The Pontiac brand is part of the General Motors family, and is home to many of the automaker's more performance-oriented vehicles. Currently, the marque offers a broad range of sporty cars and SUVs. However, as part of GM's restructuring plan, the brand is slated to be discontinued by the end of the 2010 model year. Pontiac was an "athletic" brand, specializing in mainstream performance vehicles. All Pontiac engines were designed around a low-RPM/high-torque model, as opposed to the ubiquitous Chevrolet Small-Block engine known for its smaller displacement and high RPM/high power design. Pontiac engines were unique for their integrated water pump and timing chain cover, and separate valley pan and an air intake. Pontiac engines powered over half of the Prototype field and remarkably did not experience a single mechanical engine failure all season, a testament to the durability of the GM design. Further testimony to the small-block's ability is the fact that the LS2-based engine that powers the GTO.R, which like its Pro Stock counterpart also debuted in July mid-way through the season in the Rolex GT class, was actually detuned from its stock 400-lb-ft torque rating to be eligible to run in the class.
Forty years ago, when a 389 cubic inch V8 was dropped into a compact Pontiac Tempest Le Mans, the original Pontiac GTO launched the muscle car genre. It was an immediate American performance icon that lasted until the beginning of the automotive dark age at the end of 1973. From time to time since that sad date, rumors of a GTO revival have surfaced, but they have only been rumors. Pontiac had no platform that could do justice to the GTO name. The GTO was basically a violation of GM policy limiting the A-body intermediate line to a maximum engine displacement of 330 cu in (5.4 L). Since the GTO was an option package and not standard equipment, it could be considered to fall into a loophole in the policy. Pontiac General Manager Elliot "Pete" Estes approved the new model, although sales manager Frank Bridge, who did not believe it would find a market, insisted on limiting initial production to no more than 5,000 cars. Had the model been a failure, Estes likely would have been reprimanded. As it turned out, it was a great success.
It's no coincidence that the history of the Solstice spans the Bob Lutz era at General Motors. After Lutz joined GM in 2001 to guide its product development, one of the first tasks he assigned the design staff was to create a new concept for the Detroit Auto Show. The Solstice was born, a stylistic hit was made and the convertible was rushed to production. Now, as Lutz is winding down his time at GM, the Solstice and the entire Pontiac brand are also fading off into the sunset. In many respects, this Solstice is symbolic of what was right and wrong with GM and Pontiac. And our time with the Solstice Coupe is a telling tale about the final new model from a vanishing brand. While the Solstice's engineers may not have been able to figure out how to make a folding roof, they got it right with the rest of the mechanical bits. Unlike the Fiero that didn't receive proper suspension components until the third and final year of production, the Solstice has been right from day one. It has a proper double wishbone layout at all four corners, something that changed from the original concept, which utilized a Subaru WRX strut setup in the front. However, even the best suspension system and gfg forged wheels only work if the four corners stay planted in the bends.
If you're looking to get your hands on a Pontiac before the General Motors division shuts its doors for good, you'd better act fast, because stocks are dangerously depleted. According to Pontiac's Twitter page, there are only some 3600 units left of some of the brand's most desirable products left at dealers across the United States. If the G8 sedan is what you fancy, there are only 570 GT trims left, and only 16 examples of the top-tier G8 GXP. We'll have to assume any remaining parts stock is will remain in Australia.
The Solstice is similarly low on stock, with only 139 base coupes and 160 GXP coupes left on dealer lots. Pontiac also reports there are only 1500 G5s, 530 G6 GXPs and 350 Vibes left in stock. If that kind of announcement doesn't spur some sort of driving excitement among prospective Pontiac buyers, nothing will.