The last Pontiac may have rolled off the assembly line months ago, but that doesn't deter members of the Arizona Pontiac Club.

Formally known as the Arizona Chapter of the Pontiac-Oakland Club, International, the club originally had members from both Tucson and Phoenix when it was formed in 1981.

Long split from Phoenix, the Tucson club's 26 members now own more Pontiacs than they can possibly drive at one time - four dozen to be exact.

The oldest is a 1947 Pontiac Streamliner Deluxe, owned by Ross Whitehead, 72, one of the founders of the club.

The newest Pontiac has to be the 2007 "Mean Yellow" Solstice owned by Randy Rogers, 61. "It's a drophead Pontiac, says Rogers. "It's what the British call a convertible."

Hang around these guys long enough and you'll hear plenty of terminology.

Take "trailer queen." That's what the guys (Sorry, no women are currently members, but they're sure welcome to join) call the 1958 Pontiac Chieftain owned by Dwight Gibbs.

A "trailer queen," they go on to explain, is a car that's rarely driven on these mean streets.

Gibbs readily admits to the label. "When I drive it down the road, yes, people like it. They like it so much they get distracted and start driving toward me. I've had a couple of close calls."

Such are the dangers of tooling around in a glossy white and red number that sports whitewall tires and enough chrome on the bumper to bounce glare two blocks ahead.

"The bumper is not as heavy as it looks," says Gibbs, 69, who joined the club in 1982, a year after finding the Chieftain in a newspaper ad. Selling price: $1,800.

Restoration, he adds, took 5 1/2 years and $18,000. Then again, says Gibbs, his Chieftain, according to Old Cars Weekly, is now worth a cool 65 grand, maybe more.

You get the feeling, though, that these guys are in it for the love, not the money.

For Gibbs, it's a nostalgia trip. "I had a 1958 Chieftain, same color, when I'd just gotten out of high school."

Then there's Whitehead, who bought the first of his eight Pontiacs back in 1962. "I bought it strictly for transportation," he says about his 1949 station wagon. "It's the last real woody."

That, along with a couple of other 1940s-vintage Pontiacs that Whitehead owns, would later star in the 2003 movie "Spin."

"My '49 Pontiac was the sheriff's car," says Whitehead proudly. By then, he was long hooked on Pontiacs.

Many of the members' cars date back to the '60s, the glory years of the GTO. Thom Sherwood, 49, has four of them, along with three other Pontiacs.

"For me, I'm passionate about the design and the styling," he says. "Pontiac has had the split-grille theme since 1959."

The car he's showing off this day is a 1970 GTO bought in 1982 for $675. "The front end was dinged in by its owner, an elderly lady," says Sherwood. "Believe it or not, most of my cars were owned by elderly people. They were thought of as gas hogs back then, not collectibles. But gas was so cheap then."

His car, all black with a black-and-orange interior and 350 horses under the hood, gets 13 miles per gallon - "if you have a tail wind."

Some of these Pontiacs have undergone more changes than others.

"Mine has had a significant number of modifications," says club President Allen Coloman, pointing to the champagne-toned 1964 Pontiac Catalina he bought in 2002 from its second owner.

The first, says Coloman, was a little old lady who drove it to age 91.

"It had 76,000 miles on it. It's still under 100,000," says Coloman, who does drive it around town and to various car shows.

He's replaced the engine, transmission, wheels and tires, and he added disc brakes.

"At 4,000 pounds, it's got to stop," says Coloman, 64, who also added seat belts in back for the grandkids.

Much of the interior is original, he adds, save for the bucket seats he installed in place of the front bench seat. The trunk, he adds, "is big enough for a party."

Besides his Solstice, Rogers also owns a '67 GTO that he bought from a guy in Van Nuys, Calif., in 1982.

"He wanted $1,700. I offered $1,570. It was all I had in the credit union." Deal.

For Rogers, three things made him covet a Pontiac: nostalgia - his dad owned a '51 Chieftain - styling and performance. "It started the muscle-car era. Stick a big engine in a small car."

Originally gold, the exterior of Rogers' GTO is now "Mariner Turquoise." The whole interior has been redone, though it still sports gold upholstery - along with an AM radio and a speedometer that needles up to 120 miles per hour.

Mileage isn't bad either, says Rogers, about 17 miles per gallon - "if I keep my foot off of it."

Not that the mileage really counts. "This car is meant to be driven," says Rogers.

'Nuff said.

IF YOU GO

A few members of the Arizona Pontiac Club will have their Pontiacs on view Saturday at the Tubac Car Show, which begins at 10 a.m. at the Tubac Golf Resort and Spa, 1 Otero Road. Take Interstate 19 south to Exit 40.

DID YOU KNOW

The movie "Spin" was partly filmed in Tucson.

WANT TO JOIN?

Call 290-4190 for more information.

Bonnie Henry's column appears Sundays and Mondays. Reach her at 573-4179 or at bhenry@azstarnet.com or write to P.O. Box 26807, Tucson, AZ 85726.

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