MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of General Motors Media Archives
Published 12.30.2020

1989 Pontiac Stinger show car at the beach GM Archives RESIZED 1The 1989 Pontiac Stinger show car at the beach (GM Archives)

One of the most popular and best-looking show cars that came from the talented GM Design staff during the late 1980s was the 1989 Pontiac Stinger. It was a great design developed and created under the direction of Chuck Jordan.

I remember the Pontiac Stinger when it was introduced to the public at the Detroit Auto Show, as well as the response from visitors. One person I overheard said the concept model was “stunning.”

1989 Pontiac Stinger show car design sketch GM Archives1989 Pontiac Stinger show car design sketch (GM Archives)

The Stinger was designed for both business and leisure. Ed Benson, who was director of marketing and product planning for Pontiac in 1989, said the following: “We looked at the marketplace and the increased interaction between small sporty vehicles, fun-to -drive, outdoor vehicles. There is an emerging interest in the young group primarily 35 and under for special sport vehicles that fully express their unique lifestyles.”

1989 Pontiac Stinger show car rear view GM Archives RESIZED1989 Pontiac Stinger show car rear view (GM Archives)

Some automotive historians have called the 1989 Pontiac Stinger show car one of the long lost concept cars. During the 1980s, demographic changes indicated the younger market wanted more driving excitement and to use their vehicles to explore the country and experience fun outdoors. In response, GM designed the Stinger concept for the younger generation. Since younger buyers liked to spend time at the beach, the Stinger likely would have been very popular in Florida and California.

1989 Pontiac Stinger show car side view design GM Archives1989 Pontiac Stinger show car side view design (GM Archives)

Chrysler’s Jeep models were immensely popular during the 1980s, as sport utility vehicles were really beginning to take a great hold on the consumer market. Pontiac’s marketing theme was “We Build Excitement” during the late 1980s and early 90s, and much excitement was designed into the 1989 Pontiac Stinger concept.

1989 Pontiac Stinger show car at the beach GM Archives1989 Pontiac Stinger show car at the beach (GM Archives)

The Stinger was so different from other vehicles of the era. It offered a great looking open top, along with a dune buggy-influenced design. The sleek nose front end design was awesome and paired with a great looking neon green color.

Interior Designer Marietta Kearney Ellis speaking with 2 unidentified GM designers GM ArchivesInterior Designer Marietta Kearney Ellis speaking with 2 unidentified GM designers (GM Archives)

I remember having a great conversation many years ago with GM designer Marietta Kearney Ellis, who designed the interior for the 1989 Pontiac Stinger show car. She was extremely excited about the contributions she made to that vehicle.

The Stinger concept came equipped with an Iron Duke-based 3.0 liter four-cylinder engine. It offered a great deal of storage space, a cellular phone and a CD player, a camping table, biking begs and a garden hose for that outdoor adventure. The interior was great looking, with many new and exciting innovations like electric memory seats and steering wheel, and a stylish control panel. The seats were made of a new wet suit-type material, along with a removable cushion that could turn into great looking beach chairs. The roof panel was removable, along with new great looking raised up rear seats for the passengers. The Stinger was a great all-purpose utility design different from most comparable vehicles at that time.

1989 Pontiac Stinger show car GM Archives1989 Pontiac Stinger show car (GM Archives)

While the 1989 Stinger was unique, it could still be recognized as a Pontiac model and part of General Motors design family. The active-lifestyle concept model featured familiar Pontiac styling cues.

1989 Pontiac Stinger show car interior design GM Archives1989 Pontiac Stinger show car interior design (GM Archives)

In conclusion, the Pontiac Stinger show car was never manufactured for the consumer market. It has been displayed more recently at car shows like the POCI convention, as well as the popular “Eyes On Design” classic car show held annually on Father’s Day. The Pontiac Stinger and its unique design will always be remembered as a great looking sport utility concept.

Bibliography

Keefe, Don. “The 89 Pontiac Stinger - Department X Pontiac Concept Car.” “Pontiac Designs the SUV We’re Still Waiting For.” Hot Rod Magazine. August 22, 2007.