Pontiac Concept and Show Cars
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.