These days in the automotive hobby, it seems difficult for a vehicle -- whether original or modified -- to make showgoers stop dead in their tracks. Unless something piques enough interest to garner a closer look, most passive attendees take the if-you’ve-seen-one-you’ve-seen-them-all approach and keep strolling from row to row. Oh, so many beautiful vehicles have been passed by because they’re naively been thought of as average.
John and Peggy Sieffert share a terrific enjoyment of their classic vehicles and are happy showing their Pontiacs at various events across the country. The Troy, Michigan-based retirees and their Pontiacs cannot be lumped into the average category, however.
“I have a dozen cars in my collection and love each one,” says John. “I’m lucky to have a wife that appreciates cars as much as I do, and that makes the experience a lot more fun for me.”
The pinstripe and unique GTO logo were hand-applied by Run Rite Classics’ Brian Debweke.
The trunk is fully trimmed with leather and houses a pair of speakers. Notice the recessed
The Siefferts are no strangers to show-stopping Pontiacs. They own a his-and-hers pair of concours-modified ’67 GTOs, and Peggy’s was featured in the Mar ’11 issue of HPP. (Read it online at http://goo.gl/G54VC7.) In addition to that dynamic duo, they also own a ’64 GTO hardtop that’s mildly modified.
“We found a triple-black ’64 GTO convertible in March 2010,” says John. “It was a California car and appeared to be in nice driver condition. We felt it would be the perfect complement to our hardtop and made the purchase.”
The GTO was equipped with its original 389ci, Tri-Power induction, and a two-speed automatic transmission. Though otherwise sparsely equipped, it sported such common options as power steering and brakes.
“Like other cars we’ve purchased, this one was shipped directly to Run Rite Classics in Houghton Lake, Michigan, to be checked out by owner Chuck Woolery for any mechanical, electrical, or driveability issues before we took final possession. Run Rite has built two award-winning show cars for us in the past several years.”
The convertible sat as Run Rite Classics was busy finishing another of John and Peggy’s projects. “I like our show cars to have a mostly stock exterior with a modified engine compartment and interior, and this GTO was no exception. Our initial plan was to make it a nice driver and leave it triple black, or possibly install a red interior to give it some contrast,” says John.
The Siefferts were at the Detroit Autorama in March 2012 showing one of their ’67 GTOs and happened to be located next to the BASF Automotive Refinish booth. “There were some new Chip Foose colors on display, and after looking at the choices available, we asked ourselves, do we really need to have another black car, especially considering the maintenance involved in keeping it looking its best?”
Chuck’s wife, Debbie, is part of the team at Run Rite Classics and has a sharp eye for complementing colors. “She has the terrific ability to envision color combinations on a car from paint chips,” says John. “We have total trust in her talent at matching certain colors. There were several suggested combinations she felt she could work with on the GTO. Her vision included Barista Pearl, Crème Brulee, and Mocha Nut to provide a striking contrast.”
The Siefferts decided that if they were considering a color change and planning for some mild modifications, they might as well simply build a custom show car.
“You hear a lot of horror stories about people’s projects and how they sit for years and end up leaving a shop in pieces. I have the utmost confidence in Chuck and was comfortable using him for a project like this. His shop is capable of building a complete vehicle within its own four walls without having to farm any of [the work] out.”
John and Peggy now had many subsequent decisions to make. Which chassis should they use? And what engine should power the GTO? And what accessories should they add? The most important goal, however, was protecting the GTO’s unmistakable appearance.
“The worst mistake I can make is to tell professionals how to build my car,” admits John. “So I left it completely up to Chuck and his team to pursue the details.”
To compete with cars shown at the top levels like ISCA, the underbody must be as detailed as the exterior and interior. After the crew at Run Rite Classics realized the considerable amount of resources it would take to clean up the GTO’s stock frame, it was decided a new aftermarket unit might be a better investment.
This ’64 GTO started life as a triple-black convertible complete with Tri-Power induction.
The original frame was replaced with a complete A-body GT Sport chassis system from Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) in Fife, Washington. The fully boxed unit is heavily reinforced for maximum strength while tucking tightly against the floorpan to improve ground clearance. It also lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity, which increases stability and improves handling.
Attached to the new frame are Sport Independent Front Suspension (IFS) tubular control arms from AME. On each end are modified steering knuckles, bearings, and hubs that started life as late-model Corvette units. AME completed the front end using Strange adjustable front coilover spring and shock assemblies, a 1.125-inch-diameter front sway bar, and a 20:1-ratio rack-and-pinion–type power steering by Detroit Speed.
Out back, AME employs Strange adjustable shock and spring assemblies and a 1-inch-diameter sway bar. The rear-axle housing is located using AME’s unique triangulated four-bar suspension, and the housing is filled with a 9-inch Ford center section containing 3.55:1 gearing, a limited slip differential, and Strange axles.
