#PonchosUnited

DonKeefe

#PonchosUnited

The nearly 30 years of experience I have had in the magazine business and my immersion in the Pontiac hobby since early childhood has shown me a lot of things. First, I think that Pontiac people are the best in the hobby. The friendships that I have fostered over the years have really moved beyond the realm of friends- I consider many to be family and that is the highest compliment that I can give.

When I first landed at CSK Publishing in Hackensack, New Jersey, to start my position as Associate Editor for High Performance Pontiac, I was a wide-eyed kid who had a good deal of knowledge about Pontiacs and journalism and was eager to get started. I quickly found out, however, that I still had much to learn. Fortunately, CSK was the perfect place to be.

In a lot of ways that little publishing company blended extremely well with my college training. Both were relatively small operations and because of that, we learned all aspects of the business. Most car magazines at the time were much larger and had separate departments for editorial, road test, photography and other functions.

At CSK, not only was there only one group of people handling all of those things for High Performance Pontiac, we were also the staff for seven other magazines. If you look through the mastheads for late 1980s and early 1990s issues of High Performance Mopar, Musclecars, Vette, Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords, Fast Cars & Rock and Roll, GM Enthusiast and Bracket Racing USA, you will find the same names. We did all of those magazines at the same time and it was the best training for anyone in the business- it was car magazine boot camp. Even today, having CSK Publishing on your resume is a badge of honor because that was a real “sink or swim” environment.

One of the more interesting outcomes of my CSK years are the friendships from that time in my life. I am in regular contact with most of the people from that company- even though I haven’t worked there in 25 years. The camaraderie that I continue to experience from that period is very much a part of who I am. We had Mustang fans, Mopar fans, Pontiac fans, Corvette fans, sports car fans, racers, wrenchers, photographers and editors and we all got along. We got into a ton of mischief and we still get together and laugh about it to this day.

I find it fascinating that with all of the differences we had in ethnicity, politics, lifestyle and marque loyalty, that we got along so famously. I think most of it had to do with the notion that we were decent to one another. It really seemed to work. Who knew?

Why is it then that the Pontiac hobby, a single marque that is no longer in operation, has to be so fragmented at this stage of the game? We are all fans of an orphan make. Isn’t it time to start working together? Isn’t it time that we actually make the hobby more attractive to younger enthusiasts instead of shaming them at shows and telling them their cars aren’t worthy of display?

Yes, it does still happen and it really disturbs me. Haven’t those same people ever heard the old saying, “Be nice to your kids. They choose your nursing home?” It’s the same with cars. Do you want your car to go to an enthusiast or someone who leaves it in a field to rot?

Without a doubt, the portion of the hobby that gets the most media attention is the muscle-era Pontiacs, most notably, the GTO and Trans Am, as well as their various related A and F-bodies. While those are fantastic machines, there are so many other dynamic, interesting and active areas of the Pontiac hobby that many don’t even know about. How about inviting them to your events to get your show numbers up? How about giving little kids rides in the parking lot instead of yelling at them to stay away from your car?

I own two Pontiacs purposely chosen because they are somewhat outside of the mainstream: a 2000 Daytona Pace Car Replica Grand Prix GTP and a 1966 Tempest Custom four-door hardtop. My GTP has been called by a few self-proclaimed experts on the topic, “front-drive crap,” “not a real Pontiac,” “a Buick” and “a Chevy.”

Similarly, my Tempest has been called a “GTO parts car,” a “waste of time” and a “dead grandma’s car.” That last one may well be true, however, as Mrs. Mason, wherever she is, must have looked down with great pride to see the panic her and her husband’s Tempest caused when I pulled into the midway area at the 2013 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals. Everyone was marveling at the original, intact California A.I.R. system and the amazingly original condition of the car. One observer said to me, “I have seen two of a lot of cars here today, but I haven’t seen two of those.”

