Contributed by Randy Brown, Winter Park
I bought my first car, a 1965 Pontiac GTO, when I was 16 years old for $2,000 in Oklahoma. Sadly, I had to sell it on the day of my 21st birthday because I couldn’t afford the gas, insurance, and repairs while in college (GTO: Gas, Tires, and Oil!). After many years I began looking for another one, but it’s difficult to find the less-common “Coupe” or “Post” cars, as they only made 8,193 vs. 11K convertibles and 55K hardtops. Additionally, it had A/C, 4-speed, PS, and was black inside and out.
While looking (again) this past fall, I actually found a real 65 GTO that was originally gold with gold interior, but had been frame-off restored, painted black, and was a 4-speed Coupe with A/C at a Connecticut dealer. Never before! I called the dealer, got the details, and then had an inspector/appraiser check it out: up on a lift, on a test drive, it was all good to go. So, 35 years later (and after some serious haggling with the dealer), I am the proud owner (once again) of a 65 GTO!
While the car was on a transporter to Florida, I dug up my old paperwork on my original GTO and after checking the inspector’s report, I found that this car’s VIN was only 50 numbers different from my first car. But after looking at the inspector’s pictures of the car that he sent, I saw that the VIN didn’t match his report cover sheet (for GTO’s, that could be a sign that it’s a clone).
I called the inspector and asked, “Do your VIN photos show an original/never replaced VIN plate?” (many “GTOs” are clones with swapped VIN plates using a Le Mans or Tempest body). The inspector said “My photos confirm this car has the original VIN plate attached. I’m sorry, I had a typo in my report, the last digits of the VIN are 277 not 227.” So, I said…
“This is my first car, the VIN matches! This dealer just sold me the first car I ever owned!” None of us (me, the inspector, and the dealer himself) could believe it. I didn’t know until after I had already bought it that this was my first car. I have the Protect-O-Plate to validate it also, since I forgot to give it to the buyer in 1985.
The resto shop photos show the car was still black when it was restored. What I never knew was that my car was ORIGINALLY gold with gold interior (PHS documented), and it had been repainted sometime in its first 15 years. When searching, I never thought it could be my original car because “my car” was black! I assumed my car had been crushed decades ago. The restorers did me the biggest favor of my life by putting this car back to absolutely incredible condition.
Here are photos of the car and me in 1980 and now in 2020. 40 years are between these pictures. 35 years ago, I watched my car drive off into the sunset, and now it is back. For good this time!
Here is a list of what has changed over the last 35 years:
- Full frame-off restoration
- Replaced trunk floor that I had replaced with pop-riveted galvanized steel sheets in 1982
- Repaired/replaced drivers rear quarter panel, I crashed the car and put a big dent in it from a corner post of a fence; driver’s door was banged up but I had replaced with a Le Mans coupe door so maybe they just filled in the trim holes
- Correct 65 AM/FM stereo instead of my Pioneer AM/FM/Cassette
- Added power brakes (how did I ever not realize mine had manual drum brakes for the whole five years I owned it? I didn’t know any better!)
- Replaced 12-bolt 4.11 Chevelle rearend/ladder bars that I installed to replace whatever was in it when I bought it. Now has correct Pontiac rearend and I just swapped in correct Safe-T-Track posi with 3.23 gears (factory correct)
- Replaced the smaller old chrome steering wheel with correct Pontiac deluxe wheel
- Upgraded antenna from manual on pass front fender to power antenna on passenger rear quarter
- Added dash pad
- Added seat belts (never had them) with retractors
- Rebuilt and installed the tri-power setup (I had it as a spare when I bought the car in 1980 but never got it rebuilt/setup/installed, I always ran a 4-barrel which was actually correct for this car, but I love the tri-power!)
- I had two hoods when I bought the car (stock and with the snorkel scoop), but I don’t recall how I sold it in 1985, I don’t believe I had the snorkel hood on it so I may have just gotten rid of that later
- Upgraded to a rally gauge cluster (has true gauges for temp and oil pressure instead of idiot lights, plus built-in factory tach so they removed my old Sun Super-Tach II and removed the 3 gauge cluster I had screwed into the dash above console)
- Rear suspension upgrades: upgraded rear control arms to boxed versions and installed additional frame reinforcement pieces in rear, along with adding rear sway bar
- Replaced my old mags with reproduction Hurst rims