Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Camino LS6

A legend speaks

16 posts in this topic

http://blogs.automobilemag.com/65073...ent/index.html

Pontiac’s demise may not seem like a big deal these days. The brand has only two cars worth test-driving, the G8 and Solstice, and either would look fine in a Chevrolet showroom. Back in the 1960s though, Pontiac was third in the marketplace, behind only Chevy and Ford, and was undoubtedly number one in the hearts and minds of teenaged baby boomers. A lot of that had to do with the efforts of ad man Jim Wangers, who shrewdly crafted the brand’s edgy, high-performance image. More importantly, he was a real car guy, and could often be seen at drag strips or prowling Detroit’s Woodward Avenue in a souped up, “Royal Bobcat” GTO.

When GM announced its plans earlier this week to kill the brand by 2010, I gave Wangers a call. Now 83 and still very active in the Pontiac enthusiast community, he had a lot to say about why the brand failed, and pulled no punches when it came to assessing GM’s management - past and present. Excerpts from our conversation are below.

What was your reaction to the news that Pontiac will be closed?

I must confess it did not really surprise me. The whole Pontiac concept, really, their well-earned image of building high performance cars, has been so seriously compromised over the last 30 years that none of this is really a big surprise

People ask me, “When did Pontiac start to go downhill?”

I say, the day the door hit John DeLorean in the ass for the last time. After DeLorean left, the brand was run by one after another of GM’s soldiers.

What was the secret to Pontiac’s success in the 1960s?

The management.

DeLorean was the third of three really quality general managers who really understood the picture, the image Pontiac had created for itself. [The other two were Bunkie Knudsen and Pete Estes].

Who do you blame for the brands demise?

You blame Pontiac. You blame Pontiac and their marketing team.

There were good cars that Pontiac failed to take advantage of. For instance, the early 80s 6000STE. That was a fun car to drive but it needed a better engine.

We put a presentation together for the general manager at the time, Mike Losh, to demand than he get rid of the carbureted 2.8-liter V-6. He never understood, never had an inclination to do it. And every reason that he had was a dollar, which has been what's running GM for 35 years.

One of the worst things that happened was when they came out with the new GTO. It was so badly handled, packaged, and marketed. They changed so many things, they failed to jump on what it really meant to be a GTO

When they failed with that -- that was the end. That really was the beginning of the end. When you bring back your number one nameplate, and it fails, you haven’t got much room to go anywhere else.

Then they had the crazy idea of changing the names.

If there was ever a domestic manufacturer that ever had a really good set of names it was Pontiac – Bonneville, Grand Prix, Trans Am! And then all these little boys in men’s jobs come along, and come up with insanely stupid ‘G’ names.

You’re still very active among Pontiac enthusiasts. How do you think the community will proceed now that the brand is dead?

I would say that the hobby may just thrive over it.

Pontiac badly mishandled the promotion on the new GTO. They ignored the committed the Pontiac enthusiast, and as a result, the hobby has already pretty much separated itself from the modern brand.

And it’s huge – not as big as Ford and Chevy communities - but certainly a whole lot stronger than those for brands like Oldsmobile and Buick.

In fact, there will be a huge Pontiac convention this summer, from July 7-11th. POCI [Pontiac-Oakland Club International] and GTOAA [GTO Association of America] are coming together for what could be the biggest Pontiac gathering ever.

Do you think there’s a place today for a brand like the Pontiac of the 1960s?

The answer is yes. There will always be a place for a guy who builds - and if I can use this cornball term – excitement. But no, I don’t think that place is Pontiac because they’ve allowed it to deteriorate so badly that the only people who still get it are really the all out auto enthusiast or maybe anyone who’s over 45 or 50.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Then they had the crazy idea of changing the names.

If there was ever a domestic manufacturer that ever had a really good set of names it was Pontiac – Bonneville, Grand Prix, Trans Am! And then all these little boys in men’s jobs come along, and come up with insanely stupid ‘G’ names.

This

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This

My dad was so upset when Pontiac started changing names and even more upset when the death was announced--his first car was a Bonneville... not sure what year, but he talks about it to this day like no other car has even come close (although he LOVED his LeSabre and is thrilled with his Lucerne--just doesn't get the same look in his eye than when he talks about the ol' Bonneville).

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My first car was a GP, I went on to own 6 others : 7 Pontiacs out of 20 vehicles total.

Here, tho, the Pontiacs were all '64-66.

Wife has owned 2 : '93 GA, '03 GP.

