The 1936 Pontiac underwent some evolutionary changes from the previous year, but product planners did not lose sight of the fact they had a winning lineup on their hands.
The changes made preserved the value for which Pontiacs were becoming known, and more than made up for the minimal increase in price for some models, most of which were not more than a few dollars. (In fact, the base prices of eight-cylinder sedans were even reduced slightly.)
The 1936 Pontiac had relatively few changes
from the 1935 model.
In terms of styling, the 1936 Pontiacs looked much like their predecessors as the changes made were quite subtle. Unlike many second-year face-lifts made to existing bodies, Pontiac's new looks fortunately did not detract from the integrity of the basic design.
A narrower waterfall grille shell was implemented. The silver streaks on the hood still extended to form the center section of the grille, as in 1935.
The difference this year was that there were fewer streaks and the outer grille elements were now painted body color, lending even more visual "narrowness" to the front end. The headlamp buckets were also narrower and longer than before, and they were newly mounted on the sides of the grille shell.
There were more subtle visual changes made as well. Hood-ornament designs (which were different for six- and eight-cylinder models) were changed, and the chrome moldings on the hood sides were redesigned, now coming to a point at the leading edges.
The speedlines stamped into the fenders were eliminated, and front-hinged doors returned throughout the lineup, though the rear doors of four-door cars continued to be attached at the rear. Steel-spoke wheels became standard throughout the Pontiac family.
During the year, the Standard was renamed the Master Six. The entry-level series expanded via a pair of new body styles, the cabriolet and sport coupe. Both variations of the Master two-door sedan could now be ordered with front bench seats (added mid-year), and sidemounts became an option in this series.
There were mechanical changes, too. The eight was enlarged from 223.4 cid to 232.3 by way of a .06-inch overbore. The increase in displacement and a compression rise to 6.5:1 nudged horsepower from 84 to 87 at the same 3,800 rpm. The eight also benefited from an improved cooling system, now pressurized to five pounds per square inch.
Eight-cylinder models, now known as DeLuxe Eights, also benefited from an improved clutch, which was a ventilated dry-disc design. Additionally, the transmission used in Master Sixes was now the same fully synchronized three-speed manual gearbox used in the DeLuxe Six.
Interestingly, some of the revisions made during the model year came as running changes, phased in during the course of the production run. Examples of this included relatively minor adjustments, such as a switch on some models from the 1935-style flush-mounted taillamps to bullet-shaped units.
However, the most significant running change was the discontinuation of the Dubonnet independent front suspension system used on the DeLuxe Six and DeLuxe Eight. In its place was the "other" Knee-Action front suspension that was originally designed for Cadillac by Maurice Olley. It was adapted for use in the Pontiac by chassis engineer Robert K. Hutchinson.
The truth was, the Dubonnet system, while innovative in a technical sense, was not especially durable and required more attention than most motorists were used to providing. Its most interesting attributes were its encased coil spring and shock absorber, as well as its wheel hub, which was attached to a single control arm.
The problems arose when the level of the oil in which the springs rested dropped below the full level, which resulted in erratic handling and accelerated wear. The Dubonnet system also had a reputation of being difficult to service and repair.
Conversely, the new Pontiac front suspension, adopted from its higher-priced General Motors cousins, was a thoroughly conventional design, featuring unequal-length upper and lower control arms, with king pins that floated in bronze bearings.
It was relatively trouble-free, required little maintenance, and was fairly simple to repair. It would continue to be used in subsequent model years.
As it did the year before, the combination of product and pricing continued to be a winning combination in the marketplace. Production numbers were up dramatically from 1935.
All told, Pontiac production had more than doubled in just two model years. This would be a remarkable feat in any era, but for that level of growth to occur in the same decade as the Great Depression, when so many carmakers were falling by the wayside, was truly impressive.
Though it wasn't obvious to observers at the time, the 1935 and 1936 model years at Pontiac were a constantly evolving transition period in the division's history.
The popular new six-cylinder engine, plus the streamlined good looks of Silver Streak styling on turret-top bodies overshadowed such antiquated features as wood body framing and straight-axle front suspension.
But 1937 would see enlarged engines, the full adoption of independent front suspension, and all-steel B-bodies shared with the likes of Oldsmobile, Buick, and LaSalle. A new era of modernization was on the horizon at Pontiac.