By Ed White
How the "Super LeMans" Came to Life
By Ed White
September 20, 1967
John DeLorean, Bill Collins, and Russ Gee would meet most Saturday mornings at the Milford Proving Grounds for casual gatherings referred to as “what if” sessions. It was during one of those sessions that the guys were celebrating the sales success of the 1966 GTO and turned their gaze upon boosting LeMans sales for 1967. But this time they would take it to the track.
First they discussed the hardware. “We get a no-frills LeMans off the assembly line, toss in a 428 from the big car, a close-ratio four-speed, and make the 2:93 rear axle a positraction,” DeLorean tells us.
Next, they turned their attention to the body. Getting that shape to 200 miles per hour wouldn’t be easy. They decided to modify it by making it much more aerodynamic. This included replacing the front fender headlight sections with those from a 1965 Buick Riviera, using 1966 Tempest grills in a pushed out “nose cone," as DeLorean would put it, “like that ugly red thing on TV," (no doubt referring to the Monkeemobile).
They took a look at the rear of the car. It was necessary to keep the vehicle planted on the pavement so “I want to put a wing, mounted right here on the trunk deck high enough to be in the clean air over the roof,“ Collins said.
At the last minute it was noted that the factory sunken rear windshield would create a low pressure area that could unload the tires enough to lose control. It was suggested by Gee that they modify the rear windshield sail panel area by installing the rear windshield from the same year Bonneville. This means that all these special LeMans came with the vinyl top to hide the infamous hurried workmanship around the window.
Now that they got the envelope right, the team worked on air management within the body. This included a heat extraction vent in the hood - that was basically an oversized GTO hood scoop turned inside out - vents in the tops of the fenders for the air in the wheel wells to escape that were trimmed in the quarter panel louver chrome from the new Firebird, and making the gills on the quarter panels operational to vent air not only to the rear brakes, but to the center differential carrier (we learned this in 1963 with the Grand Sport Corvettes). To make this LeMans even more special, they used solid red tail light lenses and a GTO rear bumper for the back up lights.
All of this was set on a slightly lowered suspension on 15-inch Crager mags.
Once this first-and-only "Super LeMans" was built, it was in view of some guests that John Z invited over. One of them happened to be working for Dodge at the time. When he asked John about that LeMans, John said that “the brass got an eyeful of it and shut the program down before it ever even got started, so there it sits."
The Dodge party guest was later seen on the phone saying, “l think I’ve found our answer for NASCAR.”
Author's note: I hope you enjoyed this piece of creative fictional journalism. What became of the story is that Dodge and Plymouth did put into production that which GM said would never fly. But it did fly, and it won most NASCAR races and 1969 and 1970 with the Daytona and Superbird, respectively. As far as Pontiac is concerned, they realized the benefits of getting hot air out of the engine compartment. Starting and 1969, all Trans Ams had heat extractor vents on the fenders, the basic design of the “inverted hood scoop” was used on Corvette’s LT-1 hood (and also turned inside-out, becoming the 1971-72 GTO hood scoop), and finally, wings were used in differing designs on many cars starting in 1969 all the way to the present. The Super LeMans’ huge wing design was shortened quite a bit and worn by the 1970 GTO Judge.
DeLorean transferred to Chevrolet in 1969 - that year’s Camaro also sports a version of those quarter panel vents, and there have been numerous versions of the reverse hood scoop that draws air from the cowl area used extensively in the automotive industry by just about every manufacturer.
The author's illustration of the fictional "Super LeMans." Renderings courtesy Ed White.
Ed White was born into a family with interesting automotive tastes. Within this realm of special interest, one automobile stood out above all the rest: the Pontiac GTO.
His interest in this car goes back to when he was three years old, when his mother told him, “if you want something real bad, draw a picture of it so it never goes away.” This was the seed that grew into Fast Eddy’s Hot Rod Art.
Since that time, he has become an expert in automotive design, build his own cars, and started a business where he has done renderings of most cars in production - and many that do not exist - for various shops, magazines, and even a celebrity or two. His art has been published over 100 times and has been seen all over the globe.
Some of these designs require a write-up, so he has developed somewhat of a talent for that too, which is from where this story comes.