Car Show Capsule: 1985 Pontiac Parisienne Brougham – About As French As French Toast


(first posted 8/11/2015)    While much can be said about the 1977-1990 GM B-bodies, of each division’s stories, it’s Pontiac’s that is arguably most interesting. Like its Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Buick platform siblings, Pontiac’s remaining B-bodies (Catalina and Bonneville) were significantly downsized for 1977, and thankfully to more acclaim than criticism. But with another oil crisis in 1979 and the following recession, big car sales once again took a blow, with Pontiac hit harder than other GM brands.


It was thus decided that Pontiac be stripped of it full-size cars after 1981 for the U.S. market, with the Catalina name disappearing forever and the Bonneville nameplate swiftly transitioning to Pontiac’s mid-sized G-body sedans. Pontiac dealers naturally were not happy with this decision from higher up, as despite lower sales than its siblings, there were still loyal Pontiac customers who wanted a full-size car. With the recession subsiding, fuel costs falling, and full-size car sales picking up again, these dealers’ and customers’ wish was answered by the General in Detroit with the Pontiac Parisienne.


Unquestionably as a measure of cost-saving, Pontiac’s born-again B-body in the U.S.was a clone of the Canadian-market Parisienne (which itself, shared more in common with the Chevy Impala and Caprice than the Catalina and Bonneville did), a car that had been in continuous production the whole time. Assembled in Oshawa, Ontario, all U.S.-spec Parisiennes were merely brought south of the border for sale in the U.S., as assembly plants in the U.S. that had previously manufactured Pontiac B-bodies had already been re-tooled for other vehicles. Had GM even spared the expense in rebadging the Parisienne for the United States, perhaps “Ontarian” or “Oshawan” may have been more appropriate.


Despite Pontiac’s theoretical position as the third-most prestigious B-bodies, that didn’t stop Pontiac stylists from applying prolific amounts of Brougham-tastic styling touches, largely in the form of excess chrome and chrome-look trim, to top-rung Parisienne Broughams (and previously the Bonneville Broughams) for an excessively gaudy and overwrought appearance. I personally think it’s rather tacky, although I can’t deny that it makes for quite an eye-catching look.


Predictably, sales of the U.S. Parisiennes were nowhere near the levels of pre-discontinuation Catalinas and Bonnevilles, but regardless these very baroque Pontiacs found a loyal following when they were new, which continues today among collectors. It’s obvious the owner of this Bostonian Ontarian Parisienne keeps it in meticulous condition, even if he did park it halfway into a tree.


Related Reading:

Curbside Classic: 1979 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham Coupe

CC Capsule: 1985 Pontiac Parisienne