The latest red-letter date (no, not November 5, 1955) in the history of my garage has been reached, and I’m now the owner of a new Pontiac GTO. I touched on it briefly the other day after I got home from the big adventure, but such momentous occasions deserve a more in-depth account, and so here it is.
So it was Thursday the 12th that I received official word from the Pontiac dealer in Orlando, FL that the GTO I ordered in August had arrived. Not wanting to delay any longer than necessary, I decided to drive up the next day, check out the car and sign for it. So on Friday I got up early, put some materials together and went to get a haircut. Uh, no, the haircut had nothing to do with the GTO at all. I already had an appointment, and it was early enough that I could still make it, so I went. After that was done, I came back home and changed into my official apparel for the day: the red 6.0 Litre GTO polo shirt that Apple got me for Christmas. Now I was ready for this.
Right around this time I realized it was Friday the 13th, which provided the possibility of an interesting omen. I’m not the superstitious type, so I chalked it up to irony. As far as the thirteenth day of the month goes, however, I have had some pretty good ones. In fact, it was exactly eight years ago — January the 13th, 1998 — that my dad and I went to the Detroit auto show together and I got my first look at the black Trans Am WS6 that would, five months later, become my first V8 muscle car. So there’s at least one cool tie-in to this whole saga.
Before Apple and I headed out, I talked to the dealer some more re: financing. I had wanted to get a more firm idea of the APR they were going to be able to offer me, so I had them run a credit app over the phone. It only took them about twenty minutes to come back with some figures, but they seemed a little on the high side. Guess what happened was that they got me prequalified, but couldn’t nail down an interest rate until I actually committed to the car. Okay, well, I had done my own research, was aware of my credit rating, and knew what kind of payments I would accept and what kind I would not. So we decided to get in the car and head for Orlando, and let the rest iron itself out.
We got started around 1:00 in the afternoon. The drive to Orlando (via I-75 and then I-4) takes about three hours on a good day, and the trip was going just fine for most of the way. I even spotted a black ’05 GTO and a Brazen Orange ’06 on the way there. We got into metropolitan Orlando around 3:30, and suddenly there it was — traffic, at a complete standstill for miles on I-4. God, it was bad. I had heard of such traffic snarls during the time I’d lived up there, but had never been in one. I figured it was just rush hour getting a bit of an early start. You know, people leaving work early on Friday so they can get to the weekend faster. Whatever the reason, sitting in the gridlock wasn’t very exciting.
As we crept along, a handy little sign overhead indicated that traffic was snarled all the way up to where I-4 meets 436. Greeaaaat. It also estimated that the travel time from our current position to Colonial Drive (where the Pontiac dealer is located) would be twenty minutes. The distance was about four miles. Pretty astounding. Sure enough, those figures were pretty accurate. Finally, we jogged off the freeway, got onto Colonial and headed for the dealer. Along the way, Roger (my salesperson) called up a couple of times to see how we were doing, and to make sure we hadn’t gotten into an accident out there. He said he’d parked my GTO out in front for us and everything was ready to go. Real nice guy.
Finally we arrived. As I drove the Mazda6 around the side of the dealer toward the customer parking area, I saw the front end of a black GTO sticking out from between two cars up by the door. That had to be the one! As we climbed out of the car, we were immediately greeted by a salesman whose name I don’t recall. I mentioned I was there to see Roger. “Aw shucks, you must be here to pick up that little black goat,” says the guy. Yep, that’s right! I wonder if this guy knows about me because Roger’s been complaining about how much I’ve been calling him over the last two weeks, heh heh.
