Pontiac should be alive today.
I was reading an article at barnfinds.com about an Olds H-Body of all things. Apparently, there are people who believe an over use of body cladding killed Pontiac. At first, I laughed it off then I became indignant. Body cladding didn’t kill Pontiac but Rick Wagoner certainly did. Below is my opening and closing statement in the trial of Rick Wagoner for the vehicular homicide of the Pontiac Motor Division.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is the complete incompetence of former chairman and CEO of General Motors, George Richard Wagoner Jr. That lead to the untimely death of Pontiac. In 1992 Wagoner was named GM’s Chief Financial Officer, in 1994 he was named executive vice president and president of North American Operations. June of 2000 he’s president and chief executive officer. May of 2003 Wagoner is elected chairman. Under his leadership GM lost $85B. Wagoner’s greatest sin was his lack of vision, backbone to make the tough decisions, believing GM could get by with a slow incremental approach. Wagoner long before 2009 should have sought a reorganization that would have made Buick/GMC/Pontiac one legal brand structure. The brands were mostly housed together in much of the USA. He could have left Buick as a separate brand in China. By the 2009 bankruptcy it was too late. The government would make GM lean using an axe instead of Wagoner using the scalpel of a fine surgeon. Now a proud heritage of domestic automobile performance is gone. It's death announced April 27th 2009.
A story of disappointment and frustration
When you find out about the 1980 Duntov Turbo Corvette excitement turns to frustration. So much promise unfulfilled. Frustration that GM couldn't get turbo-charging right till Buick did it in the early 1980s. Chrysler and Ford were no better. Think about the reputation of the 1980 Turbo Trans Am. Had the Big Three gotten the mix of V8 engines and turbos right the malaise muscle car era almost certainly would have turned out different. As in better. Hell, we probably wouldn't call it malaise muscle. Unfortunately the tuner firms didn't have much better luck. Which is all the more disappointing when you remember Duntov spent GM dollars tinkering around with turbo Corvettes for years.
That doesn't mean this Duntov Turbo Corvette is insignificant. American Custom Industries of Sylvania, OH built the over the top Greenwood Corvettes in the mid-seventies. A car that personally I'm not a big fan of. They must have sold enough of them, ACI was looking for a sequel. Having one Zora Arkus-Duntov on the payroll since his retirement from GM in 1975. It was a no-brainer to collaborate with him in building a Super-Vette. ACI chief Robert Schuller early on was content with a body kit and suspension mods. Duntov made it clear the car bearing his name would have power, turbo V8 power. The Duntov Turbo Corvette was to be the car that to his frustration GM never approved.
Customers were to have their new L82 Corvettes delivered to ACI. A turbo producing 4.0psi and a water injection system would be mounted to the 350 Chevy V8. The Corvette's tight engine compartment and the turbo caused development issues early on due to heat. Braided metallic lines, a special vented air cleaner, hood vents and wider body work providing a larger engine bay were the solutions. Documentation from the era is almost nil, multiple sources claim the turbo was good for 70bhp. That would put the turbo L82 into early modern LS1 territory. Yet, the Duntov Turbo Corvette was a failure because for all the effort the car didn't perform much better than a stock 1980 Corvette. In 2004 Corvette Fever posted a 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds with a 15.5 quarter mile time. At a cost of almost $35K the Duntov cost more than twice the price of a base Corvette. The math just doesn't add up. It wasn't all bad news.
"A stock Corvette feels like a bucket of parts bouncing around in the back of a pickup, all loose and wobbly and rattily. It must do old Zora's heart good to see his car track the straight and narrow for a change, to not get knocked askew at the very thought of the bumps, seams, and dimples that Mother Nature and heavy traffic have strewn around for us to find wherever we go." Car and Driver, November 1980.
When cars arrived at ACI they were completely stripped down. Along with the engine mods substantial suspension and steering system tweaking were done. As were quality control measures, providing a road machine better than anything coming out of GM's St. Louis plant.
"They settled on a production number of 201 cars. Zora got the first one, chassis number 000, the very one you see here". Car and Driver, November 1980.
According to multiple sources Zora never got to keep that promotional car tested by C&D. There was a clause in Duntov's contract that he would get a car only after ACI sold 100 units. The automatic transmission only, the high price and lackluster performance caused the car to flop selling only 86 cars of the 200 planed.
It doesn't appear any are available for sale at the moment. A brief search shows one sold on Craig's List for $48,975 back in 2012. Have you ever seen or driven one?
Pics from Hot Rod, Car and Driver.
So much good malaise muscle at Indy.
I really want to be at Mecum Indy this year. There is so much really good malaise muscle with many cars at no reserve. Are you heading to Indy next month?
Check out the lots. Mecum Auctions | The World's Largest Collector Car Auctions
Off topic, real muscle car shit
Muscle cars, the real old time classic ones aren't my big interest anymore. Don't get me wrong much respect still but I'm into something different now. The underloved machines of the disco malaise era, I suspect you might be too. Still every once in while I come across something new and interesting. Read up on the Cross Boss induction system for the 1970 Boss 302 Mustang.
