No one could convince Frank Stewart, a car dealer in Yakima, Washington, that it’s 48 years too late to take delivery of a ’65 GTO convertible with all the performance and comfort options he would have ordered in 1965. Thanks to Barnes Classic Restorations in Piedmont, South Carolina, he now has.
This is the GTO that Barnes bought. “I walked around it and looked at the spot welds and t
Our story of this GTOAA-certified Concours Restored GTO convertible starts with restorer Lee Barnes, who struck up a conversation with a fellow GTO owner at the Pontiacs in Pigeon Forge Car Show in 2009. “He showed me pictures of his ’65 GTO ragtop and told me it wasn’t for sale, but he’d call me if he changed his mind,” Barnes says.
Later that summer, Barnes received a telephone call from the same man, who made it clear that the GTO was definitely for sale. “I had just bought another GTO, and had to pass,” he recalls. “It just made me sick that I couldn’t buy it.”
Fate, however, had other plans. Barnes explains: “On New Year’s Eve 2011, a GTO owner looking for car parts called me. I asked him if he knew of any ’65 GTO convertibles for sale. He told me he had one he was thinking about selling; as he described it in detail, I realized it was the same one that the other man had offered to me in 2009. On New Year’s Day I made a 100-mile trip to look at the vehicle and purchased it on the spot.”
The GTO in question was built at Pontiac’s Kansas City, Kansas, assembly plant on March 25, 1965, and was equipped with a Montero Red exterior, Parchment interior, black convertible top, 360hp Tri-Power 389, four-speed manual transmission, Rally Gauge Cluster and Tachometer, AM radio, and front seatbelts.
Two years later, he put the unrestored Goat up for sale in Hemmings Motor News.
“I saw the ad and contacted him,” Stewart says. “I think the ’65 GTO convertible is the best-looking musclecar ever built, and I had been looking for one with the red-and-parchment color combo for several years.”
The paint mark “CB” was found on the GTO near the heater core, and was also reapplied duri
Pontiac assembly-line workers used paint markers to apply 23767 on the firewall, calling o
The original code-WS 389 Tri-Power engine was restored to stock specs, including retaining
Stewart recalls that he knew he was going to buy the GTO, and had specific goals for it. “I wanted to win the GTOAA’s points-judged Concours Restored category, I wanted a Number 1 [condition] car, and I wanted every nut and bolt to be perfect.”
He also wanted to add all of the regular production options he would have chosen had he bought the GTO new. “The fact that it was a low-option car didn’t deter me,” he continues. “The GTOAA doesn’t take away points to add factory options to a GTO.”
Barnes, who begins volunteer duty as a GTOAA national judge this year, says he was up for the challenge. “I’ve restored 20-plus ’65 GTO convertibles, and felt pretty confident about the project,” he says.
Barnes Classic Restorations’ Chad Pierce grinds a spot weld after welding in a new lower q
With the restored drivetrain reinstalled into the chassis, the 389 Tri-Power was fired up,
Barnes lowers the restored GTO body back onto the restored chassis. The Gardner Exhaust re
“He told me right up front every option he wanted on the GTO that it didn’t leave the factory with,” he continues. “That included power windows, steering, brakes, and antenna; Custom Sports steering wheel and tilt column; padded dash; console; AM/FM; accessory floormats; dual-speed washers and wipers; inside non-glare mirror; interior lamp group; heavy-duty radiator; dual horns; back-up lights; and exhaust splitters.
“I got right to work on it. I removed the drivetrain, interior, and trim; the hood, fenders, doors, and decklid; and then media-blasted the body. Afterwards I reassembled the body panels to get the fit perfect.”
Shop technician Chad Pierce installed new lower quarter-panel patches and a trunk pan. Then Barnes prepped the sheetmetal with Spies Hecker Permasolid EP Primer Surfacer 4500, followed by its Raderal Spray Polyester 3508 and Permasolid HS Premium Surfacer 5310. “I blocked the body until all of the panels were laser straight, and test-fit the chrome and stainless trim before I sent them out for replating and polishing,” he says. Once the body was lifted off the frame and placed on a rotisserie, he followed the same steps to recondition the underbelly.
He then disassembled the unrestored chassis, and cleaned, powdercoated, and painted the frame, and the bolt-on components that he would re-use. “I used Spies Hecker 257 Ralley Matt Black,” he says.
Check out the power antenna and exhaust splitters. They are two of over a dozen factory op
Custom Sport steering wheel, tilt column, power windows, and four-speed console are four m
He sent the engine to Carolina Machine Engines in Johnston, South Carolina, where the original code-WS block was magnafluxed, treated to a 0.030-inch overbore, line-honed and square-decked, and reassembled with the stock crank (turned 0.010/0.010), reconditioned, factory connecting rods, KB flat-top pistons, and a Melling SPC-7 cam (212/225- degrees duration at 0.050 with 0.408/0.406-inch lift). The factory-issued No. 77 heads received fresh springs and 1.92/1.66 stainless-steel valves, but retained their original 1.5:1 rockers.
Barnes reinstalled the restored driveline, suspension, and brakes on the freshened chassis, adding Delco spiral shocks and Eaton springs at all four corners; upgrading the stock 3.23 open-end rear to an Eaton Posi, Richmond 3.55:1 gears, and new axle bearings; installing Gardner Exhaust reproduction pipes (featuring the correct 21⁄4-inch aluminized-steel pipes, mufflers, and welded-in resonators used on four-speed Tri-Power GTOs that year); and bolting up concours-correct Firestone bias-ply tires on restored Rally Is.
He painted the body on the rotisserie, laying down three coats of Spies Hecker Permacron Base Coat Series 293 in Montero Red, followed by three more of its Permacron MS Clear Coat 8180. After letting the raucous red color cure in the hot South Carolina sun for a week, he wet sanded the paint with 1,000, 1,500, 2,000, and 3,000-grit paper, and polished it with the 3M Perfect-It System.
The next step in the restoration was reattaching the body to the chassis; installing new tinted glass from Auto City Classics and the restored top frame; bolting in the padded dash and gauge cluster, and installing the power windows.
Barnes completed the restoration of this drop-dead-gorgeous droptop in May 2012. “Stewart and I wanted to show the car, so I took it to Pontiacs at Pigeon Forge in June  and won Best of Show,” Barnes says. “Since the July 2012 GTOAA International Meet in Loveland, Colorado, was on the way to Yakima, I decided to meet the owner there to deliver the car.” Competing against 25 other top-dollar competitors, the meticulously transformed GTO won Best of Show-Concours Restored.
“I’ve only driven it about five miles since receiving it last year,” Stewart says. “I really enjoy just looking at it … and, of course, playing with all the options.”