If we were to just stop bickering about whose car was this or that and made a little room under the tent for the Pontiac fans with different tastes, this hobby would be nearly as large as the Mopar hobby. Think about it, if everyone welcomed the Fieros, the front-drivers, the Third and Fourth-Gen Firebirds, the late-model GTOs, the Solstices, the G8s, hell, even the Azteks, I think that the Pontiac hobby would be healthy enough for our great-grandchildren to enjoy these cars in a self-sustaining hobby.

When it comes down to the group who I think has the best attitude of inclusiveness in the Pontiac hobby, I would have to say that the Trans Am Nationals has the right idea. They welcome all Firebirds from all four generations. Best of all, they take no issue with GM small-blocks, V-6s or LS-power- quite a breath of fresh air.

Since the history of the Pontiac Firebird is six years longer without the traditional Pontiac V-8 than it is with it, they allow that the march of technology meant that powerplants come and go. While we can all have our favorites, it doesn’t mean we have to shun all others.

I have come up with an idea that I hope will unite the Pontiac hobby and help spread the word about this magazine. You hear people talking about “hashtags,” the pound signs that precede posts that are made on social media. They tie similar interests together in searches and help spread the word about whatever it is that the posters are interested in.

I therefore ask all of you, whenever you make a post about Pontiacs that you end it with the phrase, #PonchosUnited. That way, we can help promote the idea of uniting the Pontiac hobby and at the same time, help get the word out about Poncho Perfection. We are enthusiastic about the future and want to grow the hobby. Let’s start here and see where it goes.

17 thoughts on “#PonchosUnited

  1. Beautifully put Don. I still scroll right past people having heart-attacks over the “big block Pontiac” arguments and the LS motor transplant crisis. Yes, I have my preferences but there is room for everyone under my tent!

  2. I support every single word you say! Yes Pontiac people are special and we should make up our mind about the way we welcome youngsters at shows and on forums and other social media places. I know I am at the other end of the world, but even here this mentality of the front drive 4 door is nothing worth car is getting promoted by people. I had myself a couple of Pontiac daily drivers that were not V8’s or RWD and got laughed at by some. There is a right for those pure Pontiac guys and it’s great to have them, but slowly everything after ’81 will move up the row and become classic and at one point the last one’s will be classic in their own right. The new GTO’s are the first ones to get attention from the parts suppliers, the rest will follow if there is a market left. Those kids will be able to use the electronics needed on those cars, there will be cheap supply of those instruments, all we have to care for is to make sure that they still know about the basics of the hobby and let’s tell them about the great friendship experience that comes with it. From a Pontiac nerd in Germany. #PonchosUnited

  3. “That’s a BIG OL’ ten-four!” When you think about it, even Bandit and Sheriff Buford both drove Pontiacs – hard to find two more obvious factions on opposite sides of the paradigm. Yet the story couldn’t have been told without both of them. #PonchosUnited

  4. Don,
    You are right on point. We have three Pontiacs and are proud of each one of them. They are special in our minds if not in others.
    Our 1964 Bonneville is the car I could not afford when I got out of high school, and today it has my graduation tassel hanging from the inside mirror
    Our 1968 LeMans is the car I could not afford as it was at the dealer when I received my draft notice, today my dog tags and a pin from the first hand grenade I tossed in basic training.
    Our 1978 Bonneville was the car we bought new and took our honeymoon in and only has 49,000 summer miles.
    Over the years we have heard some remarks about them not being a 421 tri-power, or not a real GTO, or a grandmother’s car. That doesn’t bother us anymore as much as it used to as some of those who criticize don’t even own a classic…..
    We welcome all Pontiac owners when we see them at events to share their stories about their cars. From the old to the not so old they are all special to us, and part of our Pontiac Family!
    #PonchosUnited.

