From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Pontiac (disambiguation).
Pontiac Logo

Pontiac is a marque of automobile produced by General Motors and sold in the United States, Canada and Mexico from 1926 to the present. In the GM brand lineup, Pontiac is a mid-level brand marketed in a way to promote a more sporting, aggressive, youthful feel to its advertising.

The Pontiac automobile line was introduced by General Motors in 1926 as a lower-priced version of their Oakland Motor Car line.

The Pontiac Logo was originally meant to represent an Indian (Native American) arrow-head, and early slang for the vehicle was to call it an Indian. Also an Indian/Headdress logo was used for a while.



Missing image
1948 Pontiac Streamliner Sedan Coupe

Since 1957, with the introduction of the fast and beautiful Bonneville, Pontiac has been best known for its affordable performance vehicles. A little flashier and faster than a Chevrolet, but cheaper than an equivalent Oldsmobile or Buick - that's been their mission.

The Pontiac GTO was introduced in 1964, originally as an option package on the LeMans/Tempest (GM A-body) car, most famously with their 389ci V8 Tri-Power setup with three two-barrel carburetors. GM was wary of putting a full-sized engine in a compact car, and the GTO struggled against this its whole life. However, doing so launched the era of muscle car. Throughout the 1960s, GTOs were well known for their combination of stunning looks and fire-breathing performance.

The Pontiac Firebird, introduced for 1967, was an F-Body car that closely mirrored the styling and motor offerings of the LeMans/Tempest cars but in a smaller, sportier platform - and usually with a smaller engine. This body style and its underlying Chevy II chassis was shared with the Camaro, but engines and trim were totally different. As upscale competition for sporty cars like the Mercury Cougar or Dodge Challenger, the Firebird was perfectly positioned - until those competitors fell away or changed missions, that is. Then the Firebird began to be seen as little more than an expensive Camaro - and when sales of that car began to falter, it didn't take long for GM to pull the plug. They did so in 2002, after 35 years of continuous production.

Even more famous was the limited-edition Firebird Trans Am, which was first offered in 1969 and continued through the end of the line in 2002. Early on, the Trans Am was most notable for having the very same 400ci V8 engine underhood as its big GTO counterpart, but in a much smaller body. This pattern continued through the late 1970s, after which the Trans Am became more of a luxury model than a real performance machine.

Just about the time that these muscle cars were getting big attention, emissions regulations and oil shortages quickly ground them to a halt. While production first started in the late 1950s, it did not hit its stride until the late 1960s. By 1972, few were left on the market. Most telling was the fate of the GTO - originally conceived as a powerful mid-size coupe, by 1974 the GTO option was offered only on the compact Ventura. And then, it too was gone.

But no longer - the GTO has returned! As of 2004, GM's Holden branch is producing a version of their Monaro coupe with Pontiac trim and all the attitude of the original 1960s editions. Producing 400hp from a thoroughly modern V8 engine, and with a world-class chassis, the new GTO is at least as good as - and is probably better than - its predecessors.

And come the summer of 2005, Pontiac's Solstice sports roadster will usher in a new era of affordable performance for the division with its EcoTec four-cylinder engine and stunning bodywork. Just like in the 1960s, Pontiac is once again becoming the home port for fans of low-priced fun cars.


Pontiac's Second Generation V-8 engines were nearly identical, allowing many parts to interchange from its advent in 1958 to its demise in 1979. Sizes ranged from 326 cid to 455 cid. There were only a few oddballs such as the 301 that relied on a different engine block. This similarity makes rebuilding these engines particularly easy, as almost any Pontiac engine you can find will contain useful parts. This dimensional similarity between engines of various capacity also made it possible for Pontiac to invent the modern muscle car, by the relatively simple process of placing its largest engines into its midsize cars, creating the Pontiac GTO.

Pontiac engines were not available in Canada, however, but were replaced with Chevrolet engines of similar size and power, resulting in such interesting and unusual (to American car fanciers) models as the 396 GTO.

See Pontiac V8 engine

All Pontiac Motor Division (PMD) engines (pre 1980 unified GM) were designed around a low-RPM/high-torque model, as opposed to the ubiquitous Chevrolet Small-Block engine known for its smaller displacement and high rpm/high power design. PMD engines were unique for their rear distributor, integrated water pump and timing chain cover, and separate valley pan and intake.


PMD originally used Rochester 1 barrel carburetors for many years, but by the time of the second generation engines had switched mostly to the 2 barrel offerings. These were the basis for the Tri-Power setups on the engines.

Tri-Power included one center carburetor with idle control and two end carburetors that were not to open until part throttle. This was accomplished two ways, mechanically for the manual transmission models, and via a vacuum-switch on the automatics. This went through various permutations before being banned by GM.

PMD also had a square-bore 4 barrel at the time, but this was rated at a lower power then the Tri-Power. This carburetor was later replaced by the Quadrajet, a spread bore. Spread-bore refers to either the distance between the primaries or to the difference in sizes between the primaries and secondaries.

By the end of the Muscle Car era, the Quadrajet had become the nearly-ubiquitous choice on PMD engines, due to its excellent economy and power characteristics. While it has been derided by many as a poor performer, many have shown that with proper understanding, it can compete at most levels with other designs.

Similar carburetors include the Thermoquad and the Q-jet. This design proved good enough to last well into the eighties with emissions modifications while most others carburetors were dropped for the easier to build fuel injection when economy mattered.

See also

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