William “Bill” Thaw Collins Jr. passed away on March 5th, 2023, at his home in Michigan at the age of 90. Among his many accomplishments, Collins was considered the “Father of the Pontiac GTO,” previously serving as a member of Pontiac’s advanced engineering group and playing an instrumental role in the creation of one of the most iconic muscle cars of all time.
According to an obituary published by the Traverse City Record Eagle, Collins was born on April 3rd, 1932 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Collins studied engineering at Lehigh University, graduating in 1955. After school, Collins served in the U.S. Army as an engineer, testing advanced landing craft at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. After the Army, Bill was hired by GM and worked at Pontiac.
As the story goes, Collins originated the concept of the Pontiac GTO in the early ‘60s during a meeting with Pontiac chief engineer John DeLorean. During the meeting, Collins said that the same V8 that powered the full-size Pontiac Grand Prix coupe would fit in the engine bay of the Pontiac Tempest, eventually leading to the development of the iconic Pontiac GTO. The meeting was reenacted in the documentary film “Framing John DeLorean”, released in 2019.
In 1974, DeLorean asked Collins to leave GM to lead development of the new Delorean DMC, the same vehicle featured in the “Back to the Future” franchise. Collins would later resign from DMC in 1979 to start his own motorhome company, developing a 21-foot vehicle that could fit in a standard garage, powered by a BMW engine. Collins built a prototype motorhome in his garage, launching Vixen Motor Company in 1981. A total of 587 units of Collins’ Vixen 21 motorhomes were produced.
In 1999, Collins retired to Northport, Michigan with his wife, Nina. The couple moved into a log house which Collins had designed and partially built.
Collins is survived by his wife Nina, his son William, and his two daughters, Christine and Jennifer.