Let’s start off with Jim Wangers. If you know this name then you know your Pontiac history. If you do not, then let me tell you about the “Godfather of the GTO.” The legendary “ad man” for Pontiac and the marketer behind the Pontiac GTO and several other Pontiac specialty cars, Wangers helped establish the “muscle car” of the Sixties to its rightful niche in the history of American car marketing. No, he didn’t invent the GTO. That credit goes to John DeLorean, Russ Gee and Bill Collins, but Wangers was certainly the man who created the mystique that surrounds America’s original muscle car, the Pontiac GTO. He did amazing work getting the Pontiac name from “just another American car” to the hit sensation of the “wide track Pontiac.”
Now you know who he is, this is how I got to know the man very well. My mother about my sophomore year of high school decided she would start dating more since before that dating with 2 very active children is very difficult. So a friend and she go out to see the friend’s old high school friend who in turn brought a friend so they would be a group of 4. Well my mother and this guy hit it off and started dating. Well this man Dave worked for Jim as his business director and ad man basically. He would take them to the shows they were hired to speak at and show off cars and such since Jim had a very nice collection of vehicles.
So after meeting this new man friend of my Mother’s we go to the Jim Wangers’ annual car show Tour de Wangers. Oh my, what a joy to my eyes. All the Pontiacs and muscle cars were just amazing. Though there was a black Ferrari 512 BBi that I was drooling over (my favorite modern Ferrari). Then I saw it. A 2006 Ford GT, not in the blue with white stripes as it should be, but it was amazing. The owner was super cool and let me sit in it. O my what an amazing experience for a high schooler.
After that we started going on all sorts of car shows and events with Jim and Dave. School and such didn’t allow my sister and me to go on the cross country ones, but my Mom did. These definitely inundated me with my passion for the Pontiac brand and further cemented my GM fanboy. We went to Oregon for car shows and drag races, all over California, and met amazing other people in the GM world. It was all such an amazing experience for me and I have to thank Jim, Dave, and my Mother for it all. Though Dave and my Mother stopped dating, Dave and I are still friends and I try to see him and Jim as much as I can.
Now the thing that had the biggest impression on me was something that we have talked about here many times on Oppo. We went to a Pontiac gathering in San Diego with Jim and Dave. We brought his 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge and his 1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 Ram Air. Unfortunately I can’t find any picture at the moment from this event, but it was a blast. So we are there most of the day and we leave to go back to Jim’s warehouse to put the cars away. Halfway back we stopped for food and go back out to the cars and they ask me if I want to drive the Firebird the rest of the way. I almost said no for the sheer fear I had of hurting a car that I could not afford as a just licensed teen. Thankfully my Mother looked at me and shook her head yes and me and I happily agreed and hopped in the passenger seat. Turning the key on and pulling out of the lot following the Judge was amazing. Especially when we got off the freeway and Dave driving the Judge starts pushing it on some twisty roads to the warehouse I was told to keep up with him. I can’t even describe the feeling I had being in that car and not only getting to drive it, but getting to push it relatively hard. Hearing the engine roar, looking over that beautiful green hood, and smelling that mix of gasoline, oil, and aged leather that makes classic cars intoxicating. That is why when someone asks me what my most dream car is or what is the one car you would own if you could only have one for the rest of your life, I answer with 1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 Ram Air in Verdoro Green with a black interior, 4 speed, and factory A/C. It is the car that makes with me perfectly and someday I will all because a man who owned a cool classic car decided to show and share it with a young impressionable young man and I will forever be grateful that.