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      Car History: Car History Year 1990
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 13:39:27 UTC by Cars
      Cars This year heralded the arrival of a new Chevrolet, Pontiac and Oldsmobile. In automotive terms at least, the announcements that Chevy were going to sell the Lumina APV, Pontiac would offer a similar vehicle called the Trans Sport and Olds had their equivalent called the Silhouette could quite justifiably be regarded as some sort of a milestone. The launch of a couple of All Purpose Vehicles by General Motors was merely a reaction to market forces, with the continued success of the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan models something Chevy, Pontiac and Oldsmobile dealers needed to combat.

    But the idea of marques like Oldsmobile and Pontiac producing a multipurpose vehicle wasn't met with universal approval. A Chevrolet dealer at one GM convention was totally against the whole idea stating, in effect, that "Chevrolet dealers are the only ones who know how to sell family cars, Pontiac dealers are more used to handling sporting or performance models." Maybe he was facing tough competition from a Pontiac dealership across the street. The breaking down of such traditional marketing attitudes was an ongoing process that gathered speed in the 1990s and now it is seen as quite acceptable for any car manufacturer to produce any style of vehicle, from a two-seater sports car to a rugged 4x4. While Trans Sport represented Pontiac's move into a new sector (as did the Oldsmobile Silhouette), it was only one model. Chevy's Lumina range consisted of a 4-door sedan and 2-door coupe models as well as the APV. The Lumina name had actually been introduced by Chevrolet in the spring of '89 (as 1990 models) to replace the Monte Carlo and Celebrity sedans, and it's interesting to note that the higher specification versions were known as the Lumina Euro - perhaps suggesting a desire to impart something of an imported car status to the name. By way of contrast, the launch of the 1990 Lumina 4-door sedan was about as American as mom's apple pie - it was tied in with opening of the new Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Florida. In addition to having the Lumina designated as the official car of the tourist attraction, Chevy also used Disney animation and cartoon characters in television commercials and the theme park served as the setting for Lumina magazine advertisements. This was said to be the first time that the famous Disney figures had been incorporated into an automotive advertising campaign, and Chevrolet's general marketing manager was delighted with the result. "When you think Disney, you think family," he said. "And we're aiming to sell the Lumina sedan to meet the needs of growing families -making the partnership between Disney and Chevrolet a sure hit." Chevy weren't about to let the Lumina's fortunes rest solely on the appeal of cute cartoons though, and immediately introduced the model as the official factory stock car racer in the NASCAR Winston Cup series, replacing the Monte Carlo SS. Leading drivers who switched to the more compact, sleeker bodystyle of the Lumina coupe included Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Ken Schrader and Geoff Bodine. Although NASCAR regulations allowed a model to be used in competition as soon as the production car appeared in dealer showrooms, there were a couple of anomalies about the 1990 Lumina making its debut in the Winston 500 at Talladega on May 7, 1989. To begin with, the 2-door coupe version wasn't actually due to go on sale until much later that year. The other thing was that the Luminas were all front-wheel-drive models, whereas the race cars remained rear-wheei-drive. The fact that the NASCAR entrants used V8 engines and the biggest unit you could get in the production car was a 3.1-liter V6 was another slight difference that didn't seem to bother anyone too much. The Lumina APV went into production at the Tarrytown, New York, plant during the summer (the sedan and coupe were built at Oshawa, Ontario, in Canada) for release in the fall. It comes as little surprise to learn that both the Trans Sport and Silhouette were also assembled at Tarrytown. So how did three different GM divisions market what was essentially the same vehicle? Chevrolet played heavily on their heritage of providing family transportation for 80 years and described the Lumina APV as "a trend-setting, multipurpose minivan." Pontiac couldn't quite decide whether the Trans Sport was a multipurpose vehicle or a minivan and tried to associate the newcomer with a concept car of the same name that was shown at the 1986 Detroit Auto Show. Meantime, Oldsmobile had the Silhouette down as a multipurpose passenger van. "Lumina APV combines versatility with distinctive styling and smooth ride and handling," read the Chevrolet press release. "Trans Sport owners can arrive fashionably at the most exclusive social gatherings or restaurants in a manner no minivan can match" proclaimed Pontiac's PR department. "The Silhouette looks like no other vehicle on the American road. It's also built like no car or truck gone before using state-of-the-art materials and manufacturing processes," said the Oldsmobile news release. It clearly wasn't an easy task finding alternative ways of presenting similar products in what one Pontiac release obliquely referred to as "...the mundane world of motorized boxes." And, in an ever-changing world, Pontiac were obviously wary of the response from their customers, posing the question "Why is a company best known for its exciting, driver-orientated cars going into the van market?" The answer, of course, was simple - to tap into a rapidly growing market sector, boost sales and make more profits. A corporate motive that remains a constant, whatever else might change. Specification OLDSMOBILE SILHOUETTE Engine Aluminum - V6 Displacement 207 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.50 x 3.27ins. Horsepower 185 Body styles All purpose vehicle No. of seats 6-7 Weight (lbs) 3,948 Ibs Price c. $27,650 Produced -       Specification CHRYSLER TC Engine 4 Cylinders in line -aluminum head Displacement 135 cu. ins (turbocharged) Bore and stroke 3.44 x 3.62 ins. Horsepower 160 Body styles Convertible coupe No. of seats 2 Weight (lbs) 2,800 Ibs Price $30,000 Produced 7,300     Specification FORD THUNDERBIRD Engine V6 - All Aluminum Displacement 232 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.80x3.40ins. Horsepower 140-210 Body styles Coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 3,581 Ibs Price $14,980 - $20,390 Produced 113,957     Specification CHEVROLET LUMINA EURO SEDAN Engine V6 Cast iron block Displacement 191 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.50x3.31ins. Horsepower 135 Body styles 4 door sedan No. of seats 6 Weight (lbs) 3,033 Ibs Price $12,340 Produced 156,135  
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