By John Mellberg
I've had these photos filed in a brown envelope since leaving GM Styling in 1972. The car in the photos was a Firebird that was underway when I was assigned to the Advanced Pontiac Studio, initially working for Gordy Brown, Studio Chief Designer, and then, when management decided to shuffle the Chiefs around—Jerry Hirshberg became the Studio Chief Designer for Advanced Pontiac and Gordy Brown took over Advanced Buick Studio. It was a great learning experience working with both of these talented design leaders and the Advanced Pontiac team members. We had a lot of creative fun working together, while learning from one another in the process.
Working in Adv. Pontiac when I came on board was Roger Hughet (Assistant Chief Designer), Elia Russinoff (a lifelong friend), John Houlihan, Dennis Burke (a then GMI Co-op designer), Dave Rossi (Chief Modeler) Cliff Gabler, Kurt Struckmeier, Dean Towne, Juergen Stoldt, Klaus Brink (a good friend and Studio Engineer), and Rick Stuhlstatz (Klaus’ assistant). If I've forgotten anybody, my sincere apologies, as this was a long while ago.
This Firebird design was initially developed from a series of 1/5th scale clay and fiberglass models, from which one was picked to do full-size. We had been working on the refinement of the design for about 6 months when Jerry Hirshberg joined us. The design went from a single theme, to 2 themes, or variations, with one side the sporty design with full wheel cuts, and the other side, a boulevard design with the rear wheels skirted. This gave the model an interesting split personality. At the time these photos were taken by Bob DeMerrill, a Design Staff Photographer, the clay model had been fully di-noc'd and details were cartooned by this writer to add visual substance to the design. The modelers foiled the headlight bezels/cans and trim around the tail lights. It was a bold, striking design, clearly a complete departure from the then current FIrebird, and would have been a hatchback. The large round headlights give the car a place in time, as it wasn’t long after we had worked on this that rectangular headlights emerged on GM automobiles and the others. The model’s color was a metallic orange, somewhat like the recent 2005 GTO Ram Air 6 Concept that Kip Wasenko’s group put together adding muscle to the Australian GTO beyond its appearance as had been shipped to the States as a Pontiac.
If I recall correctly, we abandoned work on this car when the then new Federal regulations for front and rear bumpers became law, as this design would not have been compliant. I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen photos of this concept proposal ever published. Perhaps my fellow design colleagues from Advanced Pontiac Studio who also contributed to the design of this vehicle can further add to the pedigree of this design and its history.—John Mellberg