THE 1986 PONTIAC Parisienne is a rolling relic, and it's no wonder that General Motors wants to get rid of this car at the end of the current model year.
It's a rear-wheel-drive tank, a heavy cruiser that could put oil cartels back in business -- a veloured, chrome-plated, plastic-wood- grained, unrelenting ode to what has long stood for American automotive luxury.
And I love it, absolutely love it.
This car has dignity in arrogance. It struts its stuff with enough aplomb to rise above detractors.
Even the hot-blooded, "we-build-excitement" Pontiac types had to bow to the Parisienne in the early 1980s. The big "B-body" sedan, called the Bonneville back then, was dropped from the Pontiac line in 1982 to make room for the division's new, front-wheel-drive, small-and-sporty machines.
But the Pontiac "B-body" had been around since 1957 and had built up a loyal and vociferous following. Pontiac was forced to bring it back in 1983 as the "upgraded" Parisienne.
I won't be surprised if GM, once again, scraps its plan to eliminate the B-body. But if the demise comes about, we should build a monument to this sedan.
It has always been true to itself and its constituency. Even in our present age of fickle affections, that oughtta be worth something.
Outstanding complaint: Alas, the Parisienne is too large for today's world. Its overall length is a gargantuan 212.3 inches. Its weight, 3,575 pounds, bespeaks gluttony. Its body-on-frame construction eventually will add rattles to its bulk, despite the considerable craftsmanship invested in its quality. Other smaller, lighter cars -- thanks to advances in automotive technology -- now carry as many passengers (six) as safely and as comfortably as the Parisienne.
Outstanding praise: Oh, it is regal on the road! It cruises through high highway winds and inclement weather with impunity. It is a psychologically comforting machine. Auto- safety engineers now prefer cars that absorb crash energy and crumple in a controlled manner around the occupants. But the Parisienne makes you feel that if anyone does any crumpling, it won't be you.
Acceleration, handling: Uncompromising, brute power from an optional 5-liter, V-8 gasoline engine in the test car. More than enough acceleration when needed. Handling is surprisingly good for a car this size. Unlike some of its comparable competitors, the Parisienne feels more like a sedan than a yacht.
Head-turning-quotient: An old-fashioned classic, perhaps even a celebration of conspicuous consumption. Attractive, when seen through the eyes of the late-'50s America that spawned its basic design.
Sound system: GM-Delco AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer. Excellent.
Mileage: Barely 21 to the gallon, combined city-highway, running driver-only and with winter-climate control system operating most of the time.
Price-as-tested: $16,834, including the plush interior and almost every conceivable power option except a sunroof. Many Pontiac dealers say that they are willing to bargain on this one.