Last Sunday I made my way down to the Pontiac Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. Officially, I was there to seek out vintage cars for the magazine’s monthly “Collectible Classic” section. Unofficially, it served as an engagement party for myself and my fiancée Ilana, as I’d proposed to her just two days earlier. If you think a Pontiac convention isn’t sufficiently romantic for such a special occasion, then you clearly have never been to one. What could be more idyllic a setting for a newly engaged couple’s first outing than a northern Ohio drag strip crowded with old musclecars?
“He tricked me,” my future bride explained to the uninterested ticket taker as we walked through the gates. Apparently, she had assumed the event was taking place in an air-conditioned convention hall where there would be plenty of general interest booths. In fact, the temperature was around 100 degrees and the vendors were mainly selling exhaust parts and quarter panels.
The combination of the sweltering heat and downpours the day before had thinned the crowd a bit, but as our pictures show, there were still some fine vehicles on display. In addition to the rows of gleaming Trans Ams and GTOs that show up at all these meets, there were also a few terrific early Grand Prixs (similar to the one Robert Cumberford wrote about in his most recent column), some hopped up Catalinas, and, on the other end of the spectrum, a smattering brand new Pontiac G8s. In noticeably short supply were cars built between 1980 and 2000 – quite a clear visual testament to when the brand went astray.
Eighty-three-year-old Pontiac patron Jim Wangers was also on hand. One of the canniest ad men in Detroit during the 1960s and a pretty good drag racer to boot, Wangers now looks and sounds a lot like your friendly old great uncle. That is, if your great uncle had instant recall of more than twenty years of Pontiac engines and models.
I failed to hunt down my particular assignment – a 1959 Bonneville – but the day wasn’t a total loss. As I leaned over a 1974 Firebird Trans Am Super Duty, Ilana asked, “So is this what you’re talking about when you say you want to buy an old car? You want to fix it up and drive it to shows like this?” When I responded in the affirmative, she added, “I think that would a be a cool thing to do.”
I think it would be a cool thing to do, as well. In fact, that gives me a great idea for our honeymoon…