Back before the '91 Chevrolet Caprice was introduced, there was speculation within the auto industry that Pontiac might dress the same rear-drive platform as a Bonneville, or more likely, a Parisienne. As history showed, Pontiac stayed with the front-drive H-Body Bonneville—a sporty, athletic vehicle designed to compete with Japanese and European performance sedans.
The formula worked well, but for many Pontiac traditionalists, it wasn't what they hoped for. Despite the fact that the legendary Pontiac V-8 was long gone, the idea of a full-framed, rear-drive sedan with Pontiac blood was still very appealing to many.
The '91 Caprice landed with a pretty large thud. Despite it winning Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, many critics were taken aback by its large size, which was visually even larger thanks to shallow rear-wheel openings that resembled fender skirts. Many would-be buyers were thrown off with its bloated styling, which looked to some like a resurrected Hudson.
Based on the Fourth-Generation Caprice, the Impala SS, a nameplate that was last used in '69, returned to Chevrolet's product list for '94. It featured the driveline and suspension of the 9C1 Caprice police car, with a unique grille, body-colored trim, a nicer interior, and specific 17-inch wheels.
The Impala SS had the potential to open the door for the return of the Parisienne 2+2, a full-size Pontiac offered exclusively in Canada from 1964 to 1970. This new iteration could have successfully carried on the lineage of the entire Pontiac 2+2 line.
The '96 Parisienne 2+2 illustrated on this page is a teaser of how great this Pontiac would have been had it been produced. Let's fill in the details:
Up front, the nose features a wraparound headlamp treatment and split-grille design similar in overall shape to the Bonnevilles of the '90s, but with grille openings harkening back to the '73 LeMans/GTO. A twin-scooped ram-air hood is accented by Fourth-Gen Firebird-style callouts and a hood tach. The front fenders receive fender gills similar to the '67 Pontiac 2+2 and red 2+2 callouts on the grille and sail panels. Red pinstripes separate the main Lucerne Blue body color and the black lower sections.
We expect this vaporware 2+2 to have a more powerful standard engine than its LT1-powered Impala SS counterpart. How about a 330hp LT4 from the GM parts bin that year and hop it up with functional ram air. (Compared to the LT1 that went in the Impala SS, the LT4 features four-bolt mains, higher-flowing aluminum heads, a hotter cam, and roller rockers.) The 70hp increase puts the Parisienne 2+2 into a different performance realm. The power pushes through a 4L60-E automatic with 3.73 standard and optional 3.90 gear sets.
Since we've already beat the Impala SS at its own game, let's take on the Corvette ZR1 and offer our What If? Parisienne 2+2 a Ram Air version of the 405hp, DOHC, 5.7-liter LT5. Available only with a ZF six-speed manual transmission, this 2+2 gets stiffer suspension and Koni adjustable shocks (optional in the base car). Here's the real treat. It's called a Super Duty.
Inside, we envision the 2+2 with a special, leather-wrapped, four-bucket-seat interior and a gauge panel similar to the '97 Grand Prix GTP, with a Rally timer and full gauges. A full-length console runs longitudinal through the cabin and up the rear bulkhead between the rear seats. The console features storage compartments for both front and rear passengers.
Like the Corvette ZR1, a special valet key in the 2+2 Super Duty's console shuts off the second set of fuel injectors, thereby restricting horsepower for the less experienced (or trustworthy) driver. Special 2+2 embroidery is stitched into the seat backs, front and rear; equally impressive 2+2 floormats, trimmed in red, are placed in each of the four footwells.
Finally, the Parisienne 2+2 receives a special 17-inch, cast-aluminum version of the early '70s-era Honeycomb wheels with black center caps. They are shod with unidirectional Goodyear Eagle 255/45ZR17s in the front and meatier 285/35ZR17s in the rear.
With a solid performance-oriented platform and Pontiac-specific design cues, the '96 Parisienne 2+2 and 2+2 Super Duty would be revered and highly sought after today. One or both can be duplicated with some imagination and an Impala SS in need of an extreme makeover.
Who will be the first to build one?
Please send your ideas for What If? to firstname.lastname@example.org