Pontiac Tribute - Timeline

Don Sherman

1964 The 4-cylinder engine and radical powertrain layout were retired with the introduction of a mid-size Tempest. Defying GM's power-to-weight strictures, a $296 GTO performance package was introduced for the LeMans with 325 horsepower. This waved a green flag on the muscle car era.

1965 DeLorean became Pontiac's general manager.

1966 The GTO became a distinct Pontiac series and an overhead-cam six was introduced for Tempest and LeMans models.

1967 In response to the Ford Mustang's success, Pontiac launched the Firebird 2+2 coupes and convertibles. The Grand Prix convertible, offered for but one year, boasted Pontiac's first hidden headlamps.

1968 Trans Am and GTO Judge models were launched.

1973A stylized firebird -- aka screaming chicken -- decal large enough to cover the entire hood was offered on Firebird Trans Am models.

1974 Suffering through the demise of muscle cars and the first fuel crisis, a desperate Pontiac introduced a Chevy Vega clone called Astre.

1976 Following many Astre aluminum-engine failures, Pontiac promoted its clunky Iron Duke four-cylinder.

1980 Pontiac's first front-drive car, called Phoenix, replaced the rear-drive Sunbird. In the teeth of the second energy crisis, Firebirds received a turbocharged V-8. Smokey and the Bandit motion picture gave the division's performance image a major and lasting boost.

1981 A Chevette clone called T1000 arrived in Pontiac showrooms followed by front-drive J2000 subcompacts and 6000 mid-size sedans with an available diesel V-6, confirming this brand's new emphasis on efficiency.

1982 A redesigned Firebird arrived with a fuel-injected 4-cylinder Iron Duke as the base engine and a 5.0-liter (Chevy) V-8 as top Trans Am power.

1984 The 2-seat, mid-engined Fiero "commuter car" was a surprise hit.

1985 The Grand Am was born as a smaller interpretation of the Grand Prix.

1987 The venerable Bonneville nameplate earned one last stay of execution on a European-inspired front-drive 4-door platform.

1988 The equally venerable Grand Prix finally made the leap to front-drive. Dabbling in Asian imports, Pontiac began selling the LeMans, engineered by Opel and manufactured by Korea's Daewoo.

1990 The excitement division's first minivan -- called Trans Sport -- arrived.

1993 The fourth and last generation Firebird was launched with a mix of plastic and steel body panels.

1995 The subcompact Sunbird evolved to the Sunfire, offered in coupe, sedan, and convertible bodystyles.

2001 Legendary car guru Bob Lutz joined GM concurrently with the introduction of Pontiac's homely Aztek minivan-based crossover.

2002 Pontiac's Firebird was extinguished.

2003 Having missed the SUV boat, Pontiac added a slightly restyled version of the Toyota Matrix wagon to its lineup.

2004 An Opel-engineered and Australian-built Holden Monaro was rebadged as the Pontiac GTO to fill the void in the lineup created by the Firebird's demise. Powerful V-8s and a sophisticated chassis were undercut by high prices and lackluster styling. Few were sold.

2006 Lutz's second attempt at resuscitating Pontiac, the Solstice, fared only a little better than the GTO. A clone of the Chevrolet Equinox badged as the Pontiac Torrent helped quiet dealers clamoring for crossovers.

2008 The G8 sport sedan, essentially a half-priced BMW 5-series, rolled off the boat from Australia. Critics swooned, but few buyers were swayed by what turned out to be the last ever new Pontiac.

2009 On April 27, GM management announced that its Pontiac brand would be phased out by the end of 2010.

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