In one ad in particular, you see the elegant dude who owns the car putting on driving gloves. Imagine—an American car that you could drive with such brio that you needed driving gloves!
Decades later when I was over in Italy visiting automakers, I borrowed an Alfa from Alfa and drove roads along the coast and found that, hey, even in an Alfa, the roads that follow the coast are so twisty (first or second gear only) that even with an Alfa made in Italy you couldn't go very fast. I thought of Van and Fitz and felt slightly betrayed, i.e.
"But what about the Pontiacs portrayed by Van and Fitz?" I wanted to ask. "How did they negotiate these roads?"
Well, I suspect they would have answered those questions with a smile and say, "My boy, those drawings were fantasies." Because you won't want to take a 3800 lb. Grand Prix to small Italian and French Riviera towns... trust me.
When Pontiac came out with the Trans-Am in '69 they already began transitioning to photography and while the first Trans Am ads for the '70 ½ model were absolutely stunning in their photography, magic was lost compared to the drawings by Van and Fitz. Oh, I found a 1971 Trans Am they had rendered but by that time the longer-lower-wider thing was over, and that Trans Am was done in an restrictive overly tight style that lacked what their early '60s illustrations had.
What was lost? The romance. By the time Pontiac went to photography only, an era was over.
Decades later when I met Fitz at AFAS preview parties at Pebble Beach (they have a nice art tent at the Pebble Beach concours), he would tell Brian Winer (a huge Fitz fan) and me about how McManus John & Adams Advertising paid for them to go to Europe and sketch backgrounds just for those ads, which I think was very enlightened of the agency. The drawings show their love of European ornateness and the terrain and all that transferred to the car.
I'm not saying Van and Fitz started automotive art in America, but for one brief shining period, say 1962-'70, they introduced Americans to the idea that art, not photographs, can convey something about the image of a car.
Hey, they sold me...
THE AUTHOR, Wallace Wyss, reports his next book will be the second edition of Porsche 356 Photo Album, from Enthusiast Books. Advance orders can be placed at 1.715.381.9755 He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org