Goodbye Pontiac, friend, teacher, secret lover.

After several years of mowing yards , my brother and I had saved enough dough to buy a car.

I remember scouring the classifieds with gusto and relish. I could have been holding an ancient treasure map rather than the latest edition of The Arkansas Democrat/Gazette. The choices were staggering to the teenage mind.

Volkswagen Bugs. Detroit muscle cars. Foreign jobs with funny names. Ford Escorts. Dodge Talons. Trucks atop bubble tires. Yugos. Four wheel drives. GEOs. Station wagons. Broncos. Restoration projects. Cars missing minor amenities like AC, front bumpers, paint and doors.

Not. Cool.

Testicles of Zeus! My 17-year-old chest hairs bristled at the possibilities. To leap behind your own steering wheel and point the hood in your chosen direction seemed to me life’s ultimate grail. I envisioned weekends of filling the tank with gas and the back seat with hot girls, the radio pumping Deep Purple anthems before an admiring congregation of fellow roadsters. No more emasculating school bus! No more begging to drive my Angry Mom’s dorky hatchback. I was ready to consecrate a deep and meaningful relationship between my right foot and a willing accelerator.

My brother and Angry Dad made the actual discovery. They found it buried in the classifieds, a secret gem of unknown value, and they immediately launched a personal investigation. Angry Dad was confident upon his return. My brother, somewhat hesitant.

What does it look like?
Shrug. Green.

That wasn’t promising. But Angry Dad and my brother had already brokered the deal. My visions of hedonistic weekends were replaced with developing complex strategies for convincing a girl to enter a booger-colored car. I was doomed.

But it was love at first sight.

Indeed, it was green. A beautiful, matted hue of vegetable green that was used sparingly in the 120-box of Crayolas. The top was black – all business black. The hood stretched to infinity, suggesting that an engine meant for a Sherman tank lay beneath the breathless expanse of steel. Twin chrome exhaust pipes peeked from beneath the trunk: Love and Hate. Angry Dad looked at me, and I sensed that he was relieved by my reaction to the eight-cylinder bride that was chosen for me.

The unexcelled 1972 Grand Prix Model J.

The interior sported the biggest balls of any interior ever assembled. The cockpit wrapped around the driver’s bucket seat. The clock was an analog dinosaur; a Stone Age reminder that it was time to bust ass. Set in the center of the console, a circle the size of the Sun, was the speedometer, boasting a top speed of 180 bone-breaking miles per hour. And the back seat? Enough space for the cheerleading squad and a few members of the dance team for good measure.

This was what Air Supply was singing about.

Angry Dad arranged for the power windows and seats to be repaired – a parting gift to his sons who had just become men. And then it was ours. Turning the key was summoning Hades himself to do your bidding. The engine rumbled like the stomach of Cronus, hungry for asphalt and thirsty for gas. When I pressed the accelerator, it responded immediately, like a thoroughbred challenged. The front seats were thrones from which my brother and I captained the world.

Today, it was unceremoniously announced that Pontiac was finished, through, done, and with its demise more than 21,000 jobs. I should have seen in coming when Pontiac “re-introduced” the GTO – there was nothing GTO about it. It was a G8, an even less inspiring vehicle from Pontiac. Add that to the Avalanche, perhaps the world’s ugliest car this side of a GEO Metro, and you got a company destined for erasure.

“I know! Let’s stick a bigger engine in a Grand Am
and call it a GTO! Nobody will notice.”

The fact is, the 1972 Grand Prix was Pontiac’s last perfect car. Don’t give me the 1980 Trans Am. Give me the Model J. Give it to me soon. Because Pontiac ain’t around to make them any more.

Frankly, I’m not sure how people will get to Gatlinburg, Tennessee without Grand Ams.

###

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3 responses to “Goodbye Pontiac, friend, teacher, secret lover.

  1. I, too, am a little queasy over this heartbreaking news for rednecks everywhere.

    And also, this reminds me of something worse: of yet another documentary I’ve added the DVR in my head that I wish I could erase but cannot. Really. There’s always some man on the world wearing a hat with fluffy, teddy bear ears who wants to ruin everything, like my rational *very strong like-you-like-a-friend* feelings for VW Beetles, in general. But this guy. Speaking of Pontiacs, I hope he gets run down by a Fiero he believes to be in heat.

    Enjoy, brain damage on-the house below:

    http://www.thedocumentaryblog.com/index.php/2008/06/04/my-car-is-my-lover/

  2. As a car pundit, I feel I have to comment here. I too am sad to see Pontiac go the way of Oldsmobile and Plymouth. Well, maybe not Plymouth. I was just trying to be fair to the Mopar boys.

    In any respect, Pontiac is a nameplate with a lot of history behind it. And it is that history that is forcing me to disagree with you somewhat on the new GTO.

    No, it didn’t really exude any sort of GTOness. I’ll agree with you there. But the car did provide something for Pontiac that it was sorely missing: a fun car. Honestly there was not a single interesting Pontiac model in 2004. Until the GTO that is. The GTO provided a breath of fresh air and, despite its rather bland looks, gave the Pontiac brand some energy that it was lacking. If you want to lament anything about the new GTO, lament the fact that it is in fact an Australian import; a rebadged Holden Monaro with the steering wheel moved to the right side. Honestly, when the car was brought over here, I was wondering why they waited so long!

    And so started a trend of new and exciting Pontiacs. Cars that were were more than bland Chevys with a Pontiac badge. The Solstice, the G8 (another Australian import, mind you). These were both cars with a little pizazz and they were both cars that helped define Pontiac’s new exciting, performance oriented marketing direction.

    Let’s face it. For years GM has suffered from severe brand dilution. There wasn’t much to differentiate the Pontiac Grand Prix from the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and the Buick Regal. They were the same cars with virtually identical options, but different badges. With the introduction of the GTO, GM had finally decided to take one of their more historic brands back to its roots. So, yeah, while on the surface the new GTO may not have anything in common with the old, just like the original GTO did, the new one ushered in a new era of performance Pontiacs. It’s just a shame that GM hadn’t been producing exciting Pontiacs all along. I don’t think it would have greatly changed the eventual outcome of GM’s current financial situation, but at least we could have had some fun getting there.

  3. not gonna lie, i’m kind of a big fan of the new GTO. it’s sexy, even if it is just the grand prix/am with a bigger engine. bigger engine and that orange color are enough for me!

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