1967 Pontiac GTO Thom McAn Sweepstakes Car - Fuel for the Sole
Did your new pair of shoes come with a four-speed? They may have if you were one of the winners of a Thom McAn GTO giveaway in 1966. Actually, to win one, you didn't even have to buy a pair of the company's GTO shoes, you just had to fill out an entry form at one of the 1,500 Thom McAns across the United States and then wait for the grand prize day to arrive. Fifty such winners were announced in Fall, 1966-one from each of the 50 states.
The 1966 Thom McAn giveaway GTOs were planned to be a genuine high-performance thrill. According to GTO guru Jim Wangers, the idea man behind the first contest promotion, "The cars were all painted Tiger Gold with black vinyl tops, and the winner was given a choice of a four-barrel or Tri-Power engine with either a four-speed stick or an automatic transmission. They were all equipped with power steering, power brakes, AM radio, Rally I wheels, and a choice of a black or pearl white interior." However, the '66 model year had expired by the end of the contest, so instead, the winners were presented with vouchers for the cash value of the above mentioned '66 GTO that could be applied to any new '67 Pontiac.
The contest was so successful that Thom McAn quickly arranged a second contest to give away approximately 22 '67 GTOs. These second contest GTOs were identically built during the fourth week of October, 1966, and this contest ran from November 14, 1966 to December 17, 1966. The winners were notified by telephone during Christmas week of that year.
If a Pontiac fan had won a Thom McAn GTO, there is not a doubt in the world he would have cherished his grand prize throughout the decades, even to today. But such was not the direction of these two successful Pontiac-Thom McAn promotions. Like many sweepstakes, the grand prizes sometimes seem to go to the people with the least amount of passion for them.
Such is the true story of our feature vehicle, a second contest Thom McAn GTO won by a Colorado woman whose name is lost to history. Our story resumes at the second owner of this special GTO, Rito Vargas, who was on leave from Viet Nam and watched the Goat pull into the Denver Colorado's Porter Pontiac. He waited eagerly for the story on the great-looking Tiger Gold GTO. He then learned that its original owner had been unhappy with its four-speed and was there to find it a new home, while she looked for an easy-to-drive and less flashy replacement. When a salesman told Vargas the GTO had just traded hands, Vargas made the quickest deal he could and proudly drove the Thom McAn GTO home.
He enjoyed it until 1979, when it was stolen and recovered with a broken motor. Vargas was heartbroken. He lost his passion for the GTO and allowed it to sit untouched and unrepaired.
This is where current owner Bryan Stumbaugh comes into our story. Eighteen years old at the time, and looking for a transmission for his '84 Mustang, Stumbaugh saw the primered GTO sitting in a backyard behind a salvage yard. The salvage yard owner had just bought it for $100 and, after negotiations, traded it straight up for Stumbaugh's '84 Mustang, bad tranny and all. The year was 1992.
Stumbaugh tells HPP, "When I bought the car, all I knew was that it was an original 400 H.O. four-speed GTO. I sent the VIN to PHS, and it came back as a nicely-optioned Special Paint GTO. I was very excited." Excited is right. Only two of the 1967 model Thom McAn GTOs are known to exist today, but Stumbaugh didn't even realize that his was one of them. Working on a college student's budget, he took three years to rebuild its original WS-code 360 hp 400 H.O. engine. According to him, it required a sleeved cylinder, a new crank, two rods, a windage tray, and an oil pan. In 1996, Stumbaugh was finally able to get the GTO running again.
Though this engine shares its cast bottom end, 670 heads (2.11/1.77 valves) and cast-iron dual-plane intake with the standard 335 hp powerplant, the cam is a more aggressive 068 grind with 288/302-degrees duration and 0.414/0.413-inch lift. Other engine upgrades for the H.O. include free-flowing exhaust manifolds (casting # 9777646 driver, 9777641 or 642 passenger), an open element air cleaner, and tweaks for the Q-jet carb (7027263) and Delco points ignition to exploit the component upgrades.
