By on October 4, 2010

I first used this gem of a picture about a year ago. It certainly captures the essence of the man better than any other. I somehow stumbled upon it in an obscure site, and since then, it’s made the rounds on the web. But the story behind the picture was left to speculation, beyond knowing that it happened on an Opel test track. I helped a German site ( find the source of the photo, and in exchange, I got the story, from Florian Schwaab of oldtimer-markt, who wrote the following:

Here’s the story in short form:

In 1968 or 69 (Bob believes it’s 1965 but the car shown in the picture is a 1967 Model. This can be recognized by the two slots over the front bumper and the non leaf spring setup on the rear. And also George Gallion was present. But he joined Opel in 1968) there was a big test day at the Opel proving ground in Dudenhofen. The engineers and Managers where all there to compare the Opel products with the competitors from Ford, VW etc.

At noon they all sat together to have lunch and Bob rushed in to call Hans Mersheimer (technical director): “Hans, someone in the US told me the Kadett is not safe. It can easily flip over when performing the J-Test.” “No, that’s impossible” replied Hans, “the Americans are always on the road with insufficient tire pressure. Our car is safe”.

“I’ll show you, but someone has to explain me what to do on the J-Test” said Lutz.

The J-Test is driving straight ahead with around 50 mph then applying the hand brake and turning the steering wheel to one side extremely. The car should not flip over in this situation.

Five minutes later Bob sat in that poor little Kadett speeding to 50, applying the hand brake and turning the steering wheel to the left. The Opel showed heavy roll and eventually flipped over.

Bob climbed out of the wreck, lighted up a cigar and waited triumphantly sitting on the Kadett for the engineers and managers to come back from lunch. Mersheimer was very embarrassed because Lutz had proved him wrong in front of nearly every important engineer of the company.

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27 Comments on “The Story Behind The Best Bob Lutz Photo Ever...”

  • avatar

    “Good tires,” Bob mused, casually lighting a cigar, “but certainly not great tires.”

  • avatar

    “Lets base the design of a  future Cadillac on this…” Bob gushed, “an upside down wreck, we’ll call it the 2005 STS.  Lord I’m a genius. Now someone get me a light”

  • avatar

    I saved the pic somewhere and lost it… thanks, I finally have my avatar here.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    “I can think of more perfect finish to a day,” Bob sighed as he exhaled his first mouthful of smoke, “but I can’t repeat it here as there are ladies present.”
    I used that pic as a background on my laptop for a while.  I’m 33 and many co-workers wondered if that was a picture of my grandfather.

  • avatar

    LOL, Maximumm Bob indeed. I used to do the J-test in my 77 Pinto when I wanted to change direction in a hurry on a 2 lane road. Yes, possibly someone was chasing me. It never flipped once.

  • avatar

    That’s not your grandfather???
    That definitely IS a fun way to start the week.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      The views I express may or may not match the views of anyone within my organization… But I might sometimes sound as if I am the second coming of Lutz.

  • avatar

    On about attention to detail (or lack thereof)
    I have seen this pic many times on the web but this is the first time I noticed the car is upside down.  Doh!

  • avatar

    Bob lights a cigar to celebrate Kadett’s passing his infamous roof pillar stress test with flying colors.

  • avatar

    the picture captures that essential “Bob Lutz basking in his own awesomeness”
    very few people in the ‘industry’ (as it were) are so convinced they are legends while they are still alive

  • avatar

    you can have thin pillars and a vehicle not be crushed under its own weight.

  • avatar

    Jim Rockford used to do the J-turn with his Firebird Sprint every Friday night:

      (God, as a boy, I loved that show.)  BTW, I once saw a video of guys doing this in a 2nd gen Smart ForTwo, an d due to its rear/mid engine layout, and high center of gravity, the car rolled over in reverse… can’t find the vid on YT anymore.)  But I did find a pic of a non-rollable version owned by the “Ypsilon Tours Co. AG.”

    Some criminals come by J-turns naturally:

    Wiki gives a nice definition:

    BRW, I recall a colleague from college who completed the GM trst driver’s course out at Milford PG, and he was super proud to tell me that there was no way, then in 1990, to roll any GM vehicle, without “tripping” it on something like a curb.  Maybe Max Bob’s little demo helped to improve the breed…

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think what Jim Rockford used can be classified as a pure ‘J-test’ (or handbrake turn). Rockford’s speedy turn was done moving in reverse, not forward.

      He’d back up fast, then slam on the regular brakes while cranking the wheel. Once pointed in the right direction, he’d floor it and take off.

      Regardless, it’s unlikely Lutz’ Opel would have survived a Rockford turn any better than the one that Lutz attempted.

  • avatar

    Yeah, talk as much crap about Bob Lutz as you want, but he was the guy at Chrysler who approved production of the Dodge Viper. And for that we are all grateful.
    Here’s hoping the Chevy Volt doesn’t suck, I’m keeping an eye on to see what the early adopters think.

    • 0 avatar

      Lutz is very good at things like the Viper.  At GM, he would have been a good choice to run Cadillac.
      He is not such a good guy when it comes to unexciting, bread-and-butter product and it showed.  The further down the “Sexiness ” quotient went, the less of Lutz’ glamour rubbed off.

    • 0 avatar

      psar, you forget about Bobbo’s greatest contribution to Gov’t Motors styling: side window mouldings… in glorious CHROME!
      Don’t tell ME Lutz didn’t have his pulse on what buyers really wanted!

  • avatar

    In the picture, at least one of them had a happy ending.

  • avatar

    Gotta admit it, the man has a certain sense of style.

  • avatar

    We always called those J turns “bootleg turns”  as they were supposed to have been used by bootleggers during police pursuits.  Of course a car loaded with moonshine is going to be very heavy and have a low center of gravity.

  • avatar

    I used to do these on gravel roads in my VW beetle. As long as the road was as wide as the wheelbase of the car, it was easy. One important detail is to start the car off in the opposite direction to the way you want to spin. If you forget this, you will finish facing the other way but in the ditch instead of on the road.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    I do these in my Town Car about five times a week… no faster than about 40-45mph tho.

  • avatar

    I could be wrong but I think it was Paddy Hopkirk who discovered the joys of doing a handbrake turn in a front wheel drive car when he rally raced Mini Coopers in the early 60s. A FWD car really pivots when you stop the back wheels and crank the steering wheel. I think eventually they rigged up a differential handbrake control (or maybe it worked hydraulically) that could brake just one back wheel for even quicker turns.

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