1935-1936 Pontiac


As the United States was coming out of the economic devastation of the Great Depression, car buyers were seeking much more utility and value for their money than ever before, and found it in the 1935-1936 Pontiac. A more conservative, more practical mindset was now the order of the day. Closed cars were far more frequently ordered than open body styles, as were engines of smaller displacements, usually sixes.

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Pontiac's new design (seen here on a 1936 Pontiac) was Art-Deco inspired.
Pontiac's new design (seen here on a 1936 Pontiac)
was Art-Deco inspired. See more pictures of classic cars.

With the market focus on these specific qualities, Pontiac found itself in a remarkably good position when the new 1935 models appeared in showrooms in late 1934.

As they were in the low end of the medium-price field, Pontiacs generally cost more than the typical Ford, Chevrolet, Plymouth, or Willys. Still, they were affordable for many people and represented an excellent value.

Seen in the context of the time, the 1935-1936 Pontiacs were in an interesting "in-between" period in the evolution of the marque.

Before them had come a line of eight-cylinder-only cars with a European-influenced exterior design, fabric inserts for the tops of closed bodies, and a Dubonnet independent front-suspension system. After them would come a more modern chassis and all-steel body construction.

This interim generation had several unique features that separated it from the cars that came before. Most obvious was the exterior design. Like its predecessor, the new design was the brainchild of Franklin Q. Hershey, a Californian who was a designer for coachbuilder Walter Murphy, and more recently had come over from Hudson.

To learn about the styling of the 1935-1936 Pontiac, see the next page.

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1935-1936 Pontiac Styling

The 1935-1936 Pontiac styling, while not at all similar in appearance to the 1934 Pontiac, had the same design mission: to establish Pontiac as a high-style but fairly inexpensive marque, a step up from the entry-level field.

The 1935 Pontiac was the first to feature Pontiac's distinctive silver streaks.
The 1935 Pontiac was the first to feature Pontiac's
distinctive silver streaks.

The new 1935 Pontiac was a more streamlined, Art Deco machine that ushered in a design cue destined to be a trademark for the division for more than 20 years, the famed "Silver Streak."

Up front, the Silver Streak treatment began as a bright band of multiple ribs running from the base of the windshield and across the top of the hood, forming a somewhat streamlined waterfall grille. Complementary touches included deco-inspired trim on the hood sides and somewhat teardrop-shaped parking lamps atop the fenders.

Legend has it that the Silver Streak design theme was inspired by a photo of a Napier race car, its oil cooler protruding through the hood, that Hershey saw in a French magazine.

Apparently Pontiac General Manager Harry J. Klingler and General Motors Executive Vice President William S. Knudsen were impressed by this innovative look, which gave the entire 1935 Pontiac line a "bigger" big-car appearance.

The streaks would become an enduring Pontiac trademark that would last through 1956. Ironically, it was the son of "Big Bill," Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen, who ordered the Silver Streaks removed from the 1957s when he became division general manager in June 1956.

For more on the 1935 Pontiac, see the next page.

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1935 Pontiac

The 1935 Pontiac featured fenders that were larger and more rounded than before. As in 1933-1934, though, they were stamped with horizontal "speedlines" just behind the wheel openings.

The 1935 Pontiac seemed to anticipate buyer's needs post-Depression.
The 1935 Pontiac seemed to anticipate buyer's
needs post-Depression.

Full use of "suicide" doors on every model was a new -- and somewhat retrograde -- feature; rear-hinged doors were falling out of favor and Pontiac had previously used them only at the rear of four-door sedans.

Split windshields were also used for the first time in 1935 to create a vee effect, and they would remain through 1952.

The body itself was a more modern and streamlined design than before. Dimensions would vary by body style and chassis, but there was a basic continuity in terms of general shape, running boards, rear fenders, and bumpers. All Pontiacs were based on the General Motors "A" Body, which was shared with Chevrolet.

While the 1935 Pontiac's look was all new, its construction details still had much in common with its predecessors. Fisher Body's all-steel "turret top" for coupes and sedans was a definite advancement over the previous fabric roof panels, but bodies still derived much of their structure from wooden inner framing, as was the norm in those days.

Though lightweight and initially quite sturdy, wood was prone to rotting over time, which reduced rigidity. This situation would cause such maladies as sagging doors and weather-sealing problems, to say nothing of diminished crash safety.

Like the exteriors, the interiors of six- and eight-cylinder models shared the same basic layouts. Differences included fabrics, control knobs, and the choice of bench or bucket seats.

There were significant differences on the mechanical side as well. A new L-head six-cylinder engine was released to help Pontiac compete in the lower-price brackets. It was designed by chief engineer Benjamin H. Anibal and shared nothing with Pontiac's previous sixes, which were produced from 1926-1932.

The new six was similar to the Pontiac straight eight in a variety of details and was a related design, though it was not simply an eight with two cylinders chopped off. It was thoroughly conventional in design, though well-built and very durable, due in no small part to its four main bearings and fully counterweighted crankshaft.

