Car History Year 1926
Date: Sunday, September 26 @ 22:16:32 UTC
Before there was the Pontiac, there was the Oakland, and before that there was the Pontiac Buggy Company based in the town of Pontiac in Oakland Country, Michigan. The first Oakland came out in 1908, and by the following year the company had been swallowed up by General Motors as part of Billy Durant's expansionist schemes.
Oakland continued to prosper under GM until 1920, when a combination of the recession and the poor quality of the cars being made severely affected sales. When Alfred P. Sloan took control of General Motors and started sorting out the mess left behind by Durant, Oakland was an obvious target for improvement. However, Sloan was also concerned that there were a couple of gaps in the rationalized GM range, in particular between Chevrolet and Oldsmobile at the lower end of the price range.
Sloan proposed a new model to bridge the gap, but rather than create something new, he wanted to use a Chevrolet chassis with a six cylinder engine as the basis for corporate inter-changeability. The work alternated between the Oakland and Oldsmobile plants, until Alfred R. Glancy took over as general manager of Oakland in 1925. Glancy brought ex-Cadillac man, Ben Anibal, as chief engineer, together with Roy Milner as body engineer, and Fenn Holden as chassis engineer, plus Hermann Schwarze, who had previously helped Charles Kettering invent the self-starter.
Things proceeded rapidly and the team developed a new six cylinder engine, having decided that the proposed 110 inch wheelbase chassis was basically sound. They proposed a short stroke, 186.5 cu.in. L-head with a three main bearing crankshaft and force-feed lubrication system that produced 40bhp at 2400rpm. The only other problem was the body, and though Fisher Body did the tooling at a cut price to have a different design to the Chevy, it turned out looking very much the same.
When announced, the Pontiac came in two closed body styles only - a coupe and a 2-door sedan - which were, according to an Oakland spokesman, "Designed specifically to dominate the field of low-priced sixes." Only the Essex was cheaper in its class, and at $825, 76,742 Pontiacs had been built by the end of 1926.
For the time and price, it had many standard fitments such as exterior sun visor, variable speed windshield wiper, and a roll-down shade for the rear window. The Fisher VV windshield ("vision and ventilation"), allowed the driver to let fresh air in at two levels.
Later in '26, there were two DeLuxe models which offered one item of particular interest: a foot-controlled head light dimmer switch, an industry first which later became standard.
Only the engine was made by Oakland, the rest was Chevrolet - although much was of a tougher specification. The chassis, for example, used heavier gauge steel than the Chevy. The Pontiac could be said to be a beefed-up Chevy with a six cylinder engine using many GM corporate parts - which was just about what Sloan intended. It began inter-changeable manufacture that is still used today.
Although Oakland models continued, the new marque quickly overshadowed its parent and the Oakland name was dropped in 1932. Elsewhere in the industry, Henry Ford was making headlines by paying his workers $6 a day, and US government figures showed that one in six Americans owned a car. In future, quite a few more would buy a Pontiac.
FORD MODEL T
Cast iron - 4 cylinders in line
176.7 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
3 3/4 x 40 ins.
Coupe; Roadster; Tourer; 2-and 4-door Sedan
No. of seats
1,655 lbs - 1,972 lbs
$290 - $580
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