By on May 1, 2010

(My favorite Lutz photo: with a 1966 Opel Kadett he just rolled at the test track)

The world would have been a lot duller without Bob Lutz, on many levels. And although it’s easy to poke fun  at his endless malapropisms, as well as the more than ample mistakes in his long career, his gut instinct for cars that look good and are exciting to drive make quite the collection. The following cars are vehicles that Lutz had some degree of involvement with, allegedly, or well documented. If I’ve missed something significant, let me know, and I’ll add it.

Opel GT  1968

BMW 3 Series E21  1975

BMW 6 Series  1976

Ford Sierra  1981

Merkur XR4Ti  1985

Ford Explorer  1990

Dodge Viper  1992

Dodge Intrepid  1993

Dodge Neon 1995

Plymouth Prowler  1997

Note: GM cars not complete or chronological

Pontiac Solstice

Buick Enclave


Pontiac GTO

Pontiac G8


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46 Comments on “The Cars Of Bob Lutz: A Gallery Of Winners And Losers...”

  • avatar

    Did Lutz actually have anything major to do with the development of the Commodore, or did he just have the idea to bring it over as a Pontiac?

    I mean was he actually over in Australia working with the Holden guys?

    Also, if he had anything to do with the creation of the ’94 Ram, that probably deserves to be in the gallery.

    • 0 avatar

      He was definitely the sponsor of the G8, and should get some credit for seeing the potential of the Commodore product, putting aside the “not invented in my backyard” bullshit, and pushing it through to completion.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Unfortunately, the reincarnation of the GTO and the G8 both were flops which surely never repaid the cost of ‘mericanizing and advertising them.

    • 0 avatar

      Ya forgot the butchering of the Sport Truck / ST / El-Camino.

  • avatar

    Though I don’t care for Mr. Lutz’s demeanor personally, most of the vehicles shown in this gallery I wouldn’t mind owning.

    • 0 avatar

      unfortunately all 95 Neons are already rusted through or fell apart in other ways.

      He definitely owns the fugly stick and beat all projects with it. I hate to say, but the Buick is almost the most beautiful car he created. Ans this means something when everything else you made is uglier than Buick.
      the Volt, OK look for the type of car (if the vaporware ever materializes). The Explorer OK too. The viper looks kind of OK (a bit dorky, though). The BMW 3 -series with just one headlight (as opposed to the dual headlights of later years and int he 5er) I even though was ugly when I lived in East Germany and anything from the West was cool. Even then it was ugly (and we collected empty Coca Cola cans that people threw away because we considered everything West to be cool… but the BMW 3 still too ugly).

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t blame Lutz for the E21’s looks — that was Paul Bracq’s design, a conservative rework of the Neue Klasse 2002 et al (which also had single headlights). Claus Luthe took over from Bracq, and designed the E30, still the best-looking 3er design in my books.

  • avatar

    Ram: Yes. They wanted to bring it earlier but didn’t have the resources to do it sooner.

    Also, IIRC, it was at Lutz’s order that the BMW 2000tii was developed for the US-market (some people laughed at his timing though, as it hit the market during the first fuel crisis.)

  • avatar

    You forgot to mention the 1994 Dodge Ram, the 1995 Dodge Stratus, the 1996 Dodge Caravan, the 1998 Dodge Intrepid, and (possibly) the 1986 Ford Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The Taurus was by most accounts a Peterson/Poling project, not a Lutz deal. Poling and Lutz were bitter internal rivals in the years Lutz was at Ford. Lutz pushing the Merkur disaster inside Ford and then went back to that same loosing formula with the GTO/G8 and Saturn Astra flops. Lutz did, however, run Ford’s truck division during the early Explorer years and deserves credit for riding that wave. Lutz/Ford basically noticed what was happening with the Jeep Cherokee and said “me too!”.

  • avatar

    Lutz is the closest we’ve had to a latter-day Harley Earl or Bill Mitchell.

    When you swing for the fences you’re gonna miss a few times; but the list of hits here, though incomplete, speaks to someone who could dream big and more often than not come up with a hit.

