Pontiac was a decent brand. Back in the ‘80s, it used to make some decent cars. Over time, however, things festered, and at one point, GM decided to dispense with the brand. There were two main reasons. Pontiac was suffering financially during the last few years before discontinuation, which put a lot of pressure on GM, which itself was experiencing a decent amount of strain. The other reason for the axe was that Pontiac was undermining Chevy through badge engineering. Rebadging is all cool and sometimes helpful when a good amount of thought and work is put into the project, but as soon as you start slacking off, you do a disservice to loyal customers, and at that point, everyone loses. Pontiac essentially kept producing low quality rebadged cars, which hurt not only Pontiac, but also Chevy and GM. It was time for Pontiac to go.
Buick is similar to Pontiac. The only reason Buick still exists today is because of the massive market base in China. Besides that, Buick also had some troubling years, although clearly never as bad as Pontiac had. Current Buicks are good cars, honestly. Over the last 5-6 years, these cars have proven themselves reliable, and you can see our market appreciating them.
So, let’s check out some good, bad and mediocre cars that we often forget these carmakers created.
18 1979 BUICK CENTURY TURBO
The late ‘70s was the time for the US automakers to downsize. It was just an environmentally and culturally induced factor. So Buick went ahead and scaled down this intermediate lineup, in size and engine, which meant no more of the big block engine.
While the Regal got a turbocharged engine no sooner than the downsizing happened, the Century had to wait for a year.
By the time it got one, it just wasn’t as popular as the turbo Regal, which led to a decline in production. While business wise the Century didn’t do too hot, the engine served as an inspiration for the GNX.
17 1970 BUICK ESTATE
Cadillac didn’t offer a station wagon, despite being GM’s top-shelf luxury division. So when Buick offered it, it was fully loaded with all sorts of goodies—power steering, seats and windows; posh exterior trim and all vinyl interior. The price reflected that too.
The powerplant was also good. Despite being a B-body car, the Estate was equipped with a C-body engine, meaning a 455 cu V8 that produced a whopping 375 horses and 510 lb-ft of torque. It was much needed for a car that weighed about 4.7K pounds. I bet that’s one well-equipped car from Buick that we completely don’t remember.
16 1985 BUICK SOMERSET
Now, don’t confuse this with the trim level package offered by Buick Regal in the early ‘80s. This one right here was a lineup of its own, albeit a short term one. While it was based on the Pontiac Grand Am, it didn’t do as well as that car did.
Part of the reason could have been the novelty introduced in the car. It had all digital panel which, while new, was not the most reliable or useful thing back in those days. It also a weak 92 HP “Iron Duke,” which was just loud and weak. It didn’t do much to be remembered today.
15 1986 CENTURY GRAN SPORT
Whenever Buick wanted to make something better, they would add the “Gran Sport” title. Century was already a classic Buick nameplate and Gran Sport was also a good name given to high performance cars.
While the “Gran Sport” title had been slapped on twice in the past with successful results, this one didn’t make the cut.
It was a performance version, but didn’t exactly have a turbocharged engine, unlike the other performance variants of its time. The 150 HP, 3.8L V6 was okay, but it wasn’t the best. The black paint and blacked out grille were good looking. Sales were not favorable, so Buick stopped production.
14 1971 BUICK CENTURION
This was a pretty neat car actually. It was a replacement for the rather successful and wild looking Wildcat. The inspiration for both the Wildcat and Centurion was cars from the ‘50s. Indeed, the Centurion was offered based on a concept car that had the very first rearview camera in a car—this was back in 1956.
However, when plans for the LeSabre were being finalized, it was decided that the upscale Centurion should be axed. Despite the soaring sales—which exceeded the expectations—Buick decided to let go of this car in favor of the LeSabre, and that’s why no one remembers the Centurion.
13 1991 BUICK REATTA
This was a two-seater, which might come as a surprise considering Buick is known for producing massive luxury cars. And maybe that’s why Buick didn’t do well with this one.
This was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, meaning competition was fierce from both domestic and foreign car makers.
The domestic market bosses included the Cadillac Allante, Pontiac Fiero and Ford EXP; the foreign bosses were the Toyota Supra and Honda Prelude. Buick didn’t stand much of a chance unless it had really stepped up its game, which it clearly hadn’t. When the sales numbers didn’t meet expectation, the car got the axe.
12 1986 LESABRE GRAND NATIONAL
Both of these lineups were top notch. The LeSabre had been doing well and Grand National was another one that was doing well. So Buick thought why not make a special edition? And that’s what they did.
They made this LeSabre Grand National to qualify the ’86 LeSabre for NASCAR. It looks pretty handsome, except for a goofy rear-side window, which was done to give it a slight advantage on the track. It didn’t exactly have a turbo though, so that might have been one of the problems. Only 117 of these were produced in 1966. It was a pretty good car.
11 1977 SKYHAWK NIGHTHAWK
This one has an interesting background. The first generation of the Skyhawk was nothing more than a rebadged Chevy Monza, which itself was a badge-engineered Chevy Vega.
While the original copy—Chevy Monza—did very well, the rebadged ones didn’t. In an attempt to make these cars more favorable, both Oldsmobile and Pontiac decided to create special editions.
