The Pontiac brand is on the verge of extinction with General Motors amid its ongoing financial problems and restructuring efforts announcing that it would phase out the Pontiac brand by the end of 2010.
It was back in 1926 that GM introduced Pontiac as a companion marque to GM’s Oakland Motor Car line. The name was taken from Chief Pontiac, an American Indian chief who led an unsuccessful uprising against the British shortly after the French and Indian War. General Motors’ first Pontiac was conceived as an affordable six-cylinder intending to compete in the more inexpensive four-cylinder-model range. Within months of its introduction, Pontiac was outselling Oakland. As a result of Pontiac’s rising sales, versus Oakland’s declining sales, Pontiac became the only companion marque to survive its parent, with Oakland ceasing production in 1932.
Pontiac began work on its first V8 configuration in 1946. This was initially intended to be an L-head engine, and 8 experimental units were built. But testing comparisons to the OHV Oldsmobile V8 revealed the L-head could not compete performance-wise. So the decision to re-direct the V-8 to an OHV design delayed its introduction until the 1955 model year.
In mid-1956, Pontiac introduced a higher-powered version of its V-8. Among other things, this version of the engine was equipped with a high performance racing camshaft and dual 4-barrel carburetors. This was the first in a series of NASCAR-ready Super-Tempest and Super-Duty V-8 engines and introduced the long line of multi-carburetor equipped engines that saw Pontiac become a major player during the muscle car and pony car era of the 1960s.
Pontiac’s second generation V8 engines shared numerous similarities, allowing many parts to interchange from its advent in 1959 to its demise in 1979. Sizes ranged from 265 cubic inch to 455 cubic inch. This feature made it possible for Pontiac to invent the modern muscle car, by the relatively simple process of placing its second largest-displacement engine, the 389 cid, into its mid-size car, the Le Mans, creating the Pontiac GTO.
From their inception in the 1950s until the early 1970s, Pontiac engines were known for their performance. The largest engine was a massive 455 cubic inch V8 that was available in most of their mid-size, full-size and sports car models.
The only non-traditional Pontiac V8 engines were the 301 cubic inch and the smaller displacement 265 cubic inch V-8s. Produced from 1977 through 1981, these engines had the distinction of being the last V8s produced by Pontiac; GM merged its various brand’s engines into one collectively-shared group in 1980, entitled General Motors Powertrain. Interestingly, the 301 had a 4-inch (100 mm) bore and 3-inch (76 mm) stroke, identical to the vaunted Chevrolet Small-Block engine and Ford Boss 302 engine.
All Pontiac engines were designed around a low-RPM/high-torque model, as opposed to the ubiquitous Chevrolet Small-Block engine known for its smaller displacement and high RPM/high power design. Pontiac engines were unique for their integrated water pump and timing chain cover, and separate valley pan and intake.
-Some content sourced from Wikipedia