Pontiac Pursuit

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I know, right? 

What the hell were they thinking? It's…it's shaped like what, a suppository? Pregnancy test? Its lower door line seems to have been inspired by soft serve ice cream, and there are at least 40 buttons on its steering wheel.

Problem: I'm starting to like it. (Especially after watching Craig Singhaus' video review of the driveable car in 1988.)

There's something about the Pursuit that perfectly encapsulates the 80s. Its heavy-handed use of sculpted plastic? Wraparound glass? Digital displays with multiple colours?

It's packed to the gills with show car magic, but I think it says more about us than we'd care to admit.

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The spec sheet is a great place to gain insight into where car designers see the future of a certain segment going. I think you can agree that any of these features can be found on a typical modern sports coupe.

  • 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine with 200 horsepower
  • Electric power steering 
  • Air suspension
  • Run-flat tires
  • All-wheel-drive
  • Heads-up display
  • Rear entertainment system
  • Satellite navigation
  • Onboard weather reports

Crazy, right? At just 27 years after the concept, lucky car owners around the world are enjoying features found on the above  list.

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What does this say about us, that Pontiac engineers and designers predicted the future of features so accurately? That the onward march of technology is inevitable? Or that we will always try to pack as many features as we can inside our vehicles? 

We don't need this stuff. It just adds complexity where it's not useful. Our roads, overall, are getting better. Our manufacturing systems are getting more accurate. Our vehicles are lasting longer, even though we're in them for more time every day.

Just imagine how good they'd be if they traded a few features for a little more simplicity.

As a Citroën fan, the car's best feature is its steering and suspension system. 

Its wheel spats (fender skirts) all 'round move with the wheels and can be removed for tire changes, but more interestingly, inflatable air bladders were added to the suspension in order to control ride height, which was changeable from the steering wheel.

In addition—and very Citroën—it was fitted with an active pneumatic suspension that controlled body roll, pitch, and dive. It's something that was fitted to the Citroën Xantia Activa from 1994 onwards but never reached mainstream popularity.

By the time the exterior styling of our vehicles start to ape the Pursuit concept, Pontiac's effort will seem quaint. Is it the type of vehicle that enthusiasts of the future will start to lust after—more Dyson than Detroit muscle?

Quite possibly—like the Saab EV-1 featured in June, the Pursuit was also seen in Back to the Future Part II.

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Sources / Recommended reading