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Friday March 27, 2015
Pontiac from 1959 to 1962: Wide Tracking Performance in Spades! Tech, News, Period Ads, Road Tests, Brochures, Magazines and More!

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1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser 4-door

Mercury 1954-1958: Growing from
an Upscale Ford to a Baby Lincoln

1958 Cadillac Series 60 Special

Cadillac 1954-1958 - Showing it
was "The Standard of the World"

1957 Super 88 Convertible

Oldsmobile 1954-1958 - The Rocket Grows in Size and Power!

Bonno 1957 Chevrolet

This 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is James Bonno's Legacy to his Father

1957 Fuel Injected Pontiac Bonneville

Pontiac 1955-1958 - From Stodgy
L-Head Straight Eights to Hot V-8s!

1966 Olds Toronado Cutaway

1966 Toronado Makes US Front
Wheel Drive Cars a Reality

1964 Plymouth Sport Fury Hardtop

Plymouth 1961-65: From
Disaster to Stability

1950 Mercury Coupe

Mercury's Post War "Flathead" Years

1949 Olds 98 Holiday Hardtop

The Oldsmobile 303 Rocket Years

1968 GTO COTY Ad

The Pontiac Performance Years

1956 Plymouth Belvedere

The Plymouth "Forward Look"
Years Detailed

1961 Starfire

GM Personal Luxury Cars

1970 Performance Car Chronicles

What We're Preserving
and How We Store It

July 1969 Car Life Magazine

The Treasures of the Society's Magazine Archive

The 1957 DeSoto Adventurer

1946-1961 DeSoto
A Great Brand Declines

The 1946 Hudson

Hudson 1946-1957
The Slow Demise

1950 Packard Convertible

Packard 1946-1958
The Post-War Story

Jessi and Kurt Celebrate AHPS

Jessi Lang - Sometimes Winning Comes in Short Little Laps.

1955 Olds F-88

1954 Olds F-88 Sports Car
Part Two - Why NOT the F-88??

The first Mustang- 1965

Mustang: 50 Years on the Road

From the Automotive History Preservation Society
Pontiac 1959-1962: From Wide Track Performance to the Grand Prix

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix

The 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix was ostensibly a '62 Catalina with a special interior. But this Indian had subtle clues that it was much more, from its special rear fascia to the no nonsense grille. And with a 421 CID . . .

1959 Pontiac Bonnevilles

Bill Mitchell, GM's new chief of design, had the brands move radically away from Harley Earl's famous rounded 50s look. Nothing
personified this approach more than the crisp-edged '59 Pontiacs.

1960 Pontiac Bonneville Sport Coupe

1960 Pontiacs appeared even wider with the emphasis on front and rear to multiple horizontal lines. The 1960 was a crisp-looking car.

1960 Pontiac Wide Track Ad

While Pontiacs merely used wider rims than other GM products to
get the added width - the campaign was successful. Note also how Pontiac stressed horizontal lines in styling to enhance this imagery.

1960 Bonneville Sport Coupe

Some consider the 1961 Pontiacs to be the best styling exercise to come out of the 60s. Regardless, it was a good looking car.

1958 Mercury Park Lane 4-door Hardtop

The 1961 Pontiac Tempest was a sales success. Notice that the styling emulated the '59 big cars. Was this due to "locking in the styling back in that year or not wanting to compete with the big car? We'll never know,but it was said to hurt sales.

1962 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible

The 1962 Pontiacs featured a crisp look and simple straight lines throughout. While not as stylish as the '61s, this car sold like hot cakes with 378 thousand sold!

1962 Pontiac Brochure

Click on the Brochure picture above to read or download
the 1962 Pontiac Brochure

By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

Greatness in automobiles is not an easy thing to do - but Pontiac managed it in a few short years.

1959 Pontiacs - An all new design shatters perceptions
For 1959, major styling changes occurred. These included lower, longer bodies with more interior room, a new twin grille-theme, twin-fin rear fenders, 'V'-contour hoods, increased glass area and flat, rear over-hanging roofs on 4-door "Vista" hardtops. The old Chieftain line was renamed, adopting the previous hardtop name term "Catalina," which now became as series name.

The "Super Chief" name disappeared and was replaced with "Custom Star Chief". The Bonneville name remained in place for the large, luxury line. "Catalina" was no longer a body style designation. Bonneville now rode on the long 124 inch wheelbase. "Vista" became Pontiac's nomenclature for pillarless 4-door hardtop styling. The "Sport Coupe" was any two-door hardtop, and "Sport Sedan" designated any two-door pillared sedan.

Nine-passenger station wagons now used a rear-facing third seat of fold-away design. Tail lamps used on all station wagons and Catalinas were short, horizontal ovals without trim rings. Tail lamps used on Custom Star Chiefs and Bonneville Customs were long, horizontal-types with dual trim rings. "Wide-Track Pontiacs" first appeared as a marketing theme..

