kids that have never heard of Buick will start buying. Sort of like Fiat right now. None of the current buyers of the popular Fiat Abarths remember the miserable rust bucket unreliable Fiats of a few decades ago because they either weren’t born or old enough to drive then. Remember they were so bad the joke was Fiat stood for Fix It Again Tony. Another brand is Audi. When the Audi Fox first arrived in town they rivalled Fiat for fecal content and now you see Audis every where.

  7. GMC brings in bucketloads of cash for GM with minimal investment costs. This is the reason GMC was spared during the brand cast-offs. Trust me, as a Pontiac-GMC enthusiast I watched and read all that was going on in 2008 and 2009. The Obama-appointed car czar wanted GM to be Chevrolet-Cadillac only and the case was made for Buick and GMC to remain based on China sales (Buick) and ROI (return on investment; GMC).

    As for Pontiac, I still feel the sting of the closure. As a General Motors enthusiast, I hate to see any brand cast off (I knew Olds was only the first of more to come). As a Pontiac-GMC enthusiast, I was rooting for both brands to stay but saw the writing on the wall for Pontiac. My wife, owner of two Pontiacs, has switched over to Buick and couldn;t be happier (we’re in our early 40s). She will not consider a Chevy and prefers her Buick over any of the current crop of Cadillacs. I miss Pontiac but until GM offers new ones I’ll have to admire the old ones.

  8. Does anyone know where to find more photos of the ’65 Grand Prix concept? A gorgeous car!

  9. My first new car was a 1974 GTO; the ex-wife’s first new car was a 1985 Fiero SE V-6. Both were major POS. Pontiac is not missed.

  10. The Strato-Star coupe, what were they thinking? Who would want to end each drive washing out their wheel wells?

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