Night at the Pontiac Museum

May 19, 2009 at 2:13 am Leave a comment

The world is watching GM’s inevitable descent into bankruptcy. The latest weight to be tossed from the crashing dirigible–the Pontiac brand. Columnists and consumers agree that Pontiac has been extinct for years, the taglines “Wide track” and “We build excitement” having gone the way of “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” “Try it, you’ll like it,”  and “Not your father’s Oldsmobile.”Las Brisas Dawn

Hanging near my desk is a framed print entitled “Las Brisas Dawn.” The setting is 1961. A couple’s date in Acapulco is extending past the sunrise seen bouncing off the bay in the distance. The man wears a dinner jacket. The woman is elegant in her red dress and pearls. Sitting on stone steps, she holds her shoes, undoubtedly to rest her feet after a night of dancing. It is a suggestion of intimacy in a new decade testing its limits (The Carpetbaggers was just hitting bookshelves and the cinematic James Bond would report for duty the following year).

But neither the sunrise, the ocean nor the couple is the star of this painting. It is a Bonneville convertible coupe, its crimson sheet metal a shade darker than the woman’s dress, its elongated proportions suitable for the Fantastic Four’s flying Fantasticar.

“Las Brisas Dawn” is an advertising illustration from the legendary team of Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman. Art started as a car designer and was responsible for drawing the GM iron. Van was a Disney alum and provided the backgrounds and the people. When I spoke to Art by phone after buying my print from his online gallery, he gave ample praise to his late partner for devising the shoeless woman who heaped all that extra sex appeal onto the Bonneville’s two-acre hood.

The subsequent half-century has brought us Ralph Nader, catalytic converters, three major gas crises, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and countless other reality checks. The sun has set on Las Brisas, the bon vivant couple, and the Bonneville. Cars and advertising will never be the same. But as is the case with Pontiac, they haven’t been for a long time.


Entry filed under: Creativity, Marketing. Tags: , , , , , , , .

The Forgotten “P” All Rise in the Court of Public Opinion

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