Tom Goad

Born with GM in My Blood

Article by Tom Goad                                       Photos from the Internet

 

From high school in Birmingham, Michigan, I decided to go to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois where both my Mother and Father had attended and graduated from, my father in 1923 and my mother in 1927. My father had started his working career at Remy Electric in Anderson, Indiana. He was hired by Charles E. Wilson, newly hired to work at the company. Remy Electric was expanding and soon became Delco Remy producing many different electrical products for automobiles and trucks used by many manufacturers.

 

 

My father was sent to Muncie, Indiana in 1928 to "chase the owls" out of an old building and set it up to manufacture storage batteries for cars and trucks. I was born in Muncie on July 9, 1932 in Ball Memorial Hospital. Betty Enders, my cousin, was in nurses training at the hospital and helped me before my mother did. In January of 1933, my father was moved to Flint, Michigan to design a new plant for the AC Spark Plug division of GM. We moved into a newly built, but vacant house on Nolan drive. We lived there until I was eight years old. By that time, my father was General Manager of AC.

 

 

I have many memories of my childhood in Flint. I love cars and anything with wheels. I wore out a couple of pedal cars. While my mother was in the hospital having my brother David in August of 1935, my father drove my Mother's new 1934 Buick Victoria Coupe home from work one afternoon.

 

 

He parked on the lower part of the driveway, which was fairly steep. The upper part was flat and quite extensive going back to a three-car garage. He parked here so I could ride my wheeled tricycle and pedal car on the flat. However, I climbed onto the running board of the Buick, opened the door and climbed in. I was standing on the front seat and playing like I was driving the car. I must have moved the floor gearshift into neutral, because when I touched the parking brake lever, it went bang and released the bakes. The car rolled into the street, hopped over the far curb, spun around and started down a 50 foot hill into the golf course that is in a lower valley along the Flint River. Thankfully, a caddie saw the car coming down the hill, jumped onto the running board and got the car under control. The keys were in the ignition and he drove the car to the Club House and back up onto Nolan drive and back to my house. He took me inside and my father was calmly reading his newspaper and had no idea of what had happened. He never parked the car there again!

 

In August of 1940, we moved to Birmingham (Michigan) because my father became an assistant to a Vice President of GM in the General Motors Building in Detroit. We lived at 1090 Glenhurst Drive about two blocks from Quarton Elementary School, where I started third grade.

 

I also finished fourth grade at Quarton, but in September of 1941, we moved to Westfield, New Jersey. My father had started at the Eastern Division of General Motors on February 27th when General Motors had received a contract from the Navy to build the Grumman Wildcat fighter and Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber.

 

  

 

 

They built the FM-1 Wildcat in Linden, NJ, improved its design and power as the FM-2, building over 5000 planes by August 31, 1945.

 

 

In Trenton, NJ they built the 7500 TBM-1 and TBM-3 Avengers. This is another long and amazing story. When the Japanese surrendered in August of 1945, their contracts were canceled, all plants were shut down quickly and were back building cars, bodies, batteries, hardware, etc like before the war. They were again assembling Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs at Linden.

 

We came back to Birmingham in time for me to enter 8th grade at Barnum Junior High School in Birmingham. I graduated from Baldwin High School in 1950 and went onto the University of Illinois for my four and a half years to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in February 1955.

 

In the summer of 1952, I had a summer job at the new General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. This would become a huge facility to house all the General Motors Staff activities including GM Research Staff, GM Styling Staff, GM Engineering Staff, Metallurgy Staff, and Manufacturing Staff.

 

 

My job was in the newly constructed Engineering Staff Building working on some large prototype military trucks. In the summer of 1953, I had to take my midshipman cruise on a Destroyer out of Norfolk, Virginia, so I did not have a summer job that year. I was in the NROTC at the University of Illinois. All male students at Illinois had to take two years of military training because of it being a Land Grant University. My choice was the Navy for a number of reasons, but in Navy ROTC you had to take a full four years of courses and training. Part of that training meant the midshipman cruise. As midshipman, we were part of the crew and sleep in bunks with the sailors, not part of the Officers or Chief Petty Officers, which had much nicer accommodations.

 

                In the summer of 1954, I had a job with Chevrolet Engineering with several assignments to help me learn about this huge and extensive division. My first assignment was at the old Chevrolet Engineering Building in Hamtramck (a city totally enclosed within Detroit). Here I was running engine tests on experimental engines on dynamometers including the brand new 1955 Chevrolet 265 V-8 engine.

 

       

 

               This engine was just starting production for use in the all new 1955 Chevrolets. Next I was sent to the General Motors Proving Grounds, to the Chevrolet Garage to work with the accessory engineer who was developing the continental tire option for the 1955 models. He was having trouble with it shaking violently on rough roads. We developed an "X" brace that stiffened the bracket holding the tire to eliminate the shaking.

 

                Being in NROTC at Illinois, I had to take five semesters to finish both my Navy Training and my engineering education. The Navy also would not allow marriage until you graduated and received your commission. If you married before this, even secretly, you would loose your commission. I was already engaged to my Sigma Chi sweetheart, Clarissa Adams, and we were planning to get married as quickly as possible. I graduated on February 6, 1955 on a Sunday. On Monday evening, February 7th, we were married at Christ Church Cranbrook, with the reception at Oakland Hills Country Club. Larry Miller, my best man, had helped me hide my 1955 Chevrolet Convertible at the Dearborn Inn so that none of my Sigma Chi fraternity brothers could tamper with it. Our dinner, for the wedding party, was on Saturday and those in the wedding party that were to be commissioned in the Navy or Air Force on Sunday were to fly down to Champaign on a GM Plane. But a heavy snowstorm hit, and the four of us ended up riding a train all night from Chicago, then down to Champaign. Fortunately, Sunday was a beautiful day and the GM plane picked us up to fly back to Detroit. On Tuesday morning we set out on our honeymoon, driving to San Diego via New Orleans. I wanted to get south as quick as possible to avoid the snow. In San Diego, we stopped at our new apartment, moved in, and then flew up to San Francisco. I borrowed a GM owned Pontiac and drove up to Mare Island were my ship, the USS Henderson DD 785 was just coming out of dry dock and was ready to go out for sea trials before heading down to San Diego, its homeport.

 

   

 

I left Criss to return the Pontiac and then ride with the other officer's wives for their drive down to San Diego. Criss had already arranged for a job in San Diego to teach Special Education at a Junior High School. She would start in September.

 

Meanwhile, we were getting settled and I was sent to Destroyer Engineering School to learn all about the Engineering systems on our Sumner/Gearing class Destroyer. This was a six-week course. The ships have two fire rooms and two engine rooms. Each fire room has four fire tube boilers to generate super heated steam to supply the engine room just behind it. Each fire room and engine room is separated by a waterproof bulkhead, from the bottom of the ship up to the main deck. It's a long climb up and down to each. Each engine room has a triple stage steam turbine driving into reduction gears to turn a huge propeller shaft. The forward engine room drives the starboard shaft and the aft engine room drives the port shaft. All the speeds and directions of rotation are signaled down to the engine rooms for them to control the turbine output speeds and direction of rotation of the propeller shaft. All this makes the destroyer relative fast and highly maneuverable with a top speed of 33 knots with all eight boilers on line.

