I grew up in Boise, Idaho in the '50s and '60s, when (in my opinion) cars were in their heyday. As a teen, I admired many autos, and the muscle cars that were just hitting the streets were of particular interest. But on my income, affording a $3800 car was insane, so I mostly settled for quite an assortment of $400 +/- tri-five Chevys. I admit that I was more drawn to Road Runners and Chevelles than the Pontiacs, but I respected them at a stoplight!
I've built many types of rides over the decades since, including 4WD pickups and motorcycles, but I never got above "low-budget hacker level" - building daily drivers as opposed to high-enders or show cars. And I mainly kept returning to the Chevy powerplants That I learned about as a kid. So one day, when I asked our youngest daughter what her favorite car was, I was taken back when she quickly blurted, "A 1966 GTO!" I did a little looking around and told her, "I don't think I can afford to buy a GTO, but maybe I can make one."
And so came the purchase of our '66 LeMans. I sourced a front clip (minus hood) from a junkyard in Oregon. A fiberglass GTO hood, rear tail panel and tail lights were found. My buddy and I did a ton of bodywork and painted it in his garage. I replaced all the front suspension, steering and brakes with items from CPP. I found an interior in a wreck. Now I needed power. You all know that one can find a SBC under every bush, but finding a '60s Pontiac motor in rebuildable condition was quite a chore. Of course, I wanted a 389, but finally settled for a 455 from a '70 Judge, backed by a Turbo 400 tranny. Now after adding a woodgrain dash insert, some badges, and a few amenities, I had a reasonable facsimile of a GTO - and for a LOT less money!
Now purists will look down their noses at me, because my VIN starts with 237 instead of 242. And the 455 didn't exist in any '66 Goats. And blah, blah, blah. But it really has almost everything done to it that a factory GTO had (in 1965, GTO was actually a LeMans option package), except for some correct numbers. And here's the deal: going down the road, it looks every bit as good as any GTO. I never claim it's real - in fact, I register it at car shows as a LeMans/GTO clone. AND - our daughter is thrilled with it, and knows that someday it will be passed on to her. It's fun to drive and the grin on her face makes me feel like a million dollars - pretty good for a low-budget hacker.
If you are a collector of just want those "primo grade A babies", more power to you. But maybe you just want a cruiser to take out on weekends and tool around. Something that your insurance and storage costs won't add up to more than two weeks in Hawaii.
My point is that you don't have to spend a fortune and you don't have to go to a Florida or Arizona auction to get into a good experience with a car. Find something close to what you want, and do some work to make it like you envision it. You can do it, and it'll likely be just as much fun as one of those things that cost as much as my house.
It took me years to save up to buy the Cragers. I figured those were the wheels I would have put on a new GTO back then. In fact, I might have stopped on the way home from the dealership to have them swapped on. 😁
Love the story! I'm a street rodder (1037 Ford Tudor restorod) who loves original cars. Oh heck, ALL kinds of cars. But what you did makes sense. You're not trying to con anyone and freely admit the car is a clone. Those who knock it don't get it. You've put a great looking automobile on the road and in the public eye. But the best thing is that you and your daughter bonded. My best friend's daughter helped in the construction of her 1971 Challenger, getting her hands dirty almost every step of the way. It's her car, and a great father/daughter project. I did a similar thing with my son and a 1966 Mustang. You can't put a monetary value on things like that.
Great job. That's the way we did it years ago. If you couldn't buy it, you made it. Hope you and your Daughter totally enjoy the wonderful thing you have done.👨👨👧
I really like what DUB6 from Boise is describing here. Numbers matching is great and I am always excited and impressed by a numbers matching car, but they are very expensive and time consuming to buy and or put together. I like how DUB6 put together an awesome car that turns heads, and although not a numbers matching GTO is just as cool in my book. I have followed that same type of thinking as I have put together my 65 Impala SS. I had one in high school that was a hot rod and not numbers matching then and the one I have now is an original SS but the 327 and powerglide were gone a few owners before me. It still says 327 on the front fender and when you open the hood it looks like a hot rodded 327, but is really a 450 HP 383. When you look at the SS console it looks like the powerglide console except for the 2 extra gears on the shift indicator window, because it has a 700R4 that lets my 3:73 posi 12 bolt carry the car at 75 mph at 2300 rpms but still get off the line quickly. There are other unseen to the eye but subtle updates that I have done to this car to make it drive better and ride better while keeping that vintage hot rod look. Loved seeing this article and the smile on the daughters face!
