By Thomas A. DeMauro
Photography: Thomas A. DeMauro
Photography: Thomas A. DeMauro
You could surmise that 2004 was a banner year for both the GTO and the GTOAA. To have the 40th Anniversary of the GTO coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the GTO Association of America and to have a new GTO thrown into the mix would probably make for one hell of an event. And so it did.
What better place to throw the anniversary party than Pontiac, Michigan, the birthplace of the GTO and just an Arnie Beswick signature burnout's distance from famed Woodward Avenue. It would seem that the planets certainly aligned in the GTO's favor in 2004 thanks to the diligent efforts of the Woodward GTO Tigers chapter of the GTOAA. Club president Rick Beecherl, Vice President Dick Winkles, and Convention Chairman Ken Stahovec, with the aid of many club members, managed to host the largest GTOAA gathering ever, at the Marriott Hotel on Centerpoint Parkway in Pontiac, Michigan. By the time the numbers were tallied, 556 people registered, 332 show cars participated, and approximately 37 vendors sold their wares. Of the registrants, 98 were non-GTOAA members, as this was the first time non-members were allowed to participate. By the end of the event, 27 of them joined the GTOAA. How many spectators were there? Who knows? There were tons, including workers and contractors from the GM plant next door who came over to ogle the classic GTOs.
Not only were there more show cars than ever before, but there were enough activities to keep the entire family entertained.
Like many of the events in 2004, dodging raindrops became a sport unto itself. Showers arrived at some point on most days of the meet, sending participants scrambling to get their Goats undercover or get those convertible tops up in a hurry. In between, however, there were mild temperatures and even some sun.
Wednesday, July 14 began with the traditional, early arrivals, registration, and multiple meetings. Displays were set-up and vendors pitched their tents. This year's swap meet would turn out to be a veritable cornucopia of Pontiac riches to warm the hearts and lighten the wallets of many parts-hungry showgoers desiring to complete a project.
Thursday was a highlight for anyone who likes to drive a late-model Pontiac fast. Yes, Pontiac-GMC pulled out the stops and offered the Pontiac Performance Test Drive at the Pontiac Silverdome. Showgoers could try their hand on the road course or acceleration course in the latest offerings from Pontiac, including, of course, the GTO. Bondurant instructors were on-hand to offer thrill rides and driving tips to hardcore participants. And there was even a drifting demonstration.
If squealing tires at the Silverdome wasn't your thing, than how about a choice of three seminars? Jim Mattison discussed the state of the hobby, Jim Wangers went over the GTO's history, and Dennis Kirban and Pete Serio provided insight into the Hurst story. Or you could go gamble at the Greek Town Casino.
Friday was characterized by the GTO historic cruise, available mall shopping, swap meet scrounging, and lots of meetings, but the big event of the day was the Performance Years and Bob Sellars Pontiac-sponsored birthday party that featured a BBQ, live music, great conversation, and valve cover races. Both companies have been regular sponsors of the host club's GTO Classic Weekend over the years.
Saturday was all about Concours judging, where numerous teams of six judges rolled an eyeball over each GTO to determine whether they made the grade of Gold, Silver, or Bronze. This is not a job to envy. It's hard physical and mental work for long hours, and these guys are volunteers, so they deserve a lot of credit. Those less interested in watching the judges toil could check out the display cars, walk the swap meet, take a trip to Frankenmuth, cruise Woodard, or check out the seminars offered by Joseph Stahovec (MPC and the GTO Models) or Milt Schornack (The Royal Pontiac Story).
For lead-foots, the Royal Pontiac Club of America ran the Jim Wangers Invitational Drag Race at Lapeer Dragway. It was not an official GTOAA International Meet activity, but some participants did venture over and compete until rain came later in the afternoon.
Sunday brought about the Popular Vote show for the big GTOs and model-car judging for little GTOs. It was an amazing sight to see 332 GTOs and A- and X-bodies fill two parking lots and the Centerpoint Parkway from end to end--two deep in some places. In the afternoon, there were seminars by Bruce Crawley from Exxon/Mobil on Synthetic oils; John Sawruk on the GT-37; and Herb Adams, Tom Nell, and Joe Brady on the Grey Ghost '64 Tempest that competed in SCCA racing in 1971. As you can see, the Pontiac notables were on-hand, but you could also star gaze out in the show field where Arnie Beswick was out and about and had his trailer set-up for part of the event. We even talked to famed Pontiac engineer Russ Gee. Later in the day, Mother Nature delivered some more moisture.
That night, the anxiously awaited awards ceremony offered due credit to all who tirelessly restored or modified their GTOs with great attention to detail. When the final decisions were made, the Bests went to: Best of Show Rob Timkin's '69 Carousel Red Judge; Best Restored John Kryta's '69 Carousel Red Judge; Best Factory Original Robert Bugbee's '68 black convertible; Best Modified Alan Kiriluk's '70 red convertible; and Best of Show for the Popular Vote went to Gary Wagner's '64 Aqua Marine GTO.
Obviously putting on an event like this is a Herculean effort for the host club, so HPP asked Club President Rick Beecherl a few questions regarding the experience.
What was most pleasurable about the event? "The Pontiac Performance Drive, I think, was big hit for everyone. Regarding me personally, I enjoyed dealing with the people. Ken Stahovec, the Co-Chair, took care of outside logistics, setting up the cars, getting the trailers parked, and the swap meet organized, and I was in charge of tasks inside the hotel. So I stayed near registration just talking to people for much of the time, and I got many positive comments regarding the show, the club, and the hotel. Just that alone was worth it to me. It was my payback for all the work that was put into it."
What was most difficult regarding the event? "Where the hell are we going to park all of those trailers? We had an arrangement with the GM plant next door to park trailers in their lot and that worked fantastically, but we underestimated how many trailers would arrive. We used past meet numbers as a basis and even added some to that, but this event was so much bigger. The problem was we had to move them out of the lot by Sunday afternoon when the plant reopened. So all trailers had to be pulled to other lots, yet surprisingly, it got done without a hitch."
What would you do differently if you had this event to do over? "If we were at the same location, we would keep everything the same."
Of course a Meet like this cannot happen without sponsors so the GTOAA would like to acknowledge those who contributed this year: Pontiac-GMC, Performance Years, Bob Sellars Pontiac, Jim Causley Pontiac-GMC, HOCO Enterprises, Ames Performance Engineering and Quality/Auburn Pontiac.
The 2005 GTOAA Nationals is scheduled for June 28 to July 3, 2005 in St. Louis, Missouri. It will be hosted by the Gateway GTO Association, and more information can be found at www.gtoaanationals.com.