Dwayne Mussard's automotive life story reads like something straight out of a Pontiac advertising campaign—that is, if Pontiac was still around and launching advertising campaigns. From a childhood spent in the backseat of his father's '65 GTO to the ineluctable teenage infatuation with the gold-on-black Trans Am of the Smokey and the Bandit films, Mussard's formative years almost seem to have been predesigned to cultivate a brand loyalist for life.
"The styling, the performance …what's not to love?" asks Mussard, who today works as a deputy sheriff in the Orlando suburb of Lake Mary, Florida. "Pontiacs were never just transportation—they were built for excitement."
Only 1,111 ’09 Stryker Blue G8 GTs emigrated from Holden’s Elizabethtown, Australia, assem
Excitement, yes, but also style and luxury, a blend of core competencies perhaps best embodied in one of the brand's final offerings, the '08-'09 G8 sedan.
Like the new ('04-'06) GTO before it, the G8 was plucked from the lineup of GM's Australian Holden arm, lightly reconfigured to meet U.S. safety standards, and unleashed, mutatis mutandis, on the American driving public. Finally, it seemed, GM had a real contender in a performance-sedan market previously dominated by European imports.
But while the car was attractive, comfortable, and sensational to drive, someone forgot to alert Pontiac's marketing department to the existence of the division's new BMW fighter, and G8s initially sold with the approximate celerity of Vegemite milkshakes. Only after a slew of laudatory press reviews hit did enthusiast car buyers finally begin opening their eyes to the performance bargain hiding in plain sight.
It's all the more surprising, then, that GM elected to pull the plug on the G8 (and the Excitement Division itself) just as the car seemed poised to achieve mainstream appeal. Not since the furiously fettled Fiero met a similar fate in the late '80s had such an undeserving vehicle come to grief as a result of corporate myopia.
Fortunately for those in the know, some 34,000 G8s did manage to exit the stable before the gates slammed shut, making this fleet four-door an accessible, if relatively uncommon, platform for personalization. Mussard, who had coveted a GT model since new, finally acquired his Stryker Blue '09 early last year, capitalizing on the steep depreciation curve that commonly afflicts discontinued vehicles.
The 6.0L L76 engine is essentially a Down Under–ized LS2 fitted with a different intake ma
Having saved a considerable sum thanks to his forbearance, Mussard didn't wait long to apply a suite of custom touches to his new acquisition. Since the car's 6.0L L76 engine was already a 361hp juggernaut as installed (and to keep from voiding GM's generous 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty), he has thus far limited the power-building modifications to a K&N cold-air induction system, a Corsa converter-back exhaust system, and a Superchips PCM tune. But despite the limited nature of these tweaks, Mussard has been quite pleased with the results.
"The tune, in particular, made a huge difference. I was able to firm up the shifts, and the throttle response is noticeably better," he says. Long-tube headers are next up on the mod list, with a supercharger likely to follow.
The list of chassis upgrades is similarly brief, encompassing only a set of Eibach lowering springs and a thicker front sway bar from Aussie vendor Whiteline Performance Suspension. A quartet of 20x8-inch Falken RT-7M wheels encased in 255/35ZR20 Velozza ZXV rubber provide an ample contact patch while also supplying adequate clearance for the factory brakes and underpinnings.
All of these alterations combine to create an exceptionally well-rounded performance machine, one capable of crossing swords with bucks-up German makes while cosseting four or even five adults in luxury.
"The car doesn't know it is a full-size sedan," says Mussard. "Passing is effortless, [but] it also provides a very comfortable ride. Provided my foot is not in it, I can get around 20 mpg, which adds up to an unbeatable combination."
While the G8 GT's restrained exterior treatment ranks among the best of the modern Pontiacs, Mussard managed to elevate its presentation several notches without straying into the realm of cosmetic overkill. HID headlights, LED driving lights, and clear side markers are easily discerned by most onlookers, but the origins of one especially subtle change may require a second look to trace.
Unlike most Pontiacs, the G8’s battery is sandwiched between the driver-side rear quarter
"The rear diffuser is actually from the GXP model," says Mussard, who notes that in addition to being more aggressive-looking than its GT-spec counterpart, the uplevel piece is also easier to keep clean. Best of all, it was the very definition of a bolt-on mod. "It cost around $150 and literally took five minutes to install."
The car's interior remains stock for now, though Mussard hopes to add custom, color-matched inserts to the seats. "I just have to find a blue that doesn't look gaudy," he notes.
Improving on near perfection is never easy, but by adhering to a well-conceived build plan, Mussard has managed to craft for himself a Pontiac that ticks every box on his must-have list. He's even become a model evangelist of sorts, even if that was never his intent.
"Shortly after purchasing my G8, my sister-in-law and I were traveling across the state for business," he relates. "I needed a break, so she took a turn behind the wheel. A short time later, the questions started flying about the car. A couple of weeks later, she traded up and became a G8 GT owner herself."
Talk about potential ad campaigns!
Don’t call it a donk—20-inch Falken wheels wrapped in Velozza ZXV rubber stick the G8 to t
Finished in the aptly named shade of Stryker Blue, Dwayne Mussard’s G8 GT cuts an imposing
As an ’09 model, Mussard’s car is mercifully free of the anachronistic LED gauge display t