Curbside Classic Museum: The Pontiac-Oakland Museum and Resource Center

Museum Entrance

I promised everyone another serving of the cars I found along Route 66, but before I do, I wanted to share with you a discovery from my Route 66 adventure. Not Pontiac Michigan, but Pontiac Illinois, located between Joliet and Bloomington on Old Route 66 (who knew?).

Pontiac Plaque

Just like Pontiac Michigan, Pontiac Illinois is named in honor of Chief Pontiac, a leader of the Ottawa and Chippewa tribes during the mid 1700’s. The city includes a number of good history museums, 22 outdoor murals, and the Pontiac-Oakland Museum and Resource Center.

'59 Bonneville

While a museum specilizing in two discontinued GM nameplates might seemd a bit too small and specialized, both the vehicles and the quality of the displays set this one apart. Just check out this ’59 Bonneville Tri-Power Hardtop. Period correct, and perfect to the smallest detail.

'59 Bonneville back

I took this shot to capture the Bonneville’s quad tailfin design, an expression of GM’s “bigger is better” design philosophy used throughout the late fifties and eary sixties. While the museum is operated by a husband and wife team who own a number of the displays, this car was on loan from a local enthusiast. As I recall, they had owned it from new, which could help explain the incredible condition.

Bonneville Interior

Incredible, but on closer examination, not perfect. Note the aftermarket anti-theft lock knob. Tsk Tsk!

Tri-Power badge

I’ve commented before that auto shows seem over populated with top trim level cars that include extremely rare options. Having said that, I feel museums are the apppropite venue for such displays, so I approve of this Tri-Power badge on the Bonneville’s flanks.

Tri-Power intake

What’s Tri-Power you ask? Simple- Pontiac’s top power package for 1959, consisting of three two barrel carbs. Pontiac’s Tri-Power induction system was first offered in the 1958 370 cubic inch V8. 1959 ushered in the 389 V-8; together they delivered 315 HP.

Gbody Grand Prix

As I understand it, the museum owns about four times as many cars than they can display in the available space, so they rotate stock on a regular basis. If you visit next year, you may not see this G-Body Grand Prix, complete with the factory “snowflake” alloy rims. While it appears to be a rather a rather plain-Jane model, the car has spent time in South Africa. To read the story, click here for more information.

1934 Pontiac

As you can see, the museum covers all eras of the Pontiac-Oakland line including this ’34 coupe.

Parisienne Wagon

This camping diorama includes another special model. While the ’64’s wagon body style is unusual, I’m actually referring to the nameplate.

Parisienne Badge

That’s right, it’s a Canadian Pontiac, the Parisienne. Under that Pontiac sheet metal it’s essentially all-Chevy, sitting on a Chevrolet 119″ X-Frame, Chevrolet engines, transmissions, suspension, brakes, etc. GM sold around 1,600 of these wagons. A Chevy pretending to be a Pontiac.

1948 Pontiac

Next to the Parisienne resides this shop mock up from the mid-sixties. Between the oil cans and ’48 Pontiac, there’s lots of eye candy, but that complicated electronic tester drew my eye. I can hook up and run current diagnostic test equipment, but I’d have to spend an hour or two reading the Operator’s Manual before attempting to diagnose with this tool. Some of you may have noticed the engine stand and assumed it holds a Pontiac V-8. If so, you’d be half right.

Pontiac Tempest 4

A close look revels it’s the Tempest four, Pontiac’s version of a slant in-line four. I knew the engine shared parts with the 389, but this display clearly shows the shared genes.

Grand Prix

Those familiar with Pontiac history know the significance of this G-body based Gran Prix. In a bold move, John DeLorean moved a full sized nameplate onto mid-sized platform, and offered the personal luxury car to the masses. In a couple of years, the colonnade Grad Prix, Monte Carlo, and Cutlass Supreme would follow the lead of this model, sell in big numbers, and pour profits into the GM coffers.

Trans Am

No Pontiac museum would be complete without a Trans Am, and this one did not disappoint. Personally, I love the Gothic style lettering used on this model year.

1929 Oakland

I haven’t included every car I saw on display, but I did want to include the only Oakland on the floor. This is a ’29 model, and represented one of the last of the Marque. Oakland dealers started to offer Pontiacs in 1926, and the new nameplate caught fire. Five years later, the Oakland nameplate disappeared and Pontiac carried on without it’s big brother.


2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Pontiac GTO, and to commemorate the occasion, the museum includes this pair of convertibles. Since we’re running out of 2014, I’d expect a new display here sometime over the winter.

Pontiac reference library

To close, I’d like to draw your attention to the glass enclosed library at the rear of the museum. If you’re a Pontiac enthusiast and looking for information on your car, you can either contact the museum and place a request for available data, or drop by and explore on your own. While the museum charges a fee for this service, it looks like a library worth exploring. As I said up top, despite the narrow focus of this museum, features like this resource library set it apart from the crowd.