Archive for February, 2008

An Interview with Sean

Monday, February 18th, 2008

This interview was posted on the Performance Years website sometime in 2006, I think. It was forwarded to me by a friend.

AN INTERVIEW WITH ULTIMATEGTO.COM’S SEAN MATTINGLY
by Keith MacDonald

If you own a GTO, or any other Pontiac for that matter, you have probably
spent a little time at Sean Mattingly’s UltimateGTO.com website. It
currently boasts the world’s largest photo collection of A-body Pontiacs in
the world. If you’ve ever wondered how Sean does what he does and still has
time to make a living, read on.

A.) Sean, everyone on the planet knows you’re the consummate GTO freak, but
tell me about the “Behind the Scenes Sean”? Where do you work?

I am a part-time DJ on a classic rock radio station. However, my main job is
being the sole electronics tech for a group of seven radio stations. It’s
just me, totally responsible for the upkeep on 10 transmitters, 70
computers, 11 studios and several buildings. They call me the “Director Of
Technical Operations”. I think we’ve got about 1,500 gadgets plugged in the
wall. Everything has to keep working 24 hours a day or I get paged
mercilessly!

B.) I’ve heard you have to be there very early in the morning.

Naw, who wants to get up early? I figured out how to make the audio
automation computer playback my morning show. So I get to record my Sunday
morning show in the evening if I want to. With “voice tracking”, I can do a
3-hour show in about 40 minutes.

C.) Do you have kids?

My wife and I decided on having show dogs and show cars instead. She travels
all over the midwest, showing Miniature Pinschers and Whippets.

D.) The Ultimate GTO website must require a huge commitment. Do you have
time for other hobbies? Interests? Sports? NASCAR?

I collect old Burger Chef memorabilia from the 1960′s. So I guess you could
say that my hobby is buying crap I don’t need on ebay. This summer I got the
idea to visit all 22 operating drive-in movie theaters in Indiana. Every
week I visit a different one and take photos for UltimateGTO.com. I’ve
gotten to see some other interesting GTOs on my tour, and hang out with some
good car people under the stars.

E.) Can you give us a little history of your site? When did you start it?

UltimateGTO.com started in 1996 as a hobby. I was looking for a GTO to
replace one that a drunk driver crashed into. The first three years I was
mostly collecting and posting GTO photos and info as I shopped for a ’68 GTO
on the internet. Then I found a nice ’68 GTO from a nice lady in Alabama. I
still have that car.

F.) How many website visits do you get now?

Today the website is the largest and most-visited GTO site with over 12
million hits each month. It also hosts a GTO Email List as a service to 350
subscribed members who get daily GTO tech messages in their inboxes.

G.) But how did you conceive the idea? And the ‘Ultimate GTO’ name?

I originally just wanted to make a photo gallery. But it got much bigger
than that with tech articles and car owner’s stories. Early on, I made a
multi-page written plan to grow the website to gigantic proportions. So far
it’s working. People say that the “Ultimate” name fits the website, I agree.

H.) What do you see as your site’s specialty, the owner photos, the info, or
the discussions?

My site has all that. The owner photos are most overwhelming with
about 13,000 photos of all years of GTOs from 1964 to 2006 and some concept
cars. Each photo is indexed in a searchable database called the “Advanced
Picture Searcher”. If someone wants to see a photo of just an engine, say
1969 engines only, there are 212 photos of just that. Or if they want to
search out all the convertible photos, there are 2,507 of those that can be
called up – instantly sorted into 126 thumbnailed pages for easy viewing. Or
if someone wants to see just 2004, 2005 and 2006 GTOs they’d find 1,331
photos complete with stories from their proud owners. One guy with a 2005
GTO sent in 8 photos of his Midnight Blue car in Ohio. He had installed a
trailer hitch on it. It pulls a tiny two-person trailer.

I.) I noticed you have ‘Live Chat’ right at the website. Any action there?
Or is it mostly random visitors?

It is a random selection of people discussing the newer GTOs. I made a
little place for people to chat without having to hassle with registrations
or creating accounts. It’s not as structured as a typical message board.
There are some interesting Australians that hang out on there, telling
people about their experiences with Monaros and living “down under”.

J.) What is it about GTO owners that make them want to form a community and
connect with each other?

Mostly it’s people looking for restoration/performance information or parts.
Then there are guys that have just pushed the kids off to college and
they’re shopping for a car like the one they’ve always wanted. I’m seeing
more and more emails from people wanting to know what the next generation of
GTOs might look like. I show them this knockout concept drawing from
independent designer Larry Williams…
http://ultimategto.com/pow/pow0450.jpg That’s what I’m hoping the GM design
studio does for GTO fans. We can only hope!

