I’m always on the search for unique Pontiac’s. I stumbled on a photo of this Pontiac Aztek, and began a search for more photos and information. This one’s to unique to let it disappear;
By the time Mark Reuss reached the age of 36, people were criticizing his work with gusto. Why not? He, a GM vehicle line executive, was given the task of shepherding into production one of the ugliest, most misconceived vehicles to ever see an assembly line: the Pontiac Aztek.
The rest is history. Literally. Pontiac dropped the Aztek from their lineup.
First, though, Reuss—now holding the enviable reigns of GM’s Performance Division—gets a Bob Lutz-mandated shot at redemption using the ill-fated SUV as inspiration. We can think of plenty of better ways for the General to spend dollars, but none more ironic.
A spec sheet sent to us lists Reuss and Co.’s project as the “Ultimate Aztek,” so that’s what we’ll call it. Essentially, it’s a race car-cum-Pontiac-Vibe on steroids.
Above the beltline, the truck is true to Aztek heritage, although the origami rear end has been angled downward, rounded out a bit and fitted with a new spoiler. Door handles, mirrors and front fascia also get fittingly refashioned.
Flared fenders swoop over the wheel wells —complete with gill-slit vents—and positively dominate the design. Twenty-two-inch rims and 295/25 Z-rated treads fill the wells and two pairs of four-inch exhaust tips emerge ahead of the rear wells. Below the grille, a pair of fog lights bookend a lemon-wedge screen behind which sits a C5 racing radiator and other modifications.
All this bodywork does a lot to address the tippy-tall disproportion of the original design, but it is those other modifications that are really what’s worth getting giddy over.
The Ultimate’s firewall has been moved and Reuss ripped out all underhood nonessentials in order to fit the same 7.0-liter aluminum pushrod V8 that powers the C5-R in the cradle. In this case, output was wrenched up to 665 hp with torque at 625 lb-ft. Torque pushes at or near its peak through an intoxicating if straight curve starting at about 4000 rpm through 6800. Air is funneled to the engine through dual tapered conical filters lending the engine bay the same comic, come-get-me invitation as those Dolce & Gabbana bras gave Madonna during her infamous Girlie Show Tour.
Acceleration inspires an eruption of sound and plenty of cabin vibration, as well it should. A modified instrument cluster includes “pro series” gauges for oil pressure, water temperature, volts, speed and engine rpm. Virtually everything else inside you would operate or touch is custom, including front racing seats, abbreviated rear bench, carpet, racing-grade shifter and wheel, and the necessary plethora of “don’t touch without asking” switches. Sorry, no radio, a/c or cupholders. If a six-point roll cage and racing belts don’t convince occupants that this Aztek is for real, nothing will.
A modified six-speed manual with a heavy-duty clutch is mated to the engine, sending power solely to the rear wheels. You really have to thread your way through clutch engagement and be attentive or stalling is inevitable. A bit of jerking is to be expected; we didn’t stall, but we stunk up the cabin once with burning clutch odors. Once was enough. Another smell you’ll encounter is that of 100 octane fuel, required and distributed via a high-pressure fuel pump and racing-type fuel cell.
To further the Le Mans-wolf-in-Aztek-clothing argument, consider the remaining spec sheet. The 36-inch power rack-and-pinion, again heavy-duty, is fitted with steering arm adapters to allow the use of spherical rod ends in place of standard tie rods. Front suspension is a C5 double-wishbone setup with polyurethane bushings, while rear is five-link with adjustable coil-over triple adjustable shocks. Modular antiroll bar assemblies dress the front and rear, as do a pair of 2.5-inch diameter coil springs. There is no official word on how much this thing is lowered, but even the gravel road to your summer cabin is out of the question.
Of course we asked about the potential of ever seeing anything remotely close to this put in production, and Reuss calmed our fears by saying, “None.” Still, we wouldn’t mind seeing this little model pace a lap or two, just for the giggle factor. After that, we’d be content to see the word “ultimate” applied in its other sense: last of a series.
Original article: Autoweek.com