Even tho I was not cognicent of it when it happened-- when the Corp dropped divisional engines in '81... that will always mark the beginning of the end for PMD IMO.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have had many Pontiacs over the years, picked up another one yesterday for my daughter, that makes 3 Pontiacs in my garage ... I blame Lutz for the name changes, that was his baby ... I also agree with everything Jim Wangers stated above ...

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And that's all that really needs to be said. I agree 110% with everything he said.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
:( One of the Pontiac Gods...
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jim Wangers on the death of Pontiac excitement

Even if he's now 83, it's too bad his expertise wasn't called upon by GM.

If there was ever a domestic manufacturer that ever had a really good set of names it was Pontiac – Bonneville, Grand Prix, Trans Am!

I'd add LeMans to that theme of "racing" Pontiac names.

I personally think Buick has some cherished names, too, including Wildcat, Electra, Riviera, and Roadmaster. I'd better add Invicta and LeSabre to that. But NOT LaCrosse or Lucerne.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with some but not all.

Pontiac is to blaime for some but they onmly could do in many cases what GM let them do. Pontiac has had a history of fighting to get what they needed or wanted.

A good point to prove this is the many historic cars of the 60's such as the GTO were cars Pontiac broke the rules GM handed down> Delorean pissed a lot of GM people off but he sold a lot of cars. THey burned him in the end becuse he did not play by their rules.

The Firebird would have been much more than it was if Delorean was not smacked down and told to use the Camaro with some tuning.

Later on the Fiero was a sports car idea they had to sell to GM as a commuter car after GM tried to kill it several times. The Fiero failed for the most part because GM never supported the car and it took 4 years to get the car right on the money Pontiac was given. When GM killed the car the hard feeling with in GM have lasted even to this day. I know one marketing manager who was there that will not speak about it publicly because it could hurt is future.

While the G names did not help the old names became damaged with poor products and poor reps in the general publics eye. The fact is you can call the present G6 a Grand AM and the present G5 a Sunbird and they are still not performance cars and still not as good as Pontiac deserved.

There is so much that could be debated here but there is enough blaime to go around here for all to share. The damage started years ago. The biggest blaime will go to GM as they just never gave Pontiac the support it needed. It always had a history being the second banana to Chevy.

Wangers may claim Pontiac did not give the STE the proper engine but where was it to come from since they used the best V6 GM had at the time? The 3800 had not evolved to the degree it would reach and the STE V6 was as good of the 60 degree eingine they offered at the time. Pontiac had a Turbo V6 2.9 but GM again did not support them and killed the engine.

The late years I agree marketing was failed and flawed but still the product was just not up to the standard it needed to be. Pontiac needed to be better in all ways than Chevy but they were only part better with the same drive trains that could be had for less at Chevy.

Either way there is not much point to this now. Hind sight is 20/20.

To blaime Lutz is a little short sighted. The only 3 cars he had much say over were the Solstice, G8 and GTO. Considering he had no money to do much with the GTO I can understand the lacking.

The G6 and GP could only be tuned a little By Bob as they were done by the time he arrived. Also cars like the G3 and G3 were not cars he wanted. Even Bob could not do what all he wanted here due to tthe lack of support of GM.

Edited by hyperv6
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Currently "own" (in the immediate family) 13 Pontiacs, out of 26 cars. Chevy makes up the next chunk at 8 cars, but most of them were inherited. I've only ever bought one Chevy for my own purposes. The rest are a single Buick, Olds, GMC, Ford and AMC.

While I really only desire a G8 GXP, the immediate family also wanted a Solstice and a Torrent GXP.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some of the same points I considered true.

Edited by ShadowDog
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wangers may claim Pontiac did not give the STE the proper engine but where was it to come from since they used the best V6 GM had at the time? The 3800 had not evolved to the degree it would reach and the STE V6 was as good of the 60 degree eingine they offered at the time. Pontiac had a Turbo V6 2.9 but GM again did not support them and killed the engine.

I know they went with the MPI 2.8 in the mid 80s - a friend of my father's had a black '86 6000 (a non-STE at that) that was fuel injected.

from wikipedia

The 6000 STE was introduced for the 1983 model year, and was known[citation needed] as the spiritual successor to the performance-oriented Grand Am that was offered in the 1970s. It features a High-Output version of the 6000's optional 2.8 L V6. Like that engine, it sports a 2-barrel carburetor, though it delivers 135 horsepower, rather than the usual 112 horsepower. Although intended to compete with similar entries from BMW and Audi, the carburetor (competitors had fuel injection) and gauge cluster without tachometer made the STE seem rather deficient when compared to competitors from those manufacturers. The 1984 6000STE featured a digital gauge cluster featuring a bar-graph tachometer. The STE featured a driver information center with a system which monitored functions such as lights, doors, tune-ups and tire rotations.

