Bill Collins Jr.

Bill Collins Jr.

Times Nominated: 1
Year Inducted: 2018
Nominated Year(s): 2018
Category: Pontiac Ambassador

Just before ascending to Pontiac General Manager the idea for the GTO was borne of a suggestion that Bill made. During a Saturday session at the Milford Proving Grounds, he, Russ Gee-the head of the Experimental Department and DeLorean, among others, were examining the undercarriage of the new-for-1964 Tempest and its 326 engine.

Bill commented that the 389 would fit in the new chassis, since its external dimensions were the same as the 326. Russ proposed they build one, DeLorean agreed and a week later, a running prototype was ready for evaluation.


"What is seldom stated, however, is since Pontiac was heavily into racing at the time, my rationale for the larger engine was for campaigning the Tempest in stock car racing," Bill adds. "For that reason, I had also proposed to stretch the wheelbase to make it legal for NASCAR. DeLorean decided that it would be a high-performance option on the Tempest line instead and named it GTO, and ad man Jim Wangers did a great job of marketing it."

Bill remembers, "If anyone asked DeLorean about the GTO, he facetiously replied that Grand Turismo Omologato was an 'Italian Sandwich!'" As history has shown, the GTO was a runaway success that's credited with initiating the muscle car era.

Having been promoted to Assistant Chief Engineer in 1967, Bill also directed body, electrical, HVAC, engineering, product planning and cost analysis for all Pontiacs, including the 1970 1/2 Firebird line. In meetings with Design Studio Chief Bill Porter and others, Collins introduced the concept of having the Firebird, Esprit, Formula and Trans Am as separate models, each with its own identity.

By 1973, though Bill's official responsibilities on the 1973 Grand Am were the same as the Firebird, he was the driving force behind this Pontiac's birth. "I borrowed a BMW Bavaria from Opel in Europe to evaluate it, and that's how the Grand Am was born," he says. "It was America's BMW. I also appropriated the nose intended for the GTO and used the instrument panel from the GP."

By 1974, times and the GTO had changed drastically. People at Pontiac who championed the Ventura-based GTO believed that it was the right car for its era. Bill, however, felt that the Goat had been decontented too much to remain relevant. "The 1974 GTO was based off the cheap Chevrolet--it wasn't a GTO anymore," he argues. In a bold move during a staff meeting with Pontiac GM Martin Caserio, Bill did what he says is never done in a staff meeting, he proposed that the GTO be cancelled...and it was accepted. As a result, Bill says, "I guess you could say that I was both the "father" and "executioner" of the GTO!"

By the time the new 1977 Pontiac B- and C-bodies hit the streets, Bill was nearly two years into development of the DMC-12 sports car at the DeLorean Motor Company. It was to be the consummation of both men's aspirations to produce and sell a moderately priced two-seater, which was initiated in the 1960s with the scuttled Pontiac Banshee.

Looking back on his career, Bill says, "I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to engineer four diverse vehicles from the ground up--the Banshee, the 1977 GM B-body, the DeLorean and the Vixen. And," says the 6-foot, 2-inch tall engineer/entrepreneur, "you can actually fit in every one of them!"

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