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  1. #1

    Default 30 millionth Pontiac celebration

    I would like to acknowledge that assistance and contribution of the following individuals and institutions: Reg Harris, Jim Mattison, Pontiac Motor Division, Larry DeLay, Keith Seymore, Muriel Finken, High Performance Pontiac magazine, Pontiac Enthusiast magazine, Jeff Freed, Todd Crews, Rick Gonser, Jay Griesbauer, Mary French, John Kyros, Jon Havens, Mike Silpoch, Carole Silpoch, Kerry Klotzman, UAW Local 2250, GM Media Archive, GM Historic Collection, Smoke Signals magazine, POCI, Maureen Dilthey, Dennis Dilthey, Bart Orlans, Randy Fox, Kathleen Havens, Doris Ramsey, Pontiac: They Built Excitement by Thomas Bonsall, Pontiac Seventy Years of Milestones by Thomas Bonsall, Motor Trend Magazine, Collectible Automobile magazine, Guide to Muscle Cars magazine

    Iím the proud owner of a white 1995 Bonneville SSEi. For more about myself and my car use the link or click on the image

    My Bonneville is both daily transportation and hobby. I find enjoyment in Pontiac ownership not just from driving and maintaining and showing my vehicle but also in researching the history of the Bonneville model and Pontiac division. I believe the better informed I am about the Bonneville, Pontiac and the people that created them, the better I can fulfill that obligation to preserve my small piece of Pontiac history. And the better informed I am, the more I enjoy the Pontiac ownership experience. I do this mostly by collecting Bonneville and Pontiac related magazine articles and advertisements and other relevant items of memorabilia.

    There is a certain milestone event that I find very fascinating. It is of particular relevance to me, since it involves the 1990ís era Bonneville SSEi yet has a significant connection to the earliest Bonneville. I refer to the ceremony marking the production of the 30 millionth Pontiac that took place at Wentzville Assembly on Oct. 29 1991.

    I hope this note is as enjoyable to read as it was for me to write. I donít have any expectation of receiving any response to this, but it is my hope that if there are any POCI members out there that were present at this event, or that know of someone that was, that you might be willing to share any part of your 30 millionth Pontiac celebration experience with me. If there are pictures or video tapes or press releases or magazine articles that you might be willing to have copied and share with me I would be very appreciative. Of course I would pay for any copying and postage costs.

    And if there are any items of memorabilia from this event that are ready for a new home, of course I would be interested. Even some photographs and descriptions of items related to this milestone event would be greatly appreciated.

    Most of all, Iím interested in the event itself, who else was there, what activities took place that day, your recollections of the event. Maybe some day Iíll have enough material to be worthy of an article in Smoke Signals magazine. I can be contacted by email at . My phone numbers are 604-988-4198 (home) and 604-661-6803 (work).

    Also, I've set up a photobucket album with hi-res images of all the attachments, and added a link to the hi-res image right above each image. If you want to just go directly to the photobucket album, here's the link

    Please note that photos and articles used here are for historical and educational purposes. If you find a photo or article here to which you own the copyright and would like it removed, please contact me. Thank you.

    I want to share the results of my research/collecting to date:

    1) I first became aware of the event.

    The Bonneville SSEi was introduced as a 1992 model and along with 7 other domestic cars was evaluated by Motor Trend magazine for Car of the Year honors. The winner of the competion and the detailed evaluation results were published in the February 1992 issue of Motor Trend. The Bonneville SSEi finished 2nd to the Cadillac STS. Also in that same issue, Motor Trend introduced the Bonneville SSEi as a new addition to their long term test fleet, so if you're into the SSEi as I am this is definitely a magazine back-issue worth having. But there was another Bonneville SSEi reference in that issue that I almost didn't notice.

    On page 32 in the article Trends - Detroit Report there was a single sentence under the title Briefly Noted ďNow back to work! A ceremony was held on Oct. 29 at Pontiacís Wentzville Assembly center to honor the 30 millionth Pontiac, a white Bonneville SSEi ÖĒ (ok, so maybe that's actually 2 sentences)

    I do not believe that any of the other mainstream automotive publications (Road & Track, Car & Driver, Automobile) thought this event was newsworthy enough to mention.

