Jim Wangers, the Godfather of the GTO, lifeless at 96

Jim Wangers, the advert man who had John DeLorean’s ear and helped make the Nineteen Sixties Pontiac’s decade, handed away peacefully early within the morning of April 29, 2023. He was 96 years outdated.

Wangers auspiciously joined Campbell-Ewald as a copywriter proper when the model was transitioning from an austere member of the “Low-Priced Three” to “The Hot One.” He tried convincing his superiors that NASCAR‘s Pace Week was a superb alternative to hype the brand new 180-horse Energy Pack for the small-block V8, however Wangers was advised that “Chevrolet isn’t into racing.” He went to Daytona on his personal dime and documented the success of the unbiased Chevy racers, however response from superiors continued to be underwhelming, together with his bosses feeling Pace Week was some outlaw racing factor, one thing commonplace in an period the place the automotive scene continued to be seen as stuffed with undesirables.

The all-new 1955 Bel Air wonderfully redefined Chevrolet with huge kudos to Jim Wangers.

The all-new 1955 Bel Air splendidly redefined Chevrolet with big kudos to Jim Wangers.

With phrase of Daytona spreading by means of the media, dealerships have been unprepared to cater to fans inquiring about high-performance Chevrolets. Phrase ultimately obtained again to Chevrolet’s central workplace, so Campbell-Ewald was pressured to acknowledge the advertising and marketing alternative and, lo and behold, curiosity in Wangers’ report acquired correct consideration.

Chevrolet would by no means be the identical ever once more, a juggernaut of fashion, engineering and efficiency unmatched within the business. In reality, due to Chevrolet’s success and Basic Motors proudly owning half {the marketplace}, GM doubled down on the 1957 Vehicle Producers Affiliation racing ban in 1963 and obtained out of racing in order to maintain the Feds at bay with attainable monopolistic accusations.

1964 Pontiac GTO brought Pontiac’s efforts from the racetrack to the street, but it was the marketing that changed the rules.

1964 Pontiac GTO introduced Pontiac’s efforts from the racetrack to the road, however it was the advertising and marketing that modified the principles.

Amongst all of GM’s manufacturers, Pontiac had developed a status as being a novel sporty model, much more so than Chevrolet. With Tri-Energy and Tremendous Responsibility logos, it appeared Pontiac’s funding in racing had all been for naught. “Fact was we have been taking Pontiac efficiency off the race monitor, just like the Company needed, and placing it on the road,” with the GTO, “just like the Company didn’t need,” wrote Wangers in his ebook Glory Days. The story has been retold many occasions, however Wangers loved a novel function because the unofficial spokesman for Pontiac, a person with one hand on the heartbeat of the Pontiac due to his shut relationship with Chief Engineer John DeLorean, the opposite on the heartbeat of the road — in spite of everything, Wangers received the 1960 NHRA Prime Inventory Eliminator title driving a Royal Pontiac-prepped Catalina, so he knew what was up on Detroit-area strips and native highways like Woodward and Telegraph. (He continued to be part of the road scene into the Eighties.)

1977 Pontiac Can Am

1977 Pontiac Can Am

When DeLorean moved on to Chevrolet, Pontiac’s new individuals weren’t heat to Wangers. Truly, there already have been many indicators on the market as a result of the high-performance market was tanking. Wangers took it as an indication and tried his hand working a automotive dealership in Milwaukee. When that didn’t work out, he went again to Detroit and fashioned Motortown, a store that gave lesser vehicles just like the Mustang II, Pontiac LeMans Sport Coupe, AMC Hornet, and Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen twins a muscle automotive picture from a earlier period and turned them into the Cobra II, Can Am, Hornet AMX, and the Volare Highway Runner and Aspen R/T, respectively. Even Eighties vehicles acquired the Motortown contact, together with the Dodge Charger 2.2. Even when it appeared there was none, Wangers by no means forgot that horsepower and fervour dominated Detroit.

Wangers and Hurst’s Dave Landrith presented AMC with the idea for the SC/Rambler. For 1970, he joined with Hurst to develop the Rebel Machine.

Wangers and Hurst’s Dave Landrith introduced AMC with the concept for the SC/Rambler. For 1970, he joined with Hurst to develop the Insurgent Machine.

Clearly Jim Wangers was an completed man, however his greatest accomplishment was the founding of Automotive Advertising and marketing Consultants Inc. (AMCI) in 1981. This firm ran licensed USAC testing/comparisons to be used in advertising and marketing — for instance, claims like “Greatest in Class” for a selected metric in an commercial might be backed up by AMCI documentation.

9 years in the past, he was recognized with dementia and probably Alzheimer’s illness, and 5 years in the past, he moved into an assisted dwelling facility in Orange County, California. After all, it’s not these moments that outline Jim. After all, his fame comes from being the Godfather of the GTO, however there’s a lot extra to the person who devoted nearly 60 years to the auto business, automotive passion and philanthropy. It doesn’t matter what your model allegiance, it’s probably your little fanatic’s coronary heart owes a debt of gratitude to Jim Wangers.

This text, written by Diego Rosenberg, was initially published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial accomplice of Motor Authority.