 

In September of 1955, we left San Diego to steam into WSPAC (Western Pacific Fleet). My assignment in the Engineering Department was Damage Control Officer. I had a Chief Petty Officers and his seaman working for me. The other two officers in the Department were Jack Butt, Chief Engineer, and Al Tilley, Assistant Chief Engineer. While we were overseas, Carol Butt and Pat Tilley moved in to our apartment with Criss. That helped with the costs and gave Criss some company. We stopped in Hawaii for some shore leave, fuel and any needed repairs. Then our division steamed on West joining the Fleet to do plane guard duty with the big aircraft carriers, steam in formation with carriers and cruisers, work with submarines, etc. in various part of the Western Pacific including Japan, Formosa, the Philippines, and Okinawa. We practiced shooting our five-inch guns at shore targets, shooting our 40mm antiaircraft guns at airplane-towed targets, etc. Being an Engineering Department Officer, I would be assigned to one of the turrets or gun mounts to act a Gun Safety Officer to make sure they didn't hit a towing airplane or another ship.

 

We would be in WSPAC for six months until anther division of destroyers relieved us. Near the end of this trip, we stopped in Hong Kong for four or five days. I had several dress shirts custom made, two custom made suits, and four pieces of teak furniture made, some made to my sketch. Since our magazines for shells were empty, the captain let we store the furniture in one of them and I still have the furniture in Birmingham or up north in our cabins in Cedarville. We returned to San Diego in February 1956. Our Chief Engineer, Jack Butt had finished his three years of service and left the ship to be discharged from the Navy. That moved Al Tilley up to Chief Engineer and me up to Assistant Chief Engineer. A new graduate from the Naval Academy came aboard to become Damage Control Officer. Suddenly Al Tilley got sick, left the ship for a Naval Hospital and the Captain said, "Goad your now my Chief Engineer!" This is a full Lieutenant's billet and I was still only an Ensign. I had to wait for my promotion to Lieutenant JG along with the Naval Academy graduates in June.  That amounts to a one and a half bar gold pin on your working uniform and a one an a half gold stripe on your dress uniform sleeve.

 

Living in San Diego, Criss and I enjoyed seeing the sights, even car shows. I was always looking for the old car that my father never let me have, like my mother's 1934 Buick. In June 1956, I noticed an ad in the newspaper for a 1934 Oldsmobile Convertible. The next evening when I got off the ship, I drove into San Diego to the address listed. Out front of this house sat a 1934 Olds Convertible with side mount tires and a luggage rack in back. It looked really nice and the owner said that he had spent all his money on rebuilding the engine. His wife was making him sell the car. He listed it for $450 after he showed me over $500 of receipts. I went on to our apartment and told Criss, we need to go see something. She knew we were going to look at a car. However, she liked it and I paid the owner cash on the spot and I drove it to the apartment and put it in our garage.

 

 

 

Later I took it to the Navy PX to fill it up with gasoline. Suddenly it was leaking gasoline and I quickly drove it out of there and back to the apartment. There, I blocked it up and drained all of the gasoline out and put into our 1955 Chevrolet. When I got the gas tank out, I found a huge rusted hole on the tanks top. I took the tank down to the ship (after washing it out with lots of water) and my damage control department welder filled the tank with salt water and welded a patch on its top. It never leaked again. In August, after solving other problems like vapor lock, overheating, etc. we decided we needed to take the car to Michigan since I would be discharged at Treasure Island in the San Francisco area and Criss would meet me there to drive home to Birmingham.

 

We made a pact that if the Oldsmobile breaks down, we would leave it and fly back to San Diego. We decided to drive at night and sleep in the daytime to avoid the high heat going across the deserts. I even took off the left hood section, had a canvas water bottle on the front bumper and a gallon of gasoline on the luggage rack. All went well, through the desert, through thunderstorms, arriving at my Grandmother Creeks house in Kankakee, Illinois in the morning of our fourth day. She was certainly surprised. I took the car up to the Oldsmobile Dealership and asked them if they could fix the blown out exhaust pipe. They said, "I think we have a complete 1935 Olds exhaust system in the rafters." They did and installed it while I waited. I also reinstalled the hood and washed the car. We drove to Bloomfield Hills the next day, arriving at dinnertime and shocked my parents. My father was impressed with the car and said that I could park it in his garage. We flew back to San Diego the next day.

 

That September, we again left for West Pack with our division of destroyers. This time, after our stop in Hawaii, we left our division and headed southwest to Sidney, Australia for a four day visit. This meant crossing the equator and having a visit with King Neptune. Everyone that had not crossed the equator was a pollywog and had to go through some college fraternity type hazing. Very messy, but fun. I still have my card of certification. We were really treated great in Australia. I even had a tour of a GM Holden Plant in the area and met a lot of really nice, fun people. From there it was on to the Philippines, where we did some training maneuvers with a submarine. They invited some of us to come over a take a ride. I was one of the lucky ones to go over in our motor whaleboat and take a ride. We submerged and I got to look at the Henderson through the periscope. We also rode out a couple of typhoons, really scary stuff when all you can see from the bridge looking rearward was our two smoke stacks - the rest of the ship was under water. One of these destroyed our motor whaleboat. Later, plane guarding for an aircraft carrier, I was standing on the quarterdeck with my Chief Petty Officers, when suddenly there was an explosion of steam out of our forward smoke stack. We were on all eight boilers accelerating to max speed. The chiefs climbed down to their spaces and the crew in the forward fire room quickly shut down all four boilers before any real damage was done. It could have melted a hole in the bottom of the ship. It was a demonstration of what all the training was about and it paid off.  However, it was not a feather in my cap! They no longer needed us, so we were ordered to proceed to the Naval Base at Yokohama to have our boiler repaired.

 

In early February, my two years of service were completed and the Captain asked me if I wanted to stay on until we got back to San Diego. If not, I was free to leave the ship. I said I was ready to go. We were refueling from a tanker off Okinawa, so I rode a boson chair across to the tanker. I then flew on a Navy DC-4 to Tokyo where I flew on anther Navy DC-4 to Hawaii and then on to San Francisco. Criss met me at Treasure Island where I was discharged from active duty. She had loaded our 1955 Chevrolet with all our belongings (she had our furniture shipped) and we drove back to Michigan. My parents had already located a house for us in Birmingham, a three-bedroom ranch at the corner of Suffield and Redding.

 

My Chevrolet Experience

 

                A week later, I was interviewed by Ed Cole and he offered me a job with Chevrolet Engineering.

 

      

 

I was immediately put into a Graduate in Training Program for a two year period in various locations of the Chevrolet Engineering organization including six months in the drafting department to learn how to make production drawings, layouts and all new designs. I then had three months at the Chevrolet Engineering Center in Hamtramck, the Chevrolet Garage at the GM Proving Ground in Milford, the Chevrolet Axle Plant in Hamtramck, the Chevrolet Metallurgical Lab in Detroit, the new Chevrolet Toledo Transmission Plant and finally at the Chevrolet Flint Assembly Plant.

 

During this training period, my father helped me buy a used 1958 Corvette that had been a Proving Grounds test car.

 

 

They took the full body of the test car and installed it on a new chassis. It was like a brand new Corvette, which I used to drive to all of my work assignments. By this time, our first son, Doug, was born in November 1957 and Criss wanted a station wagon. I had to sell my pride and joy customized 1955 Chevrolet Convertible to buy a used Chevrolet company car, a 1958 Chevrolet Brookwood Station Wagon with a Turboglide transmission.

 

 

                With my on the job training completed in February 1959, I was asked by Chevrolet's Manufacturing Manager if I would join his team building the all new Chevrolet Assembly Plant at Willow Run to build the all new rear engined 1960 Corvair.

 

      

 

I agreed to do it since it sounded interesting. We ended up working 12-hour days. I was designing and having made all the hand tools required to assemble the all-new, air-cooled rear engined car. Later, by June, when they started assembling cars, I was made a foreman on the line that married the powertrain and front suspension to the underbody of the car using totevars that hydraulically raise the assemblies into the underbody of the car.