    2) In an attempt to learn more, I purchased 2 of the late Thomas Bonsallís books: Pontiac! They Built Excitement (number 26 of 200, leather bound, signed by author) and Pontiac Seventy Years of Milestones.

    Although the Author's Preface in Pontiac! They Built Excitement is dated October, 1991 there is no mention of the event, I guess the preface was the last part of the book to be written.

    But Seventy Years of Milestones mentions that Ēthe 30,000,000th Pontiac, a white supercharged SSEi was driven off the final assembly line at GMís Wentzville, Missouri, assembly plant on Tuesday, Oct. 29 1991. General Manager John G. Middlebrook did the honorsĒ

    In addition, there is a full page picture of the car bursting thru a banner which appeared to be something that would have come from a press kit.

    For more information on John Middlebrook and the 1992 Bonneville introduction use the link or click on the picture below.

    Last edited by aukc; April 16th, 2011 at 23:57.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  2. #2


    3) Sure enough, there was a press kit issued for the event and I was able to obtain one Ė a folder with a white Bonneville SSEi on the cover, containing 3 black and white press photos with matching color slides and some news releases, mostly promotional material for Pontiac and Bonneville. Very little on the actual ceremony itself.

    The car on the cover of the press kit folder is not the 30 millionth Pontiac. I am sure of this because the exact same image appears on the folders that were used for prior Bonneville press kits issued in February and August 1991.

    4) There was really only one news bulletin in the press kit that had any details about the event

    To make it easier to read, I transcribed the press kit news bulletin:

    1992 SSEi - The 30 Millionth Pontiac

    Contact: Rick Asher

    WENTZVILLE, Missouri - Sixty-five years after the first Pontiac was shown at the New York Auto Show, a white supercharged SSEi has become the 30 millionth vehicle to carry the Pontiac marque.

    The top-of-the-line SSEi was produced October 29 at the Wentzville Assembly Center - sole source of Pontiac's full-size Bonneville line. Under the watchful eye of Pontiac and plant officials, it rolled off the line and joined the original 1926 Pontiac that started the excitement 65 years ago.

    "The all-new 1992 SSEi - our divisional flagship and technology leader - couldn't be a more symbolic selection as our 30 millionth Pontiac," said John G. Middlebrook , Pontiac general manager and a General Motors vice president. "This SSEi represents a milestone and the beginning of an unprescedented era of new product introductions that will see the entire Pontiac product line redesigned by the mid 1990s.

    "My hat goes off to the people of Flint Automotive Division and the Wentzville Assembly Center for their fine workmanship and dedication in bringing to market this historic vehicle that is also the most technologically advanced product we have ever offered."

    Middlebrook drove the 30 millionth Pontiac off the Wentzville, Missouri, plant's final asssembly line accompanied by the plant's manager, Herb Stone and two UAW officials - Local 2250 Chariman Joe Henry and President Jerry Gorski.

    Through the combined efforts of Pontiac, Flint Automotive Division (I think this is a reference to the source of the supercharged 3800 engine) and Wentzville Assembly Center employes, the historic SSEi took less than three years from concept approval to start of production.

    The 1992 milestone joins a long line of previous Pontiac production achievements that took place in 1935 (one millionth), 1954 (five millionth), 1965 (10 millionth), 1971 (15 millionth), 1978 (20 millionth), and 1985 (25 millionth).

    Initially offered as a model within the Oakland series of cars, the first Pontiac debuted in 1926, a Series 6-27 coupe listing for $825.

    The 1992 model year is not the first production milestone for Pontiac's Bonneville nameplate. In 1962, the Bonneville convertible became General Motors' 75 millionth vehicle, adding to a growing mystique that began with the first Bonneville, a limited edition convertible, in 1957 and opens yet another chapter in 1992 as the 30 millionth Pontiac.
    Last edited by aukc; January 13th, 2010 at 23:57.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  3. #3


    5) One of the photos in the press kit is the same picture that appeared in the book 70 Years of Milestones, but the press kit photo is a slightly wider angle and has some additional caption information.

    Interestingly, the caption under the press photo of the car breaking through the banner says the last occupant was not Jerry Gorski but UAW region 5 Director Roy Wyse.

