The writer is an automotive marketing analyst. He worked for many years on General Motors advertising and, as an account supervisor for Pontiac's ad agency, helped fuel the popularity of the Pontiac GTO.
To the Editor:
I'm a big fan of GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens, and I, too, will be sorry to see him retire ("From age 10, GM's Stephens loved go-fast gizmos," Final Assembly, Jan. 23).
I'm also America's No. 1 Pontiac fan, and I am deeply crushed by his callous put-down of our beloved 389 Pontiac engine.
I'd like to ask him what he used for daily transportation after he turned his perfectly good '64 GTO into a serious race car by installing a 427 Big Block L88 Chevy engine. What did he use for wheels when he went out cruising for a match-race?
Even at 20, he knew that after an hour of just driving around, that big Chevy was not ready for action. As soon as he jumped on it, he would hear it sputter and moan and even backfire a time or two as those 1960s-style spark plugs and the old-fashioned points distributor would try to do their job.
"How do you expect me to fire?" his plugs would cry. "I'm all loaded up with carbon deposits from that heavily leaded gas you're feedin' me. You don't have a hot enough spark to let me work right through all this gook. That's what you get for cruising around at low speeds. I need to be replaced if you're gonna' try to beat somebody!"
Sound familiar? You bet, and that's just what made that great Pontiac 389 earn its place in history. Then when you added "three deuces and a four-speed," like they sing about -- man, that's all you needed.
Anybody can build a good race car, Tom, and I certainly don't want to take anything away from that great Big Block Chevy, but that's OK if you wanted to leave it lurking at home in the garage waiting for just the right time to call it into action -- not go cruising around for an hour or two until you found that competition, unless you brought along an extra set of spark plugs and had the time and equipment to change them.
You should have kept that fabulous 389 right where it belonged -- in a Pontiac GTO -- and enjoyed the best of both worlds. You could have cruised all you wanted and when that right moment came along, you and your GTO would have been ready!