Inspired by ESPN’s recent promotion of the debut of the Broadway musical Hamilton on Disney+, we’ve presented our twist on the Sports Center Top-10 with our Top-10 Favorite Fords, Top-10 Favorite Chevrolets, Top-10 Favorite Dodges and Top-10 Favorite Plymouths.
After this, we’ll conclude the series with our Top-10 favorite Hudsons, but before we get there, here are our favorite Pontiacs:
10. Pontiac Parisienne — Pon-ti-ac Pa-ri-si-enne, seven syllables that delight as they roll off the tongue. The Parisienne was the full-size Pontiac sold in Canada from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, and for a couple of years as the end in American dealerships as well. It was Pontiac’s version of the Chevrolet Impala and for many baby boomers, seeing one in the U.S. provided an international delight. But before it was either, the Parisienne was an elegant concept car displayed at the GM Motorama in 1953.
9. Chief Pontiac — The Odawa (Ottawa) leader who led the Native American fight, which became known as Pontiac’s War, against the British occupation of the Great Lakes area from 1763-1766. The battle began with the siege of Fort Detroit.
When General Motors president Alfred Sloan decided the automaker needed a car to slot between Chevrolet and Oldsmobile, he launched Pontiac, which was named after the Michigan city where the car was built; the city had been named for Chief Pontiac, whose tribe had lived in the area.
8. Pontiac Aztek — Many consider the Aztek to be the ugliest car ever produced by an American automaker, but once you opened the doors you were treated to the Swiss Army knife of American cars, with a removable cooler instead of a center console, removable backpacks that attached to the front seat backs, four power outlets, and as many as 22 different configurations for the rear cargo area, including a slide-out tray for tailgating.
7. Pontiac Silverdome — If you lived in Michigan in the last quarter of the 20th Century, the Pontiac Silverdome was the focus of sports activity — the home of the Detroit Lions and Michigan Panthers (pro football), Detroit Pistons (pro basketball) and Detroit Express (pro soccer); host to college football bowl games, to Super Bowl XVI, and to the state high school football championship games. The facility with its Teflon-coated roof, held up by air pressure from beneath, also hosted the WrestleMania which drew an indoor event attendance record 93,173 people, a record broken when 93,682 showed up for a mass with Pope John Paul II. The Silverdome also was host to record-setting concert audiences, including more than 76,000 listening to Led Zeppelin.
Alas, the roof succumbed to heavy snowfall, the surrounding structure was demolished and an Amazon distribution center is set to open on the site in 2021.
6. Pontiac Trans Am — Actually, I’ve never been a fan of Pontiac’s version of the GM F-body/Chevrolet Camaro, but I know I’m in the minority. My distain traces to May 1989, when I spent the month in Indianapolis on behalf of AutoWeek magazine. I was granted use of one of the 20th anniversary Trans Am Indy 500 pace cars with its turbocharged V6 engine. At least it was turbocharged if you had the patience to plant your right foot, slowly count a thousand one, a thousand two, a thousand three before the turbo woke up and you started to move. I was not patient, nor a fan of the car.
But having said that, I know the Trans Am is a fan favorite, especially after its starring role in Burt Reynolds’ 1977 movie, Smokey and the Bandit.
I also like the fact that the Pontiac Trans Am helped support the Sports Car Club of America because the car company paid the sports car club a royalty to put the name of its wonderful pony car racing series on the sporty version of Pontiac’s Firebird.
5. Pontiac Banshee — Actually, there were two Pontiac concept cars that were labeled Banshee. The first, in 1962, was a Corvette-based concept that previewed the styling for the first Pontiac Firebird, well, except for its two-hinged trunk that could open from the front or the rear. The second, in 1988, again previewed future styling cues but had a fiberglass body over a tube-frame chassis. The car was so sleek it looked like it might be mid-engined, but it was not. However, it did have doors that opened at the touch of an infrared signal.
4. Pontiac Bonneville Special — Chevrolet had its Corvette, so in 1954 Pontiac unveiled its Bonneville Special, a 2-seat roadster concept car that one-upped its Chevy underpinnings with a straight-8 engine and a jet-fighter-style clear, hinged bubble canopy. The jet theme continued at the car’s tail, where the spare tire was mounted in a housing that resembled a fighter jet exhaust.
3. Pontiac Club de Mer — The Bonneville Special was, well, special, but two years later Pontiac one-upped it with its Club de Mer, a much more dramatic 2-seat concept car with a brushed-aluminum body, hidden headlights, bubble-style twin windshields, a single tail fin and a 300-horsepower V8 engine linked to a rear-mounted syncromesh transmission.
2. Pontiac GTO (the song) — As part of the launch program for the Pontiac GTO (see No. 1 below), Jim Wangers, marketing genius at Pontiac’s Campbell-Ewald advertising agency, commissioned a song about the car and, as the story goes, helped to create a group, Ronny & The Daytonas, to sing it. The song, written by John Buck Wilkin (aka Ronny) hit No. 4 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. The video above shows Ronny & The Daytonas in a reunion appearance in Franklin, Tennessee, in 2015.
1. Pontiac GTO (the car) — For the 1964 model year, Pontiac’s assistant chief engineer John DeLorean basically back-doored into production something called the “Grand Tempest Option” (aka Pontiac GTO, the initially actually standings for Gran Turismo Omologato, as in the sensational Ferrari 250 GTO.
Basically, what DeLorean and his team had done was to find a way around the General Motors ban on high-performance by wedging a 325 horsepower, 389cid V8 engine under the hood of the mid-sized Pontiac Tempest LeMans, backing the powerplant with a Hurst manual shifter and strengthened suspension. The result is what would become accepted as Detroit’s first muscle car and a new era in American automobiles was off and running, from stoplight to stoplight.