K.) Do you feel a sense of competition with other GTO enthusiast sites, or
is there more of a cooperative atmosphere?

Are there other GTO websites out there? Ha ha. I do know that my website has
a loyal following of people who check it every single day for new photos.
They are rewarded with about 160 new photos each month. Viewers can leave
comments on photos and vote on their favorites so that keeps the audience
coming back to see the rankings. The emphasis of my main page is on “What’s
New” so you don’t have to dig around to find new content.

L.) I’ve seen your white ’68 GTO at the ’04 and ’06 GTOAA Nats. Tell us
about it?

I have a white ’68 GTO hardtop with Cragar wheels and a hood tach. At the
’06 GTOAA Nationals in Louisville, I got to meet a bunch of website visitors
face-to-face. They appreciate the website a lot. Since my photo appears on
the main page of UltimateGTO.com – people I don’t know will greet me by
name. That’s hard to get used to, but fun! This year the GTOAA Nats had a
large number of 2004 – 2006 GTO owners in attendance. We’ll be seeing more
of them in the years to come because the classic GTO fans are wisely opening
up their shows to the newer cars.

M.) What other GTO sites do you frequent?

I really like the “Performance Years” message forums. The PY Forums cover a
lot of ground in the Pontiac world.

N.) Any others?

I like to browse the “GTO” and drifting videos on Youtube.com

O.) Have you ever had any weirdos? You know, people who were haunting the
website? Or maybe some ‘get a lifer’ who kept emailing you angry letters
about technical mistakes on the site?

I get the occasional weirdo (you Keith) who wants everyone to paint his or
her car Sundance Orange. Other than that, people will leave a positive
comment about individual GTO photos they like. Man, you ought to see the
“unsuitable” comments! These are from haters and psychos and people who
can’t even spell the word Pontiac. While deleting their evil ramblings, I
find them entertaining as hell. A couple years ago, I started posting those
“unsuitable” comments too (minus the photos they reference) in the
“unsuitable” comments area. It’s all good. No other website is doing that.

P.) When Sean Mattingly turns 85 and needs a visiting day nurse, who takes
over at UltimateGTO? Have you ever thought about selling the website?

All I can say is that a major automotive company has offered seven figures
for it. I have NO interest in selling it though. If I did, I’d regret it -
like the guys that sell their cars and then spend the rest of their lives
searching the country to get it back. It’s my biggest hobby. I can’t sell it
off.

Q.) Have you ever thought about quitting the day job and utilizing the
benefits of the heavy Web traffic?

What? …and lose all the perks of being a DJ? Free concert tickets! Free
food, free t-shirts, driving a radio logo van with 3-foot tall speakers, the
horny groupies! Just kidding, I should be selling obnoxious flashing banner
ads all over the UltimateGTO.com website like some other sites? My
advertising rates are right here. http://ultimategto.com/bannerad.htm

R.) OK… You have a ton of ’72 convertibles on the website, but where is
the true singly-produced ’72 GTO convertible located?

Keep looking. As of today, I have 149 pictures of 1972 convertibles. Not one
of those is a true GTO convertible.

S.) What GTO photo on your website makes you cry? IOW, is there a GTO that
someone hacked so badly that you are still in shock over it?What’s the link
for that photo?

There is this super nice ’69 Liberty Blue Judge in my “Frame-Off Restoration
Gallery” section. After Sal Mola got his car done (53 restoration photos
with captions), some old lady pulled out in front of it and it got totaled.
Here is one gory aftermath photo: http://ultimategto.com/pow/pow0001a.jpg

T.) The GTO photos with women, or “GTO Girls” seem to be the most popular
photos. Would you ever market “PG-rated” GTO Girl photos to help support the
site?

Hmmm. Very interesting idea. Maybe I should start getting model release
forms for that. People often send me pics of their hot girlfriends with
their cars. So far, I’ve got 120 pics of girls with cars. Find them with my
“Advanced Picture Searcher” on the main menu.

U.) Any plans to expand to F-bodys or the larger Ponchos?

Hold that until I get a photo of every single GTO ever produced.

V.) Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions for the PY guys.
While you have their attention, is there anything you’d like to tell them?

If you’re shopping for GTO parts on eBay, you’re missing out on some items,
and wasting your time sorting through others. Try my GTO Parts Quick-Links
page. It is organized by year and parts names particular to the GTO, not
Ferrari GTOs or “GTO” garage door openers. Keith pointed out that some
people can’t spell “Pontiac” in their eBay listings. So I added a link there
to 67 misspellings of “Pontiac” so you can nab some GTO parts you’d
otherwise miss! Try this: http://ultimategto.com/gtomerchlist.htm