The front surface of the bumper is very hard-virtually indistinguishable from steel, or, perhaps, fiberglass. This rigidity, however, decreases progressively toward the rear of the bumper so the material can compress against the metal fenders and hood where impact absorption is most critical.

Normal harmless testing on the new bumper is done at speeds of 4 mph-more than twice the speed conventional bumpers can withstand. When the new 5 mph standards are invoked, Pontiac will already be able to meet them.

At this point in development, both cost and weight are somewhat of a disadvantage, though very little. Both, however, will soon be solved.

As great an achievement as the bumper material was, Pontiac claims that the development of the paint was even more significant. Inland Manufacturing Division at Dayton had been a recognized factor in foam technology for years, and when named as initial fabricators for the '68 GTO bumpers, it was basically a relatively simple matter of perfecting a paint material for this specific application. It soon became apparent that the only paint suitable for the new bumper would entail an entirely new project for its development. Conventional paints simply did not possess the necessary flexibility.

The advanced quality of the paint and the technology involved is evident in the fabricating process itself. First the paint is sprayed on bare, solid nickel molds that have extremely smooth, plated surfaces. Then a .150-inch thick steel frame is placed into the mold, the cover half is dropped on, and the urethane is injected, heated, cured and removed, all without additional finishing and polishing. There is also no real limitation to color availability, since the present GTO range consists of 17 different hues.

Though further perfection will naturally follow, the ability of the material to conform so easily is a triumph. Indicative of even better performance is the fact that the urethane forms much easier than chrome, so possibilities of design flexibility are enhanced even more.

The rest of the division has already capitalized on the importance of the urethane-type material. Both the Firebird 400 and all "B"-bodies have an Endura emblem protecting them from initial contact.

According to Ken Valentine, staff engineer for materials, "Through the judicious use of materials, we can accomplish so many things where we would otherwise be hamstrung by regulations."

For styling, it liberated many advanced concepts that had been suppressed by conventional materials. You will have to wait a year to see them, but Pontiac claims they will definitely incorporate some of them in 1969.

Endura's contribution to styling is limited only by what the consumer is willing to accept. There is certainly no doubt that it has provided the stylist with a vastly increased scope for designs he has craved for so long. Oh, it will be misused; not every car should have it, nor every bumper. There are applications where our vanity will always demand scintillating accents, and the only way to achieve that is by contrasts to body paint and material. For instance, on limousines and luxury cars, a massive, wide, or regal countenance is normally desired, and this can best be conveyed by a chrome grille, side molding, or some other silly gimmick. But in the burgeoning hedonism of youth markets, the ease and flexibility with which a sculptured, smooth, unified, compact entity can be wrought, is invaluable.

Advantages of the new GTO bumper are already evident in styling, safety and maintenance. Equally as important is that it provides us with an innovation that is a sure way to force the hands of honesty and fairness from the windy temples of the insurance kingdom.

First, this sporty looking exec tools up beside us in his new Mercedes 250SL and checks out our GTO. He moves forward a bit, then drops behind. We see him in our rear-view mirror carefully considering the bright red coupe, and noting the sweet sound from the exhausts. He stays behind all the way to the Hollywood Blvd. off-ramp, and as we leave traffic, he's still checking us out. By the time he's reached the San Fernando Valley, we figure he's thought about the good looks of our machine, a price tag less than half the one he peeled off his window, 5-year/ 50,000-mile warranty, and the fact that no one in a '68 GTO ever checked out his SL.

That gave us the first hint of what we'd be going through during the next few weeks of driving the GeeTo.

The following Wednesday, we made it out to Orange County International Raceway for "street racers" night where all the local hot-dogs gather for grudge racing. While we waited for our turn at the line, a couple of car owners from a few lanes over gave our Ram-Air car the eye and came over. We've got the 4-speed lever in low, the engine is idling at just under a grand, the stock highlift cam is "rump-rumping" through the exhaust system, and the guy up front is getting ready for us. "Okay, just grab a quick look fellas, and then we gotta wail." Fat chance.

By the time we can start engaging the clutch, there's a Coxey's army of hot-rodders circling the coupe, and it would take all of the 360 hp on tap to mow 'em down. What's the use. We shut it off and climbed out. Can't beat them.