The egg-shaped body of the Stinger was both aerodynamic and stylish. All glass except the
Motivation for the sporty SUV concept was a 3.0-liter DOHC version of the highly successfu
The interior was functional and spacious with custom six-way-adjustable bucket seats at al
Every once in a while, market research can actually do what it is supposed to. Instead of taking the unqualified advice of people who merely showed up for the free lunch, a well-orchestrated study of buyer attitudes can reveal what they want in their next purchase and efficiently organize a plan to cater to those wants and needs.
A case in point would be Pontiac's research into future product trends in the late '80s. With the recent demise of the Fiero still stinging their collective consciousness, PMD product planners were interested in researching the types of vehicles that could be in demand in the future. They wanted to make sure that not only were their instincts correct on what buyers wanted, but also that they were competently meeting those demands with attractive and affordable products.
One of the conclusions of that research was the discovery that buyers under age 35 were interested in purchasing new vehicles that would more closely accommodate their sporting activities. They wanted cars and trucks that could help maximize their experiences in such recreational pursuits as hiking, camping, surfing, kayaking, and similar interests. This was the genesis of the sport utility vehicle movement that emerged in the early '90s to give us such truck and truck-like entries as the Ford Explorer, the Nissan X-Terra, the Subaru Outback, and Pontiac's own Aztek and Vibe. The Stinger concept was based on this late '80s research and in many ways predicted features that would become commonplace in this market segment.
In a 1989 interview with Ed Benson, then the director of market and product planning, he said, "This year, we looked at the marketplace and the increased interaction between sporty vehicles and fun-to-drive outdoor vehicles, and utility kinds of cars. There is an emerging interest in the young group (primarily 35 and under) for sport vehicles that fully express their active lifestyles."
To that end, Pontiac designed the Stinger as a multipurpose SUV with an eye toward possible production. With a design equally at home on the beach or on the open highway, the Stinger was highly functional and easily adapted to active lifestyles. It was 164.8 inches long and featured a 98-inch wheelbase, a 73.7-inch width, and a height of 58.8 inches, making for a compact, functional vehicle that was easy and fun to drive.
Because the Stinger was conceived as a one-off, Pontiac passed on the normal unitized construction that most production vehicles are based on, and went with a steel tube frame that featured tall bulkheads and beefy side rails. The front frame section also featured curved tubing members to help support the body panels.
Since the Stinger was designed as a crossover SUV before the term was even invented, it was intended to be competent as both a canyon carver and an off-roader. The one-off machine boasted a "Pneumatic Active Suspension System," and a four-wheel independent suspension with ABS-assisted disc brakes at all corners. Air springs would raise the Stinger 4 inches above its normal ride height when off-road driving was desired. Additionally, the driver could control the ride characteristics, switching between soft and hard suspension settings.
The Stinger used a special 3.0-liter double overhead-cam version of Pontiac's famed Super Duty four-cylinder race engine, which was based on the ubiquitous Iron Duke/Tech 4 engine family. In that era, Pontiac had developed the Super Duty four-cylinder program into one of the winningest and most versatile competition powerplants ever, providing power for sprint cars, oval track and road racers, drag machines, and even powerboats.
While the short-block was based on readily available factory SD parts such as the heavy-duty block and forged steel crankshaft, the engine used a non-production four-valve cylinder head casting that was initially considered for production but never made it past the prototype stage.
Versatility abounded on the Stinger, with removable glass panels everywhere. This lower pi
This original rendering of the Stinger concept was done by GM Design Staff and closely res
The Stinger's driveable chassis is readied for a test at the Milford Proving Grounds. Note
A box template with station bulkheads is used to ensure that the roof contour is consisten
The engine also featured multiport fuel injection and a low-restriction exhaust system featuring a four-tube header. In normally aspirated form and in a rather mild state of tune, it delivered 170 hp at 6,500 rpm, though it certainly had the potential for far more. It was fitted to a special three-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive. The driveline was based on the AWD system used in the Pontiac 6000 STE and SE sedans.
Though the Stinger possessed a unique exterior design, it was still a vehicle that could be distinguished as a Pontiac. The active-lifestyle concept featured familiar Pontiac styling cues, such as the split grille, foglamps, and slotted taillamps, but wrapped up in a new egg-shaped body that offered a great deal of utility and adaptability not normally found at the time.
Owing to its one-off status, the Stinger's body panels were constructed of carbon fiber, which provided high strength and durability coupled with light weight and ease of manufacture. The panels were painted a bright green with gray accents, a color combination popular at the time and a clear forerunner of the gray urethane treatment used on many SUVs.
The wheel and tire combination had the Stinger's high-performance intentions covered for both on and off-road situations. Custom tri-bladed, cast-aluminum wheels predicted the general design used on Grand Prixs in subsequent years and were shod with experimental 295/55R-16 and 295/55R-18 Goodyear tires, with a tread pattern designed to maximize grip both on the road and off.
An interesting feature of the Stinger was that all glass panels were removable except for the windshield, quickly converting from a closed, all-weather vehicle to an open, fun-in-the-sun machine. The lower glass in the doors could even be replaced with a convenient beverage cooler and storage box. An integral rollbar contained the roof lamps, adjustable spoiler, and map lights.
The Stinger was designed to accommodate four adults in custom-contoured bucket seats finished in green and black and fitted with racing-style harnesses. Each seat could be folded flat to provide a sleeping area, and the rear seats could be elevated 15 inches to give passengers a view above the rollbar.
Without a doubt, the Stinger was designed with ample storage space for sports equipment and other items, as well as many built-in convenience items such as a camp stove, a picnic table, and a toolbox. Front seats had six-way adjustment and inflatable lumbar supports.
The instrument panel featured an electric tilt wheel and steering column, manual tilt gauges, an electric compass, an attitude gyro for vehicle tilt, and a pull-out drawer with a cellular phone and message machine. A second phone was built into the driver-side armrest. Other convenience features abounded, including keyless entry, a pull-out radio, a portable vacuum cleaner, a fire extinguisher, a first-aid kit, and binoculars.
Though the '89 Pontiac Stinger was not a production vehicle, Benson seemed optimistic about its prospects. "If you wonder if there is a market for a vehicle like the Stinger, just look at the Pathfinder, the Dodge Raider, the Samurai, and certain executions of the Jeep," he says. "Look at what those are used for and the desires of those buyers and those who aspire to own them. We think there could be a total Pontiac execution of a Stinger-type concept that could represent a special sport vehicle in that emerging market in the mid-'90s."
Though the '89 Stinger never made it to the showroom, it obviously pointed the way for active lifestyle vehicles that Pontiac did build, such as the Aztek, the Vibe, and of course, the new Torrent, which replaced the oft-maligned but solidly built Aztek.
Fortunately, the Stinger is still alive and well and currently one of the stars of the Pontiac Historic Fleet. It can be seen at various shows such as the POCI conventions and the "Eyes On Design" Classic Car Show, which is held annually in Detroit.
The full-sized styling buck has been completed and will be used to make molds for the actu
Body panels for the Stinger are laid up in carbon fiber using molds pulled from the full-s
The Stinger prototype's body panels are assembled to the chassis. Much work is still to be