Wayback Machine Allows a Peek into Defunct Detroit Automaker Websites

The WayBack Machine is an archive of the internet. Not everything is available, but many websites from even the nineties can still be accessed. That got me thinking; what were the websites of defunct Detroit automakers like Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Mercury, and others like right before they went out of business?

I have some answers.

Pontiac

Pontiac was probably the most depressing, but also easiest site to extract information from. Many of GM’s other brands had websites that were almost entirely flash-based, meaning that a lot of the information on them is completely lost.

Screenshot_8.png

This snapshot was taken in December of 2008. For some context on the, “TELL CONGRESS THE U.S. AUTO INDUSTRY MATTERS” button, the big 3 Detroit automakers were all in congressional hearings at this time–summoned to explain why they were all bankrupt. I’m not sure what was meant by “PONTIAC IS CAR“.

Screenshot_10.png

This one is from July 2008. I guess they were just making sure everybody knew that they were still selling cars? Kind of cool seeing all of this original Pontiac stuff. There isn’t going to be any more of it!

You may want to turn on some sad music for the following image.

Screenshot_7.png

This one is from November 2010. This is the way it stayed for a while until the Pontiac.com just became a redirect. Maybe they’ll come back some day.

Oldsmobile

Oldsmobile went out of business in 2004, so you may think there isn’t a ton of content around. It’s around, but not as nice and high-res as the newer stuff. There are some GIFs.

Screenshot_11.png

The Olds’ Aurora got its own website in 2001. Very dark, very moody. Lots of nice big words like “unparalleled”. I like it. There’s a lot of really cool, kind of late 90’s shots of the Aurora on it’s website. I’ve curated the best of them here:

AuroraAurora

AuroraAurora

Here’s the Oldsmobile website from June 2004:

Screenshot_12.png

Lots of nice colors. They went out of business in late April of 2004, so at this point I guess they hadn’t updated the website yet. Maybe the “Have you considered other GM brands?” was a sort of stop-gap solution.

Screenshot_13.png

Late November 2005 was the first time I could find the webpage referencing the brand’s end. More than a whole year after they actually were out of business. That’s a little… Careless? One day a GM executive woke up, “Oh shit–right! Oldsmobile went out of business! Change the website!”

Mercury

The strangest thing about Mercury’s website was “Milan World”

Apparently it was some sort of flash game you could play in a Mercury Milan-centric universe? The flash wouldn’t load so I couldn’t play it. Unfortunately, Milan World has been lost to time.

I was also able to find two original (albeit small) pictures of the Mercury Marauder:

Screenshot_15.pngScreenshot_16.png

Here’s what they posted when Ford closed their doors. Pretty unceremonious, to be honest:

Screenshot_14.png

Hummer

Screenshot_17.png

Hummer went out of business in late May 2010, but their website was not updated until November 2011. The truck brand was the youngest of any of the automakers who were closed, and the Hummer name is apparently coming back as an electric SUV. There wasn’t really anything cool on their website, Hummer wasn’t around for that long. I did find this one picture of an H3 with a sort of “cybertrucky” bed cover, though:

The All-New 2007 H3X

Saturn

Saturn’s website was completely flash-based most of the time. The only times it was not was in the very early 2000s, and right before they got closed down. Here’s a few highlights:

Screenshot_19.png

Just absolutely great stuff. Looks like some kind of cult. They’re all wearing black with the same shoes. Wasn’t there a suicide cult like that?

This page is called “The research center”:

Screenshot_20.png

This is the employment inquiry page:

Screenshot_21.png

This seems a lot like a cult. In his book (Car guys vs. Bean Counters) Bob Lutz said that Saturn was really weird, but I never really got that vibe. Now I am getting that vibe. This whole website is really worth just browsing around. It’s a very unusual time and place. I only have vague memories of when the internet was like this. I’ll give you a direct link to it here.

Saturn’s brand closure page was not nearly as quirky as it’s circa 2000 website. Seems like they got a copy-pasted version of Hummer’s. Yeesh, that’s just classic GM.

Screenshot_18.png

Plymouth

I’ll end with Plymouth. Frankly, I very nearly forgot about them.

Screenshot_22.png

Intriguingly, the Plymouth website had a function that automatically told you today’s date. It still works–meaning technically I have created a universe where Plymouth still exists in 2020. I feel strange.