Backing the stout engine is the original M20 wide-ratio four-speed (code FO), which sends power through a stock driveshaft to the factory Safe-T-Track rearend equipped with 3.55 gears (code YH).
Additional options on this GTO include manual radio (code 348), door edge guards (code 382), custom sport steering wheel (code 471), electric clock (code 474), front disc brakes (code 521), ride and handling springs and shocks (code 621), and front/rear floor mats (codes 631/632). Note power steering is not included.
Then came the day that forever changed Stumbaugh's plan for the GTO. Going through a "For Sale" listing in 1999, he found the only other known surviving '67 Thom McAn GTO. "I realized what I had," he says, "when I looked at the PHS and the two cars were identical. Built on the same day, 50 numbers apart on the VIN, shipped to the same factory-owned dealer-the Pontiac retail store-located in downtown Pontiac, Michigan, I knew my GTO was a Thom McAn GTO." A letter from Jim Mattison, president of PHS, confirmed it.
Stumbaugh began the restoration of his Thom McAn GTO in 2005. Stan Thoene of Chief Auto Restoration performed the minimal rust repair, bodywork, paint, and some reassembly. Its frame, suspension parts, inner fender wells, radiator support, and other parts were cleaned, prepped, and powdercoated by Roadrunner Fabrication. Original hardware was sent to Denver Metal Finishing to be replated in correct black, gray or silver zinc phosphate. The cadmium-plated parts were replated by Aero Propeller, and the brake booster was restored by Steve Gregori. Inside, Performance Restoration handled the dash bezel. New parts included Auto City Glass date coded glass, and Legendary Auto Interiors' seat covers and interior kit. Outside, a correct exhaust system from Gardner Exhaust was installed. The restoration was completed in 2007.
It's very first showing was at the 2007 GTOAA in Columbus, Ohio, where GTO owners from all over the country witnessed its debut. Stumbaugh tells us his GTO was awarded Concours Gold.
"The ownership of 'The Great One' has given me the opportunity to research, learn and be involved in many aspects of the GTO," Stumbaugh stated. "Because of this car's rarity, I had the opportunity to restore a true piece of Pontiac history. My goal was to be sure the restoration was as correct as I could make it," he says. Like a good pair of shoes, owning the Thom McAn GTO has changed Bryan Stumbaugh's life.
Birth of a GTO Sweepstakes
Jim Wangers combined a Top 40 radio campaign with a shoe company and the GTO, and turned it into a very successful Goat promotion. Here is how it was done. CRP.
High Performance Pontiac: Why was the Thom McAn promotion conceived?
Jim Wangers: It was during a period when GM, our parent corporation, was clamping down on all of its Divisions, and particularly Pontiac, for aggressive communications advertising, mostly in the arena of performance. GM did not want to see any magazine or newspaper ads with flying dust or sand, cars going around corners, or cars accelerating. GM didn't want to hear any screaming engines or screeching tires on radio or TV commercials. The executives said, "Absolutely no action involved with your advertising. If you're going to show one of your performance cars, show it in a pretty setting, but standing still. We don't want to hear any of that aggressive advertising that connotes performance." This direction would not help the GTO's image, so other marketing avenues were explored.
HPP: How did the advertising agency develop a method to get Pontiac's message out without directly violating GM's rules?
JW: In those days, one of the most significant things that reached the young people was Top 40 radio, which was based on the list of the sales of popular records as published in Billboard magazine. It was in the early days of rock and there were several radio stations that played Top 40 tunes. I was looking for advertisers who were most often represented on those kinds of radio stations because that was the market that we were looking to reach with our GTO.
HPP: Why did you suggest the GTO sweepstakes contest with Thom McAn?
JW: The Thom McAn shoe was a brand owned by the Melville Shoe Company. At that time, it was the Reebok or the Nike of the young male shoe market and was the number one advertiser on those Top 40 radio stations. So, with their promotion people, we worked out a really beautiful tie-in promotion where they brought into the market a shoe that was designed to appeal to young males.