Outfreakingstanding... I had a '68 GTO, back in the day with the 400 small block. Could barely afford it, with what I was making in the Marine Corps back then, but it was my pride and joy. Eventually, I took off from a light raising a little smoke from the tires when the engine just dropped to an awful sounding idle, but it ran enough to get me off the main drag and onto my street and back to the garage. Tore the motor down and found I had stripped that stupid plastic cam gear to where there were only a couple teeth left. made me wonder how I got it home without having to tow it. Replaced that with a steel gear, replaced the cam with a little hotter one that gave it a good lope and a tad more power, along with headers and an M-22 four speed from a buddies destroyed 70 Chevelle with the 454, (He had a tire tuck on him at speed and rolled it 4 or 5 times), Had to raise the rear a bit, because for some reason, I started getting wheel hop when I popped the clutch. Raised it to where it got a good bite and if I wanted, I could smoke the tires all day long. Loved that car, but I had to sell it when I got another set of orders going back overseas. Such is life. I would really like to do what you did. May not be a real Goat, but it wouldn't bother me a bit. And the hell with anybody that didn't like it for that reason...
Thanks for the kind words, and for your GTO story! And thanks for your service - Semper Fi, brother - I'm USMC myself, 2/26 Viet Nam, 1969-70. But I was a much better hot-rodder than I was a Marine!
I just got to thinking - maybe we shouldn't be talking about smoking tires and big cams and rumbles and roars right here in front of our Insurance Company folks, eh? Can you just see premium increases being calculated as we write? 😅
Somewhere in their ads it says DRIVE IT. It didn't say how!
As for my classics and my new old Model A, I drive like an old man. Actually I always have. After spending half my life under an old car and half my income buying parts, I treated them like babies.
Now that I finally found our 50+ years of hunting dream car, I won't be drag racing with my Model A phaeton. Altho it does have a Tremec 5 speed.
I just spent a fortune on more dress up goodies and a gas gauge. Gotta keep MissDollie lookin sexy.
YOU ARE A SUPER DAD!!!! You should be proud. Years ago I built a few clones before they had a name for them. I'm 63 years old and I am close friends with 5 wrecking yard owners. I really have to watch out when I visit. I've saved five antique/classic vehicles from the crusher in the last few years. I want more cool things than I have space/time for. (Eccentric maybe, but not wealthy.) I found a way to keep a few cars along the way. My first four to be exact. My first a 1972 Ford Maverick. All parked inside running YEARS ago. Haven't tried to get them running in a while. Pole barn/shop upcoming this year so I can work on them again. Hope I live long enough to enjoy them again. So far so good.
On behalf of us classic lovers, thank you for saving vintage iron! We all would have more than we could afford, I'll bet (well, maybe not Jay Leno) - but space is always an issue. I envy you the upcoming pole barn shop. I could use that! At 63, you're still just a kid - get the wrenches out and have at 'er. 😃
Thank you, but truly, I've no special talent or knowledge, really. As has been alluded to in the comments, one can pick up tech info all over the place nowadays (including right here on the Hagerty website). With a pile of parts, some basic tools, some space to work in, and a laptop (larger screen than a smartphone and leaves you hands-free) and/or some car mags, a person with little of no experience can do anything I did - and probably with fewer mistakes along the way. I know lots of guys - and gals - who with no formal training, have just sat down and "figured it out". And in this community of car folks, there's always someone out there who will lend some advice or even some help. Adding to my point of "you don't have to spend a fortune", I'll add: "it isn't a moon landing - almost anyone can do it!"
