Next up in our ongoing series about American cars Down Under is Pontiac. In researching this I’ve also found a real treat, but we will refrain from discussing it at this point.
In the Chevrolet edition of this series, there was some discussion in the comments about how Chevrolets were imported from Canada due to tax advantages. That makes complete sense given both were within the British Commonwealth. However, I have encountered some information that may add another layer of complexity to this.
It seems after World War II the amount of American dollars available was in short supply in Australia and their use was legislatively limited. Fuel was imported using American dollars and importation of American cars required a permit due to the type of funds being used.
Since many American car companies had a presence in Canada, cars in knock-down form could be obtained from there as the factories in Canada were already producing export models for other markets. The incomplete cars sent to Australia were then assembled by GM Holden.
Nearly all American car brands, including Nash, Hudson, and Studebaker, could be found new and for sale in Australia shortly after the war. The introduction of a domestically built Holden branded automobile in 1948 helped curb that considerably, particularly the upper-tier GM brands of Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac.
While corroborating this information (found at ozgm.com) has been a challenge, the basic premise makes sense.
For Pontiac, a V8 engine first appeared for 1955 but was gone again for 1958.
The V8 engine had returned by 1961 with use of the Chevrolet 283.
It was marketed as the Laurentian, a model name used in Canada.
A drive review of the Australian Laurentian did not generate a lot of enthusiasm for this Pontiac, saying it was an expensive status symbol given the very few extras the Pontiac possessed over the much less expensive Chevrolet.
Here’s a great illustration of the dashboard and instrument panel. Note the gear selector for the Powerglide is on the left.
By 1967 the 283 had grown into a 327 Chevrolet V8. The Powerglide remained. Also changed was this Pontiac was now marketed as a Parisienne instead of a Laurentian.
Incidentally, the rear axle was a delightfully geared 3.55:1.
Imports of these large Pontiacs was winding down by the late 1960s, a 1968 shown here. Production numbers for these in Australia had always been minuscule, often in the low hundreds – or less. With so many good domestically produced alternatives, these big Pontiacs simply didn’t make a lot of sense for most people.
But it was a good run.
Now, for the surprise mentioned earlier. Cruising around youtube, I found this video. Claimed to have been a salvage yard near Melbourne, it features nothing by right-hand drive Pontiacs and Chevrolets. It almost seems the entire production of these cars all congregated on this one property. The video is a series of pictures taken in late 1985.