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      Car History: Car History Year 1999
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 14:00:28 UTC by Cars
      Cars Improving the design of a highly successful or well-known model is never an easy task, and quite a few manufacturers over the years have been led astray by the ideas proposed by stylists. For the final year of the 20th century Pontiac seemed to have achieved a couple of hits, but at the same time there were also those cars that didn't quite make it to the major league. The good news was in the mid-year launch of the new-generation Grand Am. This was the model that had been Pontiac's volume leader since 1992, ranking in the top ten list of the most popular cars in the US and selling more than 200,000 units every year. And, for the previous five years, the Grand Am had led the compact sector for most retail registrations.

    Pontiac related the design of the new Grand Am to an athlete, talking about its "lean shape" and "well-toned curves," but the practical aspects of the changes that had taken place revolved around the 107 inch wheelbase being 3.6 inches longer than the model it replaced, with a slight reduction in the overall length. The track width increased by 3.3 inches and the overall width at the center of the car had only grown by 1.5 inches- The effect was a "wheel-at-each-corner" appearance that also helped to provide extra passenger and cargo space. While the Grand Am model lineup consisted of 2-door coupes and 4-door sedans in both SE and GT versions, the most attractive model in the range was the GT Coupe. Backing up the aggressive styling with performance was taken care of by the 3400 V6 engine. In the GT models this produced 175 horsepower at 5,200rpm (thanks to the Ram Air induction system and modified exhaust), enough to propel the Grand Am to 60mph in less than eight seconds, Antilock four-wheel disc brakes, uprated suspension and speed-sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering, as well as 7x16 inch five-spoke aluminum wheels and road-hugging Goodyear Eagle RSA P225/50R-16 tires with directional tread pattern, ensured that the handling also scored high marks. The Grand Am GT wasn't the only model on which Pontiac placed the Ram Air set-up in '99. But, while the functional twin-port openings that were used to funnel cool air into a large volume filter housing looked fine on the front of the compact, and perfectly acceptable as small hood scoops on the Firebird Trans Am, the Firebird Formula's WS6 Ram Air option seemed almost grotesque. The dual extra ports and large humps detracted from the clean frontal styling of the Firebird, but as the Ram Air helped boost the power of the 5.7-liter V8 to 320 horsepower, the tradeoff may have been considered worthwhile. Unfortunately, the Firebird was not enjoying the same sort of sales success as the Grand Am, although the legendary Pontiac muscle car that arrived in 1967 would survive until at least the 2000 model year. The best ever year for the Firebird was 1979, when over 211,000 came off the production line, but by 1990 the figure had dropped to less than a tenth of that total. In 1994 the number was up to almost 46,500, but a steady year-on-year decline followed, with 1997 sales of only 30,459. Fortunately, the '98 had slightly better figures, with 33,578 Firebirds leaving the St. Therese assembly plant near Quebec in Canada. Numbers figured highly at Cadillac, when they were forced to publicly concede that they had massaged sales figures in order to stay ahead of Lincoln. 1999 also saw the end of the line for a couple of venerable Oldsmobiie model names, as the Eighty-Eight and Cutlass were struck out. They followed the Ninety-Eight, Toronado, Ciera and the mother of all station wagons, the Custom Cruiser, into retirement. The Chrysler Corporation caused a sensation in the auto world with the announcement that they were to merge with the venerable German manufacturing giant Daimier-Benz - a name as old as the automobile. So was born, in the closing hours of the millennium, Daimler-Chrysier. It was the end of almost a century of rivalry and dominance between the three great, domestic giants of the American automobile industry: General Motors, Ford and the Chrysler Corp. One of the first new products to be unveiled for the U.S. market looked back to the glory days of Chrysler with the return of the 300 series, abandoned in 1965 at the 300L. Now, finally, nearly 35 years later, the 300M had arrived, powered by an all-aluminum V6 that delivered over 250 horsepower. The Lincoln Mk VIII was dropped at the end of 1998, having lasted from '93, leaving the Continental and the Town Car as the Line. line-up. Things weren't all about deletions at Oldsmobile. The Alero replaced the Achieva. It was a completely new concept series: a compact coupe and sedan, produced at Olds' Lansing, Michigan factory, with an advanced, 2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine that combined 150 bhp output with Low Emission Vehicle status. Specification PONTIAC GRAND AM GT COUPE Engine V6 - cast iron block/aluminum head Displacement 207 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.63x3.31 ins. Horsepower 170 Body styles 2 door coupe; 4 door sedan No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 3,066 Ibs-3,116 Ibs Price $19,470 Produced - Specification PONTIAC FIREBIRD FORMULA Engine V8 - All aluminum Displacement 346 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.90 x 3.62 ins. Horsepower 305 Body styles Coupe No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 3,514 Ibs Price $23,280 Produced - Specification MERCURY COUGAR V6 Engine V6 - All aluminum Displacement 155 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.24x3.13 ins. Horsepower 170 Body styles Coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 2,892 Ibs Price $16,595-$17,095 Produced -
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