They say you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. I say you can tell more about a man by the cars that he drives. Consider my dad, Barry Hopper's, past Pontiacs: a '58 Bonneville convertible, a '58 Bonneville sport coupe, a '58 Chieftain, a '60 Ventura, a '60 Catalina post car, a '60 Bonneville, a '62 Grand Prix, a '64 GTO, (so far, all Tri-Power cars!), a '67 GTO, a '69 R/A-III GTO, a '70 R/A-IV GTO . . . and these are only the ones that come to mind quickly.
From the first time he laid eyes on the '58 Bonneville, he fell in love with high performance Pontiacs. The affair continued throughout his life, so much so that he raised his three sons in the Pontiac tradition.
Often referencing stories of the great Arnie Beswick, Jim Wangers, Nunzi Romano, Milt Schornack, and countless others, Dad always sought to squeeze every ounce of torque and horsepower out of his Pontiacs. In 1964 and 1965, he campaigned a '64 Sky Blue GTO with a 389/Tri-Power combination affectionately referred to as the "Mystery Indian." His B-Stock run on the national record ended in his draft to Viet Nam with the U.S. Army.
Upon returning from his tour of duty, Dad, like many of us, had to focus less on his hobbies and turned his attention to his family. As his three sons (Richie, Vinny, and me) grew, Dad taught us how to be mechanics-of course-by working on Pontiacs. Each of us drove them on the street throughout high school, which inevitably resulted in a street race or two here and there. The time Dad spent with us working on our Pontiacs was invaluable. Now grown, with families of our own, we continue to own Pontiacs that we share with our children.
Just prior to being diagnosed with lung cancer, Dad purchased three Pontiacs that he was most proud of: A Redwood Copper/Patina Ivory '58 370ci Tri-Power Bonneville with a three-speed manual transmission (on the column), a Starmist Silver/Patina Ivory '58 Tri-Power Chieftain with an automatic, and a Coronado Red '60 389 Tri-Power Bonneville with an automatic.
These cars gave him a sense of purpose and strengthened his will to fight. He would often comment that he had plans to take the cars (including a re-creation of the Mystery Indian) back to his old stomping grounds at Raceway Park near Englishtown, New Jersey, where he planned to run them down the quarter-mile.
Tragically, Dad's life was cut short at the young age of 64 after a tough battle with lung cancer. Although he is gone, not a Pontiac drives by that doesn't spark a memory of him. Richie, Vinny, and I want to thank HPP for being an integral part of the memories created with our dad. Right up until the time of his passing, we, with Dad, poured through dozens of old issues of HPP and reminisced about our Pontiac experiences together.
My Pontiac and Me spotlights reader experiences with their own Pontiacs in their own words. To be considered for publication, submit several high-quality color
photos (if digital, each photo must be larger than 1 megabyte in JPG format-no other formats, please), your own Pontiac story (typed, approximately 500 words), your name, address, and telephone number to:
High Performance Pontiac Magazine
My Pontiac and Me
c/o Christopher Phillip
9036 Brittany Way
Tampa, FL 33619
Please note: HPP pays $50 if your story is printed. A contract release and W-9 with your social security number will be required.
Here's Barry Hopper in the...
Here's Barry Hopper in the mid-1960's with his B-stock Mystery Indian '64 GTO.