I hinted at it before that I have a personal connection to the story of the Pontiac Fiero. It isn’t terribly exciting, but I enjoy the full circle nature of it and it all revolves around the body panel material that Pontiac called “Enduraflex”.
Truth be told, the “Enduraflex” name wasn’t for an individual material as much as it was the whole system. See, different plastics and materials were used for different parts. Each one having their own properties of formability, flexibility, and thermal expansion rates. By taking all of this into account, and electing the right primer and paint, GM could have the best of every world, for every part of the car. It’s why even decently maintained Fieros tend to at least have decent body panels.
Now to do this system, GM called on outside consultants and scientists to get this done. Their in-house team were simply too inexperienced to get all of it done so they focused on the manufacturing process to make this whole shebang work. The other scientists and consultants worked out which materials should be used where, and what paint and primer should be used for consistent color. One of these scientists? Reginald G. Bell.
Bell was actually teaching at Kettering University by this point in his career. But as Kettering was still GMI (General Motors Institute) at the time, he was on a bit of a retainer by GM. They hired most of the students already so he helped out with interior plastics and those newfangled plastic bumpers for vehicles like the GTO Judge. So....yeah....he did his part and kept a few of the old prototype parts and early production samples in his office for shits and giggles (along with samples of everything else he had a hand in...Johnny cash could build a cadillac in one day after a visit, though he’d have to settle for a headlight from a buick or a grille from a hummer or something).
For those who know me, I went to Kettering myself. I majored in Chemistry and took a few classes with Professor Bell. It was actually his polymers and composites class that I heard about his work on the Fiero and the C4/C5 corvettes. He was rather....ancient by this time though. And sadly, he passed away a few years ago. I got to see him one last time when I stopped in at a car show not long after I graduated. Less than a year later, he passed. And the chemistry department will never be the same...
So now, here I am, developing car care products and protective agents and whatnot and....I get to use them to protect a car he helped build.
But I guess it’s time to say I can’t wait to welcome Reggie into my garage.