Pontiac was launched in 1926 to popular acclaim and quickly established a reputation for outstanding value for the money coupled with attractive styling from GMs design studios. Throughout its existence, Pontiac was one of America's most appealing and popular car manufacturers, often positioned between Chevrolet and Buick within Alfred P. Sloans GM automobile hierarchy. Numerous body styles and powertrains heightened its appeal and allowed it to cater to a wide audience of buyers.
The Pontiac vehicles of 1926 wore Fisher bodies on a 110-inch wheelbase and equipped with an L-head six-cylinder engine with a 186.5 cubic-inch displacement and 40 horsepower at 2,400 RPM. They used a three-speed manual transmission with a ventilated since dry disc clutch and stopping power was by mechanical brakes on the rear wheels. The coach body style had two doors, seating for five, footrests, a dome lamp and carpeting, and the coupe had landau bars and a safety lock on the right-hand door. Both were priced at $825 and nearly 77,000 examples were sold in their inaugural year of production.
General Motors executive committee approved the creation of the Art and Color department on June 23rd of 1927, and Harley Earl was hired to lead the department. Early work included the designs of the 1927 LaSalle, and many of the design elements were later implemented into the GM line of vehicles, including Pontiac.
Evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, changes were made in the immediate years that followed, and by 1929, the Pontiac vehicles continued to rest on a 110-inch wheelbase platform and the engine had grown to 200 cubic inches and its output was now 60 bhp. It had three main bearings, solid valve lifters, a cast-iron block, a wider intake manifold, larger valves with increased lift, and a larger Marvel one-barrel carburetor (introduced the previous year). They now rode on 10-spoke Jaxon wood-spoke artillery wheels and the improved three-speed manual transmission used new rear axle ratios.
The body style lineup had grown considerably by 1929 with an array of seven options with prices that ranged from $745 to $900. The most affordable was the coupe and the two-door sedan priced at $745. The roadster with the rumble seat had a price of $775, the phaeton listed for $825, the cabriolet convertible and the sedan were $845, and the landaulet was $895. The convertible cabriolet and the landaulet were new body styles, closed cars had oval rear windows, and the landaulet had a collapsible rear roof section.
Several design cues of the 1929 Pontiacs were inspired by the British Vauxhall, including the divided radiator grille. The overall design was conservative yet elegant, with thoughtful accents that highlighted design features, including the concave belt molding along the bodysides. The hood had horizontal louvers but this was later changed to vertically louvered hoods due to heat warpage problems.
The Pontiac vehicles were well equipped with a rearview mirror, automatic windshield wiper, adjustable front seats, and a dash gasoline gauge. Options included bumpers, side mount spare tires, a heater, pedestal mirrors, wind wings, running lamps, Lovejoy shock absorbers, and a spotlight.
Pontiac produced approximately 120,000 vehicles in 1929, greatly exceeding the 80,000 units produced the previous year. Pontiac was not immune to the effects of the Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression that followed, and production for 1930 dropped to 62,888 units. Minor styling changes had occurred but mechanical improvements were more profound, including the larger 12-inch drum brakes, four-wheel handbrake, coil lock ignition, standard Lovejoy shock absorbers, and quieter engine operation thanks to the four-point, rubber-cushioned engine mounting system and ribbing added to the base of the engine block. 1931 Pontiac Fine Six Series 401
The big news for 1931 Pontiac vehicles was the longer wheelbase, now measuring 112-inches. Due to the Depression and in an effort to increase production, Pontiac greatly reduced prices resulting in reduced profit margins. The coupe and two-door sedan were priced at $675, the sport coupe at $715, the convertible coupe and sedan at $745, and the custom sedan at $785. The new convertible coupe replaced the phaeton and roadster. The lower prices, increased wheelbase size, and mild styling updates were enough for model year production to increase to 84,708 units.
The 1931 Pontiac Six had a one-piece full crown fender with parking lights mounted on top, chrome-plated headlamps positioned on a curved tie-bar, and a vee-shaped chrome-plated radiator with a wire grille. Aluminum moldings complemented the running board mats, and the splash apron extended from fender to fender.
Standard equipment included the 200 CID inline-6 with 60 horsepower, a three-speed manual transmission, steeldraulic brakes, full-pressure lubrication, and wire wheels became standard mid-year. Optional equipment included Trippe lights, a trunk rack, spotlight, pedestal mirrors, side mount tires, bumpers, radio, clock, heater, dual windshield wipers, and wood-spoke wheels.
Along with the increased wheelbase, Pontiac made the frame sturdier and added a stronger rear axle with Hyatt roller pinion bearings.
1931 was the final year for Pontiac's single model offering. In 1932, an eight-cylinder model was offered in the wake of Oakland's demise. The Model Six had a 114-inch wheelbase and the Model Eight had a 117-inch platform. Six- and eight-cylinder models would make up Pontiac's lineup through the start of the U.S. involvement in World War II when civilian automobile production came to a temporary end.By Daniel Vaughan | May 2021