    I can only hope there are a couple more like him somewhere within the walls of the RenCen.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe in terms of being risk takers, but Earl and Mitchell were both designers. Lutz may have conceived of a car or two, but I don’t think he’s ever been actively involved in styling.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly Ronnie,

      Lutz is one of those guys who takes credit for things that he has had little, if any, real input into.

      Which is why I find him as nothing more than a successful corporate remora.

    • 0 avatar

      Management has always reserved the right to meddle in the vehicle designs.

      Not always, but sometimes what a manager does not change is more important than what he does change … IIRC, when the Neon came out Lutz was quoted as saying that he and the Chrysler management would have preferred to go with more japanese style headlamps but the platform/design team was adamant that the car’s cute face was dependent upon the round lamps, so Lutz backed-off and let them run with their preference.

  • avatar

    definitely more good than bad

  • avatar

    Did Lutz have anything to do with the Pontiac GTO from five years ago? In my opinion, that was Pontiac’s best car prior to the G8.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, Lutz was involved with the 04-06 GTO. As an owner of an ’06 model I am glad he got it over here.

    • 0 avatar

      He got it over to the states in GTO form, however the Monaro on which it was based was a result of skunks works project by a group of Holden engineers. However someone should take responsibility for beating the Monaro nose with the Pontiac ugly stick and then putting those non functional vents on the hood.

    • 0 avatar

      They needed the Pontiac nose to make it fit the family. Whether it looks good or bad is the eye of the beholder. It is funny how many Americans get the Monaro parts and change the front end, and how many Australians get the Pontiac parts and change them! People always want something unique.

      AFAIK, even if the hood scoops were opened up, that is not an area of high air pressure and would not help HP. It has been a favorite Internet topic on some of the GTO boards though.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I could never figure out how Ford sold so many of those early Explorers. Just about everyone I knew owned one so I rode in many and drove a few. They were such god awful vehicles. The bodies creaked and groaned while the V6 motor growled in disgust. They rode and handled like a lumber wagon and the interior was typical Ford Fisher Price. Everytime I got out of one I hugged my ’93 Toyota PU I owned at the time. I swear everyone that bought one couldn’t have test drove anything else.

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    The Sierra is post facelift, dumbed down to suit the tastes of conservative folks.

    The much better looking (IMHO) original design is shown here:

  • avatar

    “Some degree of involvement” seems to be the key phrase. Yes, he always has been involved to some degree, but to what degree?
    Let’s take the BMW 6, for example: compare the contributions of Bob Lutz to this car with that of Paul Bracq.
    I can’t help it, but for me Bob Lutz is just a monumental PR guy, certainly still with the ability to drive fast.

  • avatar

    The appropriate caption for that 1st picture is; “Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him.” Or maybe “The man, the myth, the legend, Bob Lutz.” BTW I want a framed print of that picture hanging in my den.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    A good bunch minus a few turds sprinkled in there.

  • avatar

    Does anyone know what the story is behind that picture of Lutz and the Kadett?
    For all its faults, for a number of years the Kadett was a very sensible and affordable choice for a car in Europe.

  • avatar

    As many have noted, the degree to which Lutz is involved in any of the ‘winners’ from this rouges’ gallery is debatable, at best.

    One could certainly argue that his position at Opel was influential enough to give him some credit for promoting the Opel GT.

    Promoting the 3-series? I would love to hear from some insider on how he was anything but a marginal member in the chorus. He was exec VP of sales at BMW, not development, design, or anything that I would personally credit with “creation” (YMMV).

    One could attribute much more of the Neon and the Explorer to him, but save for them, where are the big sales? The hits?

    The G8 ain’t bad, but it didn’t sell. The Viper is ok, but it never sold like a ‘Vette, and while I love Euro Sierras, the Merkur experiment was a flop. To be generous.

    So what are the huge laurels that Maximum Boob rests on?

  • avatar

    Ir really doesn’t matter how much of a braggard he really is, you just gotta love the guy. How can you not love a guy like that? Take that picture, on top. What did he say to his fellow co-workers? “Hey, guys…. You know what? I just rolled the Opel. Does anybody have a cigar? I need a cigar, I gotta have a picture taken of me and that car”.

