1998 Pontiac Montana Thunder concept flood lights

Keeping things illuminated up front are small spotlights built into the roof where it meets the A-pillars. In the back, dual spot lights are provided.

1998 Montana Thunder concept outside mirrorHelping to guide front occupants when exiting the Montana Thunder in poorly-lit areas, the outside mirrors include small flood lights built into the undersides, as well as slasher-style, outboard turn signals incorporated into their tops.

1998 Pontiac Montana Thunder concept rear three qtrThe Montana Thunder has integrated running boards to ease ingress/egress and dual, power-operated sliding doors for simplified rear seat access.

Out back, the concept is equipped with a GM-patented hide-away bike rack (not indicated in the pictures). The rear bumper’s trailer hitch is also concealed, rotating into and out of sight when needed.

1998 Montana Thunder concept on stageUp front, peculiar for a minivan are Trans Am-style, hide-away headlamps (capped by a slim band of eyebrow-style LED turn signals), large round fog lights and hood with functional Ram-Air scoops.

Where the production Montana’s 4.0-liter V6 makes 180 HP, the Thunder concept makes 225 HP and 235 pound-feet of torque.

Braking is handled by discs, derived from Firebird, at all four corners. Springs and dampers were modified for improved handling and, despite increases of 0.5 and 1.5 inches in ride height both front and back, respectively, the roof was actually still lower than a production model as a result of having been “chopped” by 2.5 inches. The track up front is a whole 9 inches wider and 9.8 inches wider in the back.

Reasons and results
“We think this might be the right vehicle for a niche within a niche for the reluctant intender,” explained Pontiac’s then Firebird/Trans Am brand manager, Jim Murray to Motor Trend magazine. “We’ve been getting feedback in this direction based on some Montana production research. But there’s also some gut instinct there.”

Pontiac studio chief, John Schinella, was quoted as saying, “Obviously the Thunder’s got a lot of the flavor of the Rageous. This is our vision of GM leading on styling, daring to take some risks and maybe even making some mistakes. But we wanted to make it wild and beautiful with a hidden voluptuousness that is Pontiac. A Pontiac has to be expressive and innovative.”

2003 Pontiac Montana Thunder - productionWhile the Montana-named minivan plowed ahead for years as a mostly me-too minivan in the exceedingly competitive segment, model year 2003 actually brought about a Thunder options package. It consisted of a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel; unique two-tone black and grey leather seating; five-spoke, 16-inch chrome rims; an upgraded ride and handling package, and a spoiler on the back of the roof rack.

Not quite what the concept was shooting for. However, if viewed parked next to the concept, from a distance, while squinting, you may see the inspiration.

For model years 2004 and 2005, the Thunder was made optional on Montana GT models but was renamed the “Chrome-Sport” package. While the specifics carried forward, “Thunder” badging was discontinued.

The big screen
The Montana Thunder concept did have more time under the limelight than just at car shows. It appeared in two scenes from the movie called The 6th Day, released in 2000 and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The storyline took place in 2015.

1998 Montana Thunder concept in 2000 movie The 6th Day


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