Watch: Doing a Burnout in Jim Wangers’ Trans Am in North Pole, Alaska

Apparently, there are things coming from the North Pole that are better than presents under the tree. This ’69 Pontiac Trans Am Ram Air, once owned by GM legend Jim Wangers, for example.

The car is featured on Hagerty’s “Barn Find Hunter,” which was found in North Pole, Alaska. Although the episode starts out a little Fordy, it eventually moves on to some pretty weird GMs at around the 15-minute mark, before moving onto the Trans Am.

The story goes that Terry and Preston—the two guys who own all the cars—went down to California to buy it from Jim Wangers himself.

Wangers, for those whose memory of the ‘60s is a little hazy, is known as the godfather of the GTO, for his role in convincing the company to produce the car.

An ad man from way back, Wangers had long been helping GM’s more performance-minded employees skirt the corporate racing ban. In ’55, Wangers went to Daytona on his own dime to find stories from the pits and document customer racers’ successes.

Although Chevy didn’t much care for his findings—apparently they thought Daytona was an outlaw event for outlaws—the cars’ successes eventually became too much to ignore and the agency Wangers worked for, Campbell-Ewald eventually pitched Chevy on calling itself the “Hot One.”

From there, Wangers moved to another agency, MacManus, John & Adams where he was allowed to develop a seminar on high-performance parts for dealerships. Royal Pontiac in suburban Detroit eventually became a testbed for his craziest ideas, but by ’63 GM was adamant that its products shouldn’t be used in racing.

Fortunately, Wangers found kindred spirits in John DeLorean, Bill Collins, and Russ Gee who decided to skip the racing bit, stuff a big engine in a little car and eventually made the GTO.

“Truth was we were taking Pontiac performance off the race track, like the Corporation wanted, and putting it on the street, like the Corporation didn’t want,” wrote Wangers in his book, Glory Days.

From there, Wangers moved to Hurst, where he was involved in the creation of a number of specials—GM-based and otherwise. He helped the Oldsmobile Rally 350, the AMC Rebel Machine, the Chrysler 300H, and the ’76 Cobra II come to life.

Although he wasn’t an engineer, he was a major player in the advertising that made muscle cars so special.

So we can hardly think of a better tribute to the man than a burnout in his Trans Am.

[GTO picture courtesy of the GM Heritage Center]

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