Roger shows up a second later and tosses me a set of keys. He says he’s backed my car in across two angle parking spaces to keep people from pulling up next to it, another nice gesture. We all climb into the car and I get the grand tour from Roger, everything from the secret storage drawer in the back of the center console (which I had no idea existed) to the location of every light bulb in the interior, and a full tour of the programmable Driver Information Center which is extremely cool and well laid-out. The odometer was reading only 8 miles — ah, the benefits of a factory order, fresh off the line! Also learned a bunch of other little cool things, like the fact that the rubber cupholder inserts are removable for easy cleaning, the power seats move 20% faster on the 2006s, and the ABS/EBD controller has been updated this model year. Roger himself owns a 2004 GTO and surfs the same message boards I do, so he’s well clued-in to all the inside knowledge, and as a result really knows how to sell the product. Not that I needed to be sold to. 😉
Then it was drive time. I was a bit nervous; after all, for all the bitching I do about Naples traffic, Orlando traffic is in a whole different league. Still, things didn’t seem too bad out on Colonial, so we took the GTO out on the same back-road route that Roger showed us when we stopped in for a visit during our Escape from Naples in October. This was only the second time I had driven a GTO equipped with the 6-speed manual. The first time, I had been shocked by how different the feel of the shifter was than my Trans Am’s, and wondered if I could get used to it. Fortunately, by mile three of Friday’s test drive, I felt I pretty much had it down pat. Although on two or three occasions during that short test drive, the damnable skip-shift “feature” kicked on, and I had to wonder whether the shifter was jerking me around or if the tranny was malfunctioning before I remembered it. It’d been disabled in my Trans Am so long, I forgot what it feels like. I gotta get another one of those CAGS eliminator pigtails ASAP, because I hate it.
I gotta tell ya, Roger and I are definitely on the same page. Before the drive, he advised me to turn the exterior lamp switch one stop to the right and then pull it towards me. I grinned to myself because I knew, even before he explained himself, that this would activate the parking lamps + fog lamps combo that I love the look of so much. Seems it’s not just me! (Apparently this was wildly popular in the ’60s, so I guess maybe I missed my calling.) All during the drive, Roger was also telling me stories of other test drives he’s been on, and how he always follows the same route to avoid the traffic and allow the customer to get the car up to some speed.
“I had this one lady get the car up to about 100 MPH on this street,” says Roger, indicating the sleepy residental road I’m now driving about 35 miles an hour down. “The dealership started getting calls from these people asking if we could PLEASE not use their street as a fricking RACE TRACK!” He appreciated my not driving the car like a jackanape. “I’ve actually had to pull the keys out on a few test drives,” Roger admitted. “One guy just wanted a test drive so he could beat on it, and by the time we got to Orange Blossom he was driving so crazily I shut the car off and told him to walk back because he was just being an asshole.” Ha! I love this guy.
The test drive was altogether too short, but it was great. The car is indeed very quiet (to a fault, really, but the SAP mufflers will solve that), the shifter was easy to get used to and the overall comfort level is incredible. The red leather interior is incredibly rich and svelte, the seats are the best I’ve ever been in (requiring almost no adjustment at all for you to feel right at home), and there’s a lot more room in the backseat than there ever was in any F-body. The design of the GTO truly is a thing of beauty.
We got back to the dealer, and I decided to take a few pictures before going in to talk financing. Actually, Apple helped me out by taking a few photos while Roger showed me what was what under the car’s hood. I didn’t get as many photos as I might have liked, but it really doesn’t matter too much. The real photo festivities will come later, when the Sport Appearance Package is installed and I officially take the car home! But in the meantime, I’ve posted a selection of the best photos from Friday’s adventure to the newly-opened Oddball Photo Gallery, so check ’em out.
Now it was time to get down to business, so we went into the showroom. Roger had cleared off a table near the front glass windows where we started getting the paperwork done. He gave me the extra set of keys, owner’s manual, a 2006 GTO sales catalog, and all sorts of other goodies, including all of the original dealer paperwork on the car just for posterity. The window sticker and all other such materials had been removed cleanly and in one piece and placed in the backseat of the car for me to keep. Roger also reiterated that while the dealer’s policy is to place one of those dealer advertising stickers on the back of every car they sell, it was also their policy not to do it to GTOs, because the enthusiasts don’t appreciate it. Oh yeah, they know how to sell these cars.
I handed Roger my GM in the Driveway authorization number, as well as proof that I could use my GM card earnings in combination with it, then we sat back to wait for the finance office to get everything ready for us. During the interim, a thunderstorm came up out of nowhere, drenching everything — barf. I was glad I’d gotten my drive in beforehand, otherwise the freshly slicked roads would have really made me nervous.
It seems that at first, the GM card people did not think I was allowed to use my $1,000 in earnings in combination with my GMID number. Thank God I printed out the page from GM’s own website that states otherwise! Using that as proof, Roger went to bat for us and got us the discount. Awesome. After that was greenlighted, we headed down to the finance office (which was cold as a freezer) to do the final paperwork signing.