 

    

 

The bodies were high enough that you walk under them and the totevars moved in unison with the overhead conveyer. They had only been building cars with Power Glide automatic transmissions. Now, they suddenly had a line full of cars with every other one having a manual transmission that required all the extra hookups of clutch linkages, shift linkages, etc. This seemed to be twice the labor required in the same amount of time and none of the workers were well trained on all of these extra operations. The line didn't stop and we filled the back yard with cars that couldn't be driven. The superintendent, Al Bertola blamed me and relieved me of my duties. He put me up in the paint department as Forman, where all the small parts were primed and painted body color. I had this all running smoothly and I was then given another assembly line where some of the most difficult installations were made. They included one assembler installing the heater assembly under the instrument panel on one side and another assembler hooking up all the brake lines to the braking system on the inside of the fire wall including the brake, clutch and accelerator pedal assemblies. Whenever one of these two did not show up for work, it took two or three people to replace them! We had a high performing line, in fact we were building the least defects in the plant. But I was getting fed up with the frustrations of not knowing who would show up each morning and I wanted to engineer the parts better instead of putting up with bad designs. Manufacturing was not my thing. I wanted to create!

 

       I returned to the Engineering Department in February 1960 and was assigned to the engine test group as a Test Engineer in the Chevrolet Engineering Laboratory. I was assigned the job of figuring out why Corvair engines were tossing their cooling fan belts. A technician and I solved the problem after testing hundreds of different belts from various manufactures. We found out that by using only a specific design Goodyear smoothly wrapped V belt would pass our test. It would not climb up the sides of the pulleys and fly off. A cut V belt of any manufacturer, with its raw edges, would easily come off in our high revving engine test.

 

Another assignment was to figure out why the newly designed L-4 and L-6 engines could only turn about 4000 rpm without valve float, while Chevrolet's 1955-57 V-8's could turn over 8000 rpm with ease. With a young technician from Argentina, we set up a partial engine in a special isolated room with high speed photography to analyze each component of the valve train. We were able to measure the deflection in each component. The big surprise was the huge flexing of the very long hollow pushrods. They were the same as the V-8, but almost twice as long because of using the old L-6 fiber timing gear which set the camshaft very low in the cylinder block. The high-speed photography clearly showed that the push rods were flexing to an extremely high degree preventing the valves from being actuated over 4000 rpm. By having hollow pushrods made with much thicker walls, the excessive flexing was eliminated, and we solved the problem. The engine engineer released the new parts for production and I actually received a letter of commendation from Ed Cole thanking me on my discoveries and our solution to the valve train problem.

 

In 1961, Newell McKunen of GM Overseas Operation's Detroit Office, asked Chevrolet Engineering to work on a special project to improve the durability of the Opel L-4 and L-6 family of engines. Newly retired Engine Head Designer, Al Kolbe, was asked to come back to work to organize a team to solve Opel's engine problems. One of Chevrolet's experienced engine design engineers, Paul Johnson, was assigned full time to the project to release new parts. I was assigned to the project as Test Engineer to run all the laboratory engine testing and development in the Engineering Laboratory. I ended up with a fleet of three Opel Rekords to be used as road test vehicles.

 

 

I was only a sixth level Test Engineer and was not assigned a company car, but I was allowed to drive my test vehicles. So, I parked the Corvette in the side yard by the house and didn't drive it again that winter. Our two-car garage held our small Trojan cabin cruiser and Criss' station wagon. By spring, the Corvette was buried in snow.  I advertised it and sold it to Jill Thompson, the same person who had bought my 1951 Chevrolet convertible in 1953. She was the younger sister of my brother's best friend. They lived on Oak Street across from Quarton Grade School.

 

We improved the Opel four-cylinder engine by using Delco Moraine insert crankshaft bearings, Thompson engine valves, more modern design aluminum pistons, Delco distributor and coil and AC spark plugs. The German Bosch equipment was not up to American standards for durability. They provided service for Opels in Germany, so Opel had no idea of the durability problems.

 

Next, GMOO asked Al Kolbe to propose a new, more modern engine design. First he designed an all-new cylinder head that moved the camshaft from the cylinder block to the cylinder head. It included a wedge combustion chamber design like the new Chevrolet V-8. The valves were operated by hydraulic valve lifters, an extremely short (like a hollow ball) push rod, and a stamped rocker arm working on the valve stem. Overall, it is a very similar design to the Chevrolet V-8 except for the extremely short push rod. We built experimental cylinder heads and tested them on the existing Opel cylinder blocks and were amazed at the improved performance. We also ran the engines on dynamometer durability tests to measure ware and insure that this design would make a long lasting, durable engine. This same design could also be easily used on the existing Opel 6-cylinder engine.  We called this a Cam-In-Head Engine.

 

 

GMOO finally decided that they wanted an all-new design for a family of four and six cylinder engines using the Cam-In-head design. GMOO accepted our design proposal over Opel's proposal. This was January 1963. They wanted engines for test and development in six months. Opel even sent their Assistant Motor Engineer, Eric Ablietner, to work with us on the project. He even brought his family over here for the six-month period while we designed and released the drawings for tooling this new family of engines. Paul Johnson left our group to return to the Chevrolet Engine Design group and I was moved up to take his place. Another Test Engineer from the Engineering Lab took my place.

 

In this project, we asked to use a system newly developed by Chevrolet. We would be the first project to test it. The longest lead-time parts for design, release and tooling would be released first, than the next longest, etc. This was so all the parts would be ready for engine builds, as needed in the summer. This system worked perfectly and we built and tested our first engines in August of 1963. They proved to be excellent performers. In late August, GMOO asked me to go over to Opel and make sure they put this program into production and not make unnecessary changes. Criss and I with our three children flew to Germany and moved into the Nasurhoff Hotel in Wiesbaden for two months. This was quite close to the Opel Plants in Russelshm. It was very expensive living in a hotel with two rooms and GMOO was paying for everything. They finally asked us to move into an apartment they had found in Konigstein. This was an old large German home on a hillside that had been divided into several apartments. We had two bedrooms and another made into a living room and kitchen. The advantage was that we were across from the American homes built for the Opel American Executives and their families. They are American colonial type homes like what we have in Birmingham. We still kept our two Opels, one for me and one for Criss. Six year old Doug started 1st grade, four old Linda went to a Nursery School and two year old Ted stayed home with a German nanny. As Ted started to learn to talk, his first words were German. I bought a German balloon tired scooter and Doug and Linda had fun riding it down the hill by our apartment.

 

We thought we would be in Germany for at least six months. All went well at Opel, but I had to keep telling the German Engineers not to make changes. Clayton Leach, a Powertrain Assistant Chief Engineer from Pontiac (he invented the stamped rocker arm design in his basement that was use in the 1955 Pontiac V-8 and gave permission to Chevrolet to also use it in their new V-8 in 1955) was the Manufacturing Manager at Opel. He fully understood the advantages of our new engine designs and was working hard to get the two new engines into production as quickly as possible. They were hard at work building a new plant and tooling it to manufacture this new family of engines.

 

In early November, Chevrolet insisted that I return to the U.S. for me to start working in Chevrolet's Research and Development Department on a special, secret project. This turned out to be the Chaparral project working with Jim Hall and Hap Sharp in developing their race cars.

 

 

 The beauty of R & D was that it was totally walled off from the rest of the Chevrolet Engineering Building and you had to have a special key to get in. There were no labor union people working in this area. We had engineers, designers and highly skilled technicians that could design and build whatever was required by management from a total car, an engine, transmission, etc. I was assigned to the Chaparral project led by Jim Musser.

 

  Their team already had a Formula Junior race car, were building an open wheel suspension and tire test vehicle, an enclosed wheel mid engine race car similar to the Chaparral, and a fleet of vehicles and trailers to take our equipment and test vehicles to Texas. Their purpose was to run tests at Jim Hall's private Rattlesnake raceway out in the prairie south of Midland, TX to study every aspect of Vehicle Dynamics.

