So what about the ProtoSport4’s specifications and go factor? Check this out…

Pontiac Protosport4 front three-qtr

The car is equipped with a 4.0-liter, double overhead cam, multi-port fuel-injected V-8. Yes, a V-8. Output is 250 HP (at 6,000 RPM) and 250 pound-feet of torque (at 4,200 RPM). It runs on premium fuel with a compression ratio of 10:1.

Looking for more than just V-8 power? ProtoSport4 is rear-wheel-drive. Yes, rear-wheel-drive. In a time that had gone mad with ever more front-wheel-drive models, leave it to General Motors’ excitement division to conceptualize a rear-wheel-drive, V-8-powered sports sedan. (Which, by the way is based off of the Trans Am.)

Oh, there’s one more thing. ProtoSport4’s steering is handled by all four wheels. Yes, it has all-wheel-steering too.

Pontiac Protosport4 front wheelThe concept has independent suspension at all four corners, and rolls on P225/40/R19s up front and mammoth P335/35/R20s at the rear. It has an automatic, Hydra-matic 4L60 transmission which utilizes 3.73:1 gearing. Braking is kept in check by a Delco anti-lock system (a fancy feature, at the time).

The car’s height is 50.6 inches, its length is 192.5 inches, and its width is between 71.7 inches (at its narrowest point) and 77.0 inches (at its widest). The wheelbase is 120 inches long.

Another interesting design feature is the method by which occupants enter and exit the vehicle.

Pontiac Protosport4 profile doors up

According to Mr. Manoogian, “The most significant feature on this car is the door mechanism. The inspiration for these doors came from IMSA [the International Motor Sports Association] circuit race cars–the doors don’t open like gull-wing doors, but curve up over the contour of the roofline of the vehicle. There is no interference with garage walls, or ceilings, or other parked cars.”

The doors operate on gas spring dampeners that, according to GM, allow passengers to lift them up part way and be released to swing up on their own.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts
Pontiac Protosport4 interior styling buckOne might think that, with all the attention the exterior got, the interior might be a bit of a let down. Not so with ProtoSport4.

According to a statement made in 1991 by Bill Scott, who had been Pontiac’s chief interior designer, “In the interior design studios, we work to keep the Pontiac image of a driver-oriented car in every concept car we build. With this car, the challenge was to make a four-passenger Firebird with a true sports car feel–an integration of form and function–and extend that feeling to all of the occupants in the vehicle.”

So what lurks within that slinky, carbon fiber body? (Yes, a carbon fiber body.) A highly-stylized interior with an emphasis on ergonomic functionality, that’s what.

Pontiac Protosport4 interior buckTo start, ProtoSport4 is a four-seater and only a four-seater; that’s because it has that many seats, which happen to be buckets (covered in leather and equipped with 4-point harnesses). The fronts include memory buttons and power adjustments for the position, recline, pneumatic wings, and lumbar, thigh and vertical thoracic supports. Even the rear seats have power recline adjustments.

Front seat armrests contain all of the seat controls, including one for “exit mode” which aids in the entry and exit of occupants. The back side of each front seat headrest contains entertainment centers for rear-seat passengers which include color monitors designed for use as a “TV or VCR display.”

Both front occupants have independent heating, cooling and ventilation controls and even rear passengers have some control to regulate their climate. Window controls are unique in that they are sliders and the window’s position is determined relative to the position of the slider bar in its housing.

In place of a traditional rear view mirror is a 3-inch LCD screen displaying a view from the aforementioned rear-mounted camera.

Airbags were still sort of new but the concept includes one for each front occupant and roof-mounted airbags for rear seat passengers.

Probably the most significant interior feature on ProtoSport4 is the driver’s pod controls. These include rotary dials for lighting and windshield wiper controls, and paddle controls for turn signals, cruise control, steering wheel tilt, and the exit mode button (which moves the whole pod).

Pontiac Protosport4 dash

But what’s most interesting on the interior is the method by which the instruments are viewed.

In what is probably best described as a type of HUD (heads-up display), the analog gauge cluster is reflected from the backside of the panel onto a magnified, semi-transparent mirrored surface. The result is an enlarged, “very readable” replication in the windshield just below the driver’s line of sight. The reflected gauges appear roughly 2.5 times the size of those in the 10-inch wide dash pod.

Although nothing like this ever hit the showroom floor for public purchase, many of the features and even design cues did appear on future Pontiacs.

[Thanks to General Motors Company for the facts, quotes and photos, and permission to display the photos in this post.]


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