Here are Chief Designer Pontiac Studio Jack Humbert (center), VP of Design Bill Mitchell (
Part I: The Early Years
There are few times in history when all of the planets align to achieve true greatness. In the world of sports, the '72 Miami Dolphins won every game of the season, every playoff game, and the Super Bowl. This amazing accomplishment had never been achieved before or since in the game of professional football.
For the Pontiac Motor Division, its award-winning Super Bowl season spanned the decade of the '60s. Chevrolet and Ford may have outsold them in sheer numbers, but Pontiac was definitely the auto industry leader in styling, image, innovation, and performance. Countless articles have been written documenting the Pontiac legends of the '60s, such as:
Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen, a true leader, who changed Pontiac from a reliable old man's car into a youthful performance division;
Pete Estes, for his years of leadership and engineering excellence at both Oldsmobile and Pontiac Divisions, as well as the creation of the Wide Track;
John Z. DeLorean, for his rare ability to understand exactly what the customer wanted, and produce just the right selection of automobiles in his own flamboyant way;
Malcolm R. "Mac" McKellar, who gave Pontiacs all the horsepower and torque they needed with his Super-Duty, Tri-Power, and Ram Air engines;
Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman and their award-winning illustrations that graced the Pontiac dealer catalogs throughout the '60s;
Jim Wangers and his keen ability to promote just about anything.
This '61 Pontiac Bonneville clay model poses on the GM Design patio with the Design Dome i
A man in Pontiac's history who has been mostly overlooked, however, is one of the most significant: Jack Humbert of General Motors Design. Jack led the design team that gave Pontiacs of the '60s the leading edge in the art of automotive styling.
Design is a very powerful tool. Many people purchase cars based strictly on how they look, and that's one of the major factors that enabled Pontiac to attain and retain the number three position in sales throughout the '60s.
Humble BeginningsJack Humbert was born April 9, 1924, in Canton, Ohio, and grew up in this small Mid-Western town. Like many children of the era, Jack was drawn to the automobile at an early age, and purchased his first car at 16.
After graduating from Middlebranch High School, Jack spent the next three years, 1943 to 1945, in the U.S. Army, serving in an armored division in the European theater. After World War II, he returned home to Canton and went to work at Oscar's Service Station, a combination gas station and used car lot. Jack was a true "car guy," who loved to work on them, as well as draw them.
Jack and Chuck are looking over a pre-production '67 Firebird in the Pontiac design studio
His illustrating talent led him to the Central Academy of Commercial Art in Cincinnati, Ohio, where, after graduating in 1948 with a degree in Automotive Design, he went to work for General Motors Styling as a junior designer. For the next several years, Jack honed his skills and designed cars under such legendary design leaders as Harley Earl, then vice president of GM Design; as well as Bill Mitchell, who would become the next vice president of GM Design. Jack developed an eagle eye and the respect of his fellow team members working in both the interior and exterior design studios
In March of 1959, at the young age of 34, Jack was promoted to chief designerfor the Pontiac studio. This would forever change the direction of Pontiac's design and image. The basic themes for the all-new '61-'62 model years had already been selected and were well into development, having reached the fullsize clay-model stage by this time. This gave Jack the opportunity to do what he did best: concentrate on the details. As a result, the '61-'62 designs attained a new level of refinement that set a very high standard, even for GM.