 

 

In February 1964 we left in convoy style arriving two or three days later. In the center of Jim's track he had a huge round skid pad for testing lateral acceleration with different tire sizes, wheel rim widths, suspension alignments, etc.  The track was laid out like the typical road courses that the sports car racing organizations used across the country, with all types of turns, straightaways, etc. I would be there for nine weeks. One weekend, Criss flew down to be with me for awhile. She was not happy about this assignment. It was like my being in the Navy again.

 

This program of testing convinced Goodyear to design and develop wider and wider racing tires that could be used on wider wheel rim widths. We were working only with 15-inch tires. We had special take-apart magnesium wheels for the suspension test vehicle so we could make wheel widths from 6 to 20 inches to optimize the lateral acceleration in corners. At Design Staff, Larry Shinoda had a special studio where he worked on improving the body design of the fiberglass chassis Chaparral II and R&D's steel chassis GS-I.

 

 

He had also designed the all aluminum chassis GS-2. On our second trip to Texas in the late spring, our goal was to test more ideas for improving the Chaparral's performance. A young technician working for me developed and made a simple chart recorder to record the downforce at each end of the suspension test vehicle. We had added a set of adjustable diving planes on the front nose and a crude set of supports mounted to the engines vertical exhaust pipes (laid back at a 45 degree angle) for mounting an adjustable wing.

 

 

 

 

 

I drove the car in tests and could immediately feel the effects of the improved downforce in both high speed and low speed turns with out even knowing my actual speed. Jim Hall drove the car and was amazed at its performance. About then our crude rear wing broke up from the engine vibrations, but this all led to the Chaparral's famous high wing in his next racecar. By then R&D engineers had developed his dog clutch transmission that no longer required a clutch pedal. In its place was a pedal to control the wing: flat for the straightaway and angled for the baking and through the turns.

 

Because of Criss' concerns, I may have complained too much to Frank Winchel who was Director of R&D. He soon reassigned me to a team working on another major project in R&D.  This project was to develop tests for defending the Corvair in the Courtroom. A number of these were coming up due to roll over accidents with early 1960-63 Corvairs in various parts of the country. I made a movie driving an early Corvair on every road on the Milford GM Proving Grounds, ran all kinds of tests, even demonstration driving the Corvair up a ramp to put the car on two wheels without loosing control. The steering gear finally broke quickly dropping me down with out rolling over. I testified in three court trials and it is the only car ever proven safe in a courtroom despite all the crazy analysis in by Ralph Nader and his book "Unsafe at Any Speed".

 

 

While in R&D, I enjoyed Corvairs so much, I always ordered one to drive as my company car. I had convertibles in the summer and hardtops in the winter. I bought my last one when I moved to Pontiac. I had set it up like a Corvair Z-28 using the Camaro's striping and 14 inch wheels and tires. It makes a great handling Corvair and I use it as my basis for how a good car should handle. I still own the car today.

 

My Pontiac Experience

 

                In December of 1969, I was invited to Pontiac Motor Division for an interview with the General Manager of the Pontiac Motor Division, John DeLorean.

 

     

 

He wanted me to work in a new organization he was setting up, that would research what the market wanted and needed, then direct engineering to design it, manufacturing to build it and the sales department to sell it. This was an entirely new concept at this time, but is much more like what is done today. I accepted and reported to work at Pontiac on February 1, 1970. However, the day I reported for work, John DeLorean had reported to Chevrolet as their new General Manager.

 

I reported to my new boss, Jim Graham, Director of Marketing. His organization was part of the Sales Department. All the Staffs but engineering were located in the old Oakland Administration Building in an old part of the city of Pontiac. This was a very old five-story building with only one wooden staircase was built in the early days of the Oakland Automobile Company which had started the Pontiac car in 1927 as a lower priced entry into the automobile market. Its wooden floor creaked, the offices were tiny and air conditioners were sticking out of each window. We were on the fourth floor, so after a steep staircase outside from the street, it was quite a climb up to our offices. A huge change backward from working for Chevrolet, but the future to me looked a lot brighter at Pontiac! My title in my new job was Planning and Programming Manager. The "planning" part was future vehicle program planning while the "program" part turned out to be supervising some of the outside help being provided to car racing programs in NASCAR, NRHA, etc. That spring I went down to Florida where Milt Schornack was testing a new specially prepared 1969 GTO Bobcat from Royal Pontiac.

 

 

On another trip I went to a racetrack in the south where Buck Baker was racing a 1969 Trans Am with the 303 V-8 Tunnel Port engine in the NASCAR Grand American Series.

 

 

Herb Adams had developed the low deck, 303 V-8 tunnel port engine and had it installed in a 1969 Trans Am. I was responsible for loaning it to magazine writers for their evaluation along with other Pontiac vehicles they were interested in. Eric Dalquist from Motor Trend wrote about driving this car across Ohio at over 100 mph! He was really excited by the car's performance with the low deck, lighter weight 303 V-8 providing better weight distribution and handling. I also worked with the Hurst Corporation on their conversion of 1969 Grand Prixs, turning them into the SSJ with unique two-tone paint scheme. They offered the car in either gold and white or black and white color combinations. They painted the gold two tone, added the sun roof and extra gold striping with their SSJ logo.

 

 

A unique assignment was to drive a brand new, early production white with blue striping 1970 Trans Am down to Daytona for the 1970 500 mile race. I drove on the track as part of a parade lap before the start of the race, enjoyed the race in the Pontiac Public Relations Staff's suite, and then drove it back home after the race. A truly fun weekend!

 

 

I became the secretary of John DeLorean's Ad Hoc Committee, that he had formed to plan the future products of Pontiac. None of the Department Staff Heads were on the Committee. Instead, he had selected individuals from each department that he felt were forward thinking and open minded to new ideas. He chaired the committee. Of course, when I arrived for my first meeting, Jim McDonald was our new General Manager so he chaired the meeting. On this committee were Bill Collins, Russ Gee, Ben Harrison, and Herb Adams from Engineering, Bill Hoglund from Financial Staff, George Stevens from Public Relations, Jim Graham, Dave Wood and John Middlebrook from Marketing, the Director of Car Distribution and one of the Assistant Sales Managers.

 

In early 1971, the new administration building was completed on Pontiac's north campus near the Pontiac Engineering Building. On this large campus were also the Pontiac Foundry, the Pontiac Home Assembly Plant and the Pontiac Stamping Plant. Across the railroad tracks was the Pontiac Fisher Body plant that built the bodies for Pontiac Assembly Plant and they came across the railroad tracks in a high level, covered conveyer in sequence to finish assemble the cars. I moved into my new, luxurious office with my own secretary. This was a huge improvement, but not for long!

 

In 1971, Pontiac approved offering the new GTO front-end sheet metal and endura front panel as a T-41 option on the LeMans coupe, sedan and wagon. Since I had moved to Pontiac, I had purchased a used company owned 1969 Pontiac Executive Station Wagon to replace Criss' 1966 Chevrolet Impala Wagon.

 

 

This was a big car and seemed much larger than her Chevrolet. In 1971, Pontiac came out with a LeMans wagon and offered the T-41 front end. So I ordered her a new one in red with a white upper.

 

 

It was a very sporty looking wagon and Milt Schornack installed a HO dual Exhaust system including HO exhaust manifolds. It was now also a strong performer. It also was very good for towing our boat trailer and for towing Linda and Ted's horse trailer. After two years, we sold the wagon to Ted and Linda's horse trainer, Dave Lackey. He and his wife also enjoyed the car's performance and drove it for several more years. Even with undercoating, the salted roads in Michigan winters ate the car up in too short a time. By the time Dave sold it, it was a rust bucket.