The six's cylinders were larger than the eight's, with a bore of 3.38 inches and a stroke of 3.88 inches. This compared to the eight's 3.19-inch bore and 3.50-inch stroke. As a result, the displacement of the six was not much smaller than that of the eight: 208 cubic inches versus 223 for the eight.

With a single-barrel Carter carburetor and a 6.2:1 compression ratio, the new six made 80 bhp at 3600 rpm. This was remarkably close to the eight's 84 bhp at 3800 rpm, also developed with 6.2:1 compression and a single-barrel Carter carburetor.

The inline eight was only in its third year of production, but had already received upgrades. A revised intake manifold and a new version of the "GMR" cylinder head (developed by General Motors Research, hence the name) was adopted in 1934, adding seven horsepower to the engine's original output. For 1935, new micropolished rod and main bearings provided additional durability to an engine already noted for its toughness.

For more on the 1935 Pontiac's mechanics, continue on to the next page.

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1935 Pontiac Mechanics

The 1935 Pontiac mechanics were an updated and improved version of the basic "double-drop" chassis design that was used in the two previous model years. This chassis was available in two different wheelbases and with two different front suspension systems, depending on model.

The woodgrained instrument panel imposed strict symmetry on the 1935 Pontiac dash.
The wood-grained instrument panel imposed
strict symmetry on the 1935 Pontiac dash.

The DeLuxe Six and Improved Eights continued to use an independent front suspension carried over from the 1934 Pontiacs, designed by French racer and inventor, André Dubonnet. It was marketed as the "Knee-Action" front suspension.

Chevrolet and Pontiac used this system, while Oldsmobile, Cadillac, LaSalle, and Buick used a better system designed by Cadillac. Interest­ingly, both designs used the Knee-Action moniker.

Perhaps the most significant change from the past came in the braking department. Gone was the previous mechanical braking system and in its place was a better-performing and more reliable hydraulic system featuring drums at all four corners.

This new design was part of an industry-wide shift to the safer hy­draulics, though it would be a while before all manufacturers would make the conversion.

Two wheelbases were used for the 1935 Pontiac. Six-cylinder models used a 112-inch wheelbase, while eights were perched on a 116.6-inch chassis. Eights used longer front sheetmetal and running boards to make up the difference. Overall lengths checked in at 189 inches and 193.6 inches, respectively.

When the 1935 Pontiacs were introduced on December 29, 1934, there were two series, the aforementioned DeLuxe Six and Improved Eight. Body styles included a pair of coupes, a two-seater and a "sport coupe" with rumble seat; two- and four-door sedans; and two- and four-door Touring sedans.

The Touring sedans had extended built-in trunks, while the sedans had flat backs with a hatch that gave access to the spare tire stored within. A cabriolet convertible with a rumble seat was also offered in each series.

There were also a couple of interesting variations on the coupe body, including the "Doctor's Special" and an "Opera Coupe." The Doctor's Special used a specially designed front seat with a compartment in the back that housed a matching medical bag.

The Opera Coupe featured a single jump seat that folded out of the rear bulkhead on the driver's side. It was actually a preproduction experiment, of which approximately 50 were built. A handful survive today, including one original-condition Im­proved Eight model.

The only available transmission was a fully synchronized floor-shifted three-speed manual unit. It transferred power through a torque tube to the semifloating rear axle.

Six-cylinder cars came with a 4.44:1 differential ratio, while eights received a 4.55:1 ratio. Six-cylinder models came with 16×6.00 balloon-type tires mounted on wire-spoke wheels. Eights used 16×6.50 balloon tires affixed to steel artillery-spoke wheels.

Optional equipment for DeLuxe Six and Improved Eight models was not extensive by modern standards, but was on par with other makes in the medium-price field in that era.

One could choose such available equipment as antifreeze, wheel discs, trim rings, dual sidemount spares, bumper guards, a couple of kinds of heaters, "Air Mate" and "Air Chief" radios, a vanity mirror, luggage set, dash-mounted watch, and a glovebox smoker set.

In February 1935, a new price-leader Standard Six series was introduced in all body styles except the cabriolet and rumble-seat coupe. Prices were $50-$60 cheaper than their DeLuxe Six counterparts.

While $60 doesn't seem like much, it was about nine percent of the cost of a Deluxe Six business coupe. Knock nine percent off the price of a new car today and one can get an idea of what $60 meant to a car shopper 72 years ago.

The differences between the Standard and DeLuxe were mostly mechanical. The most significant changes were located in the front suspension. The Dubonnet design was not used on the Standard. In its stead was a simpler and, as it would turn out, a more reliable solid I-beam front axle supported by semi-elliptic leaf springs.

Other changes in the interest of cost savings included a three-speed manual transmission with a nonsynchronized first gear, a lack of fender-top parking lamps, and a single taillamp. The rear-quarter windows of four-door Standards lacked the crank-open vents of their costlier siblings.

