The Last Pontiac Ever Built Ended Up In A Museum. And By Museum I Mean An Insurance Auction

Thelasttop1

America has lost a lot of cool cars and manufacturers throughout history. When cars and brands die, some folks try to preserve the very last examples as pieces of history. That doesn’t always happen, and the last of a car just ends up being someone’s daily driver. The last Pontiac ever built is a G6. It wasn’t saved, and now thanks to a recent report, we know that it got pretty mangled in a crash.

Part of GM’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2009 involved killing some brands and taking government bailout money. One of those brands was Pontiac, and by the end of that year, the brand had sold just 178,300 cars.

Pontiac
One of the last G6 sedans. – GM

The last car to wear Pontiac’s red badge is a 2010 G6 that was built at the Orion Township Assembly Line in January 2010. It was once believed that the last Pontiac was a G3 Wave that was built in Mexico in December 2009, but the G6 beat it by ever so little. Oftentimes, the final examples of a brand are saved, either by a dealership, owner, or maybe even the brand itself. A similar treatment for Pontiac’s last cars given the brand’s rich history, but things were tense in 2009. The final Pontiacs’ fates were as sad as the brand’s itself.

Pontiac Was A Big Deal

So Pontiac has been gone for about 13 years now. In its final era, the brand lost its luster as a builder of muscle cars that make your heart race just looking at them. Instead, it struggled to attract buyers with fare like front-wheel-drive sedans and rebadged minivans. Still, the marque fought for its existence with legitimately good ideas like the curvaceous Solstice small sports car and the punchy G8 sedan. Even the Aztek was ahead of its time.

It wasn’t always that way. As the New York Times reported when Pontiac died, Pontiac was once so much more. In 1984, 850,000 Pontiacs found a home. Several decades ago, Pontiac carried the image of a brand that built hot muscle cars with tons of sex appeal.

Pontiac had humble beginnings in 1907 when Edward Murphy, a builder of horse-drawn carriages, opened the Oakland Motor Car Company. General Motors was founded a year later and in 1909, Oakland joined GM. The first Pontiac was produced in 1926. The Series 6-27 was a more affordable option in the lineup. Pontiac proved to be so popular that in 1931, the Oakland brand was phased out in favor of Pontiac. Over time, the brand would end up producing such bangers as the GTO, Trans Am, and the Bonneville. Today, these cars still have a strong fanbase, including the little Fiero.

Even Pontiac’s 1980s slogan was fun: “We Build Excitement.”

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Pontiac

Pontiac even found itself on film from Smokey and the Bandit to Knight Rider, and who can forget gearhead classic, The Cannonball Run? The GTO even found itself in music, perhaps most famously in the Ronny & the Daytonas track, GTO. There’s really too much Pontiac goodness to talk about to really describe how strong the brand was, especially in the 1960s into the 80s (and heck, I haven’t even mentioned cars like the straight-8-powered Chieftain from the 1950s ), but you’ll just have to trust me: Pontiac was legit.

The brand was never able to top its 1984 sales record, but it wasn’t without Pontiac trying. The Firebird and Trans Am morphed into a sleek sports car shape and the tire-shredding Holden Monaro became the modern GTO. And Pontiac even had a good inexpensive option with the Vibe. But it wasn’t enough, and Pontiac’s sales were on a steady decline even years before the Great Recession.

The Final Pontiac Saw A Sad Fate

The news about the final Pontiac comes to us from GM Authority, and it’s so sad that I just have to share it. The last Pontiac is believed to have VIN 1G2ZA5EB5A4166962, and this car has lived a dutiful, but rough life. I pulled the car’s reports, and they indicate that after the car was built, it was shipped off to Hawai’i. A fleet car sporting a 2.4-liter four making 164 HP driving the front wheels, it went into rental service. The white G6 served in that role for about a year and four months, when it ended up at an auction with 27,725 miles. After it was sold at the auction, the G6 got shipped to California, where it was offered for sale.

