Part II: A Career Flourishes
Pontiac's designs from the '60s and early '70s stood the test of time, still looking as great today as they did when new-a major accomplishment. The vast majority of the most-prized Pontiacs in collector circles today were designed under Jack Humbert's leadership.
Additionally, in the "The 10 Best Pontiac Designs," which appeared in the Sept. '08 issue of High Performance Pontiac magazine, all but one were completed during Jack Humbert's regime. This speaks volumes about the man, his team, and their many talents. Let's learn more about them.
Jack Humbert and Chuck Jordan look over a Firebird design.
1969 Grand Prix
The late Wayne Vieira worked closely with Jack on the all-new '69 Grand Prix design. Ben Harrison, of Engineering's Special Projects Department had the idea of using a stretched version of the A-body chassis with a 118-inch wheelbase instead of the larger 122-inch B-body the GP had been built on. This gave the new A-special, or G-body, a long-hood, short-decklid proportion that was popular in the new pony cars. "The '69 Grand Prix was designed in just over a month, it was one of the fastest programs I have ever worked on," said Vieira in 1999, when he was the chief designer of the Saturn studio. "We came up with one of the longest hoods in the industry." The '69 Grand Prix was sheer and clean with a very distinctive Pontiac split grille encased in a chrome bumper. This gave the Grand Prix a classic look. It also set a new trend in the appearance of the personal luxury car.
This is John Perkins' rendering of a '69 Grand Prix proposal.
1970 1/2 Firebird
The '70 1/2 Firebird was all-new from the ground up, but this time Pontiac had input in the design process. The driver and engine were moved 3 inches back.
Pontiac and Chevrolet design studios went in different directions on the '701/2 "F" car program, with Jack's team winning the design battle and mastering the upper body that set the design direction for it. Pontiac's newest visual element, the Endura bumper, pioneered on the '68 GTO, played a major role in the styling of the all-new Firebird.
The design team put together one of the most aggressive cars to ever roam the streets of America, the Trans Am. Its stripes, spoilers, and Shaker hoodscoop went on to identify the T/A for the rest of the decade. This basic design was so good it lasted 12 model years.
Full development of the '69 Grand Prix-from the designers' renderings to the full-sized cl
The talent at the Division was not lost on the automotive press. These are just a few of the highlights of the many car lines and models that were designed under Jack Humbert's leadership of the Pontiac Design studio. The Division received four Motor Trend "Car of the Year" awards in less than 10 years: '59 Pontiac Motor Division, '61 Tempest, '65 Pontiac Motor Division, and the '68 GTO. This achievement has never been matched by any automotive manufacturer in the history of the "Car of the Year" award, before or since. Pontiac could have easily won the COTY for the '69 Grand Prix or the '70 1/2 Firebird, as these were both standout cars, but the readers and writers may have cried foul for the Division's already unprecedented four wins in nine years.
Jack Humbert was promoted to Group Chief Designer over Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac Design studios in April 1968, and Bill Porter became the chief designer of the Pontiac studio. Jack remained a Pontiac man the rest of his career at GM Design. He continued to move up the ladder and eventually earned the title Executive Director of Design in charge of all of the production exterior design in 1980 under the late Irv Rybicki, then vice president of design.
Jack Humbert and his wife, Evelyn "Smitty" Smith, had a daughter and a son. Daughter Jacqueline is happily married and living in California. Son Robert followed somewhat in his father's footsteps and is an architect living in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jack deftly balanced family duties, designing beautiful Pontiacs by day, and being a certified car guy at night. He restored a car at home in his garage with the help of some of his friends.