Here at High Performance Pontiac, we receive a lot of emails packed with beautiful Pontiacs with owners who would love to share them with the world. But every once in a while, we come across a story that truly tugs at our heartstrings and we absolutely have to share it with you. This is one of those stories. Major Jeffrey R. Calero, United States Army, ODA 2132 of Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), was killed in action by a roadside bomb on October 29, 2007, while conducting a combat patrol in the southern Afghan city of Kajaki.
Karen Passantino of Paul's Rods and Restos in Deer Park, New York, contacted us to let us know about a restoration that the shop had just finished - a 1970 GTO that Major Calero had been in the middle of restoring prior to deployment. The owner of the shop, Paul Dimauro, was at a GTO show put on by the Long Island GTO Club in New York when he first heard of the GTO belonging to the fallen hero. Paul didn't know the story of Major Calero just yet, but he decided right then that he would complete the project in his memory without ever even laying eyes on the car.
Speaking to Paul about the project was something I will not soon forget. The emotion and diligence with which it was carried out in order to be the most perfect and heartfelt expression of thanks for Major Calero's sacrifice was obvious throughout our chat.
"I'm so thankful that I can do it, that I want to do it," he told me. "We have a good life because of them, and I'm so thankful."
Paul donated the labor along with some parts, and several companies from all over the United States stepped up to do their part by donating parts and/or offering large discounts on any parts needed. It is estimated that the total five-year restoration would have cost well over $100,000 without the generous contributions.
A 400 cubic-inch engine powers the beauty - the engine that Major Calero already had set for his restoration. If features an Edelbrock 750 carburetor and HEI ignition, and quite a few other accessories, all paired with a M21 4-speed transmission and 10-bolt Posi-traction rear end. Hedman headers and a Pypes stainless steel 2.5-inch exhaust with X-pipe create a powerful growl. Hotchkis suspension parts, including tubular control arms in the front and rear, help the car to drive like a dream, and a CPP brake kit ensures great stopping power.
The interior was custom-made by Vinyl Works and the beautiful airbrush work was completed by Island Air Custom Services.
The GTO was revealed in all of its glory to the public, including Major Calero's family last Sunday, after a brief ceremony.
It was a letter by AJ Lapanna, a soldier under the command of Major Calero, that really brought the project full-circle for Paul. He read the letter after the project was completed, and he directed us to it so that we might understand the importance of the project on a deeper level.
AJ wrote, "Jeff was killed not only saving us, but for the oppressed people of Afghanistan, securing the blessing of liberty for them that our creator has endowed all of us with. So I am home now, back in Middleboro, with the people I so deeply love; a new dad watching an infant turn into a little boy. I want all of you to know I am here today, to be a father, husband, son, brother, cousin, uncle, and friend because of Jeff. I want all of you to know the name Major Jeff Calero and what he did for me, to never forget. I never will."
Paul is adamant that Major Calero's GTO is certainly not the only restoration they will be completing. We can't wait to see what they take on next.
A list of contributors from this restoration:
* OPG - Donated about $3500 worth of parts
* Hedman - Donated a set of headers
* Tap-it transmission
* CPP - Donated a set of brakes
* Hursts Shifter - Donated a shifter
* Ace Crankshaft - Rebuilt the engine for cost of parts only, no labor charged
* M&H Electrical harness - Donated engine harnesses
* Aims - Donated all sheet metal needed for the car
* Goodmark - Donated trunk lid
* Performance years - Discounted exhaust for GTO
* Ontime Auto Parts - Donated miscellaneous parts
* 3m - Donated Miscellaneous materials
* PPG paint finishes
* LI GTO club - Raised money and donated it to the restoration
* Rocket Wheels - Discounted a set of Rims
* Hotchkis - Majorly discounted a suspension for the GTO
* Vinyl works - Donating interior
* Renew Powercoating - Discounted Power coating of the frame
* Remy racing - Donated steering box
* Inline Tube - Donated fuel and brake lines
* Island air custom services - Discounted airbrushing services
* Quanta - gastanks.com - Donated gas tank
* All American - Donated services of the installation of the glass
* Sayville American Legion - Extremely generous in helping set-up the unveiling of the car show.
* Be Cool - Discounted Radiator system
* CVF Racing - donated pulley system
* Custom Auto Sound - donated radio and speaker
* Hydro-E-lectric - donating conv. top cylinder
* K&N Filters - donated air assembly
* Rebel performance - valve covers
* Pepboys - discounted tires
* Edelbrock - donated carb
* Julianos - donating seatbelts
* National Parts Depot - NPD: donated remaining parts for Calero
* Pepsi - donated pepsi products for unveiling
* Town of Babylon - donated stage for day of unveiling
* On Top Visibilty - donated money