G61
Copart

The second owner picked up the car in August 2011, traveling over an additional 67,000 miles in just over three years. The records show that the second owner seemingly took good care of the car, and the G6 got oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. It even seems like the second owner had a preferred place for maintenance, too, getting work done at a Midas in Costa Mesa or Anaheim.

Then tragedy struck the world’s final Pontiac. On February 1, 2015, a total loss was recorded to the G6’s CarFax record. The G6 was totaled by insurance due to a collision. Weirdly, the car lost 7,848 miles between the last oil change and the total loss report. There’s also a whole year of nothing between an oil change in September 2013 and another in September 2014.

G62
Copart

Incredibly, the car’s story doesn’t end there. It popped up on Copart in fall 2015, where it sold for a cheap $450. The auction house report noted that it didn’t run and didn’t have keys. The state of California issued the car a salvage title and just a few months later, it was shipped down south to Mexico. The trail goes cold from there, with the only note being that someone purchased OnStar for the vehicle just two days ago. So, it seems that the last Pontiac is out there somewhere, but its glory days are probably behind it.

The Second-To-Last Pontiac G6: Also Wrecked

Somehow, this story has yet another twist. For a couple of years, some members of the VINwiki community thought that this 2010 G6, VIN 1G2ZA5EB3A4166961, was the last. With the discovery of the latest G6, it’s now believed to be the second-to-last G6. It met a similar fate, getting wrecked and earning a salvage title. That one ended up in an IAA auction in 2020, where it sold for just $1,500.

G64
IAA

This car is presumably still out there, wearing a rebuilt title brand.

Looking back on Pontiac’s history and its last gasps for fresh air, it’s sad to see that this is how the last cars of a once-famous automaker have fared. If these truly are Pontiac’s last cars, hopefully they eventually one day they find their way back home. They’ve been through a lot, not unlike the defunct brand that produced them.

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38 Responses

  1. It’s kinda sad but fitting the last Pontiac was a G6 sedan and not say a Solstice. Or even a G5 coupe…just something with at least some sort of pretentions to excitement per Pontiac’s mojo.

    But being a GM division, it was always going to be a GM ending I guess.

  2. Not to be that guy but you know it’s bad news when a car manufacturers fans talk about all the good cars they used to make. I got a g6 as a rental once I enjoyed. But given that my DD is over 20 years old my standards might be a bit low. Also GM Mgmt deserves alot of blame for purposely refusing anyone bit Chevy or Corvette to make the best cars. They even ruined Isuzu in the US market instead of learning to produce a quality small car or a quality SUV or hell build anything with quality in mind.

    1. When GM was lurching toward bankruptcy in 2008/2009, they started taking out billboards along highways in major cities as a PR campaign to advocate for their bailout. They were all pictures of desirable cars GM had made many decades earlier, which, if anything, just served to remind people of why the company was now bankrupt.

    2. My DD is a 99 Isuzu Trooper. It’s a great luxurious yet extremely capable 4×4. The real Isuzus’ last year in US was 04 (the Axiom was ahead of its time and extremely rare these days). I mourn that fact that Isuzu petered out in the US as nothing but rebadged Trailblazers and Colorados until 07.

    3. I still can’t believe that the new horsepower wars were breaking out just as GM murdered Pontiac. The time was right for a floor-up rebrand to capture the “excitement” they marketed in the 1980s but didn’t really actually sell. Of course, if GM knew how to run a car company anymore by then, they would have had the time and money to do such a thing.

      I remember when they announced the cancellation of the Camaro and the Firebird, supposedly for poor sales. I thought to myself, “Yeah, and how many years has it been since I saw a commercial for either on tv, or an ad for either in any magazine besides Hot Rod?

    1. GM was still a semi-viable company when Oldsmobile was discontinued. They planned the division’s shutdown several years in advance and had an orderly wind-down process, with Final 500 Edition versions of each model.

