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  1. #21


    The GM Media Archive was very kind to find for me this picture from the event. This picture appears to have been taken just a moment before the picture that was included in the press kit and the pontiac customer care article.

    If you compare this photo to the press kit photo, in this photo the banner is covering part of the windshield and the banner is being held by the men on the right.

    Check out the cool tshirts some of the people are wearing!

    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  2. #22


    A couple months ago I spoke with Jeff Freed, owner of one of the 3 '57 Bonnevilles that were at the celebration. I have updated the topic with Jeff's comments. It is reply #13 (if this link does not position you at the correct reply) -

    When I spoke with Jeff a couple months ago, he mentioned that no story about a 1950’s fuel injected Pontiac would be complete without acknowledging the late John Thropp. I did not include the reference to John when I wrote up the summary of our conversation since I had never heard of John and did not know anything about him. I have since done a bit of research and last week I spoke with Jeff again to find out more.

    According to Jeff, John Thropp was highly regarded for his expertise in rebuilding, setting-up and the high performance tuning of the early Pontiac Tri-power and Fuel Injection systems. Jeff recalled that whenever John attended a Pontiac event he was constantly in demand by the other Pontiac owners who would seek John’s advice on their Tri-power and F.I. issues. Jeff also purchased some F.I. parts from John, some of which may have been used on Jeff’s 1957 Bonneville that was at the 30 millionth Pontiac celebration, but Jeff still has most of the parts he obtained from John and intends to use them on his current 1957 Bonneville restoration project.

    John Thropp was a member of POCI and also a member of the Safari Chapter. According to the chapter briefs section of the October 1982 issue of Smoke Signals magazine, a new Safari chapter officer for 1983 was chapter vice president John Thropp. John also had quite a career as a drag racer and was runner up in Stock Eliminator at the 1969 Dallas World Finals driving a F.I. Pontiac. The tow vehicle for the race car was a Safari.

    Sadly, John past away on November 18, 1994 and the following announcement appeared in the January 1995 issue of Smoke Signals.

    It seems appropriate then, that in 1994 at Springfield, Illinois at the last POCI national convention that John attended, he is credited with the white 1957 Bonneville that was awarded 1st place in class H-1 (the gray 1957 Bonneville of Glen Bappe was 2nd).

    The announcement regarding John’s passing mentions that he recently had worked on John Denlinger’s first place ’57 Bonneville, so I wonder if that was actually John Denlinger’s car at the convention, but with John Thropp getting credit for presenting it as thanks for his contribution to the car.
    Last edited by aukc; May 30th, 2010 at 16:22.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Portland In


    You just have to LOVE a 57 Bonnie in drag trim!

  4. #24
    TININDN Guest


    Very interesting story on John Thropp -

    That must have been in the NHRA Junior Stock days?

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. #25

    Default "She Was There! - part 1"

    Recently I talked with Muriel about her recollection of what it was like working at Wentzville in the early 1990's. This is what Muriel had to say.

    “She Was There!”

    Muriel worked on the 1992 Bonneville in the early design stages when she first came to GM in 1987. She changed jobs in late 1988 when she was promoted but came back to the 1992 Bonneville when help was needed on re-designing the decklid hinges at the last moment. She had 6 weeks to get a design production ready. (Back then it took a lot longer to do things - no computers, no CAE, no rapid tooling or accelerated testing.) Based on her work there she was given the Engineering Manager's job for the Action Center Team in Wentzville for the launch of the 1992 Bonneville. There were 4 main people on the team - one from the plant, Dave Mitchell who has retired recently from GM, Purchasing - Pat Stephens who left GM a couple of years later and another person from Marketing who retired immediately after returning from Wentzville.

    The Bonneville had a new design for the 1992 model year and was new to the Wentzville Assembly plant. The Wentzville Assembly plant was assembling full size Buicks and Oldsmobiles while the 1991 (and earlier) Bonnevilles were manufactured elsewhere. Preparation at Wentzville for the launch of the 1992 Bonneville began in August 1990. Muriel was based in Flint, Michigan at the time so this required frequent trips to the Wentzville Assembly plant in Missouri. Then from September 1990 until November 1991, Wentzville became her full time work location. She had an apartment and car in Wentzville, flew in from Michigan every Sunday evening and flew back to Michigan every Friday evening. Her work day started at 5:30 AM with a meeting in the body shop and ended at 6:00 PM with a daily meeting every day except Friday.

    The purpose of involving engineering in the Action Center Team was to achieve better communications between the Flint-based engineering team and production and to enable engineering to more expediently address product and process engineering issues right at the assembly plant. This was the first time strong collaboration between engineering and manufacturing was driven from the beginning of a project. Wentzville Plant Manager Herb Stone was a staunch supporter of Muriel and the Action Team program. The program was a great success – the 1992 Bonneville was the highest quality new car launch GM had achieved up to that time.