Other than the frigid temperature of the office, I was really pleased with how the financing department handled everything. The guy we worked with was really nice and not at all creepy or slimy in that way so many dealer finance managers are. After all applicable discounts and a check of my credit, the payments offered to us were right in line with what I had calculated, and there were no surprises to be found. Just days earlier, GMAC had introduced a incentivized interest rate of 5.9% on 48-month loans, but you had to choose between that rate or $500 cash back. We ran some numbers and found that a 6.5% loan through Bank of America, combined with the cash back from GMAC, would yield a greater net savings, so that’s what we did. So now we have two car loans through Bank of America — they must love us!
The payments wound up being affordable enough for me to roll in a 5-year, 50,000 mile extended GM Major Guard warranty with no deductible for a few bucks more each month. This was something I was going to buy anyway — the original plan was to wait ’till the last couple months of the factory 3/36 and then buy it directly from GM, like I did for the WS6. However, when I heard the price quote on what that would cost me, I thought otherwise. The GMPP Major Guard prices on the GTOs are sky-high due to the parts having to come from Australia and what not, and the same extended warranty purchased when the car is new is almost $1300 cheaper than buying it at used car rates three years down the road. After all the money the T/A’s extended warranty saved me, already having this extra peace of mind on the GTO is quite comforting indeed. Plus, I can still further upgrade the length of the term anytime before it expires.
It was about 6:20 when we got everything wrapped up, shook hands with everybody and headed on our way. Roger even parked my GTO safely inside the body shop until the SAP kit gets installed next week. And so was concluded probably the nicest car buying experience I’ve had in eight years. And I’m not just saying that because the car I bought is really cool. This dealer is truly great, and I’m really glad I was recommended Roger in particular by someone on the LS1GTO board. The whole process made the trip worthwhile, and reminded me yet again how much worse things could have been if I’d been doing all this with one of the cold, clueless local dealers here in town. When you buy a car that means as much to you as mine do to me, you want to be treated with class and respect throughout the process, and that’s exactly what I got. I’m totally happy.
Our adventure didn’t quite end there. As a reward for coming along with me during this long day, I had promised Apple that we’d have dinner at her favorite Thai restaurant on I-Drive. We jumped onto I-4 westbound — and found it gridlocked. WTF!? When we were stuck in a jam eastbound, we saw the westbound side was moving free and clear. Now it was the opposite! What a sick joke. We crept all the way back to I-Drive, bumper to bumper all the way, passing at least one accident scene and witnessing loads of ambulances and cop cars flying past us. It was like the apocalypse out there. When we finally got to the Thai place, which couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 miles away from the dealer, an hour had passed. And then we got our next shock: the normally quiet and peaceful Thai restaurant was jam-packed full of people, with a 30 minute wait time for a table.
We still had to get home to Naples that night, as Apple had to go to work the next morning. It was starting to get pretty late, but we sure weren’t going anywhere what with all the traffic, plus there wasn’t anywhere else we wanted to eat. So we decided to wait. In the end it paid off; the meal was fantastic and the service excellent. In fact, it was our server who clued us in to exactly why Orlando was such a nightmare that day. Apparently it wasn’t just my imagination; this was a special occasion. Turns out that a prominent homebuilder’s convention was being held at the Orange County Convention Center — just a few blocks away on International Drive. Over 100,000 people had been drawn to this huge event, which, if you turn on CNN Headline News or HGTV this weekend, you will probably see mentioned. Wow, I picked a hell of a day for a goat delivery.
We got started on our journey back to Naples at around 9:00 that evening, and fortunately we had the XM radio along to help keep us awake. Traffic was great the entire way home, which was certainly a blessing after all we’d endured. Another benefit was the fact that my night vision is drastically improved by these new glasses I’ve got. Combining that with the GTO ignition key resting safely in my pocket, I wore a SEG all the way home.
Oh…that’s something of a tradition on the LS1GTO message board. Anyone who gets a GTO invariably experiences the SEG — or Shit-Eating Grin — that comes with it. They say it’s usually a permanent condition. And so far as I can tell, it is. 😀