1989 Pontiac Stinger Concept Car

Image Gallery: Concept Cars The 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car was more of a collection of accessories than a simple vehicle. See more pictures of concept cars.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car continued a tradition of auto-show excitement at Pontiac. Year after year in the late 1980s, Pontiac's display models were a big hit with critics and show goers alike.

In 1987, for example, the performance-oriented Pontiac Pursuit concept car was a hot four-seat coupe. Then came the 1988 Banshee, which hinted at the 1993-2000 generation of Firebirds.

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What to do for an encore in 1989? Turn to something completely different, of course; something like the rapidly emerging sport-utility vehicle marketplace. And do it in a way that suggests the great outdoors, fun and frolic in the sun. Send a message to young people that Pontiac has their interests and lifestyles in mind.

The result was the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car, and you didn't need a second look to realize that it's a youth-oriented sportster, guaranteed to capture the attention mainly of lively singles. Pontiac's general manager, J. Michael Losh, described it as "spirited, great-looking transportation for the under-35 car buyer or the young person in all of us."

Kinship to the old Volkswagen Beetle-based dune buggy is unmistakable -- but radically updated in concept to take advantage of modern technology.

For example, an active suspension system was designed to withstand tough all-terrain driving, delivering as controlled a ride as possible under rigorous conditions. Anyone who'd nearly flown off the seat of a Bug buggy was likely to welcome any improvement in that area.

Pontiac's goal was to create a car that mixed elements of an automobile, a jeep, a truck, and a van, aimed not only at the young but at the sports-minded who lead busy lives.

The 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car was supposed to lead a dual life: serious during the week, but ready for fun as the weekend arrived. Designer Dave Ross said the design studio called it "an attitude car." They hoped it would be a "new form of transportation that is personalized and adaptable."

The 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car sounded good in theory -- but how well did it fulfill its mission? Go to the next page to find out.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

1989 Pontiac Stinger Concept Car Design

All in all, five panels were removable on the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car, including the rear glass.
All in all, five panels were removable on the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car, including the rear glass.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car design was aimed at off-roaders, pickup and van fans, even motorcyclists. With the right complement of features and accessories, the designers hoped, the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car design just might attract surfers, campers, rock climbers -- outdoors-people of every persuasion.

In fully assembled form, the Pontiac Stinger concept car offered a comparatively traditional design. Nothing shocking, at least not until the glass panels began to come off in an automotive strip-tease every bit as titillating as the human version. By the time all five left the car, you were left with a (literally) open-air sport vehicle: topless, windowless, fully exposed to the elements.

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Even the big panel in the center of each door was ready for a quick pop-out at any moment, to let fresh air flow across everyone's legs. But wait, the thoughtful folks at Pontiac declared, why let that space go to waste as nothing more than an airflow entry? Let's plug the gap with a beverage cooler, so there will always be plenty of refreshing cold drinks on hand when the revelers hit the beach.

The cooler was just the beginning. Indeed, not many vehicles of any kind have come with an accessory list to match the Pontiac Stinger concept car's.

Tucked in nooks and niches throughout the interior you found a pull-out radio (with handy carrying case) for entertainment in the sand, a portable hand vacuum to clean off that sand after it's traveled from swimsuit to seat, a camp stove, and a flashlight. Also incorporated into the Stinger's unique shape were a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, a toolbox, and even a hose.

Accessories for the Pontiac Stinger included a camp stove, a vacuum, and, remarkably, a picnic table.
Accessories for the Pontiac Stinger included a camp stove, a vacuum, and, remarkably, a picnic table.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

No need to search for a picnic table on crowded weekends, either; Stinger brought its own, ready to fold out for under-the-sun dining. A built-in utility seat within the front passenger seat slipped out for use as a camp chair.

Indeed, the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car appeared to some critics as little more than a collection of accessories. But there was more to the car, as you'll see on the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

1989 Pontiac Stinger Concept Car Interior

A cooler and case could slip neatly into the door openings of the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car.
A cooler and case could slip neatly into the door openings of the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car interior seemed to have an endless supply of gadgets. But just when you thought you'd found them all, you looked a little further and unearthed more goodies.

There was an extension cord, binoculars with carrying case, sewing kit, compass with magnifying glass, umbrella, tote bags, brush and dustpan -- even a calculator to total up gas mileage or the day's expenses. Inside a pull-out drawer sat a cellular phone.

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In short, the stylish sport-utility for the future contained all the gadgets an automaker might provide for a young person's weekend of fun. The goodies were thoughtfully arranged, too: Nothing dangled dangerously. Everything was strapped securely into place.

Head designer Terry Henline called Stinger "a piece of sports equipment" in itself. Popular Science magazine described it as something akin to a "Swiss army knife on wheels."

