Experiences in our teen years plot the course for many pivotal learning points in our lives. When we are young and impressionable and our minds are expanding, these events can affect us greatly, and change the way we view the world for years to come. Case in point is Jim Deaton who learned to drive in a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville, which led to his first car being a 1963 Catalina--another Pontiac. And so began a relationship with the cars of GM's performance division that would continue through Jim's life, ultimately resulting in the 1966 GTO featured in all its steel glory upon these pages. But first a little history.
Deaton's black Cat was a hauler, running 13.0s at 106 mph with a 421 cubic-inch HO engine with Tri-Power carburetion, all backed by a 4-speed. Jim won class at the 1964 and 1965 AHRA World Finals but the Catalina was considered big by late sixties standards. So when his brother purchased a 1968 Firebird, Jim hopped aboard the F-body bandwagon and exchanged the aging Cat for a svelte Solar Red Bird with the D-port Ram Air 400 option that was capable of 12.20s at 114 with 4.33s, cheater slicks and some tuning. As Deaton's family grew, the Firebird made way for a 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix and a few years later, Jim was able to pick up one of the controversially styled 1974 GTOs in hatchback form with Buccaneer Red paint. But the "lack of guts" in the '74 left its owner looking for yet another Pontiac with a little sharper arrowhead.
After learning that his best friend from high school was selling a Mayfair Maize 1965 GTO post coupe, Deaton purchased the Pontiac and popped in a worked 400. It too became quite the performer running 12.0s at 115 mph and as Jim claims, "It won a lot of street races in 1974 and 1975 but the best part was arriving at Green Valley Raceway flat-towing the '65 with the 1974 GTO!" Another impression that was made upon Jim at a young age was drag racing. His father had taken him to the track and Jim continued in this hobby with his Catalina. The '65 GTO allowed him to taste the thrill of drag racing again until family obligations required him to put his racing on hold for a while.
From 1975 to 1988, Deaton was busy raising a family, but as it grew, so did his desire to have another Pontiac. In 1988, he seized the opportunity to buy a pristine 1967 GTO. He drove the Pontiac for a few years and often showed it. During this time, Jim was a member of the local POCI chapter and was rubbing elbows with two other members, Winston McCollum and Ed Giolma, who had beautiful Pontiacs. Jim recalls that they often took most of the show trophies home and thus inspired him to restore the old Goat.
The frame-off renovation allowed Jim to rake in the trophies by the truckload. And the new 428 short-block in it powered the beauty to a best ET of 13.02 at 106 mph. Yes; Jim drag raced his prized Pontiac just to see what she had. He also continued to show the Goat for seven years until this 1966 GTO project sprang up in 1998.
Originally intended as a father/son bonding experience, Jim purchased the '66 with the best intentions. As his son reached driving age, the Goat wasn't quite finished, so dad bought him another car to drive. The restoration of the '66 dragged on until Jim decided to sell his show-winning '67. With the infusion of cash, he was able to speed up the '66 project, or so he thought. Where his show car had only taken a year to complete, Deaton's '66 "fought being finished."
Winston McCollum of McCollum's Auto Service in Plano, Texas had assisted Jim in dismantling the GTO. The body was taken off the frame and given to Leezo Brothers Auto Crafters in Deaton's hometown of Irving, Texas. Performance Years and Ames had supplied Jim and Winston with the parts to reassemble the chassis, and all of the fasteners were sent out for proper plating. After assembling the rolling chassis, the unit was delivered to Leezo Brothers so that the body could be once again reunited with its running gear. Unfortunately, the chassis sat outside under some plastic sheeting and all of the newly plated nuts and bolts rusted or shed their coatings. Definitely a setback, but Jim and his crew of restorers kept at it. (Then there was the time when the '66 was complete and running and a shakedown run around the block broke the brand-new differential. "If I had any dynamite handy, there were several times that I would have blown this puppy up," said Jim, but as you can see, he made it through and so did the GTO.)
Jim told us that the chassis alone had nearly 35 hours of paint and prep work done to it before the new suspension parts were mounted. The four-wheel-drum car received all new powdercoated coil springs; spiral shocks and was upgraded with urethane bushings and a 1.25-inch front stabilizer bar. All of the brake and fuel lines were replaced with stainless steel pieces from Fine Lines. Rolling stock consists of 14x6-inch Rally wheels with red line tires, although Jim says that a set of Halibrands may be coming soon. The rear end has been fitted with an Auburn posi unit and 3.90 gears that are turned via driveshaft by a Hurst-shifted M-20 four speed. A Hays 3-finger clutch harnesses the torque delivered to the Hays steel 30-lb. flywheel by 428 inches of roller-cammed, big-bore Pontiac power.
