Iron Duke, your Uncle Mark, who cares?

Clay Petersen,

Let’s picture a world where you’ve never heard of Mountain Dew. You would think it is a beautiful flavor of a drink that tastes like the morning mist of the world, right? Instead, you get the stomach acid of a feral chihuahua, meant to power gamers who sleep until 3pm in their mom’s basement. My point is that things can have names that are misleading, much like the Iron Duke–today’s topic of discussion that nobody really cares about.

The Iron Duke was an engine produced by Pontiac from 1977 to 1993. By its name, you would assume that it is a big high-horsepower engine that drove its owners into crippling debt at the local Michelin. But no. The Iron Duke was a low horsepower, heavy, gas-sipping inline-four produced as an economy engine for the ‘70s gas crisis. It was made as a replacement for the large C.I. inline 6s and V8s that chugged gas like Uncle Tommy chugged “root beer” at the family bbq.

This little four-cylinder was the last engine to be designed and manufactured by Pontiac. It was efficient, reliable and able to be shoved into any old car to make it more economical. And the execs at GM did shove it into ANYthing. The Iron Duke has made appearances in twenty-four different models of cars across nine different makes. They even slapped it into the USPS postal truck, yea that truck.

One of the most memorable places that GM decided to shove an Iron Duke was the Pontiac Fiero, the first ever mid-engined car to come out of Detroit. The Fiero was a quirky little sports car that lived up to its name as it tended to catch on fire… a lot. 

In 1984, Pontiac produced a “bad batch” of connecting rods, and when put in cars, they tended to break and poke holes in the side of the engine. This resulted in oil leaking out onto the Fiero’s exhaust and starting fires.

The Iron Duke was like your step-dad Mark. He might get drunk and call you by the name of his dead brother, and yell at you that you left the toilet seat just a little crooked–not up or down–just crooked. But Mark was always there for you. Mark always watched your little league games and took you to ice cream after. Because Mark cared. 

The Iron Duke is a motor that cares. It’s not perfect by any means. It never does the dishes, and it eats way too many puffy Cheetos to be healthy. But it will always be there. It will take you from point A to point B, and it will be happy about it. You’ll be happy about it. The Iron Duke isn’t whom you grew up loving, but it loves you anyway. If there ever was an engine that represented trying your hardest but not being perfect, it was the Iron Duke.