Jim Wangers Passing
Rest in peace, Jim Wangers (1924-2023)
On the morning of April 27, 2023, Jim Wangers, the legendary marketing genius for automobiles, passed away in his sleep at the age of 97. His passing was confirmed by members of his family and close friends, who mourn his death. Jim was not only a marketing genius, but he was also a great storyteller who found joy in sharing his tales with others and helping them gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for their vehicles. In this article, we pay tribute to Jim Wangers and celebrate his life and legacy.
Jim Wangers was a marketing guru who revolutionized the way cars were marketed in the 1960s and 1970s. He was instrumental in creating the muscle car era and was known for his innovative marketing strategies that helped to sell millions of cars. Jim was particularly associated with Pontiac, a company he never worked for directly, but one for which he was a highly respected adviser for the better part of four decades.
By 1960, Jim was already practicing what he preached on the drag strip and on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. He won the NHRA National drag racing championship in the 1960 Nationals in Detroit, piloting a "stock" Catalina prepared by Ace Wilson at Royal Oak, Michigan's Royal Pontiac, earning Pontiac one of its most significant early racing triumphs.
Jim did not invent the GTO, but he placed it on the front of Car and Driver magazine, kicking off the muscle-car era. He was the brains behind the Tom McAn GTO sweepstakes, instrumental in introducing "The Monkees" to the American public with the Monkeemobile, and a strong voice in DeLorean's ad hoc team, which created the 1969 GTO Judge and the subsequent brash marketing campaign.
Despite his many contributions to Pontiac, Jim never worked for the company directly. Perhaps it was so he could get away with all the marketing tricks that would have gotten a GM worker fired. He departed the advertising firm McManus, John & Adams in 1972, but he remained a highly respected adviser for Pontiac's management for the better part of four decades. His 1977 Can Am limited-edition two-door coupe (based on the LeMans Sport) is widely regarded as one of the most famous muscle cars of the late 1970s, right up there with Burt Reynolds' Special Edition Trans Am.
See Your Local Chapter Events
Our chapters often sponsor car shows and other events.