The Carchive: Pontiac '72; A Masterclass in the copywriters' art

I’ve long been looking forward to writing about this one. The 1972 Pontiac full line catalogue is one of my absolute favourites and appears on my nightstand on a regular basis. Many’s the time that the neighbours have been a knockin’ on the door complaining about the shrieks of hysterical laughter emanating from the inner reaches of Rusty Towers, all a result of reading this publication.
This brochure goes beyond the usual hyperbole and heads off into self deprecating territory. It’s kind of anarchic, anti-establishment and non-corporate. It’s a breath of fresh air. I love it.

In discussing this particular document, I’m not going to talk much about the cars for the primary reason that I don’t really know much about them. Instead, I’m going to pick up on some of the more comment-worthy pieces of prose that the ’72 Pontiac full-line brochure is rich with.
Pontiac Grand Prix:
“Grand Prix does more than its share of pampering. In fact, Grand Prix’s interior surroundings this year border on the princely”
Presenting the line-topping coupe from the Pontiac portfolio, GM clearly needed to feel pride in this premium offering. And if their chief wordsmith was displaying integrity, it seems they were damn proud of the products they were peddling. Particular positive preachery was poured over the padded pews on which passengers would perch. They were trimmed with:
“A vertically ribbed cord trimmed in vinyl so leatherlike it smacks of saddle soap”
I have literally no idea what that means, but my mouth is watering. GMs brochure-writing artisans had got off to a flying start; so much so that their next metaphor would be somewhat mundane in comparison.
“The wraparound instrument panel looks like it was taken from a light plane”
Of course it does. Woe betide any Jet-age automaker whose dashboards looked like they belong in a car. The flight deck look was big, and would remain big for the next thirty years. Indeed, I would be a much happier man if my car had a glass cockpit and a full Raytheon avionics suite. I’m envious of ’72 Grand Prix man, especially since:
“Every control and gauge is at your fingertips. And the instrument cluster is outlined with the look of rare Ceylonese teak.”
See, you won’t find Ceylonese teak anywhere in a Cessna Citation, even the mere look of it. Also of note is Pontiac’s choice of the European spelling of gauge, perhaps to add a little international colo(u)r.
The Grand Ville:
As a fairly short-lived nameplate (as a model in its own right) Pontiac had its work cut out to carve a worthwhile niche for their top-line land barge. To demonstrate the Grand Ville’s superiority over the Bonneville and Catalina, they played the obvious trick that any self respecting auto-maker would do as a reflex action; reference Seventeenth-century French furniture:
“Now, a Louis XIV chair can be a joy to look at. But as nice to sit on as a stump. Grand Ville’s seats are of a different stripe”
It would be nice to think that a Grand Ville bench would contain rather less wood and horsehair than a three-hundred year old antique, but never mind. That said, the car was roughly the same size as a modest chateau, so perhaps The General was on to something in the analogy. Furthermore, for those discontent with the gothic splendour on offer in the standard model:
“You can make Grand Ville even more magnificent by ordering the Custom interior”
The Bonneville:
“Of all the full-size Pontiacs we must give credit to Bonneville for first pointing the finger at Pontiac’s outstanding performance. And, year after year, Bonneville keeps proving that a big car is good for more than long stretches of very straight roads. This car handles”
Now, I’m relatively ignorant to the specific merits of Sixties American road-liners, and I really, really want to believe the above. I’m willing to guess that the Bonneville came under the “not that bad, actually” banner of handling assessment. I await education. Even better, if somebody in the region of the Essex / Suffolk border can give me a live demonstration, there’s a beer of your choice up to £3 in it for you.
“Bonneville was aerodynamically styled to really hug the road”
Again, I want to believe this. Was it?
Luxury LeMans:
“Wood-like inlays on a cushioned steering wheel”
Yes, I would like inlays on a cushioned steering wheel.
These are the things we miss. Bring back inlayed steering wheels. Bring back chrome steering wheel horn pushes, and to hell with it if said chrome ring impales my face in a road accident, it might be a good look. I could start a new trend, the chrome-horn-push-through-face look. You’d probably see worse standing in a queue for a My Chemical Romance gig anyway.
And let’s give the heave-ho to rich, supple, genuine leather, too. In an automobile, peeling bits off a cow and bolting it into a car is a pretty low-tech approach, isn’t it? Much better, surely to have a synthetic, man-made, space-age material in your shiny, advanced new machine? Pontiac illustrated this without a trace of irony:
“If you think you smell leather, you’d be wrong. But you won’t be the first who’s made the mistake. What looks like leather is really Morrokide.”
Yes! And doubtless what looks like rare Ceylonese teak is probably something from ICI, 3M or PPG.
“if you test-drive a Luxury LeMans and start to think your hearing’s gone bad, it’s probably just the extra sound insulation doing its job.”
I read that and thought my eyes had gone bad. Did they really write this in their “buy me now!” advertising pamphlets? They sure did. I love it.
LeMans, GTO and Firebird;
To be honest, the entries in this brochure for the LeMans, GTO and Firebird are, while plenty descriptive and a fair bit evocative, nowhere near as hilarious as for some of the other ’72 models. So I shall gloss over them. But please enjoy a picture of a ’72 Goat to make up for it.
Ventura II:
Ventura II was basically a Chevy Nova with different tassels. They pitched it a value-leader if nothing else, but even explaining this they managed to grab at your emotions.
“Most people buy economy cars just for economy. That’s sad.”
It’s true. Most people buy economy cars to be economical. What they were getting at was that you used to be able to buy an economy car to have fun in. Indeed, some of my most entertaining tarmac-bound exploits have been had at the wheel of something execrable, something virtually valueless. Economy cars, or at least cheap cars, can be an absolute riot.
Pontiac seemed slightly ambiguous though on how to promote their Ventura. How to make it appeal. Of course, they could talk about how tough it was, how parsimonious it was with fuel,(relatively speaking, of course, with a 250ci six or two V8s), how little maintenance it required, things like that. And they did; but then that’s what every other economy car said in its brochure too. So Pontiac started clutching at straws. They decided it was:
“Kind of sporty”
Indeed, the optional Sprint package did bedeck the car with stripes and 6″ wheels, and Morrokide, of course, and there were V8s available, of course. But it would be a while still before the GTO name would find itself on the grille, and even that didn’t really convince anybody who had spent quality time in the company of a Goat.
Station Wagons:
“When you slide that bushel of Jonathans into the carpeted load floor”
That had me baffled, thinking it was some kind of obscure innuendo: Who is Jonathan and what, exactly, was his bushel? Then I realised that a Jonathan Apple is an entirely innocent item. And what could be more innocent than a great big family truckster? The full-size Pontiac station wagons were longer than a Maybach 57 and equally imposing; if less advanced.
More likeable, though, and available with features that not even Die Uber-Benz could provide:
“…order yours with the new simulated wood panelling. It’s translucent, so it picks up a hint of the body colour. With a green car, it looks like it’s been antiqued. With  red finishes, like polished cherry”.
Or, the slightly smaller LeMans longroof, for those people who:
“…own a miniature schnauzer instead of a St Bernard. Two kids, not a platoon”.
Indeed. Pontiac pretty well had a car for everybody, and I expect if you were particularly enterprising and gave the right number of dollars to the right person, you might have been able to specify a LeMans in GTO spec. This was never officially offered, I believe, but strange and wonderful things happen on Detroit production lines. And for those who just wanted to transport stuff and were really, really preoccupied with bang-for-buck, well, GM gave the following reassurance:
 “…even our smallest station wagon is full-sized when it comes to value”
There is absolutely zero chance of me ever owning any of the fine chariots of these pages, but by golly am I ever glad I have the brochure.
(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by the author somewhere within the grounds of Rusty Towers. All copyright remains property of GM, who are frankly grateful for the publicity)

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28 responses to “The Carchive: Pontiac '72; A Masterclass in the copywriters' art”

  1. Devin Avatar

    Alright, who else tried to shoo the fly off their screen? Be honest…

  2. Alff Avatar

    The 1972 Grand Prix is for the man of taste, the kind of man who knows that the belt must match the shoes and the preferred color is white.
    I joke, but my grandmother had a 1972 Grand Prix SJ. She had pretty good taste in cars (it replaced a '68 Malibu SS convertible) and the Grand Prix was always one of my favorites. It remains one of the few Colonnades that I lust after.

    1. Stumack Avatar

      The '72 is not a Colonnade.

      1. Alff Avatar

        Huh. Learned something new today. Thanks!

  3. smokyburnout Avatar

    The European spelling of gauge, as opposed to the Craigslistian "guage"?

    1. Alff Avatar

      Perhaps he's suggesting that's the American spelling. If not, what is? "Gage"? "Gayge"? "Gehge"? No, that last one has to be Canadian.

      1. smokyburnout Avatar

        Gage is the American, yes.
        <img src="; width="600"/>

  4. Number_Six Avatar

    My Chemical Romance broke up two weeks ago you insensitive bastard!
    <img src="; />

    1. Alff Avatar

      Another blow to suburban teenage homosexual angst music. Frankly, it's all been going downhill since Morrissey, and that's how fans of the genre like it.

      1. Vavon Avatar

        "suburban teenage homosexual angst music" That's a thing???

        1. Alff Avatar

          Only between me and my college roommate, who coined the phrase after an extended session listening to The Cure.

          1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

            Strangely enough, I was driving my Mint Car down Fasination Street when was overcome by a Strange Attraction. It was Friday, I'm in love. I have to write a Letter to Elise.

          2. Vavon Avatar

            Weirdly enough, that actually makes sense…

  5. P161911 Avatar

    I believe it is a 1973 Catalina that is slowly rotting away in a barn at my father-in-law's house. I've been trying to get it from him. Recently some punk kids busted most of the glass, or so I'm told. It was parked 20+ years ago with a leaking trunk and because he thought it needed leaded gas. I'll probably be able to get it as soon as he kicks the bucket. If I can get it running it will be at least a sawzall convertible.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Before removing the top, keep in mind that LeMons only requires a windshield, which itself can be polycarbonate or steel mesh….

      1. P161911 Avatar

        But it also requires a whole lot more cash than the $500 for the car and I don't exactly have the funds for racing. Maybe if I supplied the car I could find a team that would supply the rest.

        1. Vairship Avatar

          Of course your team can always claim it was a barn find that already happened to have a brand new big block crate engine in it…

  6. dukeisduke Avatar

    I used to have one of those brochures (actually, I think I had more than one copy). I had tons of early to mid '70s stuff, from the State Fair Texas auto show, until I split with my first wife. I had them in a footlocker, and when I got my stuff out of the house, I didn't have room for the footlocker in the back of my pickup. I meant to go back and get it on another trip, but never did. Oh well, my current wife would be complaining about it anyway.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      I think my better half has accepted that I have to have at least one vice…..

  7. nutzforautos Avatar

    At least then you could get a decent brochure. Now they're so hard up they don't want to give you anything …unless you're at one of the shows. I'd take a 72 Pontiac anything compared to some of the soulless, joyless appliances out there now.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Decent in content and delivery, for sure. But the paper is so thin and cheap it's a marvel that it has survived for 40 years….

  8. Jay_Ramey Avatar

    Were these photographed on top of a rabbit cage??? That's gotta be the top of a rabbit (spelled "Hare" in Yurrp) in one of the photos.
    Great brochures, so much BS deployed here. This batch is strangely lyrical, with comments like "That's sad" and "kind of sporty." Ahead of its time, some might say.
    I am convinced that 20 years from now printed car brochures at dealerships will be full of language like "totally huge" and "straight-up blinging"

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Ah, that would be Willow the Wabbit. She's a three year old lop, more of whom anon.
      And you're dead right on the linguistic quality of brochures over the years. My stockpile goes right up to the 2000s but I can't imagine many of the later ones being sufficiently meritous, in car or content, for the R.A-S.H treatment….

      1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

        Yeah, hawking Corinthian leather is a dying art. There's barely any text on brochures anymore, cause who has time to read that shtuff?

    2. Vairship Avatar

      I thought it was: <img src="; width="500">
      Source: (or really Dan Piraro)

  9. Keith Avatar

    Nice to see some love for the oft-forgotten GPs. I've got two myself – a '72 and a '71. Always preferred the '71s, though… they had a less embellished grille, among other small touches.
    What year was it when they referred to the faux leather as 'so realistic, you'll swear you heard it squeal' – or something to that effect?

  10. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
    ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

    Chris, this is the best one so far! My Volvo Amazon owner's manual says that the vinyl interior is "genuine imitation leather" I love that.

  11. Suzi Avatar

    “Genuine Communication is a Fintech Copywriting agency that delivers clear messaging and makes complex financial language understandable. Suppose you need a fintech copywriter who cuts through the jargon and gets to the core message in this fast-moving sector. We combine our knowledge of financial markets and emerging technology to deliver a clear, persuasive copy.