Late last year, General Motors-focused news sites were aflutter over reports that someone located the last-ever Pontiac. The car, a 2010 G6 with VIN 1G2ZA5EB5A4166962, saw its face torn off in a collision. That car was a total loss, earning a salvage title and it was sold for just $450 at auction. A car that was believed to be the second-to-last Pontiac, another G6, was also destroyed in a crash and sold off in an insurance auction. But the truth is, neither of them was really the Final Pontiacs.
Thankfully, what appears to be the one, true Final Pontiac has been located, making those other cars merely the second and third-to-last Pontiacs. And this car, also a G6, has lived a far better life.
This news comes to us from Nick Hernandez from our Discord server. I have updated my original article about these cars, but I also think this is big enough news that it deserves its own standalone follow-up. Thanks to Pontiac fanatics and a museum, the brand now has a more fitting, heartwarming finale than a salvage auction.
The Final Pontiac is a 2010 G6 painted in white and it was located by the historians of the Pontiac Transportation Museum. A week ago, the museum published a video about this car, which has a VIN ending in 963, making it a later production example than the prior two vehicles believed to be the last ones:
As is well-known today, part of GM’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 involved trimming fat by killing off brands and getting funding from the federal government. One of several brands that wouldn’t make it out of the other end was Pontiac. By the end of 2009, what had until recently been GM’s “sporty” brand managed to sell just 178,300 cars. This was a far cry from Pontiac’s best-ever sales year in 1984 when the brand moved 850,000 cars.
The last car to get adorned with Pontiac’s red badge is a 2010 G6 that was built at the Orion Township Assembly Line in January 2010. Like the other GM brands that fell to the ax, Pontiac died with little fanfare. There were no official celebrations, no tributes, and the brand didn’t even get to go out by building something epic. Just a failure in perhaps the saddest chapter in American motoring history. Pontiac, a brand that was known for its excitement and cars worthy of hanging up on your bedroom walls, ended an impressive 84-year run by fading into the night. The last cars to roll out of its plants weren’t even cars to be sold to regular customers, but rental fleets.
There have long been guesses and estimations about what was the very last Pontiac. At one point, it was believed that the last Pontiac was a G3 Wave that was built in Mexico in December 2009. However, a set of rental-spec G6 sedans beat it by being manufactured in January 2010. We now know that at the very least, two of the final three rental G6 sedans met a terrible fate. Oftentimes, the final vehicle of a brand is saved, either by a dealership, an enthusiast, or maybe even the brand itself.
For example, the very last Plymouth was a Neon and it was saved by Darrell Davis, former Senior Vice President of Parts and Service for DaimlerChrysler. Sure, the Neon wasn’t the greatest vehicle to ever roll out of the Plymouth’s Belvidere, Illinois, assembly line, but Davis felt the car represented a part of automotive history that deserved to be preserved.
That didn’t happen for Pontiac and that’s still sad to think about.
The Real Final Pontiac
When Tim Dye, Executive Director of the Pontiac Transportation Museum, read about the “final” Pontiac in the news, he had to figure out how true it was. It should be noted that Dye also started the Pontiac-Oakland Museum & Resource Center in Pontiac, Illinois. I’ve been to that museum before and it made for a wonderful intake of history right in the middle of a road trip.
Anyway, Dye reached out to a friend who used to run a Pontiac dealership for their opinion. As luck would have it, that friend happened to be holding onto printouts of data regarding the very last Pontiacs to be built. The friend searched through those documents and found one more car, VIN ending 963. This car was built after the previous “Final Pontiac,” VIN engine in 962, and after the previous second-to-last Pontiac, VIN 961. According to those documents, which came from GM’s system, this car should be the true Final Pontiac.
Dye wasn’t satiated with just knowing there was one more last Pontiac. He had to know more about it. Dye pulled up the vehicle’s CarFax and found that after assembly, it was shipped out to Boise, Idaho, where it served as an airport rental car with Avis. The car was a rental for around nine or 11 months before the rental agency put it up for auction. A former Pontiac dealership in Golden, Colorado picked up the vehicle. When the dealer found no buyers, it was put up for auction again. This time, another former Pontiac dealer in Scott City, Kansas, picked up the vehicle.
Two days after listing it for sale, an 82-year-old woman purchased the last Pontiac as her daily driver and apparently, she had no idea what she was driving. The car then enjoyed a life of routine maintenance and dry weather.
Dye says the museum reached out to the owner’s daughter looking to purchase the vehicle. At first, the woman wasn’t really on board since the vehicle represented freedom and she didn’t want to give it up. After four months, the woman decided to let the car go. Dye’s friend purchased the car and donated it to the museum.
Amazingly, when they popped the trunk, the signatures from those Ohio factory workers were still there. (Editor’s Note: Kudos to whoever penned in that Wu-Tang clan symbol on the right. —PG)
The woman who owned the car for 11 to 12 years and just never opened up the spare tire well under the trunk, where the signatures were. The car needed detailing and some paint to bring it into museum condition, but otherwise, it appeared to be in good shape.
A More Fitting End To Pontiac
Now that the Final Pontiac is safe and sound in a museum, I think the Pontiac story can now close on a more positive note. It may have left the factory without fanfare, but its builders certainly cared enough to leave their names on it for someone to find in the future. The woman who bought the G6 used the vehicle to give her the kind of freedom many car enthusiasts get from their own rides.
If you’re interested in taking in nearly a century of Pontiac history, including this car, pay Dye’s museums a visit. Both are in the Midwest. I’ve been to the Pontiac-Oakland Museum & Resource Center in Pontiac, Illinois, and it’s extremely well done. Admission is technically free, but the museum suggests a $5 donation for each adult, which I think is more than fair. It looks like the true Final Pontiac is at the Pontiac Transportation Museum in Pontiac, Michigan. The museum doesn’t say on its site what admission to the Michigan location is, but I bet it’s worth it.
Pontiac may not have gone out in a blaze of glory, but I think giving someone mobility and workers something to be proud of is still a fitting end. If anything, it’s way better to go than a pair of insurance auctions. Good job, Dye and friends!
(Images: Pontiac Transportation Museum, unless otherwise noted.)
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