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E. M. Estes has been Pontiac general manager and a GM vice president since 1961.

      Hiring, retiring, and promoting, the two men built around themselves the most aggressive young team of engineers they could find. Estes, who was only 40 at the time, bought, borrowed, and stole some of the best engineering brains in Detroit. They were all young men restless with ideas.
      One of these young engineers to join Pontiac that fall of 1956 was John DeLorean, an engineering genius at both Chrysler and Packard. He came in as director of advanced engineering. Today, at 39, he's the division's chief engineer.
      Young men like Estes and DeLorean would soon change the Pontiac image. They were going to build a youthful, powerful car. Estes, the man who was going to engineer Pontiac into a position of leadership, was well trained for his task. He started his automotive career by attaching a one-lung engine to a coaster wagon as a kid in Constantine, Michigan, where he grew up. "There was no machine shop in the Constantine High School," says Estes now. "But I took all the math and physics I could get."
      An aptitude test fingered him for civil engineering. Not one to dispute the findings of a test, he visited the campus of Michigan State with the idea of going to school there. But in the summer of 1934, while waiting to enroll, he noticed a brief news item in the local newspaper about the opportunities afforded students at the General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan.
      "I didn't know anyone at General Motors, but I decided to take a chance," Estes recalls. There was an opening, and he started his career with GM. In GMI's work-study program, a job was arranged for him at the school making guide pins for sand-casting molds producing Chevrolet parts. At the end of his first semester, he stood second in his class and was picked to work at GM Research Laboratories, then located in the rear of the GM Building in Detroit. He soon learned first-hand the long-hour, hard-work routine of the late Charles F. Kettering.
      Kettering, better known as Boss Ket, was an engineer-inventor with hundreds of automotive inventions to his credit, among them the electric self-starter. Estes worked first on a diesel engine injector, and then, along with Boss Ket, on a two-cycle radial aircraft engine that the famed inventor was trying to adapt to automobiles.
      "Ket would come in sometimes late at night, grab a screwdriver out of your hand, and fiddle with the engine until we had to do our work all over again," Estes says. "Once he stalled his car in the busy downtown Detroit traffic, then called me and said, 'Pete, I'll give you five minutes to come down and get this pile of junk off the street'." His memories of Boss Ket are still vivid, as everyone's are who knew the grand old man. Estes likes to tell of Kettering's fondness for eating in "greasy spoons" on trips. "Often he'd turn to me and say, 'Pete, I don't have any money on me. You pay the check'."
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February, 1965

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