Automotive-brand loyalty can originate from any number of places. Family and friends are perhaps our strongest influences. For New Jerseyan Joe Carcione, the latter clearly defined his tastes. "My passion for GTOs started at the age of 14," he recalls. "In the summer time, I used to go cruising with my friend, also named Joe, and his older brother Pat, who owned a '67 H.O. We used to cruise in it every night. We lived in that car, and it kind of stuck with me. As a result, before I was old enough to drive, I bought a '66 Sport Coupe without a drivetrain and built it before I got my license."

In subsequent years, marriage and work consumed much of Joe's time. He also developed a taste for motorcycles. When his daughter was born, his wife quickly reminded him that it would be nice if he got rid of his bike for safety reasons, so that he could some day watch her walk down the aisle.

He says, "I sold my bike and had cash in my hand, and the first thing she said to me was, ‘We need to redo the kitchen and the bathroom.' Well, that wasn't going to happen."

With his bankroll, Joe started looking for a GTO to restore. He wanted to find one that was complete and correct. He looked out-of-state for the right stuff, only to come up empty-handed.

In 1995, his luck changed when he attended the Lead East show in Whippany, New Jersey. There he found this Regimental Red '67 GTO with a For Sale sign on it. It was equipped with a Pontiac 400/four-barrel engine, Turbo 400, and a 2.93-posi rear. The vehicle looked to be in excellent original condition, with the owner claiming that it was numbers-matching.

Joe recounts, "He said, ‘I'm taking the car home today; I'll give you my address, my phone number, and we'll finish what we started here.' A couple of days went by, and I went to his house. I wanted to make sure the car was correct.

"‘Here's the keys,' he said. ‘Leave your Trans Am here; take the GTO for two weeks. Drive it, check it, then come back with the car or the cash,' which I did."

As part of his homework, Joe verified the GTO's authenticity through PHS Automotive Services, which sealed the deal.

For the first two years, he enjoyed driving his newly acquired Goat, however, a full restoration was always on the to-do list. In 1997, he rolled the GTO into his home garage for the disassembly. It is worth noting that at this stage of the project, Joe had already accumulated a sizeable stash of NOS parts, along with a shed full of choice used parts in preparation for this restoration.

Shortly after parking the GTO, Joe separated its body from its frame, and completely disassembled both structures. Since body and paintwork were not something he could tackle at home, he hired a local body shop, which only needed to replace the rear tail panel, lower rear quarters, and both front fenders with NOS metal.

After weeks of body prep, a fresh coat of Regimental Red paint was applied. Afterwards the frame received