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 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.
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“.
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.
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 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.
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:
Here’s the Oldsmobile website from June 2004:
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.
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!”
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:
Here’s what they posted when Ford closed their doors. Pretty unceremonious, to be honest:
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:
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:
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”:
This is the employment inquiry page:
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.
I’ll end with Plymouth. Frankly, I very nearly forgot about them.
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.
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.