Today is April 27th, celebrating the creation of the 427 cubic inch engines created by Chevrolet and Ford. Consider it a sequel to Hemi Day. The 427 cubic inch engines could be classified as the greatest engines ever made by either company. Though, today is bittersweet, as it marks the day that The Wall Street Journal first reported that Pontiac was going to the scrapyard. Once a great American performance brand, now nothing.
Celebrating The Chevrolet And Ford 427 V8 Engine
Chevrolet introduced its first 427 engine in the 1963 Impala Sport Coupe as a special edition Regular Production Option, code Z11. Based on the W-series Mark 1 409, the 427 featured an increased stroke to make up the displacement and produced an under-rated 430 horsepower. However, it wasn’t until Chevrolet introduced the Mark IV big-block engine in the 1966 Corvette and other full-sized vehicles that the 427 was available to the masses.
Ford also joined the 427 game in 1963, with the first engine with that displacement hitting the track under the hood of the Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt. The “FE” designated big block engine was available in top oiler and side-oiler configurations, which oiled the camshaft and crankshaft first, respectively. The side-oiler model of the machine was fitted to the GT40 MKII, which placed 1-2-3 in the 1966 24 hours of Le Mans.
Pontiac Brand Remembrance Day
On April 27th, 2009, it was revealed that General Motors would be cutting 21,000 hourly jobs as it would eliminate the Pontiac brand by the end of the following year as part of a plan to restructure the company. If you remember, 2008-2009 was challenging for several companies due to the stock market crash, which caused many companies to claim bankruptcy. By removing the brand and cutting the jobs, the company saved itself enormous money, though it marked the end of an iconic brand.
One of the most memorable Pontiac muscle cars was the GTO, which featured a 427 cubic-inch V8 Engine. The GTO initially had a production run from 1963 to 1974 before getting discontinued. It returned in 2003, though, with a more sports car appearance, as a rebadged Holden Monaro for the North American market. RIP Holden, too, by the way.
The production run for the second coming of the Pontiac GTO lasted just three years, ending in 2006. Its replacement was the Pontiac G8, which lasted only from the 2008 to 2009 model years. This four door muscle car was also based on an Australian Holden, this time the Commodore, and really checked the boxes with an available LS3 V8 engine (G8 GXP), manual transmission, four doors, and chiseled looks. Pontiac even intended to sell a ute version of the G8, as well as a sport wagon version for the 2010 model year. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Another head-turning vehicle under the Pontiac umbrella was the Solstice. A rebadged Opel GT, the Pontiac Solstice as an answer to the iconic Mazda MX-5 Miata, the most raced automobile in the world. It lasted from the 2006 to the 2010 model years (only 20 made it off the line for 2010). The one to get was the Solstice GXP (2007-2009), which featured a 2.0L turbo four cylinder engine with 260 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. GM Performance Division also revealed a few concepts over the years that highlighted the trackworthy potential of the two-seat convertible sports car, while a hardtop coupe version was available by the 2009 model year.
It also had a counterpart in the Saturn Sky.
Finally, there was the Pontiac Firebird and V8-powered Firebird Trans Am. From 1967 until 2002, it served as GM’s in-house alternative to the Chevrolet Camaro, and is arguably became the most famous movie car ever with the often replicated livery seen in Smokey and the Bandit (a 1977 Trans Am driven by the late Burt Reynolds). But because of the timing of the Camaro’s first comeback for the 2010 model year with the fifth-generation model, there was never a fifth-generation Firebird. Pontiac’s fate had long been sealed by then, General Motors went through its first bankruptcy, and The Great Recession was in full swing.
It seemed like Pontiac died just before it reached a zenith. With a perception-changing sports car in the Solstice, a G8 lineup expansion, and what was likely an eventual fifth-generation Firebird, it would have been its most exciting in years. There was even potential for the Fiero to come back, with the original C6 Corvette program that was to be a mid-engined design. Pontiac deserved to share an architecture with Corvette.
Nevertheless, the Pontiac legacy lives on through the aftermarket, with companies like Trans Am Worldwide transforming sixth-generation Camaros into wildly powerful iterations of a “modern” Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that GM simply can no longer make. The results are spectacular. Likewise, the Chevrolet Silverado-based Bandit truck is another example of the brand refusing to go quietly into the night.