Today, General Motors announced the death of Pontiac. What was once known as The Excitement Division will soon be no more than a bed time story to tell the grandkids, of a time when the rebel American spirit was embodied by a mustached man in plaster-tight Levis and a cowboy hat, that boot legged Coors across state lines with nothing more than a ’77 Trans Am and his ties to the trucking industry…and an RV full of good hearted prostitutes.
That man’s name was Burt Reynolds. His story, the story of Pontiac is reborn every time a young child makes a VHS copy from a Sunday afternoon TNT showing of the classic film,“Smokey and the Bandit,” and realizes that when mixed together, horsepower, beer and a playful disregard for law enforcement are a common man’s great leveler against the powers of oppression.
Burt Reynolds will be fine, daytime programming and a selective memory of the 70’s can guarantee that. Pontiac on the other hand won’t be so lucky. General Motors plans to reduce their offerings to four core brands, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. In earlier versions of their restructuring efforts, Pontiac was supposed to be kept on as a niche marque, but the signs are all too clear that times have changed.
Society itself has become the Sheriff Buford T. Justice that is threatening to chase the cocky, hyperactive gum chewing muscle car mentality from our auto industry, a society that has become too concerned with its financial stability to purchase a car that makes loud noises and accelerates moderately well. “Practical,” “Economical,” “Reliable,” “Handling,” these words used to be synonymous with communist; now they’re poking daggers through the heart of our auto industry one brand name at a time.
Today, it’s Pontiac we see being led towards the killing floors for being too, “fun,” tomorrow, we can only suspect Cadillac will be next in line for being too, “luxurious,” and then what? Buicks sell better in China than they do over here, are they too “Chinese?” Are GMC’s trucks too, “Professional Grade?”
Come to think of it, nearly all of GM’s new “core brands” are marque in their own right. Pontiac wasn’t cut because it was too fun, but because it didn’t show enough promise for the future. That means ultimately, the consumer helped kill Pontiac.
But there sure as hell isn't any blood on Burt Reynold's hands, maybe just some left over vaseline from Striptease.
In 2007, he endorsed the Burt Reynolds Edition Trans Am, built by classic car builders, Year One.
For a base price of $129,900, a limited number of fanatical Smokey and the Bandit enthusiasts had the opportunity to purchase their very own Burt Reynolds Edition Trans Am, built from the ’77 thru ’81 model years. The modern era Bandits came in three variations, BAN1 thru BAN3, and everyone one of them would blow the doors off of a stock original.
Check out these options and features from the ultra-high performance BAN 3:
-Optional Rawhide leather inserts
-Custom door panels with Burt Reynolds Edition engine-turned insert
-Special autographed console badge
-Roll bar with 5-point racing harnesses
-515hp 7.0 liter LS7 fuel-injected engine with dry-sump oil system
-605hp 7.0 liter LS7 fuel-injected engine
-650hp 8.8 liter Pontiac V8 engine with road-race oil pan (1)
In addition, every Burt Reynolds Edition Bandit from Year One came with a standard full body restoration, and CB radio.
I’m not sure if Year One is still making this salute to the essence of Pontiac, they failed to return my emails or answer my phone calls. The portion of their website that advertises the Reynolds Edition Bandit, (complete with an interview from Burt Reynolds) was copyrighted in 2007, who knows when it was updated.
Yet, on their main page, Year One has a posting for a “Bandit Run 2009,” that’s scheduled to travel through Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and down into Georgia. The picture for the event depicts an endless row of late 70’s Trans Ams cruising past what appears to be a penitentiary.
It's proof that GM can stop making new Pontiacs, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop enjoying the old ones. In a way, vintage cars like the Trans Ams just got all the more special.
“East bound and down, loaded up and truckin',
We're gonna do what they say can't be done.
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I'm east bound, just watch ol' Bandit run.”