The Pontiac Heaven Story
More than a motto, a way of life!
**ABOUT PONTIAC HEAVEN**
Dedicated to preserving vintage Pontiacs forever located in the dry, Arizona desert.
******Also covered here******
*Defining "Corporate Nonsense" (School is in for those who don't know).
A lesson (or refresher for those who know ) on Pontiac performance history.
Some may not like it (most will) but, the truth is the truth.
* Coming- " My Story" who,what,how,when,why
As for me, the Pontiac die was cast at a very early age,
at about 7 thanks to my brother Joe and my father Joe Sr.
Here I am, 10 years old at Beeline Dragway at the 1971
AHRA Winternationals. It was a dragster and it had a
Pontiac in it so, I Had to have my picture taken with it!
For those of you who are wondering, What is Pontiac Heaven?
*What is "Corporate Nonsense"?
Corporate nonsense is my own reference to my, and other peoples, feelings to what happened to PMD. A little back ground- After WWII the US went though an amazing time. It was a great growth period. The baby boom. American industrial power dominated the world and rock and roll. By the mid 50s horsepower became a major selling point by the auto manufactures and Bunkie Knudson ( see history page) turned Pontiac around to become a leader in the performance arena and made Pontiac a huge success, up to #3 in industry sales! This created rivalry not only between GM, Ford and Chrysler but between the GM divisions as well. This GM interdivisional rivalry was healthy in that it created great brand loyalty by consumers. Chevrolet had always been GMs inexpensive entry level car (bottom of the line in the GM line up) and , hence, their largest seller. Pontiac, by the mid-fifties, had a reputation as a solid reliable car but was not known for its performance and "pizzazz" if you will. Pontiacs sales were down and GM was considering canceling the Pontiac line altogether. It was Mr. Knudson that was assigned to try to pull Pontiac out of its slump and he worked his magic at Pontiac. There were some bright performance people at Chevy as well as Pontiac and both wanted to be the performance leader at GM. Well, the chevs became popular with the intro of the '55 265 but, by '57-'59, Pontiac was seriously challenging them for prominence in the performance arena. Pontiac hired and let some very talented engineers, designers and ad men go wild and, soon, Pontiac was taking away a good part of chevs popularity at the races with some important victories (again, see history page). By '59 Mr. Knudson had bought Pontiac up from the ashes and by '61 Pontiac was #3 is auto sales! A good reason for this was a change of identity and performance parts and packages that were available. The interdivisional rivalry heated further!
By the time the '63 models came out Pontiac had more wild stuff out ( alum 421SD Tempests, etc) and even more wild stuff in development that most people will ever be aware of. Things like an overhead cam 421 and even a dual overhead cam 421 and 3 valve head engines and more that none of us will ever know of. Chev on the other hand was working on a Mystery 427, an excellent motor but nowhere near the capability or horsepower that the Pontiac division was working on. It is my opinion that , in a short time, that Pontiac would have been walking big time all over the chevs and I bet that chev and the GM brass became aware of that too. Now chev has the most influence with corporate brass because they sell the most cars and GM had about 2/3 of the market anyway. Because of this GM pulled the plug and instituted an official "Racing Ban". Overnight, Pontiac was forbidden to develop any more racing equipment, all of the Super Duty program had to be scrapped and no more parts or cars could be sold. Chev was "officially" told the same thing but, as I will show, that didn't happen ( one example, Smokey Yunick had gone over to the chev camp and was designing race parts with chev out the back door for nascar). Yes, the ban hurt Pontiac the most. This event was the first example of "Corporate Nonsense".
The brilliant minds of John Delorean, Jim Wangers and possibly others countered this major setback by reshaping Pontiacs direction. Pontiacs major reasons for the #3 in sales and the changed attitude among buyers was its success in racing as well as excellent street performance even on a basic 2bbl 389 and that image was not to be changed, interdivisional rivalry intensified. These men decided to build not a factory race car because they were not allowed to but, a factory high performance hot rod for the street, enter GTO. The GTO was the most influential car of the 60s bar none! The proof of that is that every US manufacturer (except caddy) had their own version of this highly successful car model within 2-3 years to get a piece of the GTO sales pie! Pontiac had to sneak this car out the door because it was, technically, not allowed to build it! By releasing it as an option package it got by GM corporate execs. After released there were so many orders that GM allowed the car to be produced but, it was a great risk for Delorean and others. This was, perhaps, the best pay back to GMs racing ban that benefited chev and the first major answer to "Corporate Nonsense". Interdivisional rivalry really heated up! After chev got Pontiac with the "ban" now, again, Pontiac was whipping the chibbys but, now on the street! All chev had in the same class was a malibu ss with a 283! This was more suited for a low rider (and, thankfully, many have become just that!) than a challenge to a 348 horse GTO! It was hoped that 5000 GTOs would sell, this was the target number for a successful venture, Pontiac ended up selling over 34,000 GTOs that year! Well, it took a few years but, I'm sure after all the kicking and crying at chev land they , too decided to build their own GTO.