 

In the early spring of 1971, Criss was President of the local Junior League Chapter. They arranged for the Professional Women's Tennis Tournament too come to Pontiac. I arranged for a fleet of white LeMans coupes with the T-41 option (GTO front end) to be built and available for the tennis players to use while they were in town. A few weeks later, Jim McDonald started to wonder why I, a mechanical engineer, was working in the Sales Department. He soon sent me over to the Engineering Building where they gave me a desk in the hallway. I was to help form a new Product Planning Department.

 

Tom Shreitmuler had just reported to Pontiac to head up the new Product Planning and Information Department as Staff Engineer. This new department included the existing Product Information Department that interfaced with the press on future product releases, etc. Ben Harrison was the key member of this department. He had the idea on how to make the all new 1969 Grand Prix (it was switched from the B-body platform to the new A-body platform) much more dramatic. His proposal was to lengthen the wheelbase in the front, allowing for the extremely long front end with an "A" coupe body shell and all-unique body panels and glass. Only the windshield and door glass was the same as an A-coupe. This became a huge success with the 1969 Grand Prix selling over 100,000 cars that year and several years after that.

 

 

This new department in Engineering reported to the Chief Engineer, Steve Malone. Tom had the title of Staff Engineer Product Planning and Information while I was given the title of Product Planning and Information Manager. The Ad-hoc committee soon went away, but we started having monthly meetings with Jim McDonald in the Engineering building to review new car programs and their progress. Soon in 1973, he moved to Chevrolet as General Manager and Martin Caserio became General Manager of Pontiac. He had been General Manager of GMC Truck and Bus Division and he did not know much about cars, particularly car image in the market place. He had a unique way of planning vehicle lines using a circle for each car line that included a base car, a luxury car, and a sporty car. This made it very difficult to preserve Pontiac's sporty, performance image.

 

In my spare time, Herb Adams asked me to be part of his Trans Action Race Team to race a car in the new SSCA "Trans Am" Series. His plan was to convert his wife's 1964 LeMans into a GTO and make it race ready with a Pontiac 303 V-8 engine which fit within SCCA's limit on engine displacement of 5.1 liters. SCCA had homalugated the GTO as a sports car only in 1964, but no one had ever raced one. Herb felt this could be a unique entry using his wife's 1964 LeMans coupe.

 

 

He formed a team of Pontiac enthusiasts (mostly Pontiac employees) to rebuild the car to SCCA racing specifications. My assignment was to build a trailer to take the car and equipment to the races. Herb used his company car, a Pontiac Station Wagon, to tow the trailer. The team's first race was at Lime Rock in the late spring of 1971. Criss and I had an Ultra Van Motor Home at this time and I drove it to Lime Rock taking along a lot of our team crewmembers.

 

 

It was a wet, rainy day with a very muddy in the infield where we worked on the car and parked our rigs. Herb had hired Bob Tulius to drive the car in the race. With the heavy rain during the race, the GTO seemed to handle better than all the rest of the Mustangs, Camaros, etc. Near the end of the race, the GTO lost a cylinder, but he limped it home for a 2nd place finish. First place was only two laps away if we hadn't had the partial engine failure.  For the next year, Herb built a Firebird into a Trans Am and raced it. He had sold the GTO and it still lives on, on the East Coast, still racing in its SCCA class.

 

The Pontiac Engineering building had a large auditorium including a stage for showing future car models. This large area was totally rearranged in 1972 to provide space for our new Product Planning Department with modern glassed in offices arranged around a large display area for display cars, fiberglass models, car mockups, etc. These offices were as nice as the staff offices in the Administration building. We had a closed off staff meeting room where we made presentations monthly to the General Manager and weekly to our Chief Engineer. The latter eventually changed to making weekly presentations at the Chief Engineers' Staff Meeting on our future program status. By this time, new car programs were being centralized. The 1964 A Car Program was the first, with each GM car division marketing an "A" car given design responsibilities for certain area of the car. Fisher Body still controlled the design and engineered the bodies and dictated commonality of body parts and assemblies. Chevrolet had responsibility for front suspension, Pontiac had the rear suspension, Oldsmobile had the fuel system and Buick had the complete brake system. At this time, the B cars did not have any common components between the car divisions other than Fisher Body commonizing a lot of the body structure and the window glass. Pontiac was very late joining the 1967 F Program, just before the start of production at the Norwood, Ohio assembly plant. Pontiac was only allowed to have specific front sheet metal, bumpers, taillights, interior trim and its own engines. For the all new 1970 F program, Pontiac was allowed more specific exterior body panels including doors, quarter panels and the complete interior including its own instrument panel.

 

 

For 1971, Pontiac was allowed to join the X program, creating the Ventura II with specific front sheetmetal, taillights, steering wheels and the use of our 350 cu. in. V-8 engine.

 

 

In those days, Pontiac Engineering made weekly trips (usually on Thursday mornings) to GM Design Staff at the GM Tech Center to visit our two exterior design studios and our interior design studio. Our purpose was to review our clay models for future all new cars and model year changes being proposed for future versions of our existing car lines. One my first visit in 1971, they were hard at work on the 1972 A program clay models which were to be all new including chassis, bodies, sheetmetal and bumpers. One of the clay models was the new GTO with a full endura front end and a dual naca duct flush hood scoops. I was really excited by the new design. However, the engineering program was behind schedule and GM decided to delay the program to 1973 and carry over the 1971 models with minor changes. Engineering had also been working on prototype cars developing the new chassis for the use of radial tires. We all were very impressed with the improved handling along with a very smooth ride over very rough roads. This all resulted in incorporating these features in a new up-level model to be called the Grand Am to attempt to compete with European cars like the BMW and Mercedes.

 

 

Herb Adams had led the development of this package, which used a larger front stabilizer bar, a rear stabilizer bar and urethane bushings. This feature was standard on the Grand Am models and optional on other Pontiac car lines. It was marketed as "RTS" for Radial Tuned Suspension with a plaque on the instrument panel.

 

The Marketing people still wanted to continue the GTO in 1973, but at a lower price level than the Grand Am coupe. It used the standard LeMans front sheet metal, but kept the naca duct hood with standard Ram Air induction to the carburetor. It also used the radial tires and RTS with standard steel wheels and moon hubcaps. Rally II wheels and honeycomb wheels were optional.

 

 

The all-new A-Car was much heavier than the 1972 models, which hurt its performance in drag racing and other racing venues. This was not good for the GTO's image and it did not sell very well. For this reason, Pontiac decided to move the GTO nameplate to the X body Ventura. The Ventura was already available with the 350 Pontiac V-8. To make it a GTO for 1974, Pontiac released the 4-bbl version of the 350 V-8 and an improved suspension package with RTS. Because of its reduced weight, its performance was much better than the 1973 A-Car GTO. To retain the ram air feature, the Trans Am "shaker" hood scoop was also released for this model.

 

 

All the X-Car models were being built at the Van Nuys GMAD plant in California. Unfortunately this was a one-year model only. For 1975, per President Roger Smith, all X-Cars would use the Buick 350 V-8 engine. With the loss of the Pontiac V-8 to the Buick V-8 engine, the GTO would no longer be a true "performance Pontiac". Thus, the decision was made to cancel the GTO for good. It would not have pleased our customers to have a Buick powered GTO! This was just some of the craziness of our programs in the 1970's under Roger Smith with his concentration on manufacturing efficiency instead of understanding the separate heritage and image of each of the GM car divisions and their loyal customers.

