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Gönül, Erdoğan

Gönül, Erdoğan (b. 1933 – d. July 15, 2003, Istanbul), senior executive, businessman and collector who served the Koç Group for many years. He was one of the founding partners of Koç Holding and a member of the board of directors. He was married to Sevgi Gönül, middle daughter of Vehbi Koç and Sadberk Koç.
He completed his secondary education at the English High School in Istanbul in 1952 and began working at Otosan, Turkey’s first automobile factory, in 1959. He quickly proved his worth and became director of production control. He was appointed deputy general manager of Otosan in 1963 and general manager in 1974, becoming vice president and then president of the Otosan Group in 1986 and 1992 respectively. He was part of a team breaking new ground in the Turkish automotive sector, including Otosan’s production of Turkey’s first assembly-line truck in 1960 and the first domestic passenger vehicle, the Anadol, which went into mass production in 1966. During his time with the company, 62,923 sedan and 49,964 pick-up Anadols were manufactured up until 1984. In 1977, while Erdoğan Gönül was general manager of Otosan, the first licensing agreement was signed with the Ford Motor Company, approving the right to produce and sell the Otosan D1210 Ford truck and Transit series in Turkey and permitting the engines to be manufactured domestically. Otosan’s İnönü Engine Factory in Eskişehir also went into mass production in 1982 during his time as vice president of the Otosan Group, becoming the first establishment to produce diesel engines in Turkey. Gönül was a member of the Koç Holding Board of Directors from 1992 until his death in 2003.

Gönül, who married Sevgi Koç on January 4, 1962, had a great passion for classic cars. His favorite hobby was revamping classic cars he had bought, using parts imported from abroad. He donated his classic car collection to the Istanbul Rahmi M. Koç Museum for exhibition. Comprising almost twenty of Gönül’s classic automobiles, the collection is exhibited in the museum’s largest and most popular gallery, the Erdoğan Gönül Gallery, where it is separated into two halves: pre-1950 and post-1950.

Erdoğan Gönül’s passion for cars and the story of the Buick on show at the Istanbul Rahmi M. Koç Museum

The 1933 Buick was bought by my father as a present when my mother became pregnant with me in 1933. Only 152 of these were manufactured worldwide. Only three are thought to still be in existence. When war broke out in 1938, the government banned the use of private cars. My father put the car up on blocks in the garage at the back of our apartment building. If I remember correctly, in 1945 my father was in the bathroom, listening to the radio while shaving. The presenter announced that the government would once again allow people to use private cars. So my father said, “Come on, son, let’s get the car going”. Just 11 years old, I went down to the garage with my father. He put the battery in its place underneath the front seat and connected it up. He tried the ignition and the car started on the first go. The exhaust fumes and smoke entered my lungs and body, and that’s how my addiction began... Due to my experience at Otosan, I was made president of the Otosan Group and member of the board of directors of Koç Holding. But as someone who had become accustomed to spending every hour of the past 25 years occupied with plans, production and machine tools, I felt a little like a fish out of water after my appointment at Koç Holding. There’s a big difference between being a senior manager and being on the front line. I’m a little nostalgic for my Otosan days. My passion now had another general manager, but this made me nostalgic for the smell of exhaust fumes, the scent of the cars and the glue. At which point, I turned to classic cars for entertainment. If I had continued in my roles at Otosan, I would never have considered such a hobby.

Within a month of our starting to use the Buick again, my father had ordered a 46 Ford Model. When the 46 Ford arrived, my father sold the Buick to the owner of a farm in the area now called Ayazağa. The farm owner cut the car in half and turned it into a pick-up. He used it for many years to transport his goods. I say many years because I came across him using it in this way on the road 3-5 times over the years. But I didn’t feel the slightest hint of nostalgia. Because the latest models were now in my life: the 46, 47 and 48. Although I was young, my father allowed me to drive. Later on, about seven years ago, my nephew brought me a photograph. In the photo, my mother and father were sitting in the car together. That really reignited my feelings of nostalgia. After about 4-5 years of research, I found the car in Canada. I called the owner and said that I would like to buy the car. At first, the owner didn't want to sell it. Later, I sent him the photo. A while afterwards, I received a phone call from Canada. The owner told me, “You’ve got a right to this car. I’ll sell it to you”.
“Kendi gitti, ‘Gönül’ü otomobilde kaldı” (He left, but his heart stayed in automobiles), Hürriyet, July 17, 2003

The floor exhibiting the Orientalist Painting Collection at the Pera Museum, which opened in 2005, was renamed the Sevgi-Erdoğan Gönül Gallery in memory of the couple, who died after one another in close succession in 2003. The TEGV education park, established in Şanlıurfa using the fund created by the Vehbi Koç Foundation from Sevgi Gönül’s will, was renamed the Sevgi-Erdoğan Gönül Education Park in 2011.

Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.