Let me start off by saying this is a book I have been looking forward to and also one that I enjoyed immensely. However I also need to say that this was a difficult book to read due to the current conditions. On the day I received this book it was the day GM announced the pending death of Pontiac. It has been a very difficult time. Another friend has a terminal illness. Pontiac has entered hospice care and I am afraid there is nothing any of us can do. The bigger fear is that what is killing Pontiac maybe so contagious that it might kill all of GM.
Over the years I have owned numerous Pontiac models and always loved each and everyone of them. I lusted after certain Trans Ams and GTOs and adored some of the early Grand Prix models. We have already lost the creator of the Avanti, the mother of the Superbird and the builder of the 442 just to mention a few. How ironic it is that just as the Muscle Car craze arguably started by the GTO is about to take off again with multiple new models from Detroit the entire industry is on the verge of collapse.
The book is Pontiac’s Great One a tribute to the GTO. It is published by Motorbooksand authored by Darwin Holmstrom with beautiful photography, as usual, from David Newhardt.
On page 57 there is a very telling few paragraphs; they sound totally different than what you hear today. Read the following excerpt from the book and ponder what our Government is doing on the date this review is being written (early May 2009).
The General Motors Racing Ban
Just as Bunkie Knudsen’s investment in racing to promote Pontiac as a performance brand was starting to bear fruit in the marketplace, General Motors pulled the plug on all of its divisions’ racing efforts. In 1963, General Motors instituted a total ban on factory racing involvement. Ed Cole, the father of Chevrolet’s OHV V-8 engine and by that time a vice president at General Motors corporate headquarters, decided to halt all corporate racing activities, both direct and indirect. In late 1962, GM announced that the company would cease all support of racing for 1963.
Cole had a reason for this madness. Unlike his counterparts at other companies, Cole wasn’t hell-bent on promoting a nanny state in which government and the corporate world contrived to protect automotive enthusiasts from themselves. Rather, he instituted the total racing ban in an attempt to keep the heavy hand of the nanny state off of GM’s neck; by the early 1960s, GM had the federal government breathing down its corporate neck.
“This wasn’t due to safety concerns or emission problems,” Jim Wangers writes in Glory Days. “That would come later in the decade. The heat was from the Justice Department, who had determined that GM was getting too large a share of the U.S. car market.” The real problem, as the Justice Department saw it, was that General Motors had come dangerously close to breaking the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the federal antitrust law designed to prevent one company from monopolizing an entire industry.
Today, when General Motors’ share of the U.S. auto market is less than 20 percent and Toyota has surpassed GM as the world’s largest auto manufacturer, it seems ludicrous to imagine a U.S. auto manufacturer taking moves to keep its share of the auto market from growing, but these were very different times. Imports from Europe comprised only a small percentage of the overall market and imports from Asia were virtually nonexistent. Imports were so rare that the only example many people living in the American Midwest had ever seen was the Volkswagen Beetle.
“You have to understand,” Wangers says, “in the late ’50s, early ’60s, GM was in danger of getting between 57 and 60 percent of the new car market. The Justice Department said they were watching GM, and if GM ever got to 60 percent of the market or more, they’d move in and break up the company. They’d done it before with Standard Oil, so we knew they were serious. General Motors took . . . actions to slow down market penetration. That’s why [Cole] issued the edict to ban racing in 1962.”
Think about that. GM was forced by the Justice Department to stop being so successful; now, almost 50 years later, the President and Congress are investing Billions of dollars trying to save not only GM but also Chrysler!
This is not a political book nor is this a political column; it is simply an observation and a point of view about not only how the GTO came to be but also how Pontiac came to die.
On the bright side, this book tells a wonderful story in great detail about the “foreplay” and eventual birth of the Pontiac GTO. I was a hormone driven teenager during this time and can tell you it was a wonderful time for cars, music and life in America. This book taught me a lot about the creation of the GTO and its roots back in some of Pontiac’s grand history. There is considerable discussion of the role that Royal Pontiac in Royal Oak, Michigan played in racing history. Remember the Royal Bobcat?
The author takes you through the development of not only the first GTO but every GTO after that. There are inside stories and details on every model that make you want to read more. And the photos…David Newhardt out did himself on these. I have included only a very small sampling of the wonderful color images that Newhardt provides the reader.
I have worked with David Newhardt on photo shoots and I can tell you he brings out the best in any car he shoots. These GTOs are naturals. Anyone of them could be a cover car or a calendar feature.
Newhardt’s photos and Holmstrom’s words are reason enough to purchase this book but wait there’s more. Not only does the author take you through the development of every major GTO and the changes it received from the prior year, the book includes reprints of Pontiac ads, dealer brochures and magazine reviews of the GTO. These make terrific additions to the book.
The retail price of $50 may seem steep in today’s economic conditions but it is no small book. It is a large coffee table book containing 330 pages of text and photos. It is a bargain for anyone wanting to relive the GTO’s history. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THIS BOOK YOU CAN GO TO OUR ONLINE STORE AND PURCHASE IT AT A SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS OVER YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD BOOKSTORE. CLICK HERE. If you didn’t live through the politics of the late 60’s or the civil rights movement or the Vietnam War protests then this book will put the Muscle Car wars into a more understandable perspective. It was not just the increasing cost of gas and insurance premiums that brought an end to the Muscle Car. Another major contributor was the half million young American men who were called to war. Many of these were potential buyers for Muscle Cars. Some came home to purchase their dream car; some came home to wives and babies; some came home with more important life limiting handicaps to cope with and some did not come home.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: We’re Going Racing!
Chapter 2: Delorean’s Outlaw Car
Chapter 3: Coping with Success
Chapter 4: A Maturing Car For a Maturing Audience
Chapter 5: Highlights and Low Points
Chapter 6: The Death and Short-Lived Reincarnation of the GTO
Even the last GTO is included in this historical recap of The Great One. It too was a great car but a total flop. Why? The author includes a compelling reason for the GTO that did not sell.