Here is the Hemming's article on this rare race piece modified for the street by a kid with his first new car.
Some decent values at Glendale particularly if you wanted a Corvette.
Along with price guides and want ad transaction prices, auctions like Mecum and Barrett Jackson are part of the market analysis puzzle. So, what have we learned from Mecum Glendale this past March? While the 10th Anniversary Trans Am still commands big bucks, that is anything over $30K for the malaise era. Corvettes, particularly the C4, are a relatively hassle-free performance bargain. We cover a couple here but not even all of them. Curiously one low mileage 1984 Corvette with a “Prototype Paint” did not find a new owner at $15K.
This one has 61,000 on the odo, about $2K recently spent on maintenance and "upgrades" including a Borla stainless steel exhaust. Also said to have ZR1 wheels and be "loaded". It sold for $7,700 that is a bargain in my book.
1985 Capri ASC McLaren Convertible
This one looks like a driver quality car you can enjoy with no guilt on the road or at the local C&C. Showing 4,100 on the odo I can almost guarantee that is 104,100 miles. This sharp two seater with a Ford 5.0 sold for $9.9K, not a bad score. It is already being advertised for flipping with a $19.7K asking price at Country Classic Cars in Staunton, Il. While this Capri is certainly more unique, from a driving perspective that 1995 Corvette was a much better deal.
1979 Camaro Z28
The '79 Z28 is a malaise muscle all-star. This is one I should be excited about. Truth be told if these GM F-Bodies don't have T-tops I feel they are incomplete, just a personal preference of mine. So I probably wouldn't bid on this. That doesn't mean you wouldn't. Down side is the automatic transmission and maybe a little rough for some. It's basically survivor paint. Upside is apparently the 350 has been rebuilt and de-smogged to the tune of 425bhp. Described as mechanically restored with a Magnaflow dual exhaust and 57,000 miles. It hammered for $13,200 which isn't bad, these 3rd generation F-Bodies are starting to command big dollars.
1993 Corvette 40th Anniversary
This sharp looking, fun to drive convertible was estimated by Mecum to fetch $15-20K. It hammered for $14,300 and while I'd prefer the 6 speed manual I'd be happy to take this home at that price. It appears well cared for and with 74,000 miles there should be plenty of relatively trouble free years left in it.
1989 Camaro IROC Z
Like the 2nd gen example above this Camaro is a malaise era all-star. An icon of American performance cars and it was a glimpse of a hopeful future as the 80's was winding down. Like the 2nd generation of GM F-Bodies I'm only buying it with T-tops. This hard top is also an automatic but by this point you couldn't get the 5 speed manual with the top-shelf 350/5.7 V8. It appears exceptionally cared for with 69,000 miles and a Flowmaster exhaust as the only modification. It appears well optioned with A/C as well. The hammer came down at $15,400 not bad at all, perhaps T-tops would have brought more interest and a higher price.
1979 Trans Am
I really like the 1979 Trans Am. I just don't like this one, not for the nearly $19K sale price. This car looks rough, no engine pics and a low optioned automatic car. They are increasingly harder to find under $20K but it's doable with a little biding of one's time. Hard pass on this.
This one is a love or hate scenario like most heavily customized cars. Now this isn't my bag, cup of tea or style. It does scream Disco Era. This is a 427 with dual 750 CFM carbs, 11.5:1 Keith Black pistons do the heavy work. Are the wheelie bars necessary? Who knows. You won't see another one at Cars & Coffee. I don't know that the $25, 300 is a good deal. What do you think?
1978 Corvette Pace Car
This one is all about mileage. The 1978 Corvette Pace Car incorporates all the malaise era styling tricks, the base car looks boring by comparison. The 1978 PC is not cheap but not rare either, so if you want a PC driver passing this one up would be the smart play for your wallet. With 9,500 miles at $27,500 this was a pretty good deal. The L82 is the engine you want paired with the Gymkhana suspension.
1994 Camaro Z28
We reach our limit on price and the edge of the malaise era with this Z28. The hammer price of $29,700 is largely based on mileage, just under 4,000. Otherwise it's pretty typical, the LT1 with 275bhp and 4 speed automatic with T-tops. Today this car is still a fun spirited driver and cruiser but it's too pristine to enjoy that way. It's been treated to a mild over haul so it shouldn't leak all over the garage floor. I'd pass on this one too because of how nice it is.
If I had been sitting in at Glendale it would have been a C4 Corvette that I was after.
John is a GenX car enthusiast who grew up driving classic muscle cars. He enjoys the new modern muscle cars that can out perform the classics in every way. In the sportscar world his banners are Viper and Corvette. John has a guilty pleasure. The disco era street machine. Those unloved, underpowered cars festooned with scoops, spoilers and stripes.