Rising above the seats of the Stinger was a roof light-bar and spoiler.
Rising above the seats of the Stinger was a roof light-bar and spoiler.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Light weight was another design theme, so Stinger turned to a carbon-fiber body. Headlamps and fog lights were integrated into the surface of the front end. The smoothly flowing windshield continued upward to a removable roof panel, and back to the space-frame roll bar, which also contained roof lights and an adjustable spoiler.

Non-scratch paint was the perfect choice for "blasting through the bushes." Sizable rocker panels offered more than a hint of the running boards of yesteryear.

Marietta Kearney, senior designer of Stinger's interior, said she envisioned "hot California young people starting their weekend after a week of work; an atmosphere of freedom and vitality." That thought led to a solid look in the interior, rather than plush comfort; and to a touch of motorcycle in the Stinger's "feel" and controls.

Upholstery and trim followed the same gray/green color scheme as the outer body. Gray seats with bright green accents were made from wet-suit material that looks hosed-down even when it's nowhere near water.

Radio controls were oversized and the steering wheel was bigger than expected. Six-way power seats had a memory, plus an inflatable bladder system for form-fitting comfort up front.

Rear passengers were guaranteed a tight fit in colorful seats.
Rear passengers were guaranteed a tight fit in colorful seats.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Looking cool and performing well are two different things, as any car lover can tell you. Keep reading to see how the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car lived up to its cool design.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

1989 Pontiac Stinger Concept Car Performance

A movable back windshield offered rear-seat riders in the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car the absolute minimum of protection.
A movable back windshield offered rear-seat riders in the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car the absolute minimum of protection.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The designers didn't put 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car performance on the back burner, though it did seem they concentrated more on other matters.

For example, maybe your back-seat passengers craved a better view of the surrounding scenery for a moment. All you had to do was raise the two back seats to the handiest height. They extended 15 inches above the normal position when Stinger was at a standstill -- and when the transparent rear roof panel was off the car, of course. At nightfall, or for daytime naps, the bucket seats could be folded flat, creating a bed of sorts.

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Part of the rear glass could even flip upward to serve as a rear-mount windshield, almost like an old-fashioned rumble seat. (Curious how some of those touches from our automotive past keep cropping up.)

The Pontiac Stinger boasted a modest 170-horsepower engine.
The Pontiac Stinger boasted a modest 170-horsepower engine.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

When they did get around to addressing 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car performance, designers settled on a 3.0-liter, 16-valve four under the front hood; it had 170 horsepower. Four-wheel drive was standard, of course, along with a three-speed automatic transmission and anti-lock braking.

The active pneumatic suspension offered adjustable road height. Upon request, the whole car rose by four inches -- a virtual necessity when one was rolling along shifting terrain.

The Pontiac Stinger concept car's Goodyear tires measured 295/55R16 in front, with equivalent-dimension 18-inchers at the rear. An attitude gyro on the instrument panel showed the degree of vehicle tilt, so you could restrain yourself from going past its logical limit. An electric compass proved handier yet when you wandered a little too far off the road.

A pneumatic system raised the Stinger up to four inches for off-roading -- part of the active suspension.
A pneumatic system raised the Stinger up to four inches for off-roading -- part of the active suspension.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Pontiac's planners believed there was a definite market for a free-spirited, all-season Stinger-like vehicle, and that it could be profitable. They pointed to the success at the time of such vehicles as Suzuki's Samurai and Sidekick, Dodge's Raider, and similar products.

As was the fate of all concept cars, of course, whether production of anything like the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car would become a reality depended upon the whims of General Motors.

For 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car specifications, go to the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

1989 Pontiac Stinger Concept Car Specifications

Pontiac executives hoped the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car would appeal to the highly coveted 18 to 25 year-old demographic.
Pontiac executives hoped the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car would appeal to the highly coveted 18 to 25 year-old demographic.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Like many other models of the late 1980s, the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car was designed for a youthful demographic. As the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept car specifications listed below reveal, executives believed that a light and sporty utility-vehicle would capture the imagination of contemporary youth.

Manufacturer: Pontiac Division, General Motors Corp., Pontiac, MI

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Body design: 2+2-passenger, 2-door roadster; carbon-fiber body on steel frame

Powertrain layout: front-engine, 4-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 98.0 inches

Overall length: 164.8 inches

Overall width: 73.7 inches

Overall height: 58.8 inches

Track, front: 61.6 inches

Track, rear: 61.6 inches

Weight: approx. 3,000 pounds

Approximate price: not available

Engine type: inline 4-cylinder (16-valve)

Displacement (liters/cubic inches): 3.0/183

Horsepower @ rpm: 170 @ 6500

Torque (lbs./ft.) @ rpm: 200 @ 6000

Fuel delivery: fuel injection

Transmission: 3-speed automatic

Suspension, front: independent, pneumatic active

Suspension, rear: independent, pneumatic active

Brakes: front/rear discs, anti-lock

1989 Pontiac Stinger Concept Car Performance

Top speed: not available

0-60 mph: not available

Quarter-mile: not available

mph @ quarter-mile: not available

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: