Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pontiac Sunfire: Its Name in Lights

Starting around the mid-1990s, General Motors styling went through a spell of soft, aerodynamically-influenced body shapes enhanced by having minimal ornamentation.  An example is the Pontiac Sunfire, a compact car in production for the 1995-2005 model years.  Its Wikipedia entry is here.  As Wikipedia indicates, the Sunfire shared its body with Chevrolet's third-generation Cavalier.

Seen from the side, it's hard to distinguish Sunfires and Cavaliers from one another.  Even their front "faces" are not greatly different, the most apparent distinction being the shape of their headlight assemblies.

But it is at the rear where the Sunfire shined -- literally.  Rather than having the Pontiac brand name spelled out in chrome-plated letters or appearing on a plaque of some sort, the name glowed because it was illuminated through translucent red cut-outs on a black-background plastic panel.


1995 Pontiac Sunfire sedan
The grille opening is divided in the middle, a weak evocation of Pontiac's traditional (since 1959) two-part grille theme.  The glowing (when headlights were turned on) Pontiac name can be seen on the black panel separating the tail lights.

2000 Pontiac Sunfire coupe
The Pontiac name is more visible in this rear 3.4 view of a Sunfire coupe because the car's lights were turned on for the photographer.

Yes, the illuminated brand name is a small detail, yet it was highly noticeable when seen on the streets.  I don't know how most people reacted to it, but I found it bothersome and somehow in bad taste.

This form of brand signage is extremely rare; offhand, I can't think of any other major make doing the same thing in recent decades.  Someplace in the back of my mind I have the impression that some 1930s American cars did something similar.  For example, a glance at Google Images for the 1937 Buck suggests that the Buick name on chrome letters was placed over a small, centrally located brake indicator light.  Much more subtle, and not quite than same thing as the Sunfire's bold Pontiac proclamation.

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