HomeThe MarketFamed Pontiac adman Jim Wangers' cars offered by Mecum

Famed Pontiac adman Jim Wangers’ cars offered by Mecum


Jim Wangers is often called “the godfather of the Pontiac GTO” because of his high-profile marketing efforts that helped make the fledgling 1964 muscle car into an American icon. Wangers’ many exploits in boosting Detroit products are legendary, but so was his own collection of muscle-car classics and GM special-project vehicles, primarily Pontiacs.

His collection has come down to five remaining cars, all of which will cross the block during Mecum’s Indianapolis auction May 14-19.

“These five cars from his private collection are the last handful the now 92-year-old Wangers held onto through the years, and luckily for admirers of the celebrated adman’s legacy, they’re slated to cross the Mecum auction block in Indianapolis this May,” according to the Mecum auction catalog. “It’s an honor to offer these cars for sale, and one would have to imagine that the honor of owning one would be even greater.”

The GTO is said to turn ‘consistent 10s’ at the drag strip

With marketing hype being Wangers’ stock in trade, it’s only appropriate that the focal point of the group is a tribute to his 1966 Pontiac “Beat the Tiger” drag-race marketing campaign, which was repurposed in the early 2000s to promote Wangers’ magazine, Pontiac Enthusiast.

The car is a 1966 Pontiac GTO purpose-built for the magazine promotion to emulate the two GeeTO Tiger Show cars, finished in gold with one side inset with white and the other side in black to emulate the two cars in the program.  The body, with paint and graphics by Sal’s TLC Auto Body in San Marcos, California, is a direct replication of the GeeTo Tiger cars, as well as being a piece of history in itself.

The GTO is endowed with a total package of race-performance equipment, powered by a 505 cid Pontiac V8 built by Butler Performance.  The car “runs consistent low 10s in the ¼ mile at 130 mph,” the catalog description says.

The Ponte Carlo is a Chevy powered by Pontiac

Another piece of Wangers history is the 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, nicknamed the Ponte Carlo because of the NHRA-certified Pontiac 467cid V8 that resides under its hood.  The engine was built by Duncan Michaels, a contract engineer for GM.

“This car represents the Jim Wangers counter-culture theme of mixing Pontiac and Chevrolet equipment to produce an astounding racing machine,” the Mecum catalog says. “Wangers was so proud of this car that his autograph remains imprinted on the dashboard.

“Having begun its life as a street racer, the Ponte Carlo is a legend amongst the San Diego street-racing scene as well as the Pontiac hobbyist community.”

The Grand Prix has a basis in Hurst specials

The 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix in the collection is a Wangers creation, “painted in two-tone White and Gold to replicate a White and Gold SJ model he had owned in 1969 that purportedly became the prototype for the Hurst SSJ that was presented to Pontiac in 1970,” according to the catalog.

With custom touches and upgrades, and just 47,700 miles showing on its odometer, the Grand Prix displays a piece of Wangers’ vision of a Pontiac special that instead wound up being produced by Hurst.

The Solstice boasts 260 horsepower

The 2009 Solstice GXP coupe is one of the last Pontiacs produced and one of just 110 built with a manual transmission.  A former PR car showing just 7,726 miles, the Solstice is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec engine producing 260 horsepower.

The Holden HSR-GTSR was used to create Pontiac’s last-gen GTO

The fifth car in the Wangers offering comes straight from down under, a rare 2000 Holden HSR-GTSR, one of 50 of the performance models built by GM’s Australian division.  The right-hand-drive Holden formed the basis for Pontiac’s final version of the GTO, and while it’s not certified for US roads, it has just 42,395 kilometers (26,343 miles) on the odometer.

The Wangers cars will be among 2,000 vehicles offered during Mecum’s six-day collector car auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  For more information, visit the auction website.

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. I realize that I’m in the minority here, and other readers can hate on me all they want, but I actually like the last-gen GTO. The styling may have been typical bland of the mid-2000’s but the performance was phenomenal! I also like the Solstice. Had GM pursued the program further, the Solstice/Sky could have been GM’s own entry-level Corvette without stealing any sales from the mighty ‘Vette. Also, the Solstice was what the Fiero should have been all along. Instead GM handed that market over to Mazda without making any effort at all.

    • I agree, I own one of them so I might be biased (2005 GTO) I would love to know who bought that Holden at the auction. Big life goal: To own that car one day 🙂

  2. I have met Jim Wangers and have owned 2 GTO’s. I ordered a 67 GTO the night they came out and didn’t get the car till the day after Thanksgiving. Later a Japanese race mechanic tweaked the car for me. It easily ran 13 and when you pull a 440 Coronet in every gear you’re running good. The thing that ruined my dream was a job offer from Nixon. I realize now I should have kept the car but I was going to be gone a long time. I ordered a 71 when I got out but it couldn’t touch the 67.

  3. I worked with Jim in the late 60s. As the main writer on Pontiac at the agency, I considered him just “a suit”. I Now realize how important his drive and dedication was to the brand. He would loan me his tweaked GTOs for the weekend so I could street-race them on Woodward Ave & on Telegraph Road, then ask me how many Corvettes I had snuffed. What a guy. What a great time to have worked in Detroit advertising.


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