A set of Fastlane wheels from Billet Specialties in La Grange, Illinois, were sourced. Units measuring 18x8-inches up front and 18x9-inch units out back were used. The billet aluminum rims are shod on Nitto Toyo redlines for a nostalgic appearance, in 245/40 and 255/45 sizes respectively. Wilwood supplied the four-wheel disc-brake system that can haul it down from speed.
The GTO spent its entire life in a dry climate, so when it came to bodywork, the effort was minimal. “We stripped it to bare metal by hand and only had to repair minor dents,” adds Chuck. “We removed the door handles, adding remote openers. We then ‘frenched’ the rear-mounted antenna.”
Retaining all its original sheetmetal, the GTO’s fully prepped body shell was treated to fives coats of BASF primer. The foundation was then sanded smooth between each coat before it was covered with five coats of BASF’s Mocha Nut. Atop the base are six total coats of BASF clear with sanding occurring after every other coat. The top coat was smoothed using sandpaper up to 2,500-grit, and then polished using 3M products. The results are astounding.
The headlights are trimmed using modern reproductions of vintage tri-bar covers for a uniq
The body was then carefully reassembled. Standard practice at Run Rite Classics is perfect and consistent body-panel fit, and this GTO doesn’t disappoint. The crew spent a great deal of time ensuring that each gap between the hood, doors, and decklid measured exactly 4 mm.
The interior proved the greatest challenge. Due to the uniqueness of the car, Run Rite Classics wanted to maintain original interior proportions with a modern look. That meant reusing the stock seats but adding modern seating surfaces.
The interior specialists at Don’s Auto Tailoring in Sanford, Michigan, were selected to bring the interior ideas together. With new foam, custom seat shapes were created and covered with leather that closely matched BASF’s Crème Brulee hue, and a custom pattern was stitched in. A matching cloth convertible top was installed, the trunk panels were covered in the same leather as the interior, and a large Pontiac insignia was added.
The factory dash panel, console, and interior panels were all replaced with custom units. The soft interior panels were wrapped in the aforementioned leather, while the dash panel and console are fiberglass units that Run Rite Classics created in-house and were then trimmed in BASF Barista Pearl and treated to a plethora of modern accessories.
Run Rite rebuilt the original 389 Tri-Power engine and it was practically ready to install. “Being a Pontiac enthusiast, I wanted nothing more than to install a Pontiac V-8,” says Chuck. “I realized that with all the modern electronic equipment already used in the build and the trend for cars of this level moving toward fuel injection, we ultimately decided that a modern LS-engine and automatic transmission would be a more appropriate choice.”
Chuck ordered a complete Connect & Cruise LS3 assembly from his local GM dealer, which included a 6.2L LS3 engine; 4L65E four-speed automatic transmission with Overdrive; and engine computer, transmission controller, and the associated wiring harnesses. It fit the Art Morrison Chassis without any modification and was trimmed using late-model GTO engine covers. A custom fuel tank with internal fuel pump feeds the LS3. Art Morrison supplied the tubular headers, which send spent gasses through 2.5-inch-diameter tubing complemented by Magnaflow mufflers.
The GTO was finished the day before the Detroit Autorama, which was held in March 2013, one year after John and Peggy made the decision to build another car. Until this point, they’d been kept abreast of the progress, but trusting Chuck’s ability, they hadn’t yet viewed the result.
The smoothed firewall was hand-crafted and installed by Run Rite Classics.
A new fuel tank was sourced for the build, and Run Rite Classics created a custom underbod
The GTO’s body started out as a rust-free original that required only minimal bodywork. On
“The first time I saw the car was when Chuck and his crew were unloading it at the show site. I was simply overwhelmed with the color combination. We were absolutely thrilled with the GTO,” John says.
Of the colors, he adds, “It’s just so striking. It’s a break from the typical colors we so often see on custom classics. Every show we take it to, people just go crazy for it; men as well as women. In fact, Peggy named it Mocha Delite and that’s the name we have on the show board we display in front of it.”
The Siefferts cannot comment on the GTO’s performance just yet, but for good reason. “Everything is there to make it an exceptional performer,” explains John. “But it turned out so well and it draws so much attention that we hope to show it on the ISCA circuit for the first one to two years. The underbody is as beautiful as the exterior, and that means we won’t be able to drive it immediately. We certainly plan to though.”
Until then, if awards can measure performance, take into consideration those it received at the POCI-GTOAA Co-vention held in Dayton, Ohio. In July 2013, it went home with Concours Gold awards from both POCI and GTOAA, and the GTOAA felt it also deserved its coveted Best Modified GTO as well.
While it’s certainly not your traditional GTO build, this concours-modified example may very well be the new standard, as it’s far from average!
The Siefferts wish to thank Chuck and Debbie Woolery, Brian Debweke, Les Hawkins, Jim Tanney, Red Kurbitz, and Dallas Carl for their efforts on the project.