      When Pontiac went, there was no time for that, the call to kill the brand was even made kind of last minute. GM originally wanted to downsize it to 2 or 3 RWD sports models that would be sold in low volumes through selected Buick-GMC dealers with minimal marketing support, but the government made the call that they still had one brand too many given their available resources, so it got the chop.

      Not sure how it would have worked, anyway. The Wilmington plant was vastly oversized for the Kappa roadsters, which were never going to be profitable to build at that giant factory, and, with Saturn gone, the Sky/G2X/Speedster were dead, so it certainly wasn’t going to be viable to keep the doors open to build just the Solstice.

      I guess it would have been down to just the G8, and maybe a rebadged Camaro as a new Firebird.

  3. All things considered, I think we’d all prefer to remember Pontiac in other ways that don’t involve white rental sedans. FWIW the final Vibe was also sent to a rental fleet, but we in the Vibe group know of the guy that has it. He’s clearcoated over the ‘FINAL VIBE’ paint marks on the car. Eventually he wants to get it into a museum.

    1. You just beat me to it. You’re absolutely right…the division deserved better for sure, esp. since it had JUST figured out the way forward (captive imports of badass Australian cars, etc.)

    2. I mean, you’re not wrong. As @Ranwhenparked says (hmmm, we need an @ function), Pontiac seemingly didn’t have the time to give it a proper send off. I imagine GM would have wanted Pontiac to go out in a blaze of glory, but instead, it went out sending basic cars to rental fleets.

      Plymouth also died without a huge celebration. As the story goes, Darrell Davis, then DaimlerChrysler Senior VP of Parts and Service, wanted the last Plymouth to be a Prowler. It was a Neon. But props to him, he committed to saving the last Plymouth, even though it was a Neon.

      1. Yeah, and when the guy holding the check wants Pontiac gone, and nobody wants you spending extraneous money, trying to give the brand a real sendoff is kind of an unpopular move. I also heard that, of GM’s brands, Pontiac was the one management most wanted to bring back. Given that trucks and SUVs are popular instead of sports car it makes sense that Hummer was brought back instead…. Does anyone know if GM is re-upping the Pontiac trademark? IIRC they held onto Hummer via the cologne.

        1. GM still has a lot of current Pontiac trademarks – toy/model cars (including battery and friction powered), automotive parts and accessories, repair/maintenance services for vehicles, windshield sun shades, nonmetallic key fobs, towels & pot holders, radios, calculators & prerecorded cassette tapes with information about cars, watches & clocks, printed materials related to cars and car parts/service (manuals, brochures, catalogs, etc), magnets & non-medical thermometers, nonmetallic jewelry boxes, nonmetallic license plate frames, chairs, stools, & pillows, plastic badge holders, desk ornaments, key chains, plaques, plastic flags, wall and handheld mirrors, plastic name badges, nameplates, money clips, beds, clothing (jogging suits, parkas, jackets, sweaters, sweatpants, sweatshirts, baseball shirts, shorts, t-shirts, hats, shoes, bandanas, gloves, robes, ties, socks, and aprons), umbrellas, tote bags, fanny packs, duffel bags, wallets, backpacks, card cases, piggy banks, decorative metal boxes, metal ingots, metal keys, non-luminous/nonmechanical metal signs, and tool boxes – among other, even more specific language.

          They’ve been renewing all those filings every 6 years as required .

          Also have one registration specifically for “Pontiac Firebird”, for printed materials – manuals, brochures, catalogs, etc

  4. I loved Pontiac enough that when I started my teaching career, and finally had two nickels to rub together, the first car I bought was a Pontiac. An ’04 GTO. And yet looking at these pictures of the last Pontiacs crashed and undoubtedly cheaply rebuilt and hawked onto poor unsuspecting bastards at a buy here, pay here lot … I feel nothing.

    Probably because that GTO was a complete pile of shit, that spent 31 days in the shop in the scant 3-1/2 months I owned it. Thankfully it was under warranty, or I would have been ruined. Good riddance.

    1. Abso-goddamn-lutely NOT, except as a pure performance brand whose sole purpose is to annihilate Teslas at stoplights for a fraction of the cost.

