How Pontiac Works

By: the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide

1940, 1941, 1942 Pontiacs

Pontiac's redesign for 1941 included higher, wider fenders,as shown here on the 1941 Pontiac Six Torpedo.

Series expanded to four for 1940: Special and DeLuxe Sixes and DeLuxe and Torpedo Eights. All listed four-passenger coupes and four-door sedans; Special and the DeLuxes added a business coupe and two-door sedan. There were also DeLuxe "cabriolet" convertibles and a Special wagon. All wore a heavy facelift announced by a more coherent face with a painted prow, still Silver Streaked, dividing a lower-profile horizontal-bar grille. Also in evidence were wider front fenders with fully integrated sealed-beam headlamps.

Wheelbase extended to 117 inches for Special; DeLuxes returned at 120. Sleekest of all were a new Torpedo coupe and sedan on a 122-inch span. Sixes gained two horsepower via light engine modifications. Volume moved up substantially, reaching 217,000 for the model year.


A corporatewide restyle for 1941 gave Pontiacs higher, wider, crisper fenders embellished with additional Silver Streaks, plus a near full-width horizontal-bar grille with prominent center bulge. Running boards were newly concealed via flared door bottoms (except on wagons). Pontiac's six took the form it would retain through 1954, being bored out to 239.2 cid for 90 bhp. The veteran straight-eight was tweaked to 103 bhp in 1940, where it would remain through '47.

Series now numbered six, all called Torpedo: six- and eight-cylinder DeLuxe, Streamliner, and Custom. DeLuxes, which garnered 155,000 sales, shared a new 119-inch-wheelbase A-body platform with Chevrolet and thus offered the most body styles. Among them was the attractive midseason Metropolitan sedan patterned after the previous four-door Torpedo, with "formal" closed rear-roof quarters.

Streamliners and Customs used the same 122-inch B-body as junior Buicks and Oldsmobiles, and included new fastback four-door sedans and two-door "sedan coupes." Convertibles, again DeLuxes, lacked rear side windows, a treatment that recalled certain Packards but made for awful top-up visibility.

Ever the next step up from Chevy on the GM price/prestige ladder, Pontiac was less luxurious than a Buick or Olds but carefully built to very competitive prices. Its cheapest model cost just $783 in 1940 and only $828 in '41; the costliest was the $1250 Custom Torpedo Eight station wagon of 1941.

After record volume of more than 330,000, Pontiac built about 83,500 of its heavily facelifted '42s, all but 15,400 in the closing months of 1941. Styling again followed GM trends: a gaudy grille, longer front fenders swept back into the front doors, and rounded "drop-off" rear fenders. Series were reduced to four: 122-inch Streamliner and 119-inch Torpedo, each offered as a Six and Eight. The '41 Streamliners had been divided into standard and Super submodels.

The '42s came in standard and Chieftain guise, each offering fastback "sedan coupe," fastback four-door sedan, and "woody" wagon. Chieftains cost $50 more than standards, which ran slightly above corresponding Torpedos. Eights delivered for only $25 more than Sixes, yet production split about 50/50.

For more on the amazing Pontiac, old and new, see:

For more on the amazing Pontiac, old and new, see:

  • Pontiac New Car Reviews and Prices
  • Pontiac Used Car Reviews and Prices