Chevy got their GTO, they called it SS396 (by the time chev had 500 of these on the road Pontiac had already built over 100,000 GTOs!), Buick called their GTO- Grand Sport, Olds called their GTO- 442, Plymouth called their GTO- GTX, Dodge called their GTO- Charger or Coronet R/T, Mercury called their GTO- cyclone, Ford called their GTO- Fairlane GT and even Rambler called their GTO- s/c rambler and machine. How flattering for Delorean and the gang at Pontiac!
Further "Corporate Nonsense" happened in 1966. By then Pontiac not only had the GTO but capitalized on it with wide aggressive advertising, tiger themes and pushed Tri-Power so much that Olds and chev joined on it. Because of success on success, Pontiac further had a solid hold on the #3 sales position and more up it's sleeve when....the hammer came down again from GM "corporate" brass on Pontiac. Seems they didn't like Pontiac still trying to be the performance leader at GM! Again, overnight Pontiac was forbidden to use Tri-power induction, had to kill the successful Tiger themes of advertising and could not promote performance in advertising. Officially this applied to all GM divisions but, as you will see chev got to play by their own rules again! GM revised the engine sizes and the rule was that all mid sized and the new pony cars (Firebird and camero) for 67 and on were limited to 400 cu inches no exceptions! Well, if Tri-Power was banned by all GM divisions, why did chev get to use it through 1969 on 427 corvettes? If Pontiac, and supposedly all divisions, was not allowed to have engines larger than 400 inches why did chev get to put 427s in chevelles and cameros in 1969? It seems there was not a level playing field here. Chev was definitely the "favorite child" at GM! More "Corporate Nonsense"! Could you just imagine what could have been and how things would have gone if GM brass would have just let Pontiac do their thing?
By the early 70s, after new low/no lead, emission and bumper/crash standards were imposed on the auto industry by the government, and from the fact that a very saturated used muscle car market existed, the new muscle market basically collapsed and muscle cars faded away from new car showrooms (insurance companies were a big part of it too). That is faded away except at Pontiac. While every car maker dumped them, Pontiac kept the faith and actually worked on a new performance engine, the 455SD. It was a high performance street package that would make the government and the enthusiasts happy. This was because it could pass smog standards and was not only very powerful in stock form but, had tremendous performance capability to the hot rodder. The press releases were most encouraging, one east coast magazine named the '73 GTO 455SD as "Performance car of the year" after driving one at a press showing and being told that this engine was available in most models including the GTO and the new Grand Am. Unfortunately, just before the '73s were released, a new guy, Martin Casario, became the new general manager at Pontiac and, almost overnight, killed the program. Some did get built and put in Firebirds but, a lot more were planned to be built. Another example of "corporate nonsense"? I have no evidence of that but, who knows for sure? Note- many '73 Pontiac sales brochures list the 455SD as an option on Lemans, GTO and Grand Am! That's how close it really was!
By late '73 with the introduction of the '74 models another factor came into play, the oil embargo hit and hit hard. Now all of the US builders had to deal with the real competition of the foreign market. One nice footnote here worth mentioning is that chev dumped its famed z-28 which had turned into a decal package in '74. Pontiac kept its Trans Am and Formula models with 400 and 455 cubic inches and by '75 sales went straight up! So much so that T/As were the top performing cars from Detroit, even the whimpy 350 corvette couldn't touch it on the street! Pontiac, again, owned the street performance market, it was 1964-5 all over again! So much so that chev had to play performance "follow the leader" again to Pontiac (I love it!), they brought the z-28 back in late '77 to counter the Trans Am sales success and performance juggernaut. But, it was almost over, the last chance for Pontiac to throw a pie in the face at chev was in '79. By '78 the 400 Pontiac was now out of production but, Pontiac held on to about 5000 of those engines and released them in '79 only with the S T-10 4spd and the WS-6 handling package with the new rear disc brakes. 1979 remains to this day the highest sales year for Trans Am!
By now, GM decided to restructure their operations and have more interchangeability between divisions, probably due to foreign competition. That included axing many of the divisions own engines. Pontiac countered in '77 with the 301 and later the 265. It was an intelligent way to build a smaller-lighter and more fuel efficient engine and still use the same Pontiac tooling thus, keeping the engine alive and keeping production costs down. It worked, at least for a while, then in 1980, it was announced that all Pontiac V-8 production would end after the '81 models. GM "Corporate" influence (and probably the japs) finally killed the Pontiac motor! So much for brand loyalty! After finally being able to afford a new Pontiac I decided I no longer wanted one! Why buy a firebird if it has a camero motor in it?
Then, suspiciously and mysteriously, after the Pontiac V-8 was killed, racing became allowable again at GM! But, here is the catch, now all racing and development was only for the chev engine. The 80's were definitely the "dark" years for real Pontiac fans, not only did the factory dump on us but, the aftermarket almost did too. The Pontiac loyalists that remembered what I call the " Knudson-Estes-Delorean" years had to hold on for better days. Fortunately, they have come!
Meanwhile, now all divisions would develop that "corporate" (read chev) engine but with their own name on the valve covers! Yes, now Pontiac was allowed to build racing parts but only to fit a chev engine. Hence, the new term "corporate motor". To own and run a "corporate " motor is a politically correct way of saying "I run a chev with Pontiac valve covers and I don't give a damn about a real Pontiac because they are junk ". Shame! Shame! Shame! As for those current guys that wear the Pontiac logo on those circle tracks and in pro nhra I got news for their fans, those "Pontiac heroes" could care less about the real Pontiac engine, they are all chev people with another name on their hats. There are names and words in our language for people like that but, I won't use them here. You can fill in the blanks _________. Pontiac could care less about the real Pontiac engine too! Look at what Chrysler has done, they brought back their 426 stuff in upgraded form after 25 or so years. Think of the potential here for Pontiac, with all their "Wide Track" retro ads the last few years and such. Pontiac could care less about its roots and that is too bad for all of us. They even sold or destroyed all the molds for our engine. Gee thanks Pontiac! Is that an insult or what? So much for camaraderie and healthy competition between makes! Now the nascar and nhra pro racers that claim to be Pontiac are merely "Corporate Nonsense"!
Partly as a result of all this, the Pontiac name itself has been resigned to history at GM. For me, that happened in 1981.
The great Pontiac V8 engine will live on. There are more and more parts being produced now than ever before! Pontiac Heaven events will go on, outlasting Pontiac Motor Division itself.
There is a whole new generation added to the existing ones out there (me Included) that believe in REAL PONTIAC POWER and we will carry the flag!
What is Pontiac Heaven? Well, actually my home had been known as Pontiac Heaven for years. The name naturally stuck because Pontiac Stuff seemed to collect here in a big way. All through the 70's, 80's and early 90's cheap Pontiac parts cars were in abundance and most of us could easily find one to part out and then send the carcass to a bone yard or the crusher. When you were into GTOs, a GP or Tempest was looked at as parts for GTOs because there were so many. By the 90s, I became aware that this bottomless pit of parts cars was, indeed, not bottomless. One example was a new major scrap yard, based in Ca, came to the Phx area and started to buy cars in large quantity and would offer them for parts for a few weeks and then scrap them out. For a while it seemed to good to be true and it was. Lots of cheap parts became available and most of the car guys were thrilled about it but, it couldn't last.
I, however, became alarmed ( thinking long term) and one day I asked one of the employees there how many cars they crush each month and he told me about 1500. This shocked me realizing that, at that rate there would not be many left in a few years. Cars in Arizona do not rust and many fine potential builders and parts cars were being crushed now at an alarming rate!
Fortunately, there are some junk yards in the area that buy these cars to sell parts only and not to crush them. This is good because parts will still be available for years as they are parted out.
But, a LOT of Pontiacs were being crushed, I remember seeing countless 455s going to scrap because they wouldn't sell in a few weeks. At that time I had been heavily involved in a development program of designing and building Pontiac parts for racing and large stroker engines for drag racing and marine (boat) applications. I then made the decision to do something about this mass crushing of my favorite make of car and stopped on the engine program temporarily to establish a sanctuary for vintage Pontiacs so there would be a supply for all of us for now and for decades to come. The Pontiac Heaven name changed from my home to the acreage where the sanctuary is now located. Since then, a second, larger acreage has been added in Arizonas higher, cooler country. I've collected the Pontiacs that are my favorites (some listed on Mothball fleet page) and will, soon, have a large building to restore my Pontiacs and have the Pontiac Heaven museum a few years from now at the new and possibly both locations.
I would estimate that I have saved 625-700 vintage Pontiacs that would otherwise have been crushed by buying and storing them or finding homes for them. Doing this part time as a hobby on a blue collar salary was no easy task but, it had to be done!
The above photo is a partial view of, what I affectionately call, "Battleship Row" at Pontiac Heaven. Full size Pontiacs are also worth saving and I buy every one I can afford to. All of these shown would have been crushed by now if it were not for Pontiac Heaven.
I still have plenty of room for more and now I want to get back to getting some Pontiac drag cars on the strip!
In 1999 I established the annual Pontiac Heaven event. This was established to unite true Pontiac fans with an event to race and show their cars and to get to meet others with the same interest. So far, 14 events have been held and , thanks to volunteers and sponsors who care about Pontiacs, they have been successful. Yes, Pontiac Heaven is many things! The next Pontiac Heaven event, is scheduled for April 5-7, 2013. The Nostalgic Show & GO! has been established now for vintage American cars and trucks and is held the following day after the Pontiac event. Now vintage Pontiac fans can race each other on Saturday and then race other vintage muscle on Sunday! In 2009, the Pontiac/Buick/Olds Fall Fest was introduced for a fun day of racing, car show and parts exchange for these 3 makes. The Fall Fest ran until 2012 each November. At this time the future of PBO Fall Fest is on hold as there is not a place to host it at this time. Speedworld Dragstrip has been shut down.
"Real Pontiacs Only...NO corporate nonsense!"
"Real Pontiacs only..............No Corporate Nonsense"