Special steering rack, and suspension tuning with a self-leveling rear air suspension yielded European handling, though the rear end felt a little floaty at times. 4 wheel disc brakes improved stopping to European standards as did standard Goodyear Eagle GT tires, size 195/70R14 (large for the time).

In 1985, the carbureted engine was replaced by a multi-port fuel injected version of the 2.8 L V6, still delivering 135 horsepower. Although the 3-speed automatic remained standard (a Getrag 5 Speed Manual was a no charge option), the new engine accelerated faster than the previous engine, and enhanced the STEs emphasis on performance and technology. For 1986, a revised front facsia with composite headlamps, anti-lock brakes, a revised tachometer, steering wheel mounted audio controls and a new 4-speed automatic transmission were new. Following this was a two-position memory seat for the 8-way power drivers seat for 1987. New for 1988 was an optional All Wheel Drive system. It was mated to a new 3.1 L LH0 V6 (the first use of GMs new 3.1 L in a production car) but only a 3-speed automatic transmission, which didn't help acceleration or fuel economy. The all-wheel-drive system became standard for 1989, but was moved to the SE model for 1990, since the STE was discontinued from the 6000 line and moved to the new four-door Grand Prix lineup that year. It was later discontinued from the Grand Prix after 1993.

I do agree there's plenty of blame to go around. It seems like there's no place in GM for a brand whose claim to fame is bucking the system. Pontiac has had to scratch, crawl, beg, borrow, and steal for much of its existence and still managed to produce some memorable cars under these circumstances. Now, the rebel has been excised, and what's left is a group of brands that'll follow their marching orders, never straying from the party line. Get ready for the one-size-fits-all GM. It may actually be successful someday, but it wont be the same.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know they went with the MPI 2.8 in the mid 80s - a friend of my father's had a black '86 6000 (a non-STE at that) that was fuel injected.

from wikipedia

I do agree there's plenty of blame to go around. It seems like there's no place in GM for a brand whose claim to fame is bucking the system. Pontiac has had to scratch, crawl, beg, borrow, and steal for much of its existence and still managed to produce some memorable cars under these circumstances. Now, the rebel has been excised, and what's left is a group of brands that'll follow their marching orders, never straying from the party line. Get ready for the one-size-fits-all GM. It may actually be successful someday, but it wont be the same.

The 6000 STE in 1985 had the same 2.8 V6 as the Fiero and was the highest 2.8 other than The Fiero. At the time Pontiac was getting 140 HP in the Fieor and a little less in the STE because of different exhaust manifolds. My dad Eurosport was only something like 125 HP with FI.

Lets face it Pontiac was at their best when they broke the GM rules for Racing, Displacmanrt and product development. They were at their worst when they had to use what GM would give them or was forced upon them.

Wangers is a nice guy and all but we also have to keep in mind he is a blow hard marketing guy too. While he did many things right he also had his share of failures too. Read his book Glory days and you will see many of his own failures too.

Delorean with Bunkies support is what made Pontiac what it was in the 60's. Johin Schinella and PMD marketing was the driving force of Pontiac in the 70's with the TA styling when power was lost. Schinella and a hand full of others shook things up in the 80's with the fight against GM with the Fiero and a hand full of other cars. Lets face it the best Ta in the 80's was the Turbo Pace car Pontiac did behind GM's back. But the came up short with the lack of funds to make these cars right fromt he start. Thanks Roger!

Once Losh got in the rules were no longer broken and Pontiac remained some what just following GM's lead and what ever hand me downs from Chevy till Lutx arrived.

Lutz with little more than support of Wagner was able to build a Solstice and GTO with mostly little to no support for GM funds and the board.

Pontiac made mistakes but the lack of GM support has always been there. This is a case of where is GM over it's history worked more as one corperation vs many independent companies they would have been much stonger and reactive to change in all divisions. Imagine the profits in the Glory days if GM worked as one with little waste.

If he was able to fix the Malibu imagine if he was give the proper chance to fix the G6.

You can't build the Empire State building out of 2x4's and Lutz was limited in how much he could do for Pontiac with so little funding ans support.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

GM did blow it. What IF the dealers could get GM to sell Pontiac, and you could get a guy like Wangers to help out and manage it? You might have something there. GM has no good reason to call the G8 the G8 when it could have been Bonneville or Grand Prix. Same went for the G6 when it could have been Grand Am.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   You have pasted content with formatting.   Remove formatting

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0