      The Pontiac of the GTO and the Super Duty already died its first death emasculated and smothered under a pile of corporate bullshit. Don’t bring it back to let it pick up where GM shamefully left off with it.

  5. As someone who owned an 84 Firebird that broke down almost aggressively as though it had a personal vendetta against me, the death of Pontiac couldn’t have come soon enough.

  6. I don’t remember any Pontiacs in “Cannonball Run”. Reynolds had a Dodge van ambulance; Dino and Sammy had the Ferrari; Adrienne Barbeau had a Countach; Jackie Chan in a Subaru; Klinger in a Roller; Moore in Connery’s Aston; and Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis in that awesome Hawaiian Tropic NASCAR Chevelle.

    1. Yeah, I was trying to remember a Pontiac in either Cannonball. I think there was an early gen 2 T/A in Gumball Rally, but that was the 70’s, not 80’s.

      Also, wasn’t Jackie in a Mitsubishi Starion?

  7. I now have 2 teenage drivers, and I have been despairing of finding a reasonably priced used car in this market. This article prompted me to look at Pontiac prices, and they are – somewhat reasonable. Would it be a mistake to buy a used G6? Parts for any body damage might be hard to come by, but is there anything concerning about the 6 cylinder engine used in the 2009-10 models?

    1. 3.5 and 3.9 (if they still offered the latter by the end) OHV V6 engines should be stout enough. The 3.6L DOHC V6 tended to have issues in the early days, mostly timing chains IIRC, but by that point few G6s were probably getting built with that engine since it was a top-spec model.

      For the most part should be fine, mostly GM nickel and diming. We had a platformmate Saturn Aura (4cyl) that was fine – mostly door lock actuators and fobs, noisy/clunky suspension bits, but never a major issue.

  8. From about 1971-2013 I was a lifelong Pontiac Guy. I learned to drive in my dad’s 1964 LeMans two-door sedan, 215-CID inline-six (derived from the Chevy 194-230-250 series) with a two-speed automatic. My own first car purchased at age 18 in Summer 1973 was another ‘64 LeMans two door sedan; this one with a 215 inline six and three-on-the-tree manual transmission, purchased for my commuter car to Engineering School at CWRU, https://case.edu/ . Long story short, in Summer 1974 I found a junkyard car with a factory console and factory 3-speed floor shifter which I swapped into my car. Unfortunately, shortly before college graduation in Spring 1977, my lifelong Northeast Ohio car sustained a cracked frame and I was advised to scrap my beloved first car.

    I went on to own 1967 and 1969 Firebirds, a 1978 Sunbird hatchback, a 1980 LeMans two door, and our first-ever brand-new car, a 1998 Grand Prix GT Coupe. I now lean toward Hondas, but have a soft spot for older Pontiacs.

    1. Most Hondas are made in Ohio (for the USDM anyways) and usually sourced with high domestic parts contents. Goes to show you that an American auto operation can thrive in 2022, even if the nameplate itself is not domestic. I know someone that works for GM and would sooner drive a Ford or a Dodge (which hasn’t been a truly domestic brand since the DaimlerChrysler era) than a Honda despite the Odyssey consistently being ranked as having the most America-sourced parts (by percent) of any vehicle assembled state-side. I don’t get it. I can buy stock in Honda, Toyota, Stellantis, VW and many other manufacturers as easily as Ford and GM. Glad you’re shopping smart these days.

  9. It’s a bit sad, but it’s also kind of cool: probably a hundred people got to drive the last Pontiac ever made. How many people get to drive the “last one made”s that end up in museums?

    Sadly, the vast majority of them never knew that’s what they were driving.

    1. I’m sure it would have if the timing was different. An earlier commenter had a good rundown of it: when Olds was dropped it was a ~5 year process and there was time for special edition models, with the last Alero going into a museum. For GM, in the midst of the bankruptcy negotiations, there wasn’t time for any nostalgia.

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