Bob Lutz at the Curves of Steel!
Phoenix Art Museum April 1 to June 3rd, 2007
It was only a matter of about five days before the actual date, May 10th at 7:00 PM, that I received a notice in the mail addressed to the GTO Association of America- Bill McCoy to come and see Bob Lutz the 72-year old Vice Chairman for Global Product Development of General Motors. It’s beyond me where and why they sent the invitation in that fashion. I tried to contact a few key club members to see if they could join me but everyone was busy. I thought this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the number one car guy in the world give a talk to the general public and it was in Phoenix! There were a couple ads that appeared in the Arizona Republic the next few days that he would be appearing at the Phoenix Art Museum to talk about the cars at the “Curves of Steel” exhibit showing at the museum. So I left from work and arrived 30 minutes early. I’m glad I did. (If I had been on Mark Neumann time I would have been watching on closed circuit TV.) They had a full house. I found out from talking to another attendee in line with me that the event was really being put on with much assistance from Lund Cadillac. They had a reception one hour beforehand if you had been invited and had gotten a special invitation. Sorry guys I didn’t qualify for that one. I would have liked to have asked Mr. Lutz what he would have done differently to launch the 2004 GTO and if he thought it was a good idea to have brought that car into the country under the GTO name at that time.
The lecture was held in the stadium seat style auditorium that holds about 300 people. Every seat was filled. Unfortunately, the first 10 rows were reserved for special guests. But I did get to sit in the eleventh row. The General Manager of the Art Museum made the introduction of Mr. Lutz and awarded him with a plaque and someone else from the Lund group gave him a model of a Ferrari Race car that you could even shift the gears on as it made the correct engine sound with each shift. They talked about Mr. Lutz’s illustrious career. He was born in Switzerland, joined the US Marines in 1954 and became a jet attack aviator then went to college and graduated in 1962 from Cal.-Berkley with a degree in production management got his MBA in 1963. In 1963 he joined GM-Europe until 1971 when he joined BMW in Munich as VP of Sales, in 1974 he joined Ford working for them for 12 years. In 1986 he joined Chrysler where he was Exec. VP. He is known most for revitalizing Chrysler partially by creating the Viper to get the company some real attention. He was probably the most influential person at Chrysler in the 90s to help with the rebirth of the company until it was sold to Daimler in 1999. In 2001 he came back to GM with hopes that he would be able to get the company moving again. It was his idea to bring the GTO back in 2004. So if you followed the auto industry you would know about Bob Lutz. He is also known for being the most outspoken member of management. Even to the point of letting a few secrets out of the bag during press conferences.
Mr. Lutz proceeded to talk about styling and its value in an industry that has become much too similar. He commented that the quality of cars on the market is at a virtually equal level. He feels that GM has caught up to Toyota in quality but now has to get the public convinced that they are making cars just as good as the competition. His goal at GM is to encourage inspiration in styling to help set their cars apart from all the others on the road. In the next couple of years the company will be releasing some of its more exciting models. He mentioned the Solstice as being a very attention getting model for the company and then went on to talk about the new Camaro, the new Impala and the new Cadillac CTS. He mentioned new models coming out for Saturn and Buick. He showed a shot of the new Pontiac G8. He feels that GM is turning the corner in styling.
He talked about GM interiors being boring for years. Then went on to say that they decided to put a few hundred dollars more into interiors. The audience applauded that comment. He said the interior of a car is much like meeting people. The exterior of a car is how you form your first impression of the car as you do when meeting people for the first time. When you get into the car is when you really get to know the car as you do when you really start to know a person and have a real conversation with them. It becomes a personal thing. He promised that GM would be doing better with their interiors in the future. He really seemed upbeat about GM’s upcoming models. I’ll be interested in seeing how they do. Let’s hope that Pontiac does not get overlooked.
Some of the more interesting parts of the presentation centered around Bob Lutz giving his opinion about the cars in the “Curves of Steel” exhibit. He went through slides of each car and made comments about each car and its weaknesses and its strengths. He talked briefly about the era when these cars were designed and the fact that they were designed during the worst economic times of the last hundred years, the late 1930s. The stylists may have wanted to come up with car styles that were more upbeat and fun to look at than their production cousins. It was a time when art deco styling was in vogue and on many of these cars you can see its influence. You can also see the influence that aviation was having on the styling of cars with sleek streamlined curves. One comment Mr. Lutz made was concerning the fender line on one of the cars where the highpoint of the fender was in front of the highpoint of the tire. It’s his feeling that the fender highpoint should be in line vertically with the highpoint of the tire. He mentioned on several cars that he might have made the roofline a little longer or that there might be just a little too much going on in the styling of certain parts of a car. You could tell that he has a good artistic eye when it came to the styling of cars.
He talked for about an hour and at the end asked everyone to go out and buy a new GM car! I was impressed and thought to myself, “You always have to ask for the sale and he did!”
At that point the Museum General Manager came back out and announced that the museum would be open to all those attending the lecture for free. This was something that had not been announced beforehand. So the entire group walked around and got to see these beautiful cars. Each one was graciously put on display by their individual owners and probably will never be shown together again. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience seeing Bob Lutz and “Curves of Steel” all in one night! Now if I could have just gotten to talk to Bob Lutz about a new GTO for 2010?
List of cars in the exhibition:
1934 Chrysler Imperial Airflow
1935 Auburn 851 Speedster
1936 Stout Scarab
1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe
1936 Peugeot 402 Darl’mat Coupe
1937 Cord 812 Sportsman
1937 Delahaye 145 “Million Franc Prize” car
1937 Dubonnet Hispano-Suiza H-6c Xenia by Saoutchik
1938 Embiricos Bentley
1938 Talbot-Lago T150C “Teardrop” Figoni et Falaschi coupe
1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900
1938 Darracq-Talbot Lago T-150 c by Figoni et Falaschi
1938 Delage D8-120 S Pourtout Aréo Coupé
1939 Delahaye 165 Cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi
1939 Lincoln Zephyr
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt
1948 Tatra T87
1952 SoCal Belly Tank
1957 Ferrari 625/250 Testa Rossa TRC
1986 Oldsmobile Aerotech
1994 McLaren F1