Milt Schornack

Milt Schornack

Times Nominated: 2
Nominated Year(s): 2018, 2019
Last Year of Eligibility: 2023
Category: Pontiac Racing

Seeing that Milt Schornack grew up in Detroit, it seems fitting that he ended up wrenching and racing some of the most legendary Pontiacs of all time.

But his introduction to things automotive began with a six-cylinder Chevrolet with a split manifold and dual exhaust.


"That was music to my ears," Schornack said. Before his teenage years, the young Schornack, now 71, spent most of his time rooting for the Detroit Tigers. He soon met a man, named Clem, who let him hang out at a local garage. Schornack was given jobs, like repacking wheel bearings, cleaning wheel wells and brake parts. He started fixing cars when he was 13. He took a liking to the tasks and, by 15, he was rebuilding engines and learning by doing. "I paid attention to what I was doing when I took things apart," he said. By 16, had put aside enough money to buy a 1941 Pontiac coupe.

One day, Schornack saw a man lashing valves on an engine. "I went home and took apart Dad's 1950 Chevrolet. I lashed the valves in that car, but when I was done, the engine would not turn over. I adjusted them way too tight and it would not start. We had to push it and get a mechanic to fix it," he laughed during an interview. But that incident sparked a fire inside the young Schornack, hotter than any high-performance ignition ever could, and set him on a path of learning until he became one of the most legendary tuners of all time. He had an uncanny ability to wring more power out of an engine than most people could dream about.

In 1962, Schornack began working for John DeLorean's brother, George, at his Leader Automotive repair shop. The workload wasn't great and the money wasn't there. Schornack found a way to make some extra cash by converting Powerglide-equipped Chevrolets into manual transmission models after hours. In July of that year, Schornack got married. Schornack stayed with DeLorean and went racing with him, but he set a goal to get a job at Royal Pontiac in Royal Oak, Michigan.

In October 1963, with a six-month-old daughter now at home, Schornack achieved his goal. Royal had its now-famous Royal Bobcat packages and these conversions were done by fellow Royal mechanics Chuck Brumfield and Bud Conrad. Schornack soon joined them. He didn't invent the Bobcat package, but he helped perfect it. He noticed the cars needed the valve clearances adjusted. He found out that the lock nuts were plastic and would soften once an engine warmed up, therefore loosening up the valve adjustment. Schornack got other nuts and machined them to fit.

Schornack's days at Royal Pontiac are now legendary, and he talked about getting phone calls from Pontiac executives seeking his thoughts on engines. He talked about one car he remembered vividly, an Espresso Brown 1969 GTO hardtop, which he transformed into a Ram Air V. No Ram Air Vs were ever installed in a production Pontiac, but Schornack drove these things, at times, on the street. Pontiac unleashed the wildest Tiger ever, a Ram Air V V-8. Schornack said he saw many of them, due to Royal's commitment to Pontiac. "The Ram Air V was probably about 425hp. The key to the engine's power was the cylinder heads. The compression was 10.75:1 and they came to us with an aluminum intake and Holley carb."

In September 1969, Schornack got a new white Judge hardtop and went racing. Not surprisingly, he ordered it with a Ram Air IV, Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 and 4.33:1 gears. He was able to get that car in the 12.20-second bracket.

Late 1969, Royal Pontiac closed for good. Schornack began his own business, Royal Automotive. He ran his last race in 1972. In 1973, he closed the doors for good. Schornack was hired as shop foreman/assistant service manager at Merollis Chevrolet in Michigan, left there and bounced around several dealerships until getting hired by Pontiac Engineering, where he worked on special projects. He says proudly that his crowning glory was to see the 1989 Turbo Trans Am become reality--a car he suggested to the higher-ups.

In 2007, Schornack teamed up with Mike Henderson and formed Motor City Muscle in Troy, Michigan. Schornack said they are building Pontiac engines for customers and a replica of the last car Schornack ever raced for Royal Pontiac--a white 1970 Judge Ram Air IV with an automatic transmission. It is being built to NHRA specs and should have about 700hp when completed, Schornack said. He also is going to get back in the driver's seat, on a part-time basis, to race the car this summer. Schornack remains "very fussy" when it comes to engine building and is personally micing engine parts and turning wrenches when necessary at Motor City Muscle.


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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.