The 1971-1976 Pontiacs were full-size cars affected by internal and external pressures on the auto industry.

As the 1960s wound down, Pontiac found itself at the end of a very successful era. Though the "Wide Track Division" had fought its way to third place in national sales for much of the departing decade, many difficult changes loomed and "business as usual" was no longer going to work.

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The 1972 Pontiac epitomized the large cars in this era of Pontiac history.
The 1972 Pontiac epitomized the large cars in this era
 of Pontiac history. See more pictures of Pontiacs.

Pontiac's reputation as a performance-oriented carmaker, though hard-earned and well-deserved, was no longer the surefire path to sales success it had once been.

A new batch of government mandated emission regulations, pressure from consumer and safety advocacy groups, as well as the retaliation of the insurance companies toward high-performance cars cut into Pontiac sales. Sales of 1970 GTOs, for example, were less than half that of 1966, and Firebird sales were also suffering.

Seeing that sales were slipping from their 1968 high and sensing the increased competition from sister divisions, especially in the lower-priced segments, new general manager F. James McDonald instituted the addition of new decontented versions of existing models.

Vehicles like the LeMans-based T-37 and GT-37, which featured taxi cab-like interiors, dropped base prices, but they did nothing to help reinforce Pontiac's brand image. Further hurting Pontiac was its lack of a competitive small car. The introduction of the Chev­ro­let Nova-based Ventura II in 1971 did little to establish a presence in the increasingly important small-car market.

Despite the emerging market trends favoring cheaper and smaller cars, it was nonetheless true that Pontiac still drew more sales volume from its traditional full-sized cars than from any of its other model lines as the 1970s began.

The 1970 "standard" Pontiacs were facelifted updates of the 1969 models, but an all-new big-car series was waiting in the wings for 1971. It was based on a new B-body platform shared with Chev­rolet, Olds­mo­bile, and Buick. A new chassis was developed for this new generation of Pontiacs. As before, it was a perimeter design, though quite different in layout to fit the new body.

The front suspension was also new, and was actually shared with the second-generation Firebird released the previous February. It featured revised mounting points and improved geometry for cornering, ride, and handling enhancements.

Likewise, the rear suspension was also re-engineered to complement the new front end. Station wagons used leaf springs, while other models used a new four-link design with coil springs. Three wheelbases were offered. Catalinas featured a 123.5-inch wheelbase, the higher-end cars rode on a 126-inch platform, and station wagons stretched 127 inches between the wheel centers.

To learn more about the 1971 Pontiac, see the next page.

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