Pontiac Trans Sport (1986)
When it launched in 1990, Pontiac’s Trans Sport minivan-along with GM’s other “dust buster” minivans-were noted for unusual styling and for utilizing a space-frame structure. Unique, perhaps, but the finished product was nowhere as wild as the concept van of the same name shown four years prior.
The Trans Sport concept featured a composite body with expansive panes of glass, and it eschewed the conventional sliding side door in favor of a gullwing design. Power-235 horsepower, to be precise-was supplied by a prototype all-aluminum, 2.9-liter, turbocharged V-6, which was also contemplated for the Fiero GT.
Up until this point, minivans were largely the homely, box-like appliances churned out by the Chrysler Corporation. Pontiac injected lots of style and some edge into the concept and created a show car that was as avant-garde as it was family-friendly.
The novelty of minivans, in-car computers, and steering wheels laden with a million push-button controls has faded over the past twenty years, but the Trans Sport still is interesting to look at-especially in contrast with the bastardized version that ultimately rolled off the assembly lines.
Could it have saved the brand?
Minivans bolstered the Pontiac organization for several years, but the Trans Sport offered to consumers was virtually no different than the Lumina APV or the Silhouette offered across the street at Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealers, respectively. In later years, GM tried to shed the van’s mom-mobile image by adding cladding, a new Montana nameplate, and an ungainly nose. Few consumers were fooled, and the van lineup was ultimately killed in the U.S. in 2006.