HPP: How many A/Sedan championships did you win?
JH: I won five championships, and the last four were in the same '02 Firebird.
After John’s team completed the base Solstice, they unleashed their performance plan on th
HPP: Did Pontiac provide you with any on-track engineering support, and did any of the lessons learned on-track make their way into the production car?
JH: Pontiac was interested in how its cars were running in the Motorola Cup and the Firehawk series (1993-2000). There was at least one [Pontiac] engineer (and sometimes two) at each race. They focused on the brakes and any problems that occurred so they could make the production car better.
HPP: What was your favorite Pontiac?
JH: My favorite Pontiac in the '60s was a four-speed '66 GTO. My favorite current model is the G8 GXP sedan. Any time someone gets into a G8 GXP, they are very surprised at how nice a car it is. It had Brembo front brakes and the LS3 engine, which made about 415 hp. You could get it in a manual and it was really a fun car to drive. It was also equipped with oil coolers for the engine and transmission. If you added a supercharger to one, its performance would be very close to a Cadillac CTS-V because [the G8] is lighter.
HPP: You spent a lot of time in Australia with Holden. What Pontiacs were you working on at the time?
JH: I worked with Holden on G8 GXP development. The G8 was an older architecture based on the Holden Commodore. I spent time on the G8 development because of my role as director of GM High Performance. It was my job to make sure that any high-performance car entering the U.S. market met certain standards. This included power, braking, and handling. The G8 fell into this category.
The GM Performance Division tested and upgraded the suspension on the Pontiac GTO to prepa
I tested the G8 at the Nurburgring North Course and it performed quite well. The power, braking, and handling met all of our performance standards. In addition, we traveled extensively throughout Europe, shaking down the G8 before it was introduced. My impression of the G8 was that it matched the performance of the BMW M5 [and] that was our benchmark. In Australia, I would always spend time driving a G8 prototype to find out how [the model] was progressing. I was interested in finding out what needed to be added to the soon-to-be-introduced GXP. The things I pushed extra hard for were the Brembo brakes and oil coolers.
HPP: What were the similarities between the 21st century GTO and the G8?
JH: They are all based on similar architecture. The G8 was a refined GTO, and it did everything better than the GTO.
HPP: Were you involved in developing the showroom-stock Solstice?
JH: Darren Post was GM's Vehicle Line Director for the Solstice, and he is quite a performance enthusiast. He asked our group for ideas on where the Solstice could be raced successfully. We gave him several options, but he chose the SCCA showroom-stock category.
While John was working on the development of other GM products in Australia, he identified
Our engineering team worked on improving the base Solstice's handling. We released the ZOK option for it. This included springs, shocks, and stabilizer bars. Basically we added GXP suspension components from the future turbo car and applied them to the base car. We also gave [the Solstice] the ability to be lowered once the customer bought it.
The shocks had snap rings that held the spring seats in place. This would raise the car enough so it could pass through the production process. The customer could remove these spacers to lower the car for racing. We released a service bulletin so the customer or the dealer could make this change. These ZOK Solstices were sold with a full factory warranty, which was voided once the vehicle was raced.