Pontiac Montana, Oldsmobile Silhouette, Chevrolet Venture
has left the garage, story at the bottom of the page.
Pontiac sales brochure: "Life is more exciting in Montana".
...cut to a scene in the rugged West, where some cowboys are riding in a minivan...
Cowboy #1 - "Ain't never seen a minivan do that before".
Cowboy #2 - "Maybe it ain't really a minivan!".
...cut to Gary Oldman in "Fifth Element" - "Never be ashamed of who you are".
Yes, it *is* a minivan, in all the best context of the word. Low floor height, decent handling, quiet, good economy, low insurance,... all the attributes of a minivan. Still, I can't blame Pontiac for trying to escape the soccer-mom image, that's why they had to offer 0.0% financing to move them. Their loss, my gain! And as the joke goes, "stupid name for a minivan but it could be worse, who would buy the 'Pontiac New Jersey'?" Anyhow, to continue Pontiac's cowboy theme, the name came easily, "a fiery steed with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty "Hi yo Silver..." Hey, c'mon, it's not easy to generate enthusiasm for a minivan! ;)
23 June 2001
I picked up my new Montana at Deacon Jones Pontiac in Smithfield, North Carolina. Although some 40+ miles from home, I went to Deacon Jones because they had two short minivans, which I discovered were kinda' hard to find. Apparently most people who want a minivan want as much room as possible so the dealers mostly stock the extended vans. Anyway, the short ones weigh less, handle better, go faster, and stop quicker. All I needed was enough length to make sure my mountain bike fit with the rear seats out, and it did. Btw, GM is still the only manufacturer I know of who makes minivans with individual seats that can be removed by those who cannot bench press 300 pounds.
Why did I trade my (mostly) faithful 1991 TransSport DustBuster? The timing was right, the TransSport had 188,000 + miles and was showing signs of needing attention. Nothing big, just many little things that would add up to a little money and a lot of work. Pontiac offered 0.0% financing, the dealer went almost down to invoice, and gave me a fair trade-in price. It was all too much to resist. Deacon Jones was a good dealer to work with too. They didn't BS me, let me drive the Montana by myself, took the seats out so I could see if my bicycle fit, and were just pleasant to deal with overall. If you need a Pontiac, this is the dealer to go to in the Raleigh area! Say 'hey' to Richie!
Now the fun begins, getting the Montana to handle like the dusTBuster did, 'cause it doesn't! Of course, the dusTBuster had *extensive* suspension work done to get where it was. Silver's a lot better than the TransSport was when I first got it, Pontiac has been listening! I think the rear sway bar will fit and the front urethane bushings are a simple operation to me now. Finish up with a good wheel alignment and we should have an even better handling minivan than ever! The OEM tires are not really up to my standards (B temp rating) but I'll leave them on until they wear out, probably no more than a year, then replace them with some good 225-60-16s.
The saga begins again! Hi yo Silver, awaaaay!
01 July - I consider an engine ready to go after 500 miles of proper break-in, so Silver is now ready for full throttle. Hey, this minivan *scoots*! The 3.4 is some 65 hp stronger than the 3.1 in the dusTBuster and the full electronic 4T65 transmission shifts like it means it. I think I'm gonna' like this...
May 2002 - Chevrolet Impala wheels fit perfectly (the front suspension is the same) and with a set of Bridgestone RE950 225-60/16's Silver is starting to actually handle! The ride is a little stiffer but you forget those things when you're blasting through an off ramp. ;)
January 2003 - The dreaded "Service Engine' light came on, went out, came back on... a trip to the dealer showed it was the EGR valve. While installing the new valve, Hendrick Pontiac (Cary, NC) caused a transmission leak and left off a couple parts they had removed. On the 2nd visit Hendrick lied about the poor service and overfilled the transmission by a quart! They said "bring it in again"! I will *never* take my Montana to those thieves again!!!
I bought the missing parts and installed them myself, drained and refilled the transmission, and Silver runs fine again.
March 2006 - Just about every fluid except the windshield washer liquid is leaking. Not a lot, just enough to be annoying. The temperature gage drops to 0 about every six months but nothing seems wrong. I reset it and wait another few months. At 80,000 miles the van is still fun and is ok towing our 1800 pound boat. Impala "police package" brakes fit up front and made a great difference in braking power!
July 2006 - Paid off, clear title, all mine! And still running! I plan to keep it another 5 years at least. The rear brakes and cylinders were shot, as well as the rear shocks. The struts should need replacement soon.
2007 - Well, I sure can pick 'em! GM discontinued the Montana line because they don't know how to sell minivans. Honda and Toyota seem to do just fine with them. The Montana is up to about 90,000 miles and still running. The temperature gage still goes to zero occasionally, I carry a scan tool to reset it. Since the transmission is the same as in GM's "B" body cars there are some perfomance parts available. Thrasher has a shift kit for the 4T65E transmission, that should be fun!
2010 - After a 10 year run it has come to an end. The minivan leaked coolant for about 5 years, the result of a GM screw-up where the coolant and the gaskets were incompatible (and the topic of a class action lawsuit that GM lost). Anyway, when I replaced the gaskets I saw lots of other potential trouble brewing and realized it was time for the Montana to go. The Honda dealer gave me a fair price and auctioned it off but I expect to see it on a used car lot in Johnston County NC someday.