Pontiac Tribute - Timeline

Don Sherman

Now that Pontiac's days are numbered, ponder the 100-year history of GM's once illustrious excitement division.

1893 The Pontiac Buggy Company was established in Pontiac, Michigan.

1907 As an adjunct to his buggy-making enterprise, Edward Murphy began building and selling 2-cylinder runabouts called Oaklands, (named after the local county).

1908 When his 2-cylinder car failed, Murphy moved to a 4-cylinder Oakland Model K. More than a thousand were sold.

1909 In the midst of his firm's buyout by General Motors, Oakland founder Murphy died of a stroke at age 44.

1916 Oakland was one of the first brands to offer a V-8 engine.

1919 Under GM's patronage, Oakland production topped 50,000 units.

1926 The Pontiac brand was created as a lower-priced Oakland companion to fill the gap between Chevrolet and Oldsmobile in GM's hierarchy. A coupe and a sedan, both powered by six-cylinder engines, were introduced at the New York auto show. More body styles, a larger engine, and four-wheel brakes were soon added.

1932 Oakland perished during the depression, Pontiac merged manufacturing operations with Chevrolet, and a Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac (BOP) sales channel was established.

1933 BOP was disbanded and Pontiac's V-8 was replaced with a straight-eight engine. When customers balked, Pontiac unveiled a new straight-six engine.

1934 Pontiac, along with other GM lines, introduced independent front suspension. Top models were embellished with Silver Streak styling.

1935 Technical innovations for Pontiac (shared with other GM models) were an all-steel roof, hydraulic brakes, safety-plate glass, and a synchromesh transmission.

1938 Pontiac introduced the first column-mounted gear shift.

1941 A straight-8 returned to the engine lineup. Pontiac began manufacturing Swiss-designed Oerlikon 20mm anti-aircraft guns for the U.S. Navy. After car production ceased, Pontiac manufactured cannons, torpedoes, tank axles, and various military engine parts.

1946 The first post-war Pontiac was a 2-door Streamliner fastback sedan.

1949 New downsized Pontiacs were available with a Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.

1950 Pontiac's attractive Catalina 2-door hardtop arrived.

1953 Single-piece windshields and backlights were introduced.

1954 Air conditioning was offered for the first time and the Bonneville nameplate debuted at GM's Motorama road show.

1955 Pontiac's modern OHV V-8 gave the division new impetus.

1956 Shortly after John DeLorean came to GM, he became Pontiac's director of advanced engineering.

1957 To rouse a fading brand, Pontiac's general manager Semon E. Knudsen broomed the Indian head logo and silver stripes from all models. A limited-edition Bonneville convertible was launched with a fuel-injected V-8.

1959 Wide-track design and a new arrow-head insignia were added to new Pontiacs.

1961 The compact Pontiac Tempest featured a revolutionary 4-cylinder engine (actually half of Pontiac's V-8), a rear-mounted transaxle, and a flexible drive shaft linking the two. Under Knudsen's aggressive leadership and DeLorean's bold engineering, Pontiac became America's third best-selling brand.

1962 Sporty LeMans and Grand Prix models were introduced.

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