    Regarding the “World Class Quality” video that Muriel appears in, she did not know anything about a video being produced until the day of the taping. The video crew showed up at the assembly plant one day and she was told to be ready in about an hour to be filmed. This was not a Hollywood production with wardrobe, hair stylist and makeup artists. She (and the others on the video) appeared just the way they showed up for work that day. There were no scripted lines and no rehearsing. She was just instructed to say whatever she wanted to about the quality of the new Bonneville and how it was being achieved. The video was intended for dealership personnel only. It was not meant to be viewed by the general car buying public.

    The Action Center Team program to launch the 1992 Bonneville began in the summer of 1990 with the stationary build. An area was set aside in the assembly plant body shop and the very first Bonnevilles were assembled on a large platter. The regular assembly line was not used for this build; the assembly line was busy building the 1991 model year Buicks and Oldsmobiles.

    In the fall of 1990 the program advanced to what is called the “slow builds”. This is done using the regular production assembly line. What they would do is start a single 1992 Bonneville down the line, inserted into the line with all the 1991 Buicks and Olds. This “slow build” vehicle would be followed all the way down the assembly line by a team of about 50 people representing all different areas of the assembly process. This was the build team that is featured in the picture with the first shipments of 1992 Bonnevilles.

    This build team would either perform or observe the assembly operations as this “slow build” vehicle progressed down the assembly line. The line would often have to be slowed or stopped as each step of the assembly processes was analyzed by the build team. Obviously this slowed down production of the 1991 model year vehicles. When the “slow build” vehicle had gone part way down the assembly line, it would be pulled off the line so the line could resume regular speed. It would sit there off to the side of the line, sometimes for days, before being inserted back into the line to make further assembly progress. These “slow build” cars once they were completed would go to the proving grounds for various quality, endurance, mileage and safety testing. Some would be used for advance media evaluation and reviews. Some would even be assigned to the engineers and other appropriate GM employees to be used as daily drivers for evaluation purposes. For example, Muriel’s company car back in Michigan was 1992 Bonneville VIN# 6. Her company car in Wentzville was also an early 1992 Bonneville.

    In the spring of 1991 the 1991 model year vehicle assembly ended and the plant was switched over so regular production of 1992 Bonnevilles could begin. The build team picture features the very first regular production shipments of 1992 Bonnevilles. These were all the SE base model. Regular production of SSE and SSEi models did not happen until later, there was no engineering reason for this (“slow builds” on the SSE and SSEi models had already been done), it was simply marketing considerations to focus regular plant production on the SE base model first. I noticed there were no white cars in the first shipments which I thought was strange since white cars were often featured in Bonneville advertisements, media reviews and press kits. Muriel does not recall there was any problem with producing white cars, the colors of the first shipment just happened to be what was ordered. Also, all the first shipment Bonnevilles appear to be “bubble butts” (i.e. no rear spoiler). For the base SE model the spoiler was part of an extra cost option package so it appears again, this just happens to be what was ordered.

    Regarding the SSE and SSEi models, I was curious why they went to the trouble of a separate hood insulating liner with the Pontiac SSE logo printed on the hood liner vs. the base SE model with just a plain hood liner. According to Muriel this is thanks to the “father” of the SSE model, which had been introduced to the Bonneville lineup just a few years prior (for model year 1988). She could not recall his name, she though it was Bill and he was the chief engineer for the SSE. He retired right before the 1992 models were introduced. The logo’ed hood liner was something he insisted on.

    Muriel was aware of the 30 Millionth Pontiac milestone celebration event in advance, since it was mentioned in the regular Plant Managers meetings which she attended. This is where any special events or guest visits would be discussed. For example, at one of the Plant Manager meetings it was mentioned “the CIA” was coming to visit the plant and she was thinking who could this be, was there some other organization that used these initials that she was not aware of, but in fact this was the real CIA since this was during the Desert Storm operation and they were considering temporarily using Wentzville for some military assembly purposes. Everyone was shocked to hear the CIA was coming. The concept that Wentzville may be used as part of a war effort had not dawned on us.

    Another special event at the assembly plant was when 1992 Bonneville production had just started up. A bunch of Pontiac and UAW executives were invited to the assembly plant and a temporary race track was marked out on the Wentzville parking lot. Well known racing instructor Skip Barber was brought in to give the executives some instruction in high performance driving and they “raced” some brand new Bonnevilles around this parking lot race course.

