Ponchophiles who live to drive classic iron have always held a special place in our hearts, but those folks who restore a classic Pontiac for the sole purpose of bouncing the tach off redline are even more rare. As you all well know, hobbyists who have toiled through time-consuming and expensive restorations don't usually pull concours-quality Ponchos out of the garage for a celebratory smoky burnout. And powershifts in this context are post-restoration situations when the old lady looks at the checkbook balance.
Concours-based restos are, of course, all well and good: if everyone were into going sideways in a rare, near-40-year-old musclecar, there would soon be neither old Ponchos nor hobbyists to drive them. And we count on this hobby's historians to ensure that the revered Pontiacs that started the musclecar craze will be around for our grandchildren to ogle. But who hasn't thought about shelving an original Pontiac's numbers-matching mill in favor of a few more cubes? Or upgrading the classy-but-outdated chassis for better handling? Who would like to make effective drivetrain modifications that could be changed back to original with no evidence?
And that's why Erie, Pennsylvanian Sam Campanella's 1964 GTO hit us so hard: Sam had the desire to find a near-perfect classic A-body--and the cojones to customize it for maximum enjoyment.
It was 1995 when this salesman found an ad in Hemmings for the '64 GTO that you see here. It was up for sale by the original owner, and that gentleman was happy to send pictures of the Arizona car, which was as "rust-free as any vehicle could ever be," Campanella recalls. He ended up buying it for $6,800 after only seeing the pictures, and that November this hardtop--loaded with an original Tri-Power 389 and a 4-speed--was in his possession. Sam wanted his 217,000-mile Poncho to be a pulse-pounding streeter that was reliable enough to drive whenever he wanted to, and plans were made to start a restoration the following spring.
When early 1996 came around, Campanella began removing the Goat's trim, which was all-original save for one rocker and one piece of wheelwell trim. Nothing really needed to be re-plated, but Sam wanted to polish the bumpers and the individual pieces while he was at it. With the chrome removed on the outside, the focus shifted to the white and black interior. All of the original wiring and carpet was pulled out, and the window cranks, door cranks, and miscellaneous items were removed, polished, and set aside for reassembly. The original 389/4-speed drivetrain was pulled out before the Poncho was taken over to Dean Edmunds' place, where Sam assisted Dean in removing the body from the frame.
Campanella made no bones about the purpose of his '64--it would be pulling powershifts in a different context--so he stuck the valuable Tri-Power mill on an engine stand.
"I wasn't about to blow up the original 389, but I really wanted to keep that pre-'65 engine look," the 37-year-old explains. "Considering that and the power I wanted to make, I started looking around for 421 Super Duty parts."
Six months were spent accumulating parts for the 421. The block itself is a standard 1966 2-bolt-main 421, but real #127 Super Duty heads and a #859 dual-quad intake were found and shipped to George Dorich in Erie for assembly. Said block got a slight overbore and was decked and align-honed, and then a nodular-iron 455 crankshaft was thrown into the mix. This crank made displacement a nice round 450 cubes, and the Eagle rods bolted to it swing J&E pistons. A Nunzi HL-10 solid camshaft possessing 244o/256o at .050 and .550/.595 lift bumps Comp Cams lifters and heavy-wall pushrods. Next, Harland Sharp 1.65-ratio rockers mounted atop the 1962 SD heads actuate 2.02/1.76-inch stock replacement valves. These mildly ported heads, which create a 9.8:1 compression ratio, flow 260 cfm on the intake side and 195 on the exhaust side at .600 lift. Intake and exhaust operation happens via the 1963 Super Duty intake and 2 600-cfm Carter AFBs with #104 primary jets, #101 secondary jets, and .0705x.0475 metering rods mixing fuel and air, and Mallory's distributor, coil and wires lighting the fire. When the big event has passed, 1.75-inch Hooker headers feeding into a dual 2.5-inch Flowmaster exhaust system take out the garbage.
During this time at Edmunds' shop, the chassis and body had been stripped down. In the spring of 1998, when the boxy body was a shell and the chassis was bare, both were media blasted with a plastic resin. The chassis received an epoxy primer, and Edmunds smoothed out the body and prepared it for paint, then applied and wet-sanded five coats of PPG's white urethane.
This Pontiac's chassis was rebuilt with many of the same bolts that held it together in 1964--but seeing as this stunning hardtop was almost over the hill, a few upgrades were made for obvious reasons. Campanella decided to "Polygraphite everything," replace the springs front and rear with A/C units and add KYB shocks on all four corners. A Stainless Steel Brakes disc setup was added up front, as was a 1.25-inch stabilizer bar to keep the Goat flat in the turns. Once the chassis was done and the paint was dry, two became one again in early 1999 and the project was rolled back over to Sam's place. Next, a Ford 9-inch rear end with 3.89 gears got installed into the refreshed A-body. The completed, 450-cube motor was matched up with an M22 tranny, a Ram clutch and a Hays flywheel and tucked between the Goat's fenders, and soon all that Sam was missing was the front clip.
Once the fresh front clip was added, Campanella set out to finalize the interior. Originally, the '64's innards were white and black, which Sam found too plain for his taste. For this customization, red accents and white Morrokide was decided on. He purchased a kit from Year One and had local installer Phil Langowski make it happen. The seat foam was also replaced at this time, and all of the newly polished interior pieces were snapped back into place. Campanella finished installing the dash and its gauges, and three years and $40,000 later, his project was finally finished.
A year of enjoying the '64 culminated in a first place award at the 2000 Ames Performance Nationals at Norwalk. Sam turned his attention to the drag strip, and one set of 4.57 gears resulted in a best run of 12.85 at 109 with a 2.15 60-foot--on true BFG radials!
Sam Campanella's goal of creating a quick and classic street car had come to fruition. He says that no more money will be spent on the Goat; instead, he will just enjoy driving this simple and effective musclecar. Of course, with the ultra-fast production cars around these days, a show winner that can run low 12s on slicks isn't as rare as it used to be--but none of these ueber-machines will ever be a '64 GTO, will they?
Sam Campanella's vision of the ultimate show/race Pontiac has been realized in this straig
The 2-bolt 421 block was built with original 1962 #127 Super Duty heads and a 1963 #859 SD
No street brawler worth its gas would be caught dead with lame-o rolling stock--that's why
The numbers-matching drivetrain was packed away and preserved in favor of a Muncie M22 4-s
A rare four-spoke Custom Sports steering wheel graces Sam's interior. The Hurst shift ball