Simple mention of the Pontiac brand forces tears into the eyes of many American car aficionados. One of the most beloved GM divisions served Americans for almost 85 years before becoming collateral in company’s bailout a few years ago. Although Pontiac disappeared abruptly, its arrival in 1926 was much more gradual. It was introduced as Oakland division’s companion marque. The same way LaSalle was Cadillac’s companion marque, Marquette was Buick’s or Viking used to be Oldsmobile’s. In peculiar turn of events, Oakland was actually survived by Pontiac who absorbed Oakland’s models into its own lineup coming 1931 and onset of the great depression. Pontiac was the only companion marque to survive its parent division. As such, classic Pontiac cars got a chance that many discontinued brand’s models didn’t.
During Pontiac’s eight and a half decade long tenure, division offered some extremely popular nameplates. Firebird, GTO, and Grand Prix, for instance, were some of the most popular American cars available back in the day. Then, there were the likes of Aztek, Le Mans, and even Fiero which messed up with Pontiac’s reputation. Yet, people still remember them for their role in destroying the automaker. This time, however, we’ll focus on those forgotten Pontiacs that probably deserved better. Cars that never lingered for long, and left the stage before they were given the chance to make an impact.
You might have forgotten that GT-37 ever existed because it wasn’t exactly a model on its own. GT-37 was actually an affordable appearance and handling package available for a short time on two different intermediate A-body Pontiacs. It was introduced in 1970, and all Pontiac Tempest owners could have ordered it for $198. All who bought the entry-level T-37 hardtop coupe introduced mid year, that is. For just shy of $200, Pontiac offered Rally II wheels, white letter tires and striping from ’69 GTO The Judge. Handling bit of the package included heavy-duty suspension, dual exhausts, and a floor-mounted 3-speed manual with a Hurst shifter. Hood-locking pins completed the package.
Of course, Tempest would disappear that very same year, but GT-37 would go on for another year. On Pontiac LeMans this time. LeMans actually took over Pontiac’s intermediate segment with T-37 serving as entry-level model. Pillared coupe yet again became a home to GT-37 package, but performance left a lot to be desired. 400 cu in V8, which wasn’t GTO-exclusive any more, delivered 265 horsepower with 2-barrel carb or 330 hp in 4-barrel setup for 1970. Figures fell to 215 and 300 ponies respectively, the following year. In similar fashion, 455 cu in V8 became available in 1971. Basic 4-barrel version of the strongest Pontiac V8 generated 325 ponies, while HO option raised 335 horses.
350 cu in V8 was standard GT-37 engine for both model years, and most of them were ordered with one. Very few people ordered the 455. Only 15 were 4-barrel models, while 54 people went home with the HO option.
GT-37 disappeared in theory for 1972, but LeMans Sport took over. But why was GT-37 introduced in the first place? It was actually John Z. DeLorean’s answer to 1967 Plymouth Roadrunner – a sub $3,000 muscle car that anyone could have afforded. It arrived 3 years later because DeLorean didn’t want it to be limited to 350 cu in V8. As already mentioned, larger displacement mills were exclusive to the GTO, and 400 cu in was only unshackled in 1970. Pontiac GTO The Judge became the first supercar born out of that idea, but it was much more expensive than first anticipated.