Plymouth didn’t officially go out of business until late June 2001, however their website just redirected to the Chrysler website as early as October 2000. Not even a “Cya, losers!” page or anything.

Screenshot_23.png

You can see the Plymouth models were just added to Chrysler’s website. Also, look at that; the PT Cruiser. Motortrend’s 2001 car of the year–that hasn’t aged well.

The Chrysler website from this time is probably the best preserved and most navigable of any of these archived webpages. There’s a lot of great pictures. I’ll leave a link here so you can explore it.

What did I forget?

If anybody would like to share any other interesting automobilia you found using the Wayback Machine, please share. I’m sure there’s a lot out there I’ve just forgotten about.

51 Comments

  1. How about Fisker? The one from a decade ago, not the current one.

    Fun fact: the Wayback Machine can occasionally be used to retrieve old Hooniverse posts, including Intense Debate comments.

    https://hooniverse.com/2013/09/19/not-truck-thursday-a-1972-plymouth-valiant-scamp-that-is-one-bad-mother-trucker/ (lost to Hoonibbles version)

    https://web.archive.org/web/20140917021435/https://hooniverse.com/2013/09/19/not-truck-thursday-a-1972-plymouth-valiant-scamp-that-is-one-bad-mother-trucker/ (Wayback version)

    1. I actually have a full download of the old site crawled from the Wayback archives. I’m trying to figure out how to use it to restore old photos, posts, and comments.

    1. Now? Surely for 50+ years?

      Congrats on having the image to hand; I’m betting it’s not the first time you’ve used it?

  2. What about Saab? Technically not American, but was owned by GM until sold and lived longer than Pontiac, Saturn, or Hummer. It actually shared more than one Detroit platform SUV. Defunct in 2012.

    Not sure if this qualifies as defunct, but SRT was its own automobile brand in 2013-2014 (when the Viper was not sold as a Dodge), until was folded back into Dodge as its performance sub-brand.

  3. What about Saab? Technically not American, but was owned by GM until sold and lived longer than Pontiac, Saturn, or Hummer. It actually shared more than one Detroit platform SUV. Defunct in 2012.

    Not sure if this qualifies as defunct, but SRT was its own automobile brand in 2013-2014 (when the Viper was not sold as a Dodge), until was folded back into Dodge as its performance sub-brand.

  4. What about Saab? Technically not American, but was owned by GM until sold and lived longer than Pontiac, Saturn, or Hummer. It actually shared more than one Detroit platform SUV. Defunct in 2012.

    Not sure if this qualifies as defunct, but SRT was its own automobile brand in 2013-2014 (when the Viper was not sold as a Dodge), until was folded back into Dodge as its performance sub-brand.

  5. Gee, I wonder why Mercury wasn’t a success at this point in time…I look at their final line up and I see fusion, crown vic, escape, explorer….they didn’t even try to differentiate, other than being more expensive…those high-brow grills are not cheap, apparently.

    1. I drive a 15 yr. old Mercury Milan V-6, bought used in 2006. Have maintained it according to its maintenance schedule. At the time it was rated the most reliable sedan of all and it sure has been. I was sadly surprised when Ford folded up Mercury. All of the fantastic
      American auto engineers and designers; pushing the envelope, GONE. Sedans, disappearing. Do it yourself mechnics, vaporized.
      Eaten up by next gen corps. and spit out.

  6. Gee, I wonder why Mercury wasn’t a success at this point in time…I look at their final line up and I see fusion, crown vic, escape, explorer….they didn’t even try to differentiate, other than being more expensive…those high-brow grills are not cheap, apparently.

  7. I’m not the only one who mentally read that Pontiac tagline in a thick Slavic-ish accent, am I?

  8. Opel Australia only existed for 11 months 2011-2012 but hasn’t disappeared completely from the ‘live’ web.

    First result when searching was… “Opel has ceased operations in Australia. Support for Opel products will now be provided by GM Holden.”
    https://www.holden.com.au/opel/servicing

    There is still a website of sorts, dating from 2014, no product information though! I think there were still dealerships under construction when the plug was pulled.
    https://www.holden.com.au/opel

    I’ll have to have another go to get a decent link on the wayback though. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/efefe4020a3e639a92e7d8fb52540c90f5c446d938bac5597f0c056d84e72d43.jpg

  9. Also, look at that; the PT Cruiser. Motortrend’s 2001 car of the year–that hasn’t aged well.

    It was possibly Chrysler’s most profitable small car in history up to its era. Its chief designer went on to GM and reportedly had a hand in creating a direct competitor, the HHR, from the basis of the Cobalt. Now, we have manufacturers declaring that they’re not even going to bother selling the low-small car that shares its platform with their tall-small car, and throwing resources at the tall-small cars to keep them feature-rich and stylistically interesting, as opposed to the simple/plain appliances that some of the original CUVs were.