 

The 1973 A program for the new Grand Am was originally to include a station wagon along with the coupe and sedan. I was excited about the wagon because I knew that Criss would like it as much as I did. By the summer of 1972, the new 1973 A program was being tooled for build at our home plant and at other GM assembly plants. The Grand Am was to only be built at the Pontiac home plant because of its very large number of specific parts including the use of the Grand Prix instrument panel (which was not a problem since all Grand Prixs were built at the home plant). Up to this point, Pontiac was still planning to build A wagons in our home plant. Suddenly, in late summer, GM moved all station wagon production to the Framingham BOP Plant on the East Coast. This of course, killed the Grand Am wagon. Bill Collins, Assistant Chief Engineer for Body and Electrical, also liked the idea of a Grand Am wagon and he decided to have one of the first Pontiac LeMans wagons built with a 455 V-8 engine and had it shipped to Pontiac Engineering. Here it was stripped and gutted to be repainted a brighter 1970 silver, interior trimmed in Maroon using the Grand Am bucket seats, instrument panel, Grand Am front end with the naca hood ducts and functional ram air induction. It was also built up with the silver honey comb wheels with the larger H70x15 radial tires. He even had a more subdued red-white-blue stripe on the front nose back to along the body belt line ending at the rear door. This was similar to the Grand Am sedan striping. Bill wanted to show the corporation and Pontiac management what they were missing. It was the best wagon that Pontiac had ever built and we all enjoyed driving it.

 

 

The wagon remained in the Engineering fleet for two more years. Russ Gee, Assistant Chief Engineer Powertrain, installed a 3:08 rear axle to demonstrate improved fuel economy with the big 455 V-8 engine. When Engineering decided to sell the car, it was converted back to a LeMans front end with the steel bumper. However, nothing else was changed. I was able to buy the car for Criss to replace her 1971 LeMans Safari Wagon. She enjoyed driving the car as much as I did. However, she had a fender bender accident in downtown Birmingham one day that made a mess of the LeMans front-end panel. Instead of just repairing the existing front-end, I decided it was now time to rebuild it as a Grand Am.

 

A friend, who was our contact for Pontiac's advertising agency, Darcy McManus & Adams, had a collection of Grand Am front end parts. They had used them for photographic purposes for use in Pontiac advertising and promotional material for promoting the all-new 1973 Grand Am. By this time, these parts were no longer needed and he was about to throw them away. He was happy to give them to me. I had to buy a few metal support brackets to be able to complete the assembly. I took the car to Somerset Pontiac for the front-end repairs and gave them my set of Grand Am parts. When we got the car back from the body shop, it was once again the only Grand Am station wagon. That is the way it is today in my garage. I have never sold it and never intend to.

 

My father, who had retired from General Motors as Assistant Vice President when he turned 65 in February 1966, started buying Pontiacs for his personal use when I moved to Pontiac. My mother always drove Cadillacs. For 1973, he purchased a Grand Am sedan, which he enjoyed very much. He loved its performance, ride, handling and comfort.

 

 

 

In 1976, he bought at 1976 Grand Prix LJ.

 

 

 He took the Grand Am down to Florida to keep it in my stepmother's condo's carport for several years. When he died in 1979, by younger son and five of his friends were in Florida on spring brake from college. They drove the car back to Birmingham and I still have it also. My father didn't believe in undercoating and it became quite a rust bucket. I had it patched and repaired several times. It only has 55,000 miles on the odometer. I now have had it totally restored body wise and repainted and re-striped. The interior is still like new.

 

Herb Adams and Tom Nell, working in the Pontiac Advance Engineering Department, developed an almost all-new 455 cubic Pontiac V-8 engine. It retained the same bore centers and dimensions so that it could still be machined on existing equipment in the Pontiac Engine Plant. It used a forged crankshaft in place of the production cast crankshaft, special forged connecting rods and cylinder heads with separate round shaped ports for the exhaust. This engine was proposed for very limited production and to be available as an option in both the A-Car line and the Firebird. The engine was demonstrated at the 1973 model Press Show in the summer of 1972 with it installed in a 1973 Grand Am Coupe. It was the star of the event and was written up that way in all of the auto magazines. Unfortunately, in January, Martin Caserio became Pontiac's new General Manager, moving over from GMC Truck & Bus Division.  When he found out about the Super Duty Engine program and how much it cost to build by hand in the engine plant, he decided that only 1000 engines would be built and only installed in Firebird Formulas and Trans Ams. By the time the engine was tooled and ready for production, it was very late in the spring of 1973.  Only about half of the engines were sold in 1973 Formulas and Trans Ams. The left over engines were then offered for sale in 1974 Formula and Trans Am models. These were by far the strongest running production Pontiac V-8's of all time, even with the low compression ratio required for lower octane regular grade gasoline.

 

My oldest son, Doug Goad turned 16 on November 18, 1973. Of course he wanted his own car to drive, so my father had ordered a 1974 Trans Am with a 4-speed manual and the 455 Super Duty engine, white with the big blue "bird" on the hood, blue interior and almost no other options (no air conditioning). It was as light and fast as one could be built. When it arrived at Pontiac as a company car, it was assigned to me to put the minimum miles on it before my father could buy it as a used car. He drove it to high school, then to college at the University of Illinois, then later at Western Michigan. He also used it in all types of car related sporting events. He still owns the car today and it his prized possession parked in his garage. It is still white with the blue interior, blue decals, and honeycomb wheels. The latter have been replaced with aluminum 8-inch snowflake wheels.

 

 

For the 1976 Chicago Auto Show, a special Trans Am was assembled with gold stripping and Hurst installed T-tops. This was the "Limited Edition" model, which included gold honeycomb wheels, gold interior accents and a super sized "chicken" hood decal. It commemorated Pontiac's 50th anniversary. 2,590 were built and sold.

 

 

This began the development of the popular T-tops in the Firebird. I worked with Hurst on this development and its continuation for several years.

 

 

This option became so popular that Fisher Body decided to take it over and manufacture it with their own design and special roof panels to better control quality and sealing. This same package was used for the 1977 Burt Reynolds movie "Smokey and the Bandit", a great advertisement for the Trans Am.

 

 

I was approached by one of the people I had worked with on other special programs. He and his company proposed to produce a special version of the 1977 LeMans coupe. The cars were to be white with the 6.6 Litre Pontiac V-8 engine, body colored (white) Rally II wheels with G70 x15 tires, Grand Prix instrument panel and either white, black or firethron interior. The cars were then to go to a local conversion Company (Motortown) to add the black lower body striping, yellow-orange-red striping on the hood back onto the door uppers and special "Can Am" decals. This company also cut a hole in the hood to add a Trans Am shaker hood assembly with its special air cleaner. Also part of the package was a full width duck tail spoiler that they tooled and produced.

 

 

We had Pontiac dealer orders for 1500 cars from all over the country. They were to all be built early in the 1977 model run, and the Assembly plant built them on schedule. Unfortunately, the company's spoiler tool broke, delaying their completion of the cars for three months. The back lot of the Pontiac plant was covered with white Can Ams, waiting to be shipped to the company for completion. Once the tool was repaired, the cars were completed and shipped as quickly as possible. My younger son, Ted, had his 16th birthday on April 27, 1977. My father had ordered a Can Am for him for his birthday and I tracked down the car in the maze of white LeMans coupes. I found it and drove it over to the conversion shop for its completion. I then drove the car daily to put on the necessary miles so my Father could purchase the car in time for his birthday. Again, like, Doug, he still owns the owns the car. He used it to tow Linda and his horses in their horse trailer. Ted even repainted the horse trailer to match the Cam Am's paint scheme.

 

In 1978, GM Design Staff created a fiberglass model of a Firebird wagon called the Type K. It was a most interesting design, very stylish and more practical than a standard Firebird with its very small trunk. General Motors even had two running cars built in Italy by Pininfarina. They shipped two 1978 Trans Ams to Italy.