Black fenders and running boards were used in this series regardless of body color. The dual sidemounts available as optional equipment on the DeLuxe Six and Improved Eight models could not be ordered on the Standard Six.

The new model lineup and the addition of the six-cylinder engine proved to be a very profitable move for Pontiac. Like most other manufacturers during the Great Depression, Pontiac had lost ground in sales.

While many other manufacturers were not able to survive the grave economic situation, Klingler and his management team had hit upon just the right mix of attractive products and affordable pricing.

Production numbers were up dramatically from the previous model year and actually firmed up Pontiac's position in the lower mid-price field. Pontiac turned out 129,468 of the 1935s, an increase of 50,609 cars from the 1934 model year.

Though sales of eight-cylinder Pontiacs dropped considerably, the production total of the new sixes alone surpassed 1934's output tally. Clearly, the six-cylinder models were the right cars for the time.

To follow the evolution with the 1936 Pontiac, continue on to the next page.

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1936 Pontiac

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.
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.

See the next page to get specifications, models, prices, and production of the 1935-1936 Pontiac.

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1935-1936 Pontiac Specifications

The 1935-1936 Pontiacs seemed to be just what buyers needed in terms of power, comfort, and style at the end of the Great Depression. Here are the specifications of the 1935-1936 Pontiac:

The hood ornament was changed for the 1936 Pontiac.
The hood ornament was changed for the 1936 Pontiac.

1935 Pontiac Standard Six Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
All Models
Wheelbase, inches
112.0

1935 Pontiac Standard Six Models, Prices, and Production

Model Weight, pounds
Price
Production
coupe, 2-passenger 3,065 $615 --
2-door Touring sedan 3,195 $695 --
2-door sedan 3,195 $665 --
4-door Touring sedan 3,245 $745 --
4-door sedan 3,245 $715 --
Total 1935 Standard Six

49,302

1935 Pontiac DeLuxe Six Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
All Models
Wheelbase, inches
112.0

1935 Pontiac DeLuxe Six Models, Prices, and Production

Model Weight, pounds
Price
Production
business coupe, 2-passenger 3,125 $675 --
coupe, 2/4-passenger 3,150 $725 --
convertible coupe 3,180 $775 --
2-door Touring sedan 3,245 $745 --
2-door sedan 3,245 $715 --
4-door Touring sedan 3,300 $795 --
4-door sedan 3,300 $765 --
Total 1935 DeLuxe Six

36,032

1935 Pontiac Improved Eight Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
All Models
Wheelbase, inches
116.6

1935 Pontiac Improved Eight Models, Prices, and Production

Model Weight, pounds
Price
Production
business coupe, 2-passenger 3,260 $730 --
coupe, 2/4-passenger 3,290 $780 --
convertible coupe 3,305 $840 --
2-door Touring sedan 3,400 $805 --
2-door sedan 3,400 $775 --
4-door Touring sedan 3,450 $860 --
4-door sedan 3,450 $830 --
Total 1935 Improved Eight

44,134
Total 1935 Pontiac

129,468

1936 Pontiac Master Six Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
All Models
Wheelbase, inches
112.0

1936 Pontiac Master Six Models, Prices, and Production

Model Weight, pounds
Price
Production
coupe, 2-passenger 3,085 $615 --
coupe, 2/4-passenger3,120
$675
--
convertible coupe 3,125
$760
--
2-door Touring sedan 3,195 $700 --
2-door sedan 3,195 $675 --
4-door Touring sedan 3,245 $745 --
4-door sedan 3,235 $720 --
Total 1936 Master Six

93,475

1936 Pontiac DeLuxe Six Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
All Models
Wheelbase, inches
112.0

1936 Pontiac DeLuxe Six Models, Prices, and Production

Model Weight, pounds
Price
Production
business coupe, 2-passenger 3,130
$665 --
coupe, 2/4-passenger 3,165
$720 --
convertible coupe 3,200
$810 --
2-door Touring sedan 3,270 $745 --
2-door sedan 3,265 $720 --
4-door Touring sedan 3,300 $795 --
4-door sedan 3,300
$770 --
Total 1936 DeLuxe Six

44,040

1936 Pontiac DeLuxe Eight Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
All Models
Wheelbase, inches
116.6

1936 Pontiac DeLuxe Eight Models, Prices, and Production

Model Weight, pounds
Price
Production
business coupe, 2-passenger 3,250
$730 --
coupe, 2/4-passenger 3,285 $785 --
convertible coupe 3,335
$855 --
2-door Touring sedan 3,390 $795 --
2-door sedan 3,390
$770 --
4-door Touring sedan 3,420 $840 --
4-door sedan 3,415 $815 --
Total 1936 DeLuxe Eight

38,755
Total 1936 Pontiac

176,270

Sources: Encyclopedia of American Cars, by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, Pub­lications International, Ltd., 2002; 75 Years of Pontiac-Oakland, by John Gunnell, Crestline Publishing Co., 1982.

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