Click here to View Our Other Publication
Drive Life : May 14th 2010
1HERSA1 F016 TOM KERR SUBARU TOM KERR SUBARU 883 Victoria Road West Ryde 1300 577 693 www.tomkerr.com.au *Offer ends 5pm 16 May 2010. Pictures for illustrative purposes. Plates not transferable. DL 1142 BB9142 16 OTHER DEMONSTRATORS TO CHOOSE. HURRY IN FOR BEST SELECTION. CALL 1300 577 693 LIBERTY 2.5i SEDAN CVT AUTOMATIC DRIVEAWAY > 7 Airbags > All Wheel Drive > ABS/VDC BMV47C 6804 km > CVT transmission >H i l lH o l d > Dual Zone Climate Air > 7 Airbags > AllWheel Drive > ABS/VDC > Integrated Sat Nav >R e v e r s eC a m e r a > Bluetooth Handsfree > 5 Star Safety >M a n yE x t r a s >M Y 1 0M o d e l LIBERTY 2.5i SPORTS PREMIUM WAGON AUTO DRIVEAWAY RSK14U* 4980 km $49,990 > Leather/Sunroof > 18" Alloys/Bilst ein Suspension > My10 Model $32,990 SAVE $8,158 SAVE $4,273 16 Drive Life May 14, 2010 drive.com.au PROFILE PETER McKAY The original muscle man The man who pioneered the famous GTO badge reckons the Aussie version could have been the best. Legend maker . . . former ad whiz for General Motors Jim Wangers, the ''Godfather of the Pontiac GTO''. The 1964 hit, GTO, by Ronny and the Daytonas -- a 21G2-minute paean to Pontiac's legendary V8 coupe muscle car -- remains an enduring standout of American pop culture, cited as a fine exemplar of the surf/hot rod music craze of the early '60s. The lyrics are credited to singer/ guitarist John Wilkin, who approached General Motors' Pontiac division for assistance in getting the song launched. Pontiac pushed Wilkin and his tune to its advertising agency where, with Wilkin's approval, Pontiac's then ad whiz Jim Wangers rewrote some at-times confusing lines of homage to the GTO's performance: ''Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389 . . .'' Only a true car nut gets that stuff. GTO made it to No. 3 and sold 1.25 million copies in a wonderful free plug for the new muscle coupe. The straight-talking Wangers, now in his 80s, is the so-called Godfather of the Pontiac GTO, the US's first real muscle car. He didn't create the GTO but he was responsible for building the legend that surrounds the coupe. He's Pontiac hardcore and the contents of his garage reflect his dogma. There are 1964 and '65 GTOs, a pair of extreme '69 GTO Judge versions and a four-pack of anniversary Pontiac Trans Ams -- '69, '79, '89 and '99. His daily driver is a Pontiac GXP, the last of the V8-engined Grand Prix models prior to the G8. ''I think the G8 is the finest Pontiac ever built -- and one of the dumbest names,'' Wangers says. ''Pontiac should not have alpha-numeric names just because BMW does.'' Has Wangers ever contemplated a Mercedes, Audi, BMW, or Porsche? ''Never owned an imported car,'' he says proudly. But Wangers is not merely a one-eyed Pontiac nutter. ''To GM's credit, the Cadillac CTS-V is absolutely magnificent. It's my type of car. And the ZR1 is about as good as a Corvette will ever get. ''Chrysler, too, deserves credit for its SRT program.'' Wangers is one of the few surviving larger-than-life movers and shakers of the golden era of the American 1960s muscle cars, a period kept alive by enthusiasts on many continents including this one. In Australia on a lecture tour, he's brutally telling local Pontiac aficionados who they should blame for killing off the brand in the aftermath of General Motors' cleanout in its fight to survive. The GTO emerged in late 1963, when John Z DeLorean went with the simple idea of ''stuffing a big engine into a small car''. Until then Pontiac had been a ''nice'', non- confronting brand. But under three imaginative leaders, ''Bunkie'' Knudsen, Pete Estes and the flamboyant DeLorean (later to be charged and acquitted on cocaine- trafficking charges), Pontiac was re- created under a performance and excitement banner. The timing was perfect; postwar baby boomers had embarked on a quest for personal mobility and the only performance cars were pricey imports. The Pontiac GTO was never imported to Australia in great numbers but this pioneering piece of Detroit muscle is revered even in this neck of the woods. Wangers was the marketing messenger who made sure the American baby boomers knew all about the GTO. A timely Car and Driver magazine story comparing the affordable home-grown GTO with an expensive, fancy Ferrari 250 GTO -- and the singalong hit record -- helped turn the rambunctious Pontiac coupe into a sales sensation. On the back of its sizzling performance product and a freshly minted ''bad boy'' image, Pontiac jumped from seventh to third in sales. The boomers not only had wheels; they had hot, affordable wheels. A serious muscle-car culture emerged. It was the wildest era in automotive history and never to be repeated, Wangers says. Nothing lasts forever. Wangers blames those damned free-loving hippies and the Age of Aquarius '70s culture change, plus the 1973 oil embargo, for hobbling the muscle- car movement. The original GTO ended production in 1973. Big and clumsy and complacent GM slowly lost the plot. The Pontiac division hung on until 2009. Wangers doesn't hesitate to name the villains who sent Pontiac to the graveyard -- mostly a succession of general managers who didn't know what Pontiac stood for. Some of these gents also stuffed up the last-chance rebirth of the fabled GTO, a re-badged, imported, slightly made-over Holden Monaro in 2004. A GM car guy Wangers admires, Bob Lutz, thrust the Australian Monaro onto Pontiac, then controlled by ''cynical over- educated 45-year-olds with MBAs'' who ''changed the GTO emblem -- it was the dumbest move''. Of many dumb moves. ''They didn't know what it was to have the GTO name and they were too arrogant to go back and learn,'' Wangers says. ''Heritage was nothing to them. The original GTO was born on a drag strip but these people were more sophisticated and instead put the car into drifting and the American Le Mans Series. ''Drifters and ALMS people are not Pontiac people.'' The sucking-lemons look on Wangers face reveals his view of this strategy: ''I think the GTO could have been a huge success. ''I'm a big Holden fan -- I like what they've done. I like the whole concept of HSV.'' Wangers says the new GTO needed big hood scoops (finally added to the GTO in 2005), big exhausts and the right marketing. ''It was a sensational car,'' he says of the Monaro. ''It wasn't poorly styled; it was just dated and looked too similar to the front-drive two-door Grand Prix and Chrysler Sebring.'' The anonymous new GTO didn't win the regulars on Woodward Avenue, Detroit's legendary muscle- car cruising street. ''The price was a little too high and it was a dated, dumpy coupe. And it was criminal that Pontiac's dealer education program with the new GTO was so poor. The car had wonderful press but was mis- marketed in every way. To get into it and drive it was to love it and they did make it better. ''But in the US you get 15 minutes of fame and by the time they got the car right, it was all over. It started off very slowly and then it tailed off.'' Log on to www.drive.com.au/videos to see a Jim Wangers interview.
May 7th 2010
May 21st 2010