    Muriel was not involved in any of the preparations leading up to the 30 Millionth Pontiac milestone celebration event. Regarding the actual day of the event, it was quite the big deal. It was a busier than average day for Muriel so there was not a lot of time to participate in the celebration. In addition to Muriel’s regular daily responsibilities, some Engineering department executives had come from home office to Wentzville for the event, so she had to meet with these executives and help chaperone them around the plant. There was an opportunity during the day for Plant Manger Herb Stone to take Muriel over to one of the 1957 Bonnevilles that had been brought in for event. It was in the lobby and it was the red one (Glenn Bappe’s).
    Last edited by aukc; June 8th, 2010 at 02:12.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  6. #26

    Default "She Was There! - part 2"

    Herb told her that he helped build this car. Muriel questioned Herb if he meant that he had worked on other late 1950 Pontiac cars like this one. But Herb claimed he meant this very car. Muriel thinks Herb was just joking - he had a great sense of humor. Herb graduated from Pontiac Central High School in the class of 1957. He started out with GM right out of high school at the General Motors Institute which is now Kettering University. The students there would go to school one semester and then work somewhere in GM one semester. His first work semester was at the Pontiac Assembly plant so he did work on the assembly line where the 1957 Bonnevilles had been assembled, but by the time he got there it would have been the 1958 model year. He was a wonderful person to work with and to know, a great guy and an original character. He left Wentzville and went to Detroit Hamtramck and then to Arlington Texas where he retired from GM in 1999.

    Interesting story regarding the logo for the Wentzville Assembly plant, the shock of wheat, which appears on the 30 Millionth Pontiac souvenir wine glass and the custom event t-shirt. When GM decided to locate a new assembly plant in the Wentzville area, the piece of land was purchased from a farmer and it was already planted in wheat and was almost ready to be harvested. So after they acquired the land, GM hired the farmer that sold the land to GM to harvest it and GM sold the wheat. Thus making Wentzville one of the only, if not the only, GM assembly plant to generate some income before the plant had even been built.

    There were no special engineering considerations for the milestone vehicle. It was just a regular production vehicle so there was no reason to give the vehicle any attention from an engineering perspective as it was being assembled. Muriel was there at the end of the assembly line when the milestone vehicle was driven off the line by Pontiac GM John Middlebrook. She was not invited to the reception lunch which was for the executives and special guests, but there was a large cake for everyone else to have a piece. Afterwards she was offered a souvenir wine glass which she accepted. She was also offered one of the special t-shirts that was custom made for the event but the yellow color of the t-shirts did not appeal to her so she did not take one. Her assignment in Wentzville ended very soon after the 30 Millionth Pontiac milestone celebration. The time spent at Wentzville was one of hard work, intense learning, and new friendships. Muriel will always remember it as a positive milestone in her career.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  7. #27


    Jeff Freed, owner of one of the '57 Bonnevilles that was invited to the event, went thru his personal photo collection and found these photos (click thumbnail to view full-size):

    Last edited by aukc; January 7th, 2011 at 19:01.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  8. #28


    Last edited by aukc; January 7th, 2011 at 19:02.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  9. #29


    Since I first came across this, I suspected the 1957 Bonneville in this picture is the car that Jeff Freed brought to the 30 Millionth Pontiac celebration, seems it should be a very well known car, since this photo is the one used by wikipedia in the article on the Bonneville -

    the only reference information in wikipedia is the photographer is Lars-Göran Lindgren from Sweden

    I have now confirmed this is the same car that Jeff Freed brought to the 30 Millionth Pontiac celebration. Thanks to the interest generated on this forum and other forums, the son of the current owner of the car learned that I was searching for this car and contacted me. I received these recent photos of the car from him, (click thumbnail to view full-size)

    According to the current owner, the Bonneville is # 129, not 125 as indicated in the article by Larry DeLay that appeared in Pontiac Enthusiast magazine. Also, the owner of the car was not aware this car participated in the 30 millionth Pontiac celebration. In the 5 years he has owned the car there have been no major repairs needed, just adjusting the fuel injection and routine servicing. The car now has 65,700 miles.
    Last edited by aukc; February 2nd, 2011 at 09:58.
    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

  10. #30


    25) Ironically, although the owners were invited to attend the celebration when they were at the 1991 national convention in Cleveland, none of the '57 Bonnevilles that were brought to the celebration were at the Cleveland convention. There was a '57 Bonneville at the 1991 Cleveland convention and it was red with white top and continental kit, very much like Glenn Bappe's red one. This other red one was owned by John Fitzgerald at that time and was awarded gold in the points judgeing, here is a short video of this car.

    The only difference that I notice between this one and Glenn's red one is the location of the driver side rear view mirror, on this one the rear view mirror is mounted on the fender but on Glenn's the rear view mirror is mounted on the door. I don't know where this '57 is now, I checked the membership roster and it appears that John Fitzgerald is no longer a POCI member.

    I believe this '57 Bonneville of John Fitzgerald is the same one that Bunkie Knudsen was photographed in for the 2-part interview that appear in High Performance Pontiac Magazine in the August and October 1994 issues.

    Mike Klassen - 1995 white Bonneville SSEi

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