 

 

The finished cars were shipped back to Design Staff in 1979 and Design Staff up graded them with 1979 front ends. Supposably, one of these cars was scrapped but the other one ended up in John McMullen's collection.

 

For the 1980 Indy 500, Pontiac built a fleet of 1980 Trans Ams with the turbo 301 V-8. All the cars were white with black uppers, t-tops and a large bird hood graphic and "Turbo Trans Am" on the doors.

 

 

By 1980, the corporation was engineering new vehicles by platforms with the platform organization at the GM Technical Center in Warren or in nearby rented buildings. The first of these was the 1980 X Car program headed up by Bob Eaton, who I had worked with Chevrolet R&D in the defense of the Corvair. This was an all-new front wheel drive, lightweight small car for five people, four doors, with a hatchback design. This car really excited Criss because of its utility, its front wheel drive and its smaller size. Both she and her mother had 1980 models, Criss had a Phoenix SJ and her mother had a Phoenix LJ. Later, Criss had a 1981 Phoenix LJ.

 

 

For the 1982 F Program, Pontiacís chassis Staff Engineer, Bob Knickebocker became the Program Manger to lead the design and development of an all new Camaro and Firebird for the 1982 model year. Chevrolet felt that they owned the program with their Assistant Chief Engineer, Tom Zimmer representing Chevrolet while I represented Pontiac as Program Manager. I had to fight for every specific part for the new Firebird. We had planned to use the Pontiac 301 small block V-8 engine in the Firebird and the turbo charged 301 in the Trans Am. Our first pilot cars were even built with Pontiac V-8's including the turbo in the Trans Am. The Pontiac 301 4-bbl V-8 out performed and actually weighted less than Chevrolet's new Crossfire 350 V-8 with dual throttle body fuel injection. However, in 1982 the Pontiac V-8 was scrapped in a corporate cost cutting drive. We were now to be the king of four cylinder engines and Pontiac actually built an all-new plant to build the "Iron Duke". The Pontiac 2.5 litre iron duke was standard in both the base Camaro and Firebird. The new Chevrolet 2.8 litre 60 degree V-6 was also available in both models. The 4-cylinder engine was necessary for fuel economy to meet Federal fuel economy requirements.

 

 

For 1983, the Firebird power train line up was now dependent on the 5.0 litre four-bbl Chevrolet V-8 which out performed their Crossfire V-8. Pontiac was asked to provide the pace car for the 1983 Daytona 500 in February. Design Staff did the design work. Dick Hartzel, Staff Engineer for body at Pontiac, asked me to work with an outside company to build this unique version of the Trans Am as developed by Design Staff. Approximately 2000 were to be built in the spring. The Pace Car edition featured a special white and gray color scheme, an aero package, Recaro bucket seats and the first use of the high out put 5-Litre 4 bbl V-8 engine. I worked with an outside supplier, owned by Bill Bailey, to set up a plant across the expressway from the Norwood, OH Assembly Plant to complete the conversion and make the cars ready to be shipped to the Pontiac dealers. Norwood built the cars less front seats, but with special white aluminum wheels and other special parts they could easily install as part of the regular process all supplied by Bailey's company. The cars were shipped across the highway to Bailey's rented plant. They were each put on to an assembly line that moved the cars sideways from station to station for the installation of the lower aero package, special white wheel covers with no vents and the special gray decals. The special white wheels with no vents with the wheel covers installed could cause overheating of the brakes due to lack of ventilation. The wheels were finned, so removing the wheel covers allowed for plenty of air circulation. We did not build any other cars with these wheels.

 

 

Very late in 1983, the 5.0 HO V-8 became available as a regular production option. I had engineering order a Trans Am with the 5.0 HO engine with a 5-speed manual transmission, the new aero package, no air conditioning, or any other luxury options. I wanted the lightest, best handling T/A that we could build for demonstration at the Press Show for our 1984 models. The aero package included a black front air dam extension, black lower body extensions and black panels to replace the grilles in the front fascia.  Also included was black lower body striping on the rear fascia, sides and front fascia. On this car I had the grille replacement panel painted red to match the body color. This was how I had hoped the package would be released. However, it would have caused too much proliferation of parts since all of these plastic parts are painted by the supplier, requiring a separate part number for each color each part is painted. The car was big with the media people and they drove the wheels off it on the road-racing course at Road Atlanta.

 

For 1984, Design Staff designed the special edition, Fifteenth Anniversary Trans Am. This car was all white with blue graphics. They built up a Trans Am the way they wanted it to look. It had Recaro bucket seats trimmed in white leather with gray cloth inserts, white formula steering wheel and special white leather map pocket on the right side of the instrument panel. The car was shipped to the Desert Proving Grounds in the fall of 1983 for our management review of the 1984 models. The Anniversary model was approved and this special model of the Trans Am went into production at the Norwood assembly plant. On this special model they were able to integrate all the parts and operations into their regular production lines. This special edition of the Trans Am proved to be much more popular and was easier for the dealers to sell. With T-tops, it was again the Pace Car for the Daytona 500 race in February.

 

 

 

After the 1984 models were announced in September, my red 1983 T/A was put up for sale. I quickly bought it and drove it home hiding it in my back garage without telling Criss about it. I soon took the car to Jeff Bietzel's Prototype Automotive Services shop (PAS) and had his crew set the car up for showroom stock racing. My plan was to take it to the Waterford Road Racing track for the 1984 season. My son, Doug, was already racing at Waterford for several years, in an Opel Manta that he had purchased and set up for racing in a modified sedan racing class. He had won several championships in this class. His Opel used the Cam-in-head engine that I helped develop at Chevrolet and later at Opel in Germany. Criss finally found out about all this and was very unhappy with me, but she gave in, didn't divorce me, and let me continue. She never came to the racetrack to watch me race.

 

I went through their driver training school to learn all about the rules and regulations of racing. Instructors would ride with me to help educate us on the quick way around the circuit. For our first races, we had an orange triangle on the rear of the car to warn other drivers we were trainees or novices. I learned quickly and in no time become pretty competitive in my class. Jeff Bietzel and some of his employees were my pit crew and helped me maintain the car. At one point, in practice, the throttle stuck in a tight hairpin turn and I went into the barrier before I could turn off the engine. I was able to back the car out and drive it back to the pits. They taped up the front and fixed the throttle linkage so I could race that day. That broken up front fascia is still in the rafters of my garage. In 1985, I finished the season second in class at Waterford and received my first Waterford Hills Road Racing plaque.

 

Jeff Bietzel suggested that we take my car to Sebring in Florida and enter it in the first Firehawk Series race in the winter of 1985, a new IMSA Series for showroom stock production cars. Two drivers are required because of the length of the races, from two hours to 24 hours. Doug was also interested in this new series and was happy to be my co-driver. Unfortunately, in our first race, with Doug driving, we had a major engine failure very early in the race. I drove the car in practice but not in the race. We had much better luck racing at Road America, Watkins Glen, and a new track in Illinois near St. Louis.  Our best race of the year was at Lime Rock where we placed second. It was during this race that I received a phone call from Byron Warner. He wanted me to move over from Product Planning to his Engineering Department to become Manager of Special Vehicle Engineering. I quickly accepted, since this job was made in heaven for me, allowed me to be creative and work with a lot of great people. My last eleven years with Pontiac would be much more enjoyable.

 

Special Vehicle Engineering employed a number of engineers in many different levels of expertise. Joe Dunn was responsible for building our new concept car each year's Detroit Auto Show. Bob Fox, a retired Fisher Body Engineer, loved to develop convertible versions for the Firebird and the new Fiero that had just gone into Production in the Pontiac Fisher Body plant.

