Back in the day, Motown’s Van Seymour, a GM employee, was a “sleeper” driver of ROYAL PONTIAC’S LIGHTWEIGHT GTO.

Few people even knew that Pontiac built lightweight GTOs for racers across the country. It’s a missing link in Pontiac history. Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac was one of the brand’s “connected” dealers and sponsored under-the-radar “sleeper” drivers to promote the dealership and brand on the street and at drag strips. Van Seymour raced his GTO in B/Stock in 1965 and B/MP from 1967 through 1974 and was a NHRA record holder five times!

Royal Pontiac, in Royal Oak, MI, was a big-time national player in the upper ranks of B/Stock, B/Modified Production A/Stock and FX drag racing in the 1960s. Perhaps the best-known driver running a car for Royal was none other than Jim Wangers.

An ad executive promoting Pontiacs during the week, Jim raced Pontiacs from coast to coast on the weekends. Royal also sponsored other independent campaigners on the drag strips of the upper Midwest. One of those stealthy, but none-the-less, talented racers running below the radar was Van Seymour.

Van spent his entire working career in the employ of GM, first for Chevrolet Pressed Metal in Flint, MI, and later at the Pontiac Engineering facility in Pontiac, MI. for GM’s C-P-C Advanced Manufacturing group. However, Van did not drive his whole racing career for GM, as he began by racing Fords in the late-1950s. By 1960, Van was campaigning a Ford Galaxie convertible equipped with a four-barrel 360 horsepower 352 cubic inch big-block emboldened by a Paxton supercharger.

Van’s extraordinary mechanical aptitude soon enabled him to sort out problems with Ford’s new for 1961, 3×2 Holley induction system; problems that Ford’s own engineering experts couldn’t resolve. With a correctly running 3×2 setup installed on his Galaxie, Van was making a name for himself, both inside Ford engineering and on the local drag venues. As Van’s racing career progressed, he found himself on the “ignore” list at Ford, so he played his cards in a developing game at Royal Pontiac. Royal recognized his talents, both driving and mechanical, and signed him on as a “sleeper” driver.


Lead GTO photo courtesy of  Al Rogers, Freeze Frame Image LLC