The History of Pontiac

The History of Pontiac

Pontiac was an automobile brand established in 1926 as a companion make for General Motors’ Oakland. Quickly overtaking its parent in popularity, it supplanted the Oakland brand entirely by 1933 and, for most of its life, became a companion make for Chevrolet. Pontiac was sold in the United States, Canada, and Mexico by General Motors (GM). Pontiac was marketed as the performance division of General Motors for many years, specializing in mainstream performance vehicles. Pontiac was relatively more popular in Canada, where for much of its history it was marketed as a low-priced vehicle.

On April 27, 2009, amid ongoing financial problems and restructuring efforts, GM announced it would discontinue the Pontiac brand by the end of 2010 and focus on four core brands in North America: Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC. The last Pontiacs were built in early 2010, with the final dealer franchises expiring October 31, 2010.

The Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works was incorporated in July 1899 by Albert G. North and Harry G. Hamilton. By 1905 they had taken over the manufacturing of the Rapid Truck (from the Rapid Motor Vehicle Co.) that had been introduced two years earlier. In 1907 they decided to produce an automobile.

The first Pontiac automobile, named “The Pontiac” was introduced that fall by the Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works. It was a highwheeler weighing 1,000 pounds (450 kg) and powered by a two-cylinder water-cooled 12 hp (8.9 kW) engine. A prototype was displayed in October 1907 at an exhibition sponsored by the Carriage Dealers’ Association in New York City’s Grand Central Palace. In December of the same year several of the new Pontiacs were exhibited at the Chicago Automobile Show. Well received by the press, the car featured final drive by double chain and a friction transmission. The wheelbase was 70 inches (1,800 mm), front wheels 38, with 40s in the rear, and solid rubber tires. The first deliveries were probably made in early 1908.

On Aug. 28, 1907, Edward M. Murphy incorporated the Oakland Motor Co. Murphy is said to have chosen the Oakland name for his automobile venture because the company was located in Oakland County, Michigan. Crosstown rival Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works already was making a high-wheel motor wagon under the Pontiac name.

In January 1909, General Motors President William C. Durant purchased a 50% interest in the Oakland Motor Car Company. Later that year GM bought out the other 50% after the unexpected death of Edward M. Murphy at the age of 45.

While technically the first car model named after the city, Pontiac Spring’s early use of the Pontiac name is not at all related to the production history of the later make by General Motors.

Read more at Wikipedia


September 6, 2015

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