Out at GM’s West Coast Advanced Concept Center in Thousand Oaks, California, Tom Peters, then the director of the ACC, took Smale’s directive to his team, which was already investigating “active outdoor lifestyle” vehicles much like the Pontiac Stinger from a few years prior. As he told TFL
, he asked his team, “What if you took a Camaro and a Blazer and put it in a blender?” and called the resulting The North Face jacket-inspired sporty all-wheel-drive people and gear hauler – based on drawings by Brigid O’Kane – the Bear Claw.
“The initial Aztek ‘Bear Claw’ concept was based on an S-series full-frame platform with four-wheel drive, an off-road wheel/tire package and an aggressively styled body featuring big flared wheel arches, a low roof and a wide track,”
Such an attitude might have benefited the Aztek had it hewed close to the truck-based Bear Claw concept. However, as Weisman wrote, “General Motors’ culture took over from there. Design would be by committee, the focus groups extensive. And production would have to stick to a tight budget.”
“This created some serious design challenges and forced us to move away from the original design intent,” Peters told TFL. “For example, the cowl and roof had to be raised and the body narrowed. This caused the dash to axle dimension to be raised and moved forward while the minivans small wheels and tires forced the wheel arches to become smaller.”