    Yes, the PT was hard to work on, due to the compromises needed to pack an existing powertrain in its engine bay; it suffered from Daimler-induced program delays and cost-cutting; it lingered too long without substantive changes; the 2006 refresh was… not great. But getting Americans to want to own “an efficient, subcompact-length tall hatchback/wagon in a country whose consumers normally shun such transportation” was novel yet in 2001.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/69/2007ChevroletHHR-001.jpg/1920px-2007ChevroletHHR-001.jpg
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a0/2020_Ford_Escape_SEL_EcoBoost_AWD%2C_front_11.22.19.jpg/1920px-2020_Ford_Escape_SEL_EcoBoost_AWD%2C_front_11.22.19.jpg

    1. I always like thinking back to when Fiat were supposed to show Chrysler how to build small cars profitably. Then I see a Fiat 500L and go: huh, similar shape as a PT Cruiser but less successful…

  10. Early Saturn was a fantastic company. They managed to build an amazing following in a very short time. Within a couple of years they were having Saturn homecoming gatherings at the Spring Hill plant that attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of owners. This is from a slightly above average economy car. Imagine Toyota holding a Corolla homecoming.

    I think it was mostly because they decided to treat people differently. They had to recall the first batch of cars made due to the wrong antifreeze being used. They could have flushed the system and added to the warranty, but instead they replaced every car. They had other recalls and would throw recall parties with free food to get people to come in and get their cars fixed.

    Late Saturn was just another GM brand with nothing distinctive about it, sadly.

    I had a year two 1992 SL2 which was a decent and somewhat unique car and a final year 2010 Outlook which was a slightly better looking Acadia.

  11. Saturn was about as close to a cult as can be. They literally had festivals at the factory where 30-40k owners showed up.

    http://www.saturnfans.com/Company/2004/nohomecoming2004.shtml

    I worked at a dealership during the end of times for Saturn. It was one of the weirdest brands you could imagine even after it became american Opel. Can’t say I don’t love it when I see any of the SL/SC/SWs rolling around. As long as you kept replacing all the oil it was burning those things ran forever.

  12. The comment at the beginning that “This snapshot was taken in December of 2008 . . . the big 3 Detroit automakers were all in congressional hearings at this time–summoned to explain why they were all bankrupt” is wrong. Ford, unlike GM and Chrysler, did not file for bankruptcy relief.

  13. I know it’s a little late to the party, but Buick was a brand that could have been included in your list. They shut their plant in 2010. The century was still being marketed as a Buick until 2019, but it was nothing more than the old nameplate.
    Friends of ours owned the Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick & Oldsmobile dealership in this area of NJ. Only Cadillac survives!
    “New Oldsmobiles are out early this year!” – Jake Blues

  14. Hey there, I just wanted to tell y’all that I’ve been making such a stable income from this crazy money making system and the best part of it was I really didn’t have to invest anything. I’m making about $6000-$8000 per month and you can too, download this awesome system here… www.WorksSilver.com

  15. I really, really need to read about the 2010 LeMans race as it related to the 1960 Briggs Cunningham three-car Corvette effort on the GM website

  16. I actually have a full download of the old site crawled from the Wayback archives. I’m trying to figure out how to use it to restore old photos, posts, and comments.

  17. I like your post. really I was in search of this kind of good information about Ecomerce. Keep Posting the good Stuff. i hope i will be getting your post.

  18. Apparently it was some sort of flash game you could play in a Mercury Milan-centric universe? The flash wouldn’t load so I couldn’t play it. Unfortunately, Milan World has been lost to time.

  19. The black and red of the Saturn team could have been a nod on two other Detroit icons that were tops in the early 2000s – The White Stripes or possibly the Red Wings. In any case, thanks for the post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here