Bob Lutz, or Maximum Bob to use his porn name, retired from GM last Friday. At 78 years old, some would say it’s about time. Those who know him however, would probably say why so soon? Over his career, which has spanned decades and has touched all the major American manufacturers as well as some notable foreign brands, Maximum Bob has been responsible for some of the most iconic and interesting vehicles of the latter part of the 20th century, and early 21st.
Dodge Viper, Plymouth Powler? Those are both his. The jelly beanic Ford Sierra, which begat the Merkur XR4Ti, gestated during his reign at Ford of Europe. And don’t get me started on the Aussie-derived Pontiac GTO, also a Bob Lutz original. So many great cars and achievements, but come the day when Bob really retires – to the great boardroom in the sky – which of them will best serve as his legacy?
Not only did Bob have massive influence over the cars we drive, but he also protected our nation (despite having been born in Switzerland) as a marine aviator. To this day one of his passions is the collecting of military aircraft in the way average men collect Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions.
His days at Ford ended after his push to bring European models into the U.S. under the Merkur brand died from a case of exchange rateus unfortunateus. That did allow him to follow his friend, and fellow cigar aficionado, Lee Iacocca to Chrysler, where he pushed the LH platform through development and queried what Lamborghini might be able to do in creating an aluminum version of Dodge’s new 8-litre V10.
Before that, and typical of a mid-level exec, he had a BMW. Unlike many other mid-level execs however, his Beemer was a company car. His time at the German car maker proved influential on the E30 3-series, and refined his tastes for a more continental flavor in the cars he championed.
That’s a long and illustrious career, and one that has not been without controversy. Many of the programs that Maximum Bob advocated turned out to be failures – Merkur, the GTO, etc – but just as many proved to be iconic and lived up to the vision he espoused. Additionally, Bob has been one of the most vocal deniers of global warming, calling it a “crock of shit,” which hasn’t endeared him to the potential advocates of his most recent endeavor, the Chevy Volt. But then, he has been pushing the Volt despite his personal opinion.
So which one of these achievements, either success or debacle, should be Lutz’s legacy? Should his tombstone be large enough to contain his entire, massive bio? Or is there one event that stands above the rest and may be held up as Maximum Bob’s crowning glory? If there is, what would that be?