My brother bought his first car, a 1972 LeMans Sport, when I was 13. As it was considerably different than the Chevelles, Mustangs and Camaros that were everywhere, I really liked it. When I was ready to buy my first car, he found me a 72 Luxury LeMans, and I was hooked. Since then, I have owned about a dozen Pontiac A-bodies, ranging from 69 thru 72.
I purchased the 70 GTO in the summer of 86 from a friend. After about a year of driving and wrenching on the car (80% wrenching), I decided to sell it to pursue a different style of car in an 81 Grand Prix. I sold the car to a friend of mine on a Friday. I realized by Sunday that I had made a mistake. The next 7 years left a serious void in my Pontiac heart. Fortunately, a chance encounter with the GTO owner at a parts store, gave me a chance to repurchase the car. I had recently finished a 71 LeMans Sport (nicest car I had ever owned), and offered to sell it to my brother-in-law (at an insanely reduced rate), so I could afford the GTO.
When I got the car back, it had been stripped of the motor and trans, the front suspension was destroyed and the body had deteriorated to almost unsalvageable condition. Didn’t matter; I had to have it back. I dropped a rebuilt 455 and TH 400 into the once-proud shell and re-filled the hole that had been burning in my heart. Can’t lie – it felt like home.
I drove the car for the next 5 years, doing very little to it mechanically or cosmetically. In the spring of 1999, while showing off for a friend, I over-revved the 455 (8,200 rpm) just to show him that it would do it. Seconds later, the oil pressure was gone and the water temp was sky-rocketing. That was when I decided to tear the entire car apart and make it proud, once again.
In 2000, I began the total disassembly of the GTO. Having 2 small children at the time, made it difficult to spend a lot of time on the car. My parents let me keep the car in their pole barn for the majority of the next 10 years. I brought the car home for a couple of years, thinking that would make things easier. Lacking enough space, proper tools and the companionship of my dad, I moved the project back to my parents in 2010. Over the next 2 years, the car received a lot of attention from me (thank you to a very understanding wife), my dad, mom, son (also a Pontiac owner – 1979 Trans Am) and Mark, a great friend. Every nut, bolt and washer were removed, replaced or refinished, along with every inch of the body and interior. My father-in-law got me started with bodywork on previous projects. Time to hone the skills.
The factory seats were replaced with the front and rear seats from a 2006 GTO. The console was formed using a 2000 GP model and the lower portions of the GP door panels. I removed the package tray from a 1999 GP and grafted it into the GTO, thus making it possible to transfer the speakers from the 8-speaker Bose system and the use of rear shoulder seat belts. I also welded in the supports to add late model shoulder seat belts to the front. The entire dash face is hand-fabbed aluminum with Autometer gauges. I used the factory heater/AC controls, light switch and wiper switch. The steering wheel is the factory sport model from my 71 LeMans. The seats are 8-way power leather. The rest of the interior is stock.
The 455 is on it’s 2nd revision, at .060 over, hydraulic roller cam, roller lifters, roller rockers, lightened crank, rods and pistons. Everything has been balanced. The 6X heads have been massaged heavily to breathe easier. The Cliff-assisted Q-jet carb flows thru a ported Performer RPM intake and spent gases exit thru 1969 RA III factory manifolds (ported and flowed) and out thru the 2.5” stainless Pypes X-pipe exhaust system, with 18” Race Pro mufflers and tailpipes. Moving through the gears is done with a Shiftworks adapted Trans Am factory ratchet shifter, converted for use with the 1986 200 4r overdrive transmission. This helps the 3.90 posi rear continue to perform great from light to light, while averaging 19+ mpg on the longer trips. Factory coil springs, gas shocks and rear air bags hold the body up, while hand made adjustable rear control arms, rear sway bar and 1 3/8’ front sway bar keep the car competitive thru the s-curves with most modern cars. Nitto 555 255 50R 17 tires roll on Year One 17 X 9 Rally II’s. New factory front disc brakes slow things down, for now, but large 4 wheel discs are in the future plans. EFI is another item on the wish list. All things in due time.
My kids are pretty much grown now, leaving me more time to finesse my passion. Although, they both feel like the GTO has been a member of the family, since it has been around for most of their memories. My wife and I have enjoyed many weekend cruises, as well as a few 500+ mile trips. I have driven to the last 2 Pontiac Nationals at Norwalk and will continue that pilgrimage as long as the fates allow. I would like to see 10,000 miles a year.
The sense of pride that the GTO provides, knowing that every aspect of the car, from the tires on the pavement to the clearcoat on the top, and from the angel eye headlights to the factory installed rear wing (I kept it when I sold the car), have been touched by myself, my dad, my son and my friends, is irreplaceable. Special thanks go to mom for keeping me alive while I spent countless hours in the barn with dad. Sometimes I forget to eat when I get on a roll.