Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: Bay Area, silicon valley, CA USA
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I've had my GTO for a long time - 48 years. This car is a 1965 Pontiac GTO first sold in Hayward Ca. to a dealership salesman who turned it in a couple of years later. My cousin bought it off a lot in Hayward specializing in 4 speeds and what became muscle cars, in 1968. He was in the Navy which allowed shipping the car with him to his station in Virginia in 1969. This GTO was loaded onto the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Enterprise to travel around the Pacific Ocean route to the east coast. Once in Virginia he spent a year there with the car and his new bride. Then they drove it cross country back to our grandmother’s house in Union City, CA. before his next overseas deployment. I saw the car stored there when it came back to California.
We discussed his GTO generally, but I never thought I’d actually buy this car because I was just finishing my junior year in High School and just obtained my driving license. I also wanted a Corvette. However my folks forbid me buying one. They felt I would go too fast and become hurt in an accident. And used Corvettes cost about $1500 dollars for a perfect ’65 -'67 which was more than I had saved. However a year later, in the summer after I graduated, my cousin’s correspondence mentioned needing to sell his GTO so I made him an offer of $500. A few months later he accepted, regretfully, explaining his wife could not drive a “stick” and he was not there to make any other deal, so he accepted mine. So I got lucky and his wife, I think, got a Datsun 4 door. My parents were relieved in their mistaken belief that my GTO; which didn't turn, stop, or handle anywhere near as good as a corvette was the safer choice. The funny part is I learned to drive floor 4 speeds the day I picked it up between leaving my grandmother’s driveway and crossing the Dumbarton Bridge 2 miles later.
At that time this GTO was in perfect condition, totally stock, and painted light blue. Nearly immediately I started to take it apart to modify it for “hot-rodding”. I took its engine apart to install some ’69 H.O. heads and an Isky camshaft I'd been running in a '62 Bonneville 2 dr coupe. Timing chain replacement was a bimonthly maintenance item until Cloyes started selling roller chains. I lowered the suspension for Auto Crossing in the SCCA “H” Production Modified class. I had little clue the car was entirely unsuited for that use and happily added headers, different tires, figured out a disc brake conversion and various shocks, sway bars, and so on for two years while I learned what worked and what didn’t. My friends had Corvettes, Boss 302 Mustangs, and Camaros which were far better cars for Auto X activity, but I just kept trying to make my Pontiac go as well around corners as they could. By 1973 I believe I placed 7th in the region with my GTO but by then I’d installed essentially an open NASCAR style exhaust system, a roll bar, thrown the back seat away, and was making my own rear control arms in an effort to control violent wheel hop on acceleration off corners. A friend and I de-chromed, then painted the car British Racing Green with silver hood and trunk stripes. The humor of copying little tiny British sport car paint jobs onto a huge Pontiac was totally accidental.
By then my mother was nearly in tears about what I’d done to a beautiful convertible.
After one night at Fremont Drag strip a single pass, messed up by smoking the tires hard off the line and missing my 2-3 shift convinced me this car is faster in a straight line than a Corvette, but it still doesn’t turn or stop like one. But never-the-less I drove it all over California finding parts and checking out places; to Nevada to see how fast it would go (unknown - when my speedo went around past parking brake light aerodynamic forces started tossing my car across all the lanes of the freeway outside of Battle Mountain, Utah so I lifted to gently slow down). Buddies and I went to Utah to date girls, Idaho and Wyoming exploring and buying fireworks, and Oregon seeing friends and having fun - Adventures while I waited out the draft -.
I remember there was a contest on AM radio back then to figure out what GTO stood for. I think the winners were “Gas, Tires, and Oil” and “Good Time Operator”. For me this car was all of that and more. So I've kept it thinking I’d get back to those things someday, after college, after working, and marriage, houses, and kids. But then elder care for both my folks and leukemia for mom and I kicked in to divert my attention for about 20 years more.
So this car has been essentially stored for “partial restoration” since early 1980’s when I retired it. It has been driven less than 200 miles in the last 30+ years. A little at a time I’ve put it back towards being “stock” while retaining aspects of my ‘70’s changes. I disassembled the car for its current Corvette Burgundy with gold stripe paint color then I reassembled it improving some craftsmanship issues left over from my college learning years. Some of the local car guys remember it and tease me now and then to start working on it again, so I've got it out for local shows a couple of times, but never started driving it more than past an entry gate from it's storage space.
I believe I can devote some time to my old GTO now. Future “restoration” issues are changing out the 4.11 gears and freshening the engine so it doesn’t need race gas. I need to put some mufflers on it and fix the chrome a bit. While it is too late to take mom for a ride - she passed from Alzheimer disease a few days ago not remembering anything of this story - I hope your reading it today brings back your GTO memories.
I'm looking for some cast iron HO EX manifolds and information about what it takes to get them in my chassis. I'd like to find an NOS timing chain cover too. If you have a moment and a lead for parts to share, please drop me a email. thanks, Ladd