Editor’s Note: Over at The Truth About Cars, Murilee has another fine Junkyard Find, this one about a 1981 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham. It provided an excellent point of departure for star commenter Vanilla Dude. As always, the opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of this site.
Although the Carter Administration was coming to an end, the Malaise Era dragged onward into 1981. GM was enjoying a level of prosperity and popularity never seen since. (Perhaps being popular during the Malaise years is one of the reasons folk today who remember those times, often don’t like GM?)
This wasn’t one of those reasons, however. By this year, GM had figured out how to enhance their seasoned body on framers, circa 1977 full sized cars. These were dull solid cars that only needed bordello interiors and jazzy paint themes to bring home the bacon. These were seats that were so deeply tufted and soft, you momentarily relived your time comfortably attached to your mother’s uterus. Remember, though, that this was GM – so, the committee that designed the seats, forgot to coordinate with the committee that designed the IP – so, if you got the wrong combo, you ended up with a steering wheel you couldn’t sit in front of, unless you tilted left, like Walter Mondale.
Auto interiors still reflected the swag lifestyle of the Disco Era. Padded vinyl roofs, opera lights and hood ornaments were expected options. Pontiac, however, was to be the “sporty” GM division, right? So, what we see here is one of the top line cars that did not carry these options, popular on other 1981 GM full sizers. Yuppies were still yet to be, so the stylings of this age and within this class of vehicle, still reflected the desires of folks born before 1940.
The market was hurting. The Industrial Age went into a full seizure myocardial infarction, and then a slow death spiral. The Pope was assassinated, but miraculously returned to life so he could take down the Kremlin. The President was assassinated, but miraculously returned to life so that he too, could take down the Kremlin. And sadly, GM launched the X Cars, which took them down like the Soviet Union, only a tad slower. John Paul and Reagan got their revenge by 1992, for the Chevy Citation, it took until 2009, (even as an assassin, the Citation sucked).
For GM and the Soviets, 1981 was the beginning of the end. For Pontiac, anticipating some kind of Market shift – dropped this full sizer the following year, to lead towards that Malaise Era Dawn promised by the soon-to-be Ex-Presidente Carter, that is, dull small front wheel drive cars and gas prices of $4 a gallon – that is, if gas could be found in 1982. Washington, once again, ensured that by establishing the Department of Energy, that any Federal Energy policy was based on fear and loathing, not the actual science found in geology. Reagan was laughed at when he suggested lower pump prices. Oddly, these environmentalists and other assorted doomsayers are making these same claims today like Millerites predicting the Rapture in 1840, uh, 1841, they meant, 1843 – no, really, the end is coming – soon…
The end only came for Bobby Sands in 1981 though, and instead of being shot by someone with connections to the KGB, he decided to stop eating. Hmmm, if the Soviets could have only convinced the Pope and Reagan to stop eating, then perhaps they could have lasted longer. The Soviet Rapture could have been delayed until, maybe 2001.
If GM could have been convinced to not create X-Cars, then they could have prevented US auto buyers to do a Bobby Sands on them.
By 1982, Pontiac realized they made a terrible Market mistake by listening to the doomsayers predicting the end of big cars. So, instead of this glorious bastard of a fine automobile, Pontiac hurriedly shipped in Canadian Caprices which up there, were called Parisiennes. The Bonneville ended up on a nasty front driver, where it languished for a decade or more while the model that it once was, was enthroned upon a car named to impress Quebec.
This was a good car and it should have been continued right up until folks stopped buying it.