And that’s how the Skyhawk Nighthawk was created. But that didn’t do well either. The car got no performance updates. All you had was some unique pinstriping, logos and gold painted wheels. There was also a side striping that radiated with some light.
10 BUICK REGAL GS
This one is currently out there on the market. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less obscure than the rest listed here. The car itself is a nice high performance car. The Camaro borrowed 3.6L V6 produces a whopping 310 HP. Buick didn’t really push this car when it came out. It’s available with a manual transmission and seems to have good performance. The exterior of these cars looks pretty good and the interior seems pleasant also.
The price tag of $40K might be a little too high, and the lack of branding didn’t really help the car, hence it’s nonexistent.
9 1958 PONTIAC BONNEVILLE
This car was in the game for the longest time. It was 1954 when it had entered the market. By 1958, the car became its own model. A notable fact about the 1958 Bonneville is that it paced the Indianapolis 500 during its release year. The Bonnevilles were some of the heaviest vehicles of the time.
They were in production in one form or another until 2005. The 1958 one looked pretty good, having the characteristic of cars from that era. While it was equipped with one of the most powerful engines ever—255 horses were produced in the base form—one hardly remembers this car.
8 PONTIAC VIBE
This car was developed by Pontiac in collaboration with Toyota. Toyota manufactured the mechanically similar Toyota Matrix, while the Vibe was actually derived from the Corolla. The car looks pretty okay for a Pontiac. The front has the Pontiac look, the sides and rear seem to be okay, but the interior is where things go a little cheap, as even the pictures kind of tell you the quality of the interior.
Overall, this car looks pretty sturdy. This car was recalled in 2009 because of the whole unintended acceleration that Toyota had experienced. Both were mechanically similar, after all. It was a mediocre car.
7 PONTIAC SOLSTICE
You know, this was a really nice car. While the car didn’t leave any passerby in complete awe, it was still a refined and a decent looking car. I don’t think a lot of people will try to refute that. (For one reason or another, Pontiac never got a car’s look completely right.)
But the car’s handling is what made it a star. It brought the insane turbo power. This is one Pontiac anyone should still consider driving.
Don’t get me wrong; there were issues with the reliability and some driving dynamics, but overall, it was a good car. However, Pontiac’s reputation overshadowed even this nice car.
6 PONTIAC G6
This was actually meant to serve as the successor to the Grand Am, which left in the fifth generation. “So why not continue with the ‘Grand Am’ name?” you ask. Well, because Pontiac was trying to imitate BMW, so it went ahead with the easy naming system. By naming it G6, it could differentiate other classes by numbers, much like BMW does.
It was another one of those decent cars. There was nothing extraordinary or exciting, but it wasn’t a total loss either. However, the coupe variant looked a little better. Being average, it received average safety rankings for the most part.
5 PONTIAC G8
Here’s a car that was rebadged from Holden in Australia. This car came about in 2008, and when the car came out, and the market went down, GM was shocked to see the dropping values of these cars.
These cars look okay, or at least the hood looks decently powerful. People tend to forget these cars exist nowadays because those who have them want to sell them. The replacement parts are just wacky expensive, and you'd better believe they require continuous maintenance.
4 PONTIAC G5
This car was similar to corporate cousin the Chevy Cobalt and was sold for a limited time. While the Chevy Cobalt didn’t do that well either, at least performance variant the SS, did.
The car here lacked pizzazz. You would have likely completely forgotten about this car had it not been for the recent story of a man repeatedly slamming the G5 into a Walmart barricade.
(Notable is the fact that a guy punches the driver window and shatters it on the second attempt.) But if you hadn’t known about that video, then you’d have likely forgotten that this car also exists.
3 1970 PONTIAC EXECUTIVE
These cars were produced during the briefest time in the late ‘60s, the same time during which the Cataline and Bonneville used to be produced. It was derived from the dominant Pontiac Star Chief, and when that car was gone, this car was left stranded too.
While the Executive shared the wheelbase of the Bonneville, it didn’t receive any of the goodies.
The car was equipped with a 400 cu V8 that produced a decent 265 HP. It was ranked between the Cataline and Bonneville and was supposed to lead to steady sales. That never happened though. Sales just dwindled over time.
2 1972 PONTIAC CATALINA
This is one of those cars that was a game changer. You had to step up your game to come to the level of this car. It wasn’t a normal car. The differences started at the grille and trim, but continued deep into the interior and engine.
The standard was power steering, power brakes and a V8.
These cars had the classic looks of the ‘70s with their bewildering front fascia styling and the bench seat in the cabin. It was a good lineup that lasted from 1950-1981, although the last generation was not available in California due to its stricter emissions laws.
1 2004 PONTIAC GTO
The first gen GTO was just awesome. It looked sharp, had a decent interior and, more importantly, led to the muscle car world. I’d imagine GM was just trying to see how it’d do on the market after so many years of break. The car had Corvette’s sound and power and the ride and handling were pretty decent. The beauty of this car was the fair selling price. However, the car lost in the looks department. I could continue reiterating the positives, and you’d just look at the car and say, “So what?” This one was a good car, but it wasn’t memorable.