 

 In 1985, Joe Dunn was working with our Design Studio to create the ideas for the 1986 Trans Sport Concept Show Car to be shown at the national new model auto shows around the country starting with the Detroit Auto Show in Detroit in January 1986. This concept vehicle lead to the design and production of the Pontiac Transport spot utility vehicle in 1990.

 

 

The concept vehicles that Joe was responsible for were not static show cars, they had running chassis and could be driven my management and the press. Joe, however, was very restrictive on how fast you could drive one even though most were based on an expanded Corvette chassis and strong engines.

 

All the way back to John DeLorean's days, Pontiac had tried several times to add a two-seat sports car in its model line-up only to be turned off my GM's corporate management. Back, while I was still in my elaborate office in the new Product Planning area, Hulki Aldikacti made a very crude mockup in our display area. It was manly for seating purposes, of a rear engined sports car. This concept would eventually become the Pontiac Fiero.

 

 

 Now working for CPC Engineering, he formed a team in Entech Engineering's building near the GM Tech Center.  They were designing an all new rear engined, two seat "economy" car using the front suspension of the little T-Car (Pontiac T1000) and the front suspension and power train from the front wheel drive A-Car (Pontiac 6000), moved to the rear. All of this was married into one-piece space frame covered with plastic body panels. The corporation approved this concept as a high fuel mileage car that could be built in the now vacant Pontiac Fisher Body plant. Hulki's team invented a special large fixture that could machine pads on the welded together space frame to allow ease of accurately attaching all the prepainted body panels. The only painting done in this plant was painting the space frame chassis black. The first pilot cars were built in 1983 and I was on one of their test trips. The car was fun to drive, but when you were on some back asphalt roads, the front end and back end of the car seemed to be totally out of sync. This was ok for an economy car, but it not feel like a good handling sports car.

 

Pontiac's 1987 auto show car was the Pursuit Concept Vehicle designed by the Pontiac Design Studio. It was an extremely aerodynamic design with fully enclosed wheels, very low almost like a flying saucer. Joe Dunn had the car built in an outside shop. It was drivable, utilizing unique four wheel steering with movable hinged skirting on each wheel opening to providing tire clearance in turning mode. A very advanced concept, but not very practical.

 

 

Bob Fox loved the Fiero's concept and felt it would be ideal car to make into a convertible. Many tries were made with all kinds of ways to stow the top and open the back end for access to the engine, but they were all too flimsy for production and had terrible body structure. By 1988, under John Seaton's leadership (John had been Pontiac's Chassis Staff Engineer until the CPC reorganization in 1984) an all new suspension system was developed for the 1987 Fiero. Unfortunately, he insisted on an electric motor driven power steering system, developed by Saginaw Steering Gear. It had to be fixed (it was too noisy). Thus the new chassis did not start production until the fall of 1987 as an 1988 model. The power steering option was never approved for release. This new chassis made an excellent handling car and I loved it. I ordered one as my Company Car in the fall of 1987. It was a red Fiero GT with gold aluminum wheels and saddle leather interior.

 

 

After I finished driving it, it was parked in the back of our company car lot behind the Administration Building. That summer, I noticed it still sitting there. I asked the CPC people, who handled our company car fleet, about the Fiero and they said "I thought you wanted to buy it." I decided then to buy it and add to my collection of GM cars. I always enjoyed driving it. But when I bought a 2006 Pontiac GTO, I gave the Fiero to my son, Ted, to make room for it my garage.

 

With this new chassis, Bob Fox and an outside firm develop a convertible with extra welded on structure under the space frame and a unique convertible top that folded down behind the bucket seats.

 

 

 It was truly an inventive design and was fun to drive. Unfortunately at the peak of its development, General Motors canceled the program and the last cars were built in March of 1988. To me, this was a tragic loss of a very unique product that fit Pontiac's image perfectly. The car has a huge following with many Fiero clubs. There were almost 300 Fiero's at their National Convention in Pontiac in 2007.

 

The last rear wheel drive Grand Prixs were being used in NASCAR racing in the 1980's and Pontiac had several very successful teams, while Chevrolet was using their Monte Carlo. John Calais found out that Chevrolet had created a fast back rear window for the Monte Carlo to improve the car's aerodynamics for use by NASCAR competitors in 1986. John wanted the same aero benefit created for the Grand Prix. I worked with Bill Bailey and his company Autodynamics, to create a more aerodynamic Grand Prix model, the Grand Prix 2+2.

 

 

In an outside design studio, Pontiac's designer from Design Staff developed a clay model using a production Grand Prix to create a more aerodynamic front end and a sloped rear glass with a short deck lid with a large built in spoiler. LOF (Libby Owens Ford glass company) in Toledo made a mold and drape formed the rear window, much like what they were doing for the Camaro and Firebird. We had to build a minimum of 1500 cars to meet NASCAR's production car standards. All the Grand Prixs and Monte Carlos were built in Canada at the St. Therese Assembly Plant north of Montreal.

 

These special mid-year model, Grand Prix 2+2 aerodynamic coupes, were all painted metallic gray. The production bumpers were received from the Pontiac stamping plant, painted body color and shipped to St Therese for installation on the 2+2's. The cars were built and shipped without a front-end panel, headlights, rear backlite or deck lid. The cars were shipped to Bill Bailey's plant he setup in Oxford, Michigan. In his Autodynamics plant the sharp upper body crease had to be rounded at its rear edge to match the rounded shape of the corner of the rear window. This required grinding and use of body filler, then repainting the area. A special fiberglass rear panel was installed to support the rear glass and an extremely short fiberglass decklid with an integral four-inch high spoiler was installed. A special rounded body colored front fascia (similar to a Firebird) with four honeycomb grilles was installed with production headlights and marker lights. My chassis development engineer did the vehicle development work using our prototype 2+2 at the GM Desert Proving Grounds using Monte Carlo SS suspension components (stabilizer bars, springs, bushings, etc.) and tires. I went down to the Proving Grounds and drove his test car. It was not only the best handling Grand Pix I had ever driven, but it also had the best body structure. The large backlite and its supporting panels stiffened the body eliminating the bouncing seat feel that regular Grand Pxis had due to their lightweight frame and short wheelbase, plus the excessive front overhang. The original fiberglass model of the 1978 Grand Prix had a four-inch longer wheelbase than the LeMans, but our management said it was not necessary. I always felt this was a poor decision. The 2+2 was the best riding and handling 1978-1986 Grand Prix that was ever sold to the public. Too bad it was the rear drive Grand Prix's last year of production. Pontiac decided this was the end of production for the rear drive mode.  Pontiac was the first division to start production of the all-new front wheel drive Grand Prix for the 1987-88 model years. This Grand Prix was to be built in the all-new Fairfax Kansas City assembly plant with production starting in the spring of 1987. Our NASCAR teams were allowed to continue racing the 2+2's through the 1987 season.

 

In 1985, the "Grand Am" nameplate returned on an all new Pontiac built on the "N" platform. It was a front drive family of sedans. They were built in several plants along with the Buick and Oldsmobile versions of this car. However, the demand for the Grand Am was far greater than for the Buick and Olds model. Eventually one whole plant was set aside just for the Grand Am to catch up with the dealer demand.

 

 

For the 1988 Auto shows, Design Staff and Joe Dunn created the 1988 Banshee Concept Car. This was a forerunner of the next generation of the Firebird, again a very aerodynamic design, with a huge, extremely angled windshield.

 

 

Today Tom Goad is enjoying his retirement while participating in many auto events and club activities in the Detroit area.  PontiacsOnline.com would like to extend our thanks to Mr. Goad for sharing his GM, and especially his Pontiac memories with us.

 

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