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The Pontiac - A Story of Trial and Error


Hot Wheels
Hulton Archive / Stringer / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Did you know we have Cadillac to thank for the birth of Pontiac? Be still my heart if the sexy 1969 GTO was never part of my past. Actually, we have many people to thank for the birth of Pontiac, but the story begins with two gentlemen – Edward Murphy and Alanson Brush.

Murphy was the founder of Pontiac Buggy Company in Pontiac, Michigan which produced horse-drawn carriages, and was looking to evolve into the automotive age. Brush, who was responsible for the design of early Cadillacs, later became an engineering consultant in Detroit. When the two met in 1906, Brush showed Murphy his design for a small two-cylinder car that Cadillac had rejected. Murphy bought Brush’s automotive idea, and decided it should carry the name “Oakland” as did his horse-drawn vehicles.

During the summer of 1907, Murphy organized the Oakland Motor Car Co. His lack of sales with the Oakland, a two cylinder vertical engine that rotated counterclockwise, convinced him that Cadillac might have been right in rejecting the Brush design. In 1909, a line of 40-hp four-cylinder cars with sliding-gear transmissions was introduced, and more successful. Unfortunately, Edward Murphy didn’t see the increased sales due to his sudden death in 1908.

Shortly before his passing, Murphy had met with another former buggy man named William C. Durant. Soon afterwards, Oakland became part of Durant’s General Motors Empire and its design would evolve under his rule. Oaklands most recognized model was produced in 1924, the “True Blue Oakland Six” which came with a new L-head engine, four-wheel brakes, centralized controls and an automatic spark advance, and painted with a Blue Duco nitro-cellulose lacquer.

In 1926, Alfred R. Glancy, Oakland’s assistant general manager introduced the Pontiac - a quality six cylinder engine car designed to sell for the price of a four. This new “companion car to the Oakland was an instant success and Pontiac had been born!

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