Classic Cars Wiki
Classic Cars Wiki

Pontiac Parisienne Wagon

The Pontiac Parisienne is a full-size rear-wheel drive vehicle that was sold by Pontiac on the GM B platform in Canada from 1958 to 1986 and in the US from 1983 to 1986. The Parisienne wagon continued under the Safari nameplate until 1989.

Differences from US Pontiacs[]

For most of its life, the Parisienne was the Canadian nameplate for the top of the line model sold in GM of Canada's Pontiac showrooms. Parisiennes were distinct from other Canadian Pontiac models by their standard features: the luxuriousness of upholstery fabrics; standard equipment such as courtesy interior and trunk lights; bright trim mouldings in the interior; distinct exterior accent chrome pieces; and availability of 2 and 4-door hardtops and convertibles.

In particular, Canadian "full size" Pontiacs were actually closely related to Chevrolets, making use of the economical Chevrolet chassis and drivetrain, though with the American Pontiac exterior body panels and interior instrument panels. As Chevrolets under the skin, Canadian Pontiacs including the Parisienne used the same engines and transmissions as full-size Chevys, including the 230 and 250 cu inch 6 cylinder and 283, 305, 327, 350, 396, 400, 409, 427 and 454 cu inch V8s. These engines were mated to the same transmissions as Chevrolet, including 3 and 4 speed manual and the 2 speed Powerglide and later the 3 speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmissions.

Built in the same GM of Canada assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, Pontiacs had parallel model lineups as "full size" Chevrolets: the Pontiac "Strato Chief" had similar trim level and upholstery as Chevrolet's "Biscayne", the "Laurentian" matched the trim level of the Chevrolet "Bel Air" and while the Parisienne offered similar amenities as Chevrolet's "Impala", the Pontiac version had unique and more costly upholstery fabrics, and beginning in 1964 the "Custom Sport" (later rebadged the "2+2") 2-door hardtop and convertible model line was in lock step with Chevrolet's "Super Sport". Finally, starting in 1966 Pontiac offered the "Grande Parisienne", a 2-door and 4-door hardtop models parallel to Chevrolet's luxurious "Caprice," although Grande Parisiennes through 1968 used the styling of the US-market Grand Prix.

In contrast, the Pontiac Motor Division of GM in the US manufactured models with drivetrains, chassis and equipment unique from the other GM stablemates - Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac. Through much of the 1950s through 1970s, the American Pontiac model lineup included the "Catalina", "Ventura", "Executive", "Star Chief" and as the top of the line model, the "Bonneville". Additionally, unique to the US lineup until 1969 was the "Grand Prix", a distinct 2-door hardtop model with unique styling features and both luxury and "sporty" accouterments such high output V8s, bucket seats, tachometers and flashy trim pieces.

The mix of Pontiac exterior styling on an economical Chevrolet chassis and drivetrain at a price point marginally higher than Chevrolet, was a huge marketing success for GM of Canada. For decades "full size" Pontiacs took third place behind Chevrolet and Ford in sales, typically 70,000 plus units annually. In contrast, heavier and bulkier American Pontiacs, with far higher sticker prices and higher operating costs due to large displacement V8s requiring high octane fuel, would have little appeal in the Canadian marketplace for a number of reasons: a population base one tenth the size of the US, a less stratified society with lower disposible incomes, more prudent spending and savings sensibilities and far higher taxes and gasoline prices. On the manufacturing side, maintaining unique part availability for a low sales vehicle along with import/export tariffs and barriers between the U.S. and Canada would make the sale of American Pontiacs unprofitable in Canada.

In a marketing twist, for 1982 the US Bonneville was downsized to the mid-size G-body platform. Even though the re-sized Bonneville was also sold in Canada, the full-size Parisienne continued for 1982, although its distinct Pontiac front- and rear-end treatments and interiors were largely replaced with Chevrolet components (described in detail below). At the request of US Pontiac dealerships who still wanted a full-size rear wheel drive car to replace the lost U.S. market share and gain back traditional Pontiac customers who longed for a large rear wheel drive car, the Parisienne was imported from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada and sold in the United States beginning in the 1983 model year, retaining the model name "Parisienne" and specs from the Canadian original. Externally, it was a rebadged Chevrolet Impala (1983-84 models (and 1982 in Canada) had the Impala rear taillight panel fitted with Pontiac-spec taillight lenses, whereas the nose was borrowed from the Chevrolet Caprice fitted with a Pontiac grille). The 1985 and 1986 models resumed use of the rear-end styling from the 1980 to 1981 Bonneville. Two Parisienne ranges were sold - a base model (similar to the former Catalina and the then-current Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale) in four-door sedan and Safari station wagon form, and a more-luxurious Brougham four-door sedan (with velour upholstery that featured loose-pillow fitted seats). No two-door models were offered for the United States market, although a coupe version was available in Canada through 1983.


Right-hand drive Pontiac Parisiennes and Laurentians were manufactured in Canada for export to some countries such as Australia, U.K. etc., until 1969. The '61-'64 models had the '61 Pontiac dash reversed for RHD (also shared with Chevrolets) and '65 to '69 used an adapted version of the 1965 Chev Impala dash panel until 1969, again shared with Chevrolets. Pontiac right hand drive "kit cars" crated at GM's Oshawa, Ontario manufacturing plant were shipped to Australia and assembled at GM's Holden plant using some domestic parts such as seats, heaters, opposing windscreen wipers and 2 speed ventilation systems. Australian cars were CKD (welded and painted locally) while SKD cars, completed body locally assembled to frame, were shipped to New Zealand. Pontiac "kit cars" were also assembled in South Africa and Europe.


The Parisienne still sold well when GM decided to drop the line after the 1986 model year with no replacement. A front wheel drive model with the Bonneville name had similar dimensions versus the 1982 mid-size model, classifying the car as a full-size by the EPA; however, the wagon model (known just as "Safari") continued until 1989.