    6) Regarding what went out to the dealer network regarding the event, I recently came across the November 1991 issue of Pontiac Customer Care. It's a 4-page bulletin intended for dealers with articles about things like customer loyalty and satisfaction, tech tips, sales tips and techniques, anyway it had the following article. What's interesting about this article is the photo is the same as the press kit photo but a much wider view so you really get a sense of the crowd gathered on either side of the car as it rolled off the assembly line. Wouldn't it be neat if the original negative for this photo is in some folder in a filing cabinet somewhere waiting to be discovered?

    Also, this article actually identifys the milestone car as "the first 1992 supercharged Bonneville SSEi". So obviously not counting prototypes, but is it possible this white SSEi was actually the first SSEi ever built on a regular production assembly line and that Pontiac used the event of the production of the 30 millionth car to actually launch the SSEi product? This is also what the title of the article seems to imply.

    7) The caption on another of the pictures in the press kit reads "The road to the 30 millionth Pontiac...began in January 1926 with the Series 6-27 Coupe (right) and reached the historic mark with the 1992 Pontiac SSEi (left) produced at the Wentzville, Missouri Assembly Center on Tuesday, October 29, 1991. Pontiac General Manager John G. Middlebrook is shown with these two historic Pontiacs in front of the Pontiac Administration Building."

    The Pontiac Administration Building was in Pontiac, Michigan which is about 600 miles away from Wentzville. So sometime after the ceremony at Wentzville, once the 30 millionth Pontiac had been transported to Pontiac, Michigan, they must have pulled the 1st Pontiac out of the historic collection to setup this photo. I notice for this photo, the "30 millionth Pontiac" lettering has been removed from the windshield, I think that is unfortunate. Also, I notice that the wording on the banner saying "PONTIAC WE BUILD EXCITEMENT" has clearly been "photoshoped" into the picture.

    The final picture in the press kit is of a white Pontiac SSEi with a driver and no caption other than "1992 Pontiac SSEi". I am sure this is not the 30 millionth Pontiac, because this one has the fold-in exterior rear-view mirrors that were used on the export shipment models (I think so they could fit as tightly as possible into cargo containers). The 30 millionth Pontiac shown bursting thru the banner at Wentzville Assembly did not have the fold-in mirrors.

    I recently chatted with Randy Fox. Randy is still with GM and at the time of the 30 millionth Pontiac ceremony, Randy was Manager of Media Relations Product & Engineering for Pontiac. Randy did not attend the event at Wentzville, but confirmed that he did take the 2 other photos for the press kit.

    Rick Asher, who was Assistant Manager of Media Relations Product & Engineering for Pontiac at the time of the event, and was the contact on the news releases in the press kit, just recently left GM.
    Last edited by aukc; March 5th, 2010 at 23:52.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  4. #4


    8) Here's a video clip of the first Pontiac from the GM Historic Collection

    here's the first Pontiac back in 1936

    and with a Grand Prix

    and another one with John Middlebrook and a 1992 Bonneville SSEi

    Last edited by aukc; January 23rd, 2011 at 23:23.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  5. #5


    9) I have a video regarding the assembly of the 1992 Bonneville that was filmed at Wentzville Assembly in the summer of 1991.

    Appearing on this video are Herb Stone (Plant Manager), Dave Mitchell (Program Manager), Pat Stevens (Materials Manager), Muriel Finken (Engineering Manager), John Austin (Pilot Coordinator Bodyshop), Skip Mann (Gun Technician Paintshop), Chris Vasquez (Planning Coordinator Trimline) and Joe Langenhurst (Sealer Analyst).

    Herb Stone, Wentzville plant manager at the time of the milestone celebration, retired from General Motors on July 1st 1999 capping a 42-year career with GM. At the time of his retirement, Herb was manager of the General Motors truck assembly plant in Arlington, Texas.

    Herb Stone began his career in 1957 as a General Motors Institute student sponsored by the Pontiac Division. While at Pontiac, he held a number of positions in reliability, quality and manufacturing. In 1978, he was promoted to director of quality and reliability for Buick Motor Division in Flint, Michigan. He was appointed project manager for the Buick City plant in Flint in 1983 and, a year later, was named program manager for the new Buick LeSabre that was built at that facility.