  5. I agree, even though I am not a big fan of the Corporate engines.

    My son has an 06 GTO. I drove it before he did but since it was wet pavement that day did not get a sense of what it really was. I was able to drive it again last summer and was pleasantly please with its power. The ride, well, it is not a luxury car.. He has owned a couple of LeMans as well as 2 Cat’s. He still has one of the Cat’s.

    I have owned a 1970, 1975, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2006 Grand Prix’s. Liked them all. Owned a couple of LeMans, a couple of GTO’s and of course my favorite my ’71 T-37.

    I would own another GP if I could find a good one as a daily driver.

    I know this will not go over with traditional Pontiac lovers, but like them all. My only dislike is when a corporate engine is put in an older vehicle. I will look at it as far as the body, mods, interior, handling goes and enjoy that part of it. I would never make a disparaging remark to the owner even if I do not agree with the engine choice.

    I drove a 1994 Firebird Formula and almost bought it in 1994 but insurance kept me from it.

    Bottom line, if we do not get along then the Pontiac nameplate will ONLY BE A MEMORY that very few will remember.

  6. Great editorial Don! I love all Firebirds and Trans Ams. Any year, they are all cool. Tempast, Lemans and Catalinas are all beautiful 2 or 4 door. Bonnevilles and Grand Prixs are also great cars no matter the year and you have to love the G8! Wishing you luck on your goal #PonchosUnited

  7. Don, you are spot on about this. Being an owner of both a classic GTO and a last gen GTO I have experienced and/or witnessed the negative comments directed at later generation Pontiacs. Not that anyone would call a 400-hp, 6-speed a “dead grandma’s car” but it has been called “ugly” and “not a real GTO.” My 2006 GTO has been to exactly one car show in 9 years. On the other hand I can bring my Corvette Z06 to any cruise night and not get any negative feedback. I wholeheartedly agree that for the survival of the hobby that we all need to stick together. That statement includes not only Pontiac owners but all car enthusiasts.

  8. Don, As always, you have your hand on the pulse of the hobby. I have to agree that to shun any Pontiac, new or old is another slit in the throat of the hobby. I caught flak about my Chevy El Caminos with Pontiac engines and trim from purists that said the factory never built them. So what !!! I have played with Pontiacs for nearly 60 years and still try. I like a nice car, no matter what brand. I even ran other brands from time to time. We need to press an effort to ‘Get the kids to a car show’. Show them what fun can be had. Keep preaching, Brother , at least the choir is listening !!

  9. If anyone knows what it feels like to get “Keefed” it is me. Safe to say neither of us will ever have to worry about that again! I won’t mention just how long I’ve been here but the Geezers certainly know! There’s just a few good ol’ boys that have any idea of the significance of this compliment… one things for certain I am a better man today for having guys like Don on my side! Coming upon 20 years now I’ve known these guys and they’ve been with me through the highs and lows! #PONTIACUNITED as it always has been! If my story does not prove it nothing will! #PONTIAC4LIFE

  10. You are absolutely correct Don. When looking back through the decades from the 50’s I could never envision what transpired at GM. Age has taught me that most things are not what they ever appear to be. The managerial mess that GM was in to cause my beloved automotive division to be thumped the way it was leaves me with great dissention for those involved in that horrible decision. I now can only reason how fortunate I was to live through the great moments of Pontiac history. I did not know at the time who John DeLorean or anybody else was, but I knew I absolutely loved those Pontiacs! All Pontiacs, whether a favorite of an individual or not, should be observed and respected for the time in history they represent. I don’t know anybody whose born a genius-but if someone has put the time, effort and expense in a passion they have, they deserve a pat on the back and the respect to hear their perseverance in their effort. I am attempting to pass on to my son a Pontiac affection that I hope he will embrace when our father-son restoration of a 75 TA is complete.

