This 2009 Pontiac G8 GT Used to Chase U-2 Spy Planes, and Now It Can Be Yours

Cars like this Pontiac were requisitioned by the U.S. government for many years to help land U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.

byKristin V. Shaw| PUBLISHED Apr 16, 2022 4:57 PM
This 2009 Pontiac G8 GT Used to Chase U-2 Spy Planes, and Now It Can Be Yours
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If you like your used cars with a side order of military intrigue, your ideal vehicle is for sale on a government surplus site right now. It’s a white 2009 Pontiac G8 GT that was made in Australia and imported to the U.S., then pressed into service by the Air Force as a chase car for U-2 aircraft.

This innocuous-looking sedan packs a punch, powered by a beefy 6.0L V8 producing 355 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 385 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Decked out with a two-tone red and black leather interior and a red dash gauge cluster, this G8 GT has been fitted with new tires, brakes, rotors, and a new GM transmission and has fewer than 40,000 miles on the clock. Surplus liquidity site GovDeals.com says it received the Pontiac from the federal government directly from the “Dragon Lady” high altitude aircraft program, which used a variety of cars to chase U-2 planes to help land them.

“Chasers are used for both landings and takeoffs," explained Ian D’Costa on the Tactical Air Network site. "The car, still driven by a U-2 pilot, is positioned near the runway the aircraft is about to alight on, engine revving, driver patiently waiting. When the U-2 passes the runway’s threshold, the driver accelerates, roaring in behind the aircraft now gliding over the asphalt. With one foot on the gas rocketing the mobile above 100 miles per hour (and up to 130-140 mph at times), one hand on the wheel and the other gripping a radio handset, the pilot in the mobile calls out the numbers and estimations the U-2’s pilot needs to know, as they both coordinate the landing. Not an easy feat for either.

"Behind both the U-2 and its mobile, a utility truck speeds up with a rack of outrigger wheels, called ‘pogos,’" D'Costa continued. "Crew jump out and run to the aircraft, now balancing like a bicycle and slowly leaning to one side. The wings are held steady, while the outrigger gear [is] clipped on, stabilizing the U-2, and the recovery is complete.”

Before the Pontiac G8 GT, the USAF and CIA reportedly used Ford station wagons, Chevrolet El Caminos, Ford Mustangs, and Chevrolet Camaros, all with V8s that could keep up with the U-2. I've never seen this in action, and I was astonished to watch the video below (this particular chase car is an Audi, not the Pontiac) and understand how close these vehicles drive to the massive aircraft as it touches down. My heart was pounding as though I were watching an action movie.

Four days are left in the auction and the bidding on this Pontiac G8 is approaching $18,000 at the moment. Go get yourself an unusual Pontiac and pretend you’re chasing your own spy plane.

Got a tip? Send me a message at kristin.shaw@thedrive.com.