Pontiac emerged as a survivor from the ashes of the Oakland Motor Company in 1932, poised to take on the role of value-leader within General Motors. Initially conceived as a junior companion brand to the more expensive Oakland, Pontiacs first hit the roads in 1926. Pontiac quickly showed itself to be more viable, and by 1932 Oakland was killed off to make room for Pontiac to become a standalone division. Pontiac slotted neatly above the mass-market Chevrolet and below the more expensive Oldsmobile and Buick. To that point, Pontiacs relied upon six-cylinder engines for its entire range. For their first year as a standalone manufacturer, a V8 left over from Oakland was offered alongside the six-cylinder. It was short-lived, however, as the costly V8 did not meld with Pontiac’s value-oriented ethos. In 1933, a freshly-designed 223 cubic-inch inline-eight cylinder became the standard power plant for all Pontiacs. The new Economy Eight was a straightforward and proven L-head design, delivering smooth, quiet power at a cost that ensured Pontiac remained competitive. To suit the new engine, the body was completely redesigned with the latest streamlined design trends. Any doubts of Pontiac’s viability as a standalone brand were put to rest, as sales nearly tripled over the preceding year.
1934 welcomed another redesign of the Pontiac Eight. New, larger Fisher bodies featured handsome Art-Deco influenced styling, with bullet headlights, a waterfall-type grille, and flowing, fully skirted fenders. Horizontal hood vents and subtly swept feature lines on the fenders gave the impression of motion when standing still. The handsome design mated with a revised version of the eight-cylinder engine, now making 84 horsepower thanks to a bump in compression. New 1934 models were the first Pontiacs to receive GM’s so-called Knee Action independent front suspension. Pontiac lived into its role as the value leader, offering modern styling, eight-cylinder power, and excellent performance at a starting price of $675. Despite the myriad improvements, sales were down over 1933, with just over 78,000 cars built, no doubt caused by the long-running economic depression. Rarely seen today, these marvelous Art-Deco Pontiacs represent an outstanding value for collectors and hobbyists alike.
Pontiac offered seven body types in 1934, with Fisher’s 2/4 passenger Cabriolet filling the unofficial role of style-leader. Featured here is a charming example of this rare Pontiac, presented with a pleasing patina on the older, careworn restoration. This is a well-equipped deluxe model, featuring dual side-mount spares, radio, dual wipers, and numerous other options. Even the goddess mascot was unique to the Deluxe. The tan body features dark brown beltlines, highlighted with orange pinstripes and wire wheels. The paint is in fair condition, with a consistent patina to the finish and generally straight panels. Some areas display rub-through and cracking in the lacquer, however, the overall presentation is good. Fitment of the body and panels is fair, and the doors open and shut with ease. The brightwork is quite well-preserved, with good-quality plating found on the bumpers, grille, and “Pontiac 8” hubcaps.
The two-place cockpit is nicely appointed with Beige upholstery on the front seat, door panels, and rumble seat. The seats are in generally good condition, with the hard-wearing material appearing soft and clean. Pontiac touted a new “aircraft-style” instrument panel for 1934, which moved the instruments directly ahead of the driver and out of the center of the dash. As a Deluxe model, this car is nicely equipped, featuring both a heater and a very rare original “Air Chief” radio. The dash and door caps are finished in simulated wood-grain that, while peeling in places, does not detract from the overall quality of the cabin. This is a car that could be driven and enjoyed, wearing its patina as a badge of honor.
Under the hood sits Pontiac’s venerable inline eight – an engine that served the company well into the 1950s. It is presented in its signature bright green, pleasingly well-detailed and consistent with the overall presentation. Like the block, the paint finishes on the manifolds and accessories is in excellent condition. Rebuilt in the care of the most recent owner, the eight runs well, with the smoothness and quiet operation expected of a typical American L-Head inline eight. Power goes to a Muncie 3-speed gearbox with synchromesh for smooth, effortless operation, while the four-wheel mechanical brakes operate well. It should be noted that this car has seen a period of disuse; therefore some additional attention may be required before any serious drives.
Pontiac packed abundant value, style, and performance into the Series 603; an ethos that would define the brand for decades to come. With its careworn restoration, this rare Deluxe Cabriolet is an appealing example for the enthusiast to use and enjoy as is, or to take to the next level.