Pon­tiac Con­cept and Show Cars

New Zealand Classic Car - - AUTOMOBILIA -

Don Keefe Pub­lished 2016 by Cartech ISBN 978-1-61325-216-1 Re­viewer’s own copy Re­viewed by Mark Hol­man

What­ever you call them — ‘con­cept’, ‘show’, or ‘dream’ cars — some fas­ci­nat­ing ve­hi­cles have been pro­duced by US man­u­fac­tur­ers, and vary­ing from the al­most-pro­duc­tion-ready to semi-fan­tasies. As far as Pon­tiac goes, this 192-page hard­cover book il­lus­trates the whole range and, when­ever pos­si­ble, ex­plains what has hap­pened to the cars since. Many of them fea­tured on the show cir­cuit for two or three sea­sons and were of­ten up­dated to match forth­com­ing pro­duc­tion fea­tures. Sadly, the ma­jor­ity was then de­stroyed, but a few of them were re­tained by GM, and a num­ber of oth­ers es­caped into pri­vate hands, where they are ob­vi­ously cared for. Au­thor Keefe was well con­nected with some key folk at GM, and has a soft spot for the Pon­tiac brand. He digs into the back­ground of some of the frus­tra­tions suf­fered by Pon­tiac de­sign­ers, who were un­able to get their con­cepts into pro­duc­tion de­spite their best ef­forts — a few good op­por­tu­ni­ties seem to have been lost that way! Keefe has also been able to drive a few of the cars fea­tured in the book, of­ten thanks to top col­lec­tor Don Bortz. An early car fea­tured is the amaz­ing World’s Fair 1939 Plex­i­glas Pon­tiac, which is com­pletely see-through: for­tu­nately it’s one of the sur­vivors! The 1950s and ’60s were the hey­day of the rad­i­cal con­cepts, which ranged from the two-seater Bon­neville Spe­cial and Club de Mer to the very for­mal body style on the Parisi­enne. The el­e­gant ’54 Strato Streak sedan was an ex­am­ple of the sort of car that wowed the crowds at Mo­torama shows. On the other hand, the 1955 L’uni­ver­salle and the much later Trans Sport were ahead of their time in show­ing the way for fu­ture vans and peo­ple movers. The in­flu­ence of se­nior styling guys like Bill Mitchell was long-last­ing: as late as 1977, the Phan­tom fea­tured his pre­ferred el­e­ments, such as long-nose / short-deck pro­por­tions and red in­ner wheel wells. Some cars forecast fu­ture styles, oth­ers (such as the Fire­bird Cir­rus) were based on cur­rent mod­els, and quite a few — like the X-400s — were only slightly mod­i­fied from pro­duc­tion cars. The im­pact of safety stan­dards, fuel-ef­fi­ciency re­quire­ments, cor­po­rate in­fight­ing with Chevro­let, and the ef­fect of in­surance pre­mi­ums on Pon­tiac’s per­for­mance im­age all af­fected the mar­que un­til its demise in 2009. But some de­sign­ers kept the faith to the end, and this fas­ci­nat­ing book takes you right through to the 2001 Rev, the Monaro-based LS7 GTO, and the ’06 su­per­charged LSX Sol­stice with its 633kw (850hp) mo­tor. This is an ex­cel­lent and very well-il­lus­trated look at a sur­pris­ingly var­ied se­lec­tion of ‘dream’ cars.

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