Elliott "Pete" Estes --- January 7, 1916 - March 24, 1988

Elliott "Pete" Estes

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

Elliott M. “Pete” Estes was elected president and chief operating officer of General Motors on September 30, 1974. He retired from that position and GM on February 1, 1981.

Immediately prior to being elected president of the Corporation, Estes was a director of GM and executive vice president in charge of the Operations Staff since October 1, 1972.


A native of Mendon, Mich., Estes was born January 7, 1916. After graduating from Constantine (Michigan) High School, he attended General Motors Institute (GMI) in Flint for four years and studied two years at the University of Cincinnati from which he was graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1940.

He joined the General Motors Research Laboratories as a cooperative student upon entering GMI in 1934 and became a research engineer in 1939 while at the University of Cincinnati. Much of his engineering experience was gained in the early 1940s while working with the late Charles F. Kettering, GM's noted engineer and inventor. In 1945, Estes was named a senior engineer.

Estes joined the Oldsmobile Division in Lansing, Michigan as a motor development engineer in 1946. There, he was one of the Kettering team that introduced the industry's first high-compression engine in 1948. His promotions at Oldsmobile included assistant motor engineer, chassis engineer and body engineer. In 1954, he was named assistant chief engineer in charge of the body design, chassis design and standards engineering departments.

He was promoted to chief engineer of the Pontiac Motor Division in 1956 and was elected a GM vice president and general manager of that division in November 1961. Estes was a leading participant in many engineering innovations introduced in Pontiac cars. These include the "wide track" principle and development of the Tempest, the first American automobile to have a front-mounted engine and a rear-mounted transmission for equal weight distribution. As general manager, he established Pontiac solidly in third place in auto industry sales, doubling registrations from 372,871 in 1961 to 687,902 in 1964. The division's share of the domestic U.S. auto market rose from 6.4 percent in 1961 to nearly 9.5 percent in 1965.

Estes was appointed general manager of Chevrolet Motor Division on July 1, 1965. Among his initial moves at Chevrolet were to put increased stress on product quality and the addition of new and exciting cars such as the Chevelle SS 396 models.

On December 7, 1965, he presided over ceremonies at the division's Los Angeles assembly plant as Chevrolet became the first individual manufacturer in history to build 3 million cars and trucks in a single calendar year. Chevrolet closed 1965 with all-time industry new-vehicle sales records as dealer deliveries for the year totaled 2,416,419 passenger cars and 574,136 trucks.

During 1966, Chevrolet met and turned back the strongest challenge to its leadership since the late 1950s. For 1967, Chevrolet's product lineup was expanded with the addition of the personal-size Camaro which Estes called "a new standard in small car appearance and performance."

In 1968, Estes directed the largest single-year model change in division history. Chevelle, Nova and Corvette were totally redesigned while significant styling, safety and engineering improvements were made in the full-size Chevrolet, Camaro and Corvair.

Estes was appointed group executive in charge of the car and truck group in February, 1969, and a year later was named group executive in charge of Overseas Operations. He was made a director of GM and executive vice president in charge of the Operations Staff in October 1972. Two years later the board named him president of General Motors.

When Estes became president in 1974, the automobile industry was reeling from the combined effects of the Arab oil embargo and business recession. Under his leadership, General Motors was able to maintain its market dominance by carrying out the progressive fuel economy policies begun under Ed Cole’s tenure as president and restructuring the corporation to become a more efficient manufacturer.

Elliott M. Estes died of a heart attack in Chicago in 1988.


Our Mission At The PPA

The mission of the Pontiac Preservation Association is to provide a vehicle for all clubs, associations, individual hobbyists, web sites and groups, parts manufacturers, parts businesses, restoration shops, car dealers, event promoters, publishers-everyone associated with the Pontiac automobile to come together for the express purpose of better coordinating all energies and resources to preserve and promote the Pontiac hobby and to improve the Pontiac industry for the betterment of all involved.