HPP: Did Pontiac allow you to make a second presentation for the Judge?
JW: Yes. It was generally decided that white might be a good color for it. Picking up some of the Judge application again, Motortown used the red, yellow, and orange striping. It kept the rear deck spoiler from the All American Grand Am and adapted the shaker hoodscoop right off a '76 Trans Am to the prototype.
HPP: Did Pontiac approve the second proposal?
JW: When the proposal came back with the much more conservative white car with the red, yellow and orange stripes, and the very attractive spoiler and the shaker hoodscoop, Alex Mair felt it fit the bill a whole lot more than the original presentation. Given these changes, suddenly, there was a real justification for its existence. After the usual kind of resistance, questions and answers, and delays, the program was finally accepted. Motortown was awarded the contract, with the idea that the "Can Am," instead of the Judge, would be introduced right after the new '77 model announcement, taken to the auto shows, then released to the dealers as a midyear model.
HPP: How did Motortown accommodate Pontiac's manufacturing requirements for the Can Am?
JW: Motortown set up an assembly plant in the city of Troy, which was a 15-mile drive from Pontiac. Pontiac built the LeMans without any of the Can Am striping Appearance Package, but with the T/A 6.6 engine and the Turbo 400 transmission, with the exception of the few that were going to California and high-altitude areas that received the Olds 403 and a Turbo 350. There was a routine setup to take cars from Pontiac to the facility in Troy, where they were converted into Can Ams, then returned to Pontiac for delivery to dealers.
HPP: Was the Can Am well-received?
JW: The reception to the Can Am was better than anybody thought. After the first of the year, Pontiac sent its Assistant Sales Managers to a series of meetings with their dealers across the country, and they had an incredible reaction to the Can Am. The dealers wanted and ordered more; in some cases, two, three, or four. Pontiac came back from the dealer meetings with enough orders for another 2,500 Can Ams.
HPP: Please describe the advertising for the Can Am.
JW: The announcement ad did everything it could to compare the Can Am in image and in heritage to the GTO. It featured a nice picture of the Can Am with the headline, "Remember the Goat." It went on to infer Pontiac had recreated a tremendous musclecar that had all these wonderful features and was going to perform just like the GTO. The name GTO was never mentioned, but it did specifically refer to the GTO as "the Goat."
HPP: What stopped production of the Can Am?
JW: The production of the cars was coming out well. They were satisfying the Pontiac critics, the quality was what they had hoped for, and the dealers were also very, very pleased. Then the tool for the rear deck spoiler broke, and that interrupted production. With no rear deck spoilers, they couldn't ship the cars, which upset Pontiac very much.
There were already another couple hundred on the ground to ship to Motortown and an order for 500 more white LeMans Sport Coupes with the T/A 6.6 package in them and there was no way they could stop that. Pontiac decided, on the basis of this interruption, that they would immediately cease the production of the Can Am. The Division notified the dealers that the car had been stopped, that there would be no more, and it would ship to them white LeMans Sport Coupes sans Can Am Appearance Packages since those cars were already in the delivery system.