    • 0 avatar

      Couldn’t have said better myself. Without Lutz and those like them the car industry will be a lot less entertaining.

    • 0 avatar

      My thoughts exactly. In that case, at least, he wasn’t taking himself too seriously. Almost looks like something out of MAD Magazine.

      Kinda changes my opinion of the guy a little bit…

  • avatar

    Not being rich, the Merkur XR4Ti was the sweetest car I’ve ever owned.
    It has yet to be surpassed.
    – Excellent Brakes
    – Super lux ride, whit incredible handling.
    – The fun of a turbo kick.
    [ However, it was no V8, and you couldn’t STOMP on it. ]

    Never understood why this car did not take off in the US,
    One test drive would have sold the car.
    That’s how I bought it, the test drive.

    So, the Merkur, the BMW 2002, and Volt give Bob a Winning record.

    I’d say we all need to take the Volt for a test drive for our opinion about the Volt.
    Because, in my experience, the auto press will have it’s opinion, that won’t be based on reality.

    • 0 avatar

      Heh Mike I remembers watching the Xrateeeeez at the 1st St. Pete Trans AM. Took me a week to figure out that the noise was wheel chirp when the turbo really got going.

  • avatar

    The 2004 model did not have the fake vents. Somebody gave Dan Gurney one of the later models. He promptly removed the rear spoiler and switched to a 2004 hood. The man has good taste.

  • avatar

    My socio-economic class kept him fed so he would not have to fend for himself and family, leaving time to specialize in an area that provided ample economic surplus to pay for far more than life’s merest necessities and to allow an accumulation that offers FAR more than a meager bare-existence level.

    I also do not recall ever seeing the lad in uniform overseas keeping the Commie hordes at bay, time that does tend to interfere with corporate upward mobility for many though not all.

    Perhaps the commoners at the lowest levels will lean some day and just cease working and allow hunger to strike our “ruling class.”

    Oh, wait.

    The open borders will stop that idea in its tracks.

    Well, encourage, I suppose, the spokesmouths of the upper-crust, the Limbaughs and Boortz’s to lambaste the working-poverty-stricken class that serves the master class so well.

    Particularly bitter today after reading latest local economic data and growing unemployment and poverty rates and the ever-growing percentage of children living in poverty (over one in three locally with teachers reporting sick children in class due to irregular eating and empty “food banks” yet in a country with ample funds for an elite class and to operate overseas).

    Pardon the ranting but if affairs continue there could possible be extremely severe ramifications.

  • avatar

    The Chevrolet SSR was one of Lutz’s niche market creations.

    Or more aptly put he championed it into production.

  • avatar

    Ok, you had me at “Opel GT.”

    Seriously, though, I think there is something here to the idea that he is a brilliant corporate political hack… taking credit for good designs that likely had hundreds of people behind them… and successfully blaming others for failures. That, after all, is how one really got ahead at GM.

    He was certainly able to stick his neck out and push buttons that nobody else was able to push without getting their heads chopped off, and for that we’ll appreciate his contributions.

  • avatar

    I think Lutz probably does represent the end of an era in terms of big personalities in the business – once the industry has taken taxpayer money (rightly or wrongly), you really can’t be a big-swinging-d#$%! anymore, can’t live like you don’t care what others say, you have to humbly go about your affairs. It’ll be interesting to see how long it is before the industry recovers from the current fear-based-survival environmentm, and starts taking bold moves again. If Lutz was 25 right now, he’d probably change industries completely.

  • avatar
    martin schwoerer

    Ford Sierra?

  • avatar

    Does that first picture of Lutz not make you think of:

  • avatar

    I am only six months late to the discussion, but I applaud Maximum Bob for putting the yoke on and pulling. These projects have to have champions in the boardroom in order to come to fruition. The heat – along with the stink- that comes with failure can have long term effect on one’s prospects. The man at the top gets too much of the blame for failure and too much of the credit for success. This type of corporate renaissance man will be extinct with the passing of the boomers.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    I’ve just noticed.
    Where’s the Cadillac CTS?

  • avatar

    Where are the winners?

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