The entire Pontiac line was picked as "Car of the Year" by Motor Trend magazine. Bonneville Custom was picked as "Best Buy in the $2,000-$3,000 Class" by Car Life magazine. Engine displacement rose again, this time to 389 CID - by increasing the stroke to 3.75." Extra-horsepower options included four-barrel and Tri-Power induction on the special heavy-duty "420-A" NASCAR-certified block, both with 10.5:1 compression ratio.

Production increased dramatically from the 1958 disaster of 216,982 to a healthy 382,940 attributed  both to an easing of the recession and the striking new designs.

1960 Pontiacs - Cleaning up the design contributed t a classic look
Pontiac's major styling changes for 1960 included undivided horizontal bar grilles, straight, full-length side trim moldings, and a new deck lid which was nearly flush with the tops of the fenders. The "Ventura" line was added - a Custom trim level Pontiac on the 122" wheelbase. The Star Chef was built on the 124" chassis but used the Catalina two-barrel V-8

The term "Safari" stayed as Pontiac's name for a station wagon. All 1960 Safaris were four-door types and nine-passenger, three-seat, versions had power tailgate windows and rear-facing folding seats. Safaris had distinctive single tail lamps and rear decor trim.

A 4-speed transmission became available in mid-year. Most 4-speeds went to professionally-driven NASCAR and drag racers. Jim Wangers took the NHRA Top Stock Eliminator title in a 1960 Pontiac, and Catalinas took checkered flags in three major NASCAR races and four Grand Nationals. Mickey Thompson set a World Land Speed Record of 363.67 mph in the Challenger I, a streamliner.

Surprisingly, production declined from the 1959's 382,940 to 370,701, not a huge loss. GM was readying the new "small" A-Body car for introduction in 1961", which Pontiac felt would add to sales.

1961 Pontiacs - shorter, but still stunning
In an attempt to change public perceptions of GM big cars being "boats" , downsizing was the theme at Pontiac in 1961. Thanks to a new perimeter frame design, the bodies on standard sized cars were smaller with a 119/123" wheelbase and lighter in weight. The Vista models featured new roof lines that emulated a convertible with the top up while the sport Coupes retained the "bubble top" look. The 2- and 4-door sedans used the old 1959-60 Vista roof line but were pillared.

A radically new compact car named "Tempest" was Pontiac's entry in the growing small-car market. This Tempest was technically innovative - featuring an integral body and frame, flexible "rope" drive shaft (think pole vault pole), independent rear suspension, rear mounted transaxle, and a four-cylinder base powerplant created by cutting a 389 cubic inch V-8 in half. An aluminum 215 CID V-8, sourced from Buick, was also an available option in the Tempest.

A major design difference in the big Pontiacs from 1960 to 1961 was a look that would say "Pontiac" well into the 70s. This included a return to the twin grille styling theme of 1959, sculptured side panels, taller roof lines, and squared-off bodies with small tail fins added.

The four-speed manual transmission was an available option in all Pontiacs, including the new Tempest. In the large cars, bucket seats were available only in the Bonneville convertible. Tempest won Motor Trend's Car of the Year award in this year.

Production again decreased year-over year, this time from 1960's 370,701 to 1961's 340,250. Significantly, without the Tempest, production would have been the lowest since the disaster year of 1958. Regardless of the "downsizing", the consumer was not convinced that large cars were the answer.

1962 Pontiacs - The brand arrives as a sales leader - and so does the Grand Prix
Standard Pontiacs grew about an inch and a half in length for 1962. Wheelbase on the Catalina and Grand Prix went up to 120", but stayed at 119" for the wagons. Styling revisions included a V-shaped twin grille, full-length side sculpturing and new rear end styling with curved tail lamps. Ventura trim became an add-on package for two Catalinas.

Styling changes for Tempest included a new wider-spaced split grille theme with a third grille section incorporating a V-shaped emblem placed in the center and the addition of bolt-in bright metal fins at the rear.

The big news was that the Grand Prix Sport Coupe bowed, and that the Ventura disappeared except as an interior trim package on Catalina Convertibles and Sport Coupes. Inspired by the success of the Oldsmobile Starfire, Pontiac got the go ahead for their "sport" version and it would prove an immediate success.

Across the board sales were up for Pontiac. It seemed that the public was climbing out of the recession and that large cars were coming back in favor. Of course, the Grand Prix arrived at just the right time. Production increased from 340,7635 in 1961 to 521,983, with Tempest adding 144,000 to the large car total . . .

To Read More About the 1959-62 Pontiacs - Click HERE and Select your year

To see 1959 - 1962 Pontiac Road Tests - Click Here

To see 1959 - 1962 Pontiac Factory Ads - Click Here and pick your year

To see 1959 -1962 Pontiac Factory Brochures - Click Here and pick your year

To learn about Pontiac 389 and 421 V-8s - Click Here

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