  11. since 1967, I have owned two 57 StarChiefs, a 1950 Pontiac Hearse, 13 different 65 GTO’s, a 68 GTO, a 61 Bubbletop Catalina, a 72 Grand Prix, an 02 Grand am, one 64 Tempest, one 65 LeMans, five 2004, one 2005, and two 2006 GTO’s and currently only have two 65 Goats and one 2006 left – along with my wife’s G6 GXP coupe. So I certainly subscribe to your take on being loyal to the brand that we (mostly) all endear. Further, since those fine folks at Holden blessed us with the G8, I am looking for one of those as well. So for each expert who finds it necessary to pontificate about what is a real Pontiac – every one of the cars on my list came with a title and Insurance card that says it was – or is- a PONTIAC. Those who maintain otherwise are just overestimating their assumed authority. I would just rather assume that since they are purposefully narrow minded or so full of themselves that reason and evidence is not acceptable to their thought process. #PonchosUnited.

  12. I totally agree and I have gone through this with my other Hobby car- a 1967 Thunderbird and the VTCI (Vintage Thunderbird Club International). For years they only allowed 1958-1966 T-Birds in the club. In 1995 they opened it up to other years. I have had my ’67 since I was in high school and it is a beautiful car. I like the hideway headlamps, the radius wheel wells and the cool interior. First International Show I took it too had all the geezers griping about “letting those new Birds in”, “those aren’t real T-Birds”. etc etc.. The car then was pushing 30 years old and these guys are calling it “a new Bird”? Wow…I stayed with the club a 66number of years eventually becoming the Tech Advisor for these cars and Cheerleader. To no avail really. There still are very few of these there and the club is still very ’58-’66 centric. I no longer belong but there is a fab group on Facebook for these cars. Younger guys who search far and wide for these cars. So the analogy is the same for any club. I also run into this occassionaly with my 1975 Grand Am- that while it is cool looking car the ’75’s are a “smog machine”, etc…well, by the time I got a drivers license, all the GTO’s and first Gen F bodies had blown, tired engines, rust and we couldn’t afford to fix them after the original couple of owners ‘whooped’em”. So yeah, I like my Grand Am. A lot!! The geezes have to realize they are gonna be gone in another decade or two so who is going to carry on the hobby? And also use Social Media to reach out. Lots of impromptu “Crowd Shows” pop up on any given weekend on Facebook Groups. Just sayin! Good article Don- you hit it on the head!!!!!

  13. Don, I came to grips with the power plant issue a while ago. I have a third gen daily driver and as much as I would like to drop a RAM AIR IV headed 400+ cube Poncho in there, the reality is; the Democratic Socialist Republic of California would have a cow. The other reality is: Why would I use parts that a guy trying to restore a RA IV GTO needs worse than a one of 86,000 built 92 Firebird would? Getting back on point I have had more than a few of my Pontiac buddies look at me right after I open the hood and go ZZ4 really? So yes, it is time for the hobby to be more accepting.

  14. Agreed. I have had all Pontiacs (except my first car a ’74 Mustang) that include GTO’s, various styles of A-body’s, Grand Prix’s and Grand Am’s. All were special in their own way. I feel my GTP is just a modern GTO for those years, V-6, front wheel drive and all.

  15. As President of our local GTOAA Chapter in Houston TX – Gulf Coast GTOs, we have always welcomed members with any Pontiac or even those without – just have to love Pontiac’s. We have seen our membership average age increase and it is hard to attract young members. We are lucky that we have an active membership roster and we have a great turn out at our events. Everyone knows you don’t have to have a GTO to participate. Our last cruise had 20 cars of which only 5 were GTOs. My husband and I have multiple Pontiac’s ranging from early Tempests, GTOs, Full size and new Pontiac’s, they are all unique and offer something different. Hope we can all embrace and keep this brand relevant #ponchosUnited

  16. After being a shop teacher and pass in on the old technology I learned to my students and then look at what they have learned and done with the new technology it amazes me how for the automotive world has come. Let’s all pool our knowledge and interests together and create a stronger atmosphere for this hobby called Pontiac.

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