1971 Pontiac

The styling of the full-sized 1971 Pontiacs was based on the then-popular "fuselage" concept that sought to envelope occupants in isolated comfort. This trend was pioneered in 1969 by Chrysler Corporation for its four full-sized car lines. Unlike the Mopars, Pontiac's interpretation didn't use as high of a beltline, and it didn't have the same "rolling fortress" look.

The 1971 Pontiac was redesigned inside and out.
The 1971 Pontiac was redesigned inside and out.

Up front, the beaklike nose was dominated by a massive split-grille design with vertical center sections linked to low horizontal extensions that ran out below the quad headlamps to the edges of the car.

Thin horizontal bars filled these grille cavities, though the mid- and top-trim series sported vertical bars, too. The front bumper dipped in the center to give more depth to the protruding central grille sections. The hood was sculpted with a raised "ironing board" treatment and center rib, which tied in with the grille design.

The leading edges of the bladed front fenders were strictly vertical and further accentuated the massive look of the front end. As they flowed back, the fenders and doors really picked up the fuselage shape, which made for large, elongated, front and rear wheel wells. The bladed contour of the front fenders was reprised in the trailing edge of the rear quarters, albeit with a little bit of a forward cant.

The deck featured two rows of louvers that were air extractors for a new pressurized ventilation system found on a number of General Motors cars. The decklid extended down to the bumper, a good idea for easy trunk loading. However, the portion of the lid that made it all the way down was quite narrow, crowded as it was by big horizontal taillight lenses.

Interiors were also completely redesigned, the most notable difference being the new "cockpit" dash design. It was similar in layout to that of the personal-luxury Grand Prix hardtop coupe and curved before the driver like the control panel of a jet- fighter plane.

In terms of body style availability, the base Catalina was the only series that had all styles available: two-door hardtop and convertible, four-door sedan and hardtop, and six- and nine-passenger Safari station wagons.

All full-sized 1971 Pontiac station wagons featured GM's new "clamshell" tailgate. The power-operated rear window retracted into the roof, while the manual tailgate (power was optional) retracted into the floor. It was a very innovative system, but was quite complex and expensive to repair.

The increased competition from within the corporation had Pontiac product planners scrambling with new models to not only meet the challenge from out-of-house competitors like Dodge and Mercury, but also from other GM divisions. They also sought to close up perceived gaps between models in the Pontiac lineup.

Unfortunately, the strategy did little more than confuse buyers and water down the hard-earned equity that Pontiac's nameplates, especially the Bonneville, had generated over the years.

For an explanation of the different types of Pontiac models, see the next page.

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