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So Long Old Friends

Oldsmobile departed in 2004 at the age of 107, and this thanksgiving, they’ll be 2 fewer loved ones around the holiday table with Pontiac and Mercury having also having passed this year.  As with the loss of a distant relative, we're sad.  We have vivid but fading memories of really great times together – but we haven’t seen much of the "real" Pontiac or Mercury in the last few decades since they moved into the rest home .  Both had been chronically ill, and apparently had given up on their once powerful passion for fun .  Perhaps their death was most humane after all. 

Oldsmobile’s demise wasn’t through the lack of investment or effort.  Under division manager John Rock, Olds did make a gallant attempt at resurgence with the competitive Intrigue and the passably decent Aurora.  Ultimately though, GM decided the billions spent on Olds could be better spent on brands with a stronger prognosis and the brand was finally euthanized in 2004. 

If only Pontiac and Mercury had tried as hard.

Pontiac did give us the Solstice, the 2004-06 GTO and the 2008-09 G8.  All were strong performers- and in the case of the G8 - a critically acclaimed model.   With the Solstice, poor reliability and the inherently thin market for 2 seat roadsters ultimately limited its sales potential.  Both the GTO and G8 were bonafide E-ticket rides, with spectacular performance and value.  However both were rebadged Australian Holdens with little actual Pontiac DNA.  Don’t misunderstand us – we absolutely adore the GTO and the G8 (we own a 2009 G8 GT) but that GM’s once vaunted performance division had to go to the other side of the world to find its driving excitement illustrated just how far Pontiac had deteriorated since its heyday.

The story at Mercury was even sadder.  With each passing year, the only remarkable thing about Mercury was that the brand actually still existed.  Platform engineering of existing Ford offerings had often been the order of the day at Mercury since the 1960s.  But with the 1967-73 Cougar – Mercury really showed its skill with fabulous styling, luxury, image and performance that was truly differentiated from the Mustang.  Although not a market success, the 1971-73 Pantera was also a bold and innovative stroke.  But from 1973 to present, absolutely nobody was ‘crazy bout a Mercury.’

But all the same, we will miss Olds, Poncho and Merc. You gave us a lot of good times, and we’ll always be grateful for that.  In honor of their passing, a list of my favorites, in no particular order, from the history file.  We hope you approve of our selections - and we're sure that we'll hear about it if you don't!

Gyrhead's Top 10 Oldsmobiles:

  1. 1951 Super 88 – Introduced the world to the Rocket 88 power - and rock and roll was never the same
  2. 1957 Oldsmobile 88 – The J2 Tripower and funky glass made this a winner
  3. 1962 F85 – Factory turbocharging, alcohol injection and a small displacement  aluminum block V8 was WAY ahead of its time
  4. 1964 442 – Olds didn’t invent the Musclecar, but they sure made the best handling Musclecar of the day
  5. 1968-72 442 – An absolutely perfect blend of speed, luxury, handling and tasty styling
  6. 1968-72 Vista Cruiser – The greatest glass on the greatest wagon ever.  Still cool and sought after today
  7. 1968 Cutlass W-31 – Small cubes, huge cam and a 6,800 RPM redline.  Silly fun from under the radar screen
  8. 1966 Toronado – Perhaps one of the best looking and most sophisticated cars to ever roll from Detroit
  9. 1969 Hurst Olds – Torque monster and the funkiest scoop this side of a 1969 AMC SC-Scrambler
  10. 1966 442 W30 – Rare, big and 3 dueces.  I passed on the chance to buy one of these in 1979 for $500 and still hate myself 30 years later

Gyrhead's Top 10 Pontiacs:

  1. 1957 Bonneville – 630 built, stylish and factory fuel injection.  Incredible car
  2. 1959 Bonneville – Wide track design and game changing, restrained styling that set the new pace for the 1960s
  3. 1962-64 Grand Prix – Fantastic style and refinement, big time power
  4. 1964-72 GTO – The one car that would grace my garage if I were choosing today.
  5. 1965-66 Catalina 2+2 – Sleek, smooth and 421 powered
  6. 1970-73 Trans-Am – Perhaps the most attractive American car ever designed
  7. 1967-68 Firebird – With 400 power, perhaps the best balanced of all the classic Pony cars
  8. Solstice – A bold design stroke from GM, with excellent style and awesome power in GXP versions
  9. 2004-2006 GTO –The best car you never drove, and shame on you.
  10. 2008-2009 G8 – If only GM had the vision and commitment, this is the car that either the Grand Prix, Catalina or Bonneville should have been allowed to evolve into

Gyrhead's Top 10 Mercurys:

  1. 1939 Mercury – Big 239 flathead power
  2. 1940 Pickup – Rare and fine, perhaps the real inspiration for the 1996 F-150 aero pickups
  3. 1946 Woody wagon – An icon of incredible beauty and utility
  4. 1949-51 Mercury – Styling trendsetter and relevant even today
  5. 1967-73 Cougar – Incredible platform engineering job that outshined the Mustang it was based on
  6. 1971-73 Pantera – European panache and big American power, a recipe that never gets old
  7. 1970-71 Cyclone – Rare, fast and prettier than its Torino cousin
  8. 1968 Mercury – If Steve McGarret drove it, then it was cool.  So shut up
  9. 1957 Turnpike Cruiser – Over the top 1950’s styling bombast.
  10.  1963-64 Marauder – Great name, NASCAR heritage and a 427 option

If you’ve got a great story, top ten list or vehicle that you’d like to share, please write to us at sales@gyrhead.com

© Gyrhead & Sons Restoration Parts 2010.  If you like it, share this articlewith your friends. We worked hard on it so please cite the source.

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