HPP: Did you like the GTO shoe?
JW: Actually, I thought it was just a dreadful-looking shoe, and it didn't sell as well as they had hoped it would. It was an Italian-style with a semi-high heel, which was in vogue at that time. The shoe had the GTO emblem imprinted on the inside on the sole. It had a quasi-tire tread on the outside of the sole, indicating a tire that gave you a better grip when you were running around. It also had a beveled heel that was supposed to give you better action on the accelerator pedal. Those were all the hokey things that were built into the characterization of this GTO shoe.
HPP: How did the Thom McAn GTO giveaway contest work?
JW: There were 50 cars, so each one was given away in a different state. The contest ran from late Spring, 1966, all through the summer and into the fall. All you had to do was either go into a Thom McAn shoe store or a Pontiac dealership to enter the contest. It was purely a sweepstakes.
HPP: Tell us about the '66 GTO "uniform" cars.
JW: We used a "uniform" car as part of the promotion. It was a '66 GTO hardtop in gold, not Tiger Gold, just one of our production golds, with a black vinyl top, a 389 Tri-Power, four-speed manual, and Safe-T-Track. It had Rally I wheels with redline tires, a gauge package, and an AM radio. It did not have power windows or power seats, but it had power steering and power brakes. That was the Thom McAn "uniform" car. We built about 200 of those to be displayed out in front of the 200 freestanding stores of the 1,500 Thom McAn had. The remaining stores were in shopping centers so you couldn't put a car right out in front. These were not giveaway cars.
HPP: Why weren't '66 GTOs awarded since they were featured as displays for the sweepstakes?
JW: The contest ran longer than the model season allowed. Consequently, we took the retail value of the '66 Thom McAn GTO "uniform" car plus tax, freight and license, which was included in the payoff, and each winner was awarded a certificate of credit for that amount. In other words, it was what that '66 GTO retailed for in their state and locale. They could then take that certificate to the Pontiac dealer of their choice and apply it to the purchase price of any new 1967 model.
HPP: How else did you promote the Thom McAn GTO?
JW: We also had Model Products Corporation (MPC) make models of that exact same "uniform" car with the black vinyl top. Over 10,000 of them were distributed through our Pontiac dealers and the Thom McAn stores. Many of them were used as giveaways at the Thom McAn stores when people came in and bought a pair of shoes or expressed some significant interest other than just entering the contest.
HPP: Was Thom McAn pleased with the success of the Thom McAn GTO shoe and the contest that co-promoted the Pontiac GTO?
JW: Though Melville and Thom McAn didn't sell as many of the shoe that they called GTO as they wanted to, they did bring a ton of traffic into their stores to enter the contest and attributed the sale of many of their other shoe styles to that increased traffic. So they were very satisfied with the performance of the contest.
HPP: Was the Thom McAn GTO advertising campaign successful as far as Pontiac was concerned?
JW: Yes. Thom McAn put together, with our cooperation, some of the most incredible advertising that we could have ever possibly wanted. Their ads were full of screaming engines and screeching tires and cars roaring through the gears. That was the whole theme of their advertising, which was designed to promote the shoe, and it was exactly what we were looking for. The reason that I know it was so successful from my point of view is that we were constantly being "attacked" by the GM officials who were complaining that we were violating their rules. They'd say, "I thought we told you that you couldn't run those screaming engines and screeching tires and all that performance advertising." And we consistently told them that those were not our commercials, that they were the Thom McAn shoe commercials and we really had no control over the type of creative advertising Thom McAn was doing. So all in all, the program was very successful, both for Thom McAn and for Pontiac, because it got our message across. It built more of the positive kind of performance, youthful-oriented image for our car called the GTO, which is exactly what we intended it to be. It worked out incredibly well for us.

Photo Gallery: 1967 Pontiac GTO Thom McAn Sweepstakes Car - High Performance Pontiac Magazine

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