Desiring a mostly stock look with improved performance, Jim entrusted Gary Bunch of Performance Machine Shop in Irving to assemble a very special engine. A 1965 421 4-bolt main block was bored .030 over and a reconditioned stock stroke 421 Arma-Steel crank was used along with Eagle forged steel rods. Sturdy parts like Ross forged pistons with full floating .990 pins; Clevite bearings and Total rings round out the bottom-end mechanically. Keeping them lubed and cool is a Ram Air IV oil pump and pickup with a hardened pump drive and the stock '66 pan. The brain of the operation is the Comp Cams solid roller camshaft. With a gross valve lift of .550 with 1.50:1 ratio rockers, 244* of duration at .050 and a 110* lobe separation, some serious power can be produced when combined with the head work. Speaking of heads, the '66 #093 cylinder heads were sent out for porting, but after looking at the resulting flow numbers, Gary felt that they could be improved upon. Another porting job ensued. Opening up the chambers to unshroud the valves and a change in the valves' entry angle of 3* (not the valve job), which required custom work on the bosses and guides, netted 244 cfm on the intake and 201 cfm for the exhaust at 28 inches of water. Larger than stock 2.025 intake valves were employed and 1.61 exhaust valves were used. Compression ratio checks in at 10.9:1.
While a stock Tri-Power intake and NOS carbs supply the air and fuel and dual points replace the single in distributor that provides spark to tune of 36* total timing at 2400 rpm, all of the combustion byproducts have to go somewhere. For this, Jim chose Hooker Super Comp ceramic-coated 1.75-inch headers. These in turn dump into 2.50-inch aluminized pipes and a pair of Dynomax mufflers, all of which is held in place by stainless steel clamps and bolts. Once the rolling chassis was complete, it was sent back to Leezo Brothers to accept the body.
Jim said that there are over 300 hours of block sanding in the body. While the GTO had originally been white with blue interior, Jim wanted to show off the amount of work that had gone into the project. "Painting a car black is like dropping your drawers; you can see everything." So Jim had Charlie Canalezo at Leezo Brothers sand and sand and sand until the panels were finally ready for pigment. Six coats of PPG in Starlight Black were applied and followed by four coats of clear. Wet sanding between all coats was done to ensure the smoothest mirror-like finish and, combined with the red interior, makes for one beautiful show car.
Jim called upon Performance Years and Ames to supply the luscious red upholstery, which was installed by Jan Miller of Irving, Texas. Pontiac Rally gauges and a stock AM/FM radio adorn the cabin as does a simulated wood wheel. However most of the entertainment is handled through the Hurst shifter, which is surrounded by the factory console.
According to Jim, the big over-bored 421 is "quite a handful. It scares me. I'm afraid that I'm not young enough to shift the gears fast enough before the motor explodes." At a young 54 years of age, it's probably more an issue of Pontiac power vs. the 14-inch wheels and tires than it is Jim's skill as a driver. And speaking of tire-shredding horsepower, Jim plans to run his frame-off refurbished classic Pontiac at the track. Jim's arrowhead odyssey has placed him in the driver's seat of some of the most revered Pontiac models that the division offered, and all have been raced--a traditional value that Jim learned long ago, and one he's practiced ever since.
From a visual standpoint,...
From a visual standpoint, this Goat appears to be stock and that's the way Jim Deaton likes it. However, a glance at the shiny headers and the ever so slight lope at idle may indicate that there is indeed a tiger under the hood.
The punched out Poncho has...
The punched out Poncho has been treated to new parts on the inside. Some components that found their way onto the outside of the engine were the Cal Custom, mid-sixties style valve covers and the Tri-Power ram air pan. After spending hours polishing the valve covers, Jim decided to have them chromed and then painted the inner grooves with the matching engine paint. The ram air pan was an original equipment item from H.S. Classics that was never used. Jim says the $400 asking price was a bit steep at the time, but trying to find one now for that kind of money is near impossible.
With a solid roller cam and...
With a solid roller cam and trick head work, this over-bored 421 promises to be a stout performer on the strip. According to the owner its quarter mile exploits will begin soon.
As nice as the exterior of...
As nice as the exterior of this 1966 GTO looks, Jim said that the flipside of the car is just as pretty. "The floor pans and frame are just about as nice as many so-called show car's paint jobs." Deaton related that there are actually six different levels of sheen in the black painted surfaces on his GTO when you take into account the percentage of gloss on the exterior, firewall, fenderwells, floor pans, control arms, core support and frame.
A fat ball atop a Hurst stick;...
A fat ball atop a Hurst stick; no GTO with a manual trans should be without one.
Red upholstery creates a welcomed...
Red upholstery creates a welcomed contrast with the Starlight Black body. Extra-cost options that were either factory installed or owner added include the simulated wood steering wheel, Rally gauges, console and AM/FM radio.
The rocker moldings are NOS...
The rocker moldings are NOS pieces and the body was blocked for eons to ensure straight panels prior to the application of six coats of PPG paint in Starlight Black followed by multiple applications of clear. Jim told us that this '66 fought him all the way with regard to its restoration and it probably would have never been completed had it not been for aid from friends Winston McCollum, Charlie Canalezo and Herman Seymour.