With all the excitement and pageantry that is Halloween, no one seemed to notice a strange disappearance....
That's right - while we were all out trick-or-treating, General Motors closed down Pontiac.
There's no doubt that a lot of people will be saddened by this - including me. And there will be thousands of pages written by journalists lamenting the loss of the once great brand. So as much as I'd love to sit and wax rhetoric with Jim Wangers about the GTO, I don't really feel like it's what my Pontiac memories were like.
Growing up as a little kid, I always seemed to have a black and gold Trans Am in my hand, whether it was a Matchbox car or a plastic toy. I must have had six or seven of them at any one time. One even had a "Bandit" decal on the side, which never registered with me until I was about 12 and someone showed me "Smokey and the Bandit". To this day, I'd love to get a ride in a 1978 Trans Am Special Edition - just make mine with a 4-speed and the Buick 455 engine.
My first real Pontiac memory came with the first episode of "Knight Rider". That sleek, black 1982 Firebird Aero whistling its way across a desert, with the red lights in the nose, just looked like it could have been the fastest car EVER. Sure, it talked, but it sounded like nothing else on the road and even had a "Turbo Boost" button that made it fly!
I always liked the looks of those cars, but it wasn't until 1993 that I finally got to drive one. It was a burgundy Firebird GTA, complete with the Corvette L98 TPI motor, gold mesh wheels, and the T-tops out. The owner let me hammer it down the street, and the roar combined with the shark-like looks made me feel like the coolest guy around. "You got a Ferrari? Whatever."
Years before that, I remember a friend of our family bought a new white-on-blue Grand Am SE sedan. It had the big, alloy wheels and a screaming QUAD-4 motor with 180hp. With the body cladding, matching white wheels and the digital dash, it was a sweet ride in all of its 1980's-ness.
I even liked the big Bonneville. I still remember running out to the Pontiac dealer around 1990, and demanding to see a Bonneville SSEi with the supercharger. The salesman thought I was nuts, but I'd seen one in print, and fell in love. To this day, I still think it was one of GM's better designs, albeit with those funky front faux vent windows. Make mine hunter green, like every other one. Seriously, anyone remember ever seeing one that wasn't?
Even the Fiero still draws my eye when I see one go past. I loved the way they looked, but was disappointed when I finally got a seat in one (an early V6 GT model), and didn't fit well at all. I'd love the chance to try it again.
In more recent years, Pontiac became a GM knockoff. The models seemed to lose their uniqueness, and became even more of a lackluster car. As car enthusiasts, we'd convinced ourselves that Pontiacs were Pontiacs - not rebodied Camaros, Cutlasses or LeSabres. But somewhere in the last 10 or 15 years, the magic that blinded us wore off, and we saw Pontiacs for what they were.
Trans Sport. Sunfire. Aztec. When did they go from "We Build Excitement" to "We Build Crap"?
Once GM turned their back on the car enthusiasts, the damage was done. Even really great cars like the new GTO, Solstice, G6 and the G8 failed to bring back the hordes of fans. All the hard work, legend and lore that had been put into the brand by folks like Ed Cole, John DeLorean and others, had been thrown out within a few years time.
With brands dropping like flies at GM, it makes you wonder where the company is headed, and who's running the joint. 'Cause it sure ain't car guys anymore.