Heritage comes in many forms, and for most American Baby Boomers, the Detroit “muscle cars” of the 60s definitely qualify. One of the most iconic of those muscle cars was the Pontiac GTO, which was introduced in 1964 (originally as an option package for the Pontiac Tempest). And one of the rarest models of the GTO is the 1965 Tri-power four-speed convertible, one of which has just received an award-winning concours-level restoration.
John DeLorean, Bill Collins, and Russ Gee were responsible for the GTO’s creation. It involved transforming the upcoming second-generation Pontiac Tempest into a “Super Tempest”, or “Grand Tempest Option”, with a larger 389 cu in (6.4 liter) Pontiac V8 engine. By promoting the big-engine “Grand Tempest” as a special high-performance model, they could appeal to the speed-minded youth market (which had also been recognized by Ford Motor Company’s Lee Iacocca, who was at that time preparing the sporty Ford Mustang variant of the Ford Falcon compact).
The GTO disregarded GM’s policy of limiting the A-body intermediate line to a maximum engine displacement of 330 cu in (5.4 L). Pontiac general manager Elliot “Pete” Estes approved the new model, but sales manager Frank Bridge, who did not believe it would find a market, insisted on limiting initial production to 5000 cars.
The name, which was DeLorean’s idea, was inspired by the Ferrari 250 GTO, the successful race car. It is an Italian abbreviation for Gran Turismo Omologato (“grand tourer homologated”), which means officially certified for racing in the grand tourer class. The Pontiac GTO was never a “Grand Tourer” certified race car, but it was one of the fastest cars Pontiac ever made.
The concours restoration performed at Jim Mott Restorations of Kimberly, Idaho displays an obsessive commitment to perfection and originality. Impeccable paint, correct factory finishes, and a stockpile of N.O.S. parts created a rolling masterpiece that provides a Pontiac history lesson to all serious observers.
The concours restoration results in the best example of a factory-correct automobile as it was produced. The typical concours restoration is somewhere in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, possibly higher. It can only be driven on and off the trailer. It is rolling artwork that will cease to be artwork when it commences road duty.
But, despite this industry’s $2 billion/year size, classic car restoration is in danger of becoming a lost art, according to David Madeira, president and CEO of Tacoma, Washington-based America’s Car Museum.
“It is a real problem,” he said in an interview before the recent New York International Auto Show. “The machines are incredibly hard to find, but the skills are even harder to find,” he said. “We hear from collectors all the time, ‘Who’s going to work on my car?’”
But the future of the collector car community is getting brighter. A program was launched in 2014 to support a national effort to provide funding for hands-on learning in vehicle restoration. Called the Hagerty Education Program at America’s Car Museum, the program will provide scholarships and educational grants to students and organizations committed to the specialized training of skills and trades vital to the collector vehicle industry.
Carrying on the mission and legacy of the former Collectors Foundation, which was established by Hagerty in 2005, the Hagerty Education Program at America’s Car Museum supports the education of young people ages 14 to 25 and prepares them for careers in automotive preservation and restoration.
“Building on the past work of the Collectors Foundation and an existing group of supporters, we now combine the efforts of Hagerty and America’s Car Museum to provide more and better ways for individuals and businesses to support collector vehicle education,” said McKeel Hagerty, president and CEO of Hagerty. “Anyone who enjoys the classic car industry shares the responsibility of helping ensure its future for more generations. This partnership makes it possible for the collector car community to impact a greater number of young people nationwide.”
Photos courtesy of Jim Mott Restorations (which does not have a website).