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Here PDL AE rant of the week
MONDAY, APRIL 5, 2021 AT 01:02PM
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Editor’s Note: That Peter has lived a charmed and at times crazy automotive life has been well-documented. The son of Tony DeLorenzo, the legendary GM PR chief who ruled from 1957 to 1979 – GM’s glory days – Peter was exposed to the business and the legends of the business from a young age. As he likes to say, “The legends that you read about in books today were either hanging out in our driveway or interacting with our family all the time.” People like Bunkie Knudsen, Ed Cole, Bill Mitchell and Zora Arkus-Duntov, just to name a few, and there were countless others as well. But that is just one dimension to Peter’s automotive life. Today, he recounts another one of his mind-bending stories from the formative years that made The Autoextremist who he is today. - WG

Detroit. To say that the ‘50s and ‘60s were a different era in automotive history is not painting a proper picture of just how different it was. Detroit was much more of a freewheeling mindset back then. Car executives were bold, decisive, conniving, creative and power-hungry personalities who inevitably went with their gut instincts – which could end up being either a recipe for disaster or a huge runaway sales hit on the streets. The only committees you'd find back then were the finance committees – and they never got near the design, engineering, marketing or even the advertising unless there was some sort of a problem. These Car Kings worked flat-out and they partied flat-out, too, ruling their fiefdoms with iron fists, while wielding their power ruthlessly at times to get what they wanted – and rightly so in their minds – as they were some of the most powerful business executives on earth. In short, it was a world that was 180 degrees different from what goes on today.
Growing up immersed in this business was indeed surreal, but even back then I realized that I had been dropped in an alternative universe – an automotive nirvana punctuated by V8s, open pipes, flashes of chrome and the hottest cars of the era. We reveled in it and made the most of every moment, whether it was me riding shotgun with my brother as he – ahem – was teaching himself how to drive fast, or me going for rides with Bill Mitchell in one of the latest GM Styling concepts – including the ’59 Corvette Sting Ray racer, to this day my all-time favorite car – to the times when I started getting behind the wheel myself.
We had borrowed an early production ‘66 Shelby GT 350 Mustang from Ford PR one weekend (GM and Ford PR swapped cars all the time back then – yeah, I know, talk about a different time and a different era), and my brother Tony decided it was time for me to start learning how to drive – and drive a stick at the same time – and the Shelby Mustang seemed like the perfect vehicle to accomplish that. So, we went to an empty shopping center parking lot, plotted out a course, and I drove for a good hour, getting more proficient by the minute. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it. The only problem was that I was a good eighteen months from being able to get my learning permit, and once I started driving, I. Could. Not. Stop.
Because of my parents’ GM travel schedules – they were away a lot – I found the cars sitting in the garage unattended to be too much of a temptation. Why not take them out for a few minutes? What could possibly go wrong? My favorite was an Electric Blue ‘67 Camaro SS coupe that my oldest sister had at the time. Even though it was an automatic, I found it to be quite entertaining, and I started taking it out all the time.
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