Jim Wangers

Jim Wangers

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

Unless you just joined the Pontiac hobby, you’ve likely heard of the accomplishments and escapades of Jim Wangers.

Inarguably the most public of Pontiac’s unsung living heroes, Wangers, “Pontiac’s ad-man,” was a major force in creating the marketing blitz that turned the GTO into the most sought-after muscle car of the Six-ties.


What you may not know is that Wangers helped market the entire Wide-Track era, although he clearly states that he was not the one who coined the phrase that propelled Pontiac to new heights starting in 1959.

By 1960, Wangers was putting the pedal to the metal in what he preached, both on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue and on the drag strip. Driving a “stock” Catalina prepped by Ace Wilson at Royal Oak, Michigan’s Royal Pontiac, Wangers piloted Pontiac to one of its most important early racing victories, the NHRA National drag racing title at the 1960 Nationals in Detroit.

Although he didn’t invent the GTO - Pontiac engineers John Z. DeLorean, Bill Collins and Russ Gee get that credit, Wangers got the GTO on the cover of Car and Driver magazine, which officially started the muscle-car era. He was the genius behind the Tom McAn GTO sweepstakes, helped bring “The Monkees” to the American public Monkeemobile,” and was a firm voice in DeLorean’s ad-hoc committee, which developed the 1969 GTO Judge and the in-your-face marketing blitz that followed.

Amazingly with all of his accomplishments, Wangers was never a direct employee of Pontiac! Perhaps it was so he could get away with all of the marketing mischief that a GM employee would have been roasted over. Although he left ad-agency McManus, John & Adams in 1972, he was a top-level consultant for Pontiac management for the next 40-plus years that followed.

We'll brief you on some of Wangers post GTO accomplisments:

He was called upon to give his thumbs up or thumbs down when Hal Needham approached Pontiac for Trans Ams for Smokey and the Bandit. (He advised Pontiac General Manager Martin Caserio that he’d be crazy not to give Needham the cars he needed for the movie.)

His 1977 Can Am limited-edition two-door coupe (based on the LeMans Sport) was as cool looking as Burt Reynolds’ Special Edition Trans Am and is considered one of the most iconic muscle cars of the late-1970s.

And when upper Pontiac management decided to release the GTO again in 2004, it’s not hard to guess that Wangers was one of the first people that they got on the phone for input, suggestions, and even candid criticism.

In recent years, Wangers, a national car show celebrity in his own right, at 90 has toured the show-car circuit with his candid seminar, Who Killed Pontiac?_ Unfortunately, his health has declined and is no longer able to travel. But he has truly left a huge mark in writing the history of some of Pontiac's greatest days.


Jim Wangers Acceptance Speech

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.