Nice job......who cares if it isn't "real"...the exsperience you just went through building it is real and that is what matters...when I was a teenager in the 70's one of my younger friends got his sister's car,which was a 66 tempest with a 326.....he sourced a 428 from a local yard and installed it,and I helped him with the final tuning and getting it to start and run more easily...it went down the road quite well as I am sure yours does...enjoy...
Thank you. The whole family has enjoyed the trip, for sure.
I like the Tempest story. My LeMans had a block-cracked 326 in it when I got it. Funny how - in my early Chevy days - a 327 sounded like so much more engine than a 283. But a 326 in a Pontiac wasn't good enough for your friend or me - we had to get up into the "four hundreds" to be satisfied! As they say, "there's no replacement for displacement..." 😜
I feel that I have - well, not quite "made some friends" - on this site, but I certainly have had some contact that is both hobby-related, but also borders on personal stuff quite often. This original story, for instance, related not only my build, but also the relationship that I have with my daughter - for whom the car was built.
So with that in mind, I felt that I should do a post-script for readers of this story. The girl (woman, really) in some of these pictures, our youngest daughter, passed away on Monday, July 5. She was 47. It was a very sudden and tragic death, and her mother and I and the rest of our family are devastated. I have been silent on this forum for more than a week while we dealt with things - and I will not be signing on again for awhile. But I needed something to take my mind off my grief this evening, so I decided to log in to tell readers of this post something of why they won't see anything written by me for some time.
Hug your children. You just never know. Our kids are not supposed to go before we do. But it happens. Don't miss an opportunity to tell your kids how much they mean to you. Bless you all and farewell for awhile.
Thank you for your update, @DUB6. I am very sorry to hear about your loss. If there's anything I can do for you in this time, please do not hesitate to drop me a private message.
It's easy for us to misplace our love at times (particularly with cars involved), thank you for having the strength to share this incredible tragedy and remind us all of what really matters. I will be thinking of you and your family.
Dub6 many friends you have made on site I join in with my deepest sympathy for you and your family's loss very devastating goes beyond what words try to comfort, I pray you and your family can find the strength as a family to heal if it is to be I look forward to future posts from you. Sincerely Rob R
Thanks and yes, she will always "be there" with me, and it will be "her car" as long as I live. I went through her collection of CDs (hundreds!) and although I'm not into everything she was, I did find remarkably quite a few that fit my tastes perfectly. In fact, I'm highly suspicious that several of them were from my own CD stash! 😋 Not the first time she woulda "raided my cupboard" for sure.
Anyway, the car has a 6-CD changer, and I loaded some of her/my favorites in it so both she and I can rock out to some great tunes when "we" cruise. When those get a bit stale, I've got more lined up to replace them (sadly, the Queen Bohemian Rhapsody album has some serious skips, so gotta try and work that over).
It'll obviously be bittersweet, driving around and knowing she'll never be able to take the wheel again, but the memories we made centered around that red Pontiac will sustain me.
When it comes to Pontiac most purist are fine with clones as long as you don’t try to sell it as what it is not. In fact many Pontiac owners are running 428 and 455 engines as they were cheap and easy to fine back in the 80’s. They all look the same and often we’re an easy hop up too.
The only down side is it may not be as valuable but then again for many a clone is more affordable too.
When the engine was gone out go to often was a 428 HO or 455 HO. Drop in a Ram Air IV cam and let her rip.
To be honest I believe there are more Judges and 69 TA models on the road than were ever built.
Not a very good photo, but I added a memorial message to our daughter in the rear window of the car that was built for her to inherit. I will tell the story from beginning to end to anyone that wants to hear it when they notice the decal. Not sure what will happen with the car now, once I get so I can't drive it. Can't split it up amongst 7 grandkids...
I appreciate all of the comments and condolences (both public and private) that have appeared since my announcement. Lots of class out there in the Hagerty world.
Welcome back, @DUB6. Thank you for sharing an update, and the Pontiac looks great. I suspect the grandkids that are reeeeallly interested in the car will rise to the top, they can't all be equally deserving and/or care to give an old car the care it needs.