I had mixed feelings when I came upon this 1975 LeMans at the Mecum Spring Classic. I’m always pleased to find any older car in good original condition there – and it doesn’t get much more original than this LeMans, which has less than 3,000 miles on the clock. But it was a Colonnade.
Even though I was just five years old when GM introduced the Colonnades in the fall of 1972, I knew they were ungainly, bloated turkeys. It was the first time I felt disappointment with General Motors, because I knew they could do better. The previous ten years of GM intermediates, which were still common sights on the road, all proved it.
Let’s follow the Pontiac intermediate line back, shall we? The previous generation LeMans, Endura-nosed and aggressively bumpered, had a muscular look. (Read this car’s story here.)
This generation debuted in 1968 with its signature divided loop bumper and smoother sides. (Read this car’s story here.)
I’m sure we all have our favorite GM intermediate, and this is mine. Its upright greenhouse mates well to its Coke-bottle flanks for a confident look overall. (Read this car’s story here.)
In 1965, the LeMans looked like a Grand Prix in 7/8 scale: sharp, clean lines with a touch of elegance. (Read this car’s story here.)
Even in 1963, when the LeMans was just a top-trimmed Tempest (and was considered a compact), it wore a tight, cohesive look. (Read this car’s story here.)
And that’s why the Colonnades seemed like such a letdown. Compared to the cars that had preceded them, it was hard to find a pleasing line and all too easy to find design elements that just didn’t harmonize with the rest of the car – like this fender, which seems oddly disconnected from the rest of the body.
There wasn’t much about this car that was clearly, absolutely Pontiac, except for the badging. If GM had placed Chevrolet badges on this, and Pontiac badges on what we know as the Chevelle, would anybody have wondered why the Chevy looked like a Pontiac and vice versa? Well, we might have, because we’re car nerds. But the average buyer probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared, because these cars just weren’t very different one from another. It’s not like this was the first time GM used the same basic body across several of its divisions, but at perhaps no time before had a set of related cars lacked brand identity as much as the Colonnades.
You would not believe the uneven seams and wide body-panel gaps on this thing. I remember seeing this sort of sloppy fit and finish when I was a kid and assuming it was the way things had to be – until I saw my first Toyota.
GM didn’t whiff this ball entirely. The Colonnade dashboards are generally clean, pleasing designs. But I do wish GM hadn’t skimped out and had instead placed a white dashboard and steering wheel in this white-upholstered car.
Also, this greenhouse felt larger and airier than the previous generation’s. Sitting in the back seat of a 1968-1972 GM midsizer felt like being in a cave. The Colonnade two-door back-seat experience was just enough better, despite tight legroom, that I can almost forgive the fixed rear windows.
And it’s hard to go wrong with wheels like these.
I lingered over this LeMans for quite some time with eyes that have gained 40 years of experience since these cars were new. I’m reluctant to say that the style has grown on me. But I certainly accept these cars now for their place in automotive history, and feel kinder toward them than I did when I was five.