Remembering Ron Panzer
by Chuck Cochren
I am dedicating my column for this issue to my best friend of 35 years, Ron Panzer. We visited each others homes many times and traveled the country together in search of great roller coasters, with stops at car museums and hobby shops.
When Jim and Dee Shaudek took the reigns of the Grand Prix Chapter, they recruited Ron. He started working on a plan to boost membership numbers and at one point got it to over 400 members,
Gail even jumped in and handled the membership program. Ron was responsible for me coming on board to help host the 2004 Freedom Cruise, driving from Pontiac, Illinois to Las Vegas. Ron knew that my favorite Pontiac is the Grand Prix, so it didn’t take much arm twisting.
Ron’s knowledge of and skills to fix cars was amazing and unsurpassed. Many times he told me that when he was at conventions and car shows, he got a lot of satisfaction from helping someone who was having a mechanical issue with their Pontiac. However, whenever I drove my ’77 Grand Prix (affectionately known as “Connie”) to his house, we would put it up on his hoist to change the oil and he would get frustrated when he looked at the bottom of her and would reply “Not fair…NO rust.
Ron wrote many articles for Smoke Signals and PrixViews concerning mechanical problems. He would write them with a keen sense of humor and in laymans terms so any do-it-yourselfer could work on their Pontiac.
Ron was a big supporter and lifetime member of the Pontiac Oakland Museum in Pontiac, Illinois. He contributed a good amount of Pontiac memorabilia from his vast collection. When Ron visited the museum, he would spend much of his time in the garage display area talking with visitors about engines, brakes and other mechanical components of the Pontiacs on display. He was in his “element” when talking Pontiac.
Talking Pontiac and fixing Pontiacs will certainly be a large portion of Ron Panzers legacy.
For me, I remember the time I drove Connie to his house and just before I got there, the right power door lock actuator stopped working. He said he had one in his parts bin and quickly installed it. It is still working today. I now feel like I have a small part of Ron with me whenever I take her out for a drive.
The photo was taken in 1979 at their home in Des Plaines, Illinois the morning we were headed to the POCI convention in Michigan. Photo shows Ron, Gail, Karen and Gary.