    In 1985, Herb Stone became manager of GM's Norwood, Ohio, assembly plant and added responsibility for the Hamilton, Ohio, plant in 1987. He transferred to the plant in Wentzville, Missouri in 1988 and in 1992 he was named manager of the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center. Stone was named manager of the Arlington plant in 1996. In 1996 and 1997, he oversaw the conversion of the plant from car to truck production.

    This is the transcript of the video:

    Herb Stone (plant manager): the quality of the Bonneville I think will be recognized worldwide as being one of the finest cars that General Motors or Pontiac has introduced

    Dave Mitchell (program manager): the quality actually starts with the parts coming from the supplier. Each department knows what they have to do to make this a top quality car

    Pat Stevens (materials manager): The quality starts along time before the parts arrive in the assembly plant. It starts with the way the part is designed

    Muriel Finken (engineering manager): Because one of the things that we have to do as engineers is to give input to design staff to insure that the car that they are designing is a buildable car

    John Austin (pilot coordinator, bodyshop): and you donít repair quality, you build quality

    Dave Mitchell: And starting with the body shop our number one controls are really the fits of all the major body panels

    John Austin: Well if the quality isnít there we stop the line to get the quality there on our fits and finishes on our doors and door openings ands itís very important to us because when you put your doors on the car youíve got your closing efforts for the customer and how your trim fits and so we had to stop the line to make sure that the quality is there on the doors because thatís where your front fenders line up and then your hood and they affect the whole quality of the car

    Herb Stone: In the area of quality of course the major thrust has been in paint finish and in fits because thatís what our customer has said

    Skip Mann (gun technician, paintshop): we believe we have the best paint job mainly because the car is handled with kid gloves all the way across the shop from the time it leaves body shop till it goes to first set of phosphate rinse to ELPO (I think this stand for Electophoretic Deposition of Polymers) and itís detail sanded, sealer applications, we go thru primer applications and those are detail sanded prior to a base coat application. The base coat is applied with a hand sprayers that monitor the cars. The exterior of the car is applied with automatic equipment which are dialed in and they are good equipment, put 2 mills of clear over the car to protect it from the UVís. Just an outstanding paint job overall.

    Chris Vasques (planning coordinator, trim line): We realize in this plant that the customer demands a world class quality automobile and I really believe from the bottom of my heart that the only way to get world class quality is to get every person in the building involved in achieving quality. The whole attitude of this work force is changing because of this Pontiac.

    Herb Stone: If I was a salesman what I would focus on with the customer is that the Wentzville organization has developed a very strong commitment to quality. I would talk about the robotics, the single point tooling thatís been developed for this car in the body shop

    John Austin: And when you stamp one and you get it right and you stamp 250,000 and theyíre all the same so when you build your first car to you build your last car youíll have the same quality on every one.

    Joe Langenhurst (sealer analyst): The customer benefits from our sealing a car properly by making sure that we donít have any wind noise, we donít have any water leaks in the passenger compartment and also in the rear compartment.

    10) At this point I admit I was losing interest in the event. It appeared to be simply a quick ceremony and publicity stunt Ė have a few executives drive a car through a banner at the end of the assembly line, get the 1st Pontiac out of the Historic Collection for a quick photo and call it a milestone Ö until I found this ...

    In the April 1992 issue of High Performance Pontiac magazine was a brief article on the event. But it was enough to rekindle my interest, because it mentioned something that up to this point I had not been aware of. ďAlso on hand: three í57 Bonnevilles owned by Dick and Shirley Hoyt, Glenn Bappe, and Doris and Jeff FreedĒ. Possibly the press kit I obtained was incomplete because it was missing this important info. I realized this had not been some quick publicity stunt. It was clearly an event with significant investment and preparation.

    The HPP article went on to say "The special '92 supercharged SSEi most likely will make some auto show appearances, then join Pontiac No. 1 in the Historical Collection." Did this car actually make any auto show appearances? I have not been able to find any evidence that it did. Did this car eventually make it into the Historical Collection and if so, is it still there today? I would sure like to know.

    Don't think I need to explain the significance to Pontiac of the 1957 Bonneville, use link or click on photo to view a series of factory photos

    Last edited by aukc; March 12th, 2011 at 17:21.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Portland In


    Interesting read. I worked at a Buick/Pontiac/GMC dealer from 85-95, and short of a breif press release sent out thru the sales dept I don't remember anything else being mentioned about this event.


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