1965 PONTIAC GTO- Jim Wangers Print
Written by Double Dragon
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 15:02

1965 PONTIAC GTO- Jim Wangers


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

65 gto tri power bobcat clone jim wangers front

When Bunkie Knudson took over Pontiac in the 1950s GM told him he was in charge of a doomed division. If Bunkie couldn't turn Pontiac around, it would be axed. Knowing that he had nothing to lose, Bunkie was free to take risks and build sales according to his own personal vision. Bunkie was a car guy who indulged himself and built Pontiac's reputation by ignoring the racing ban. Racing success eventually made Pontiac synonymous with excitement.

Chief engineer John DeLorean fit the Pontiac performance mindset perfectly. When DeLorean took over Pontiac in the 1960s he was in the right place at the right time. His innate charismatic leadership style was able to flourish and carry Pontiac to new heights. DeLorean ignored cumbersome GM policies and systems in favor of implementing immediate solutions.

DeLorean recruited many devotees within and outside Pontiac Motor Division which was by now a runaway success and operating as a quasi 'outlaw' division. One of DeLorean's most avid 'soldiers' was Jim Wangers whose daytime ad job promoting Pontiac had metamorphosed into an all consuming lifestyle of Pontiac 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

At the close of the sixties when DeLorean was promoted to Chevrolet he found himself in a highly structured GM division ill suited to his passionate style. Chevrolet was unwilling to provide unlimited access to Jim Wangers as had been the case at Pontiac. Jim ended up working for Hurst and eventually found himself back at Pontiac as a consultant. Jim also saw his Can Am concept make it to production. All roads seemed to lead back to Pontiac for Jim Wangers.

Jim has had a very long career in marketing but that special time at Pontiac remains a high point. When collectors began restoring performance Pontiacs, it hit a nerve for Jim Wangers. He was directly involved with the creation and marketing of those vehicles. The excitement he transmitted into ads was based on a genuine appreciation for the greatness of those cars. Pontiac's special cars have an audience that endures. GTOs were at the forefront of the first boom in muscle car restoration in the early 1980s.

The irony about Jim Wangers is that during the heyday of the musclecars he was so caught up in the fun and escalation of horsepower that he rarely kept a car for very long. There was always something new and more exciting from Pontiac that trumped the hottest car they made six months ago. 43 GTOs later, Jim owned none of them as the 1980s dawned. Other guys were enjoying GTOs and here was Jim who was right in the thick of it all and he had sold all of his GTOs over the years. It left Jim really wanting to re experience that GTO thrill again.

A friend of Jim's found a nice four speed 1965 GTO pillar coupe at auction. It was white with black interior. 37,000 original miles meant the interior was in great shape while the body was super straight and solid.

Starting with the cheaper, lighter pillar coupe body style it is no surprise that the interior was Spartan. This GTO was ordered either on a budget or to be fast or probably both. Aside from a radio, the car is stripped light for speed. No console, not even a dash pad. The owner stood pat with the base steering wheel and instruments. Jim kept it all the way it was ordered from the factory but in the interest of safety he supplemented the base speedometer and fuel gauge with a tachometer dropped into the appropriate pod. Basic gauges are mounted 1960s style under the dash.

65 gto jim wangers steering wheel 4 speed

Despite a low option load, the GTO was equipped with original 6 inch wide Rally Wheels (repro ones are 7 inch). A set of modern B.F. Goodrich black walls approximate the size and look of the original black wall bias ply tires.

65 gto jim wangers original 6 inch rally wheel

In the early 1980s these low miles cars were still out there. Jim didn't see a low key white car when he looked at his friend's GTO. Jim saw a red Royal Pontiac GTO waiting to be unleashed. The white GTO was an ideal platform to relive the old 1960s Royal Pontiac days.

Jim bought the GTO off his friend and got down to work. The driver's seat cover and the clutch pedal showed wear and were replaced. Nothing more was required to bring the interior back up to top standards. The car was repainted red. Original Royal Pontiac license plate frames were added along with the 'C' pillar Royal Bobcat badges. Back in the day a lot of guys added the badges to factory stock GTOs. But this is Jim Wangers we're talking about here. He's the man who put a 421 tri-power Bobcatted ringer into the CAR AND DRIVER test car. He wasn't going to stand pat with a couple of badges.

65 gto jim wangers royal bobcat c pillar badge

A complete correct 'bathtub' style ram air unit now surrounds the tri-power which is fed from a functional hood scoop. The engine (yes, it is actually a 389 and not a 421!) received the full Royal Bobcat treatment.

65 gto jim wangers tri power royal bobcatted 389

Once Jim got behind the wheel and hit the gears it really felt like 1965 again! Jim enjoyed the car but like all cars in his fleet it was always stored indoors overnight and any minor wear or damage was instantly dealt with. Now showing 52,466 miles the GTO still appears as fresh as the day back in 1983 when it was first refurbished.

It's strange to think but Jim's tribute GTO has spent more of its life as a cloned Royal Pontiac car (30 years and counting) than it did in its as born status as a regular GTO (18 years). It's also funny to think that a longer time span stretches between us and the first musclecar revival than the time that separated the 1980s first wave of collecting and the musclecar era.

Jim Wangers is now 86, so he has started to notice how much time has elapsed between the time he built this tribute car. Now that he is slowing down it's time to downsize his collection and this nice GTO is one of the cars that he is parting with. See the FOR SALE section of this website for more information.

UPDATE. Jim's 1965 GTO sold. Jim owned the car from the early 1980s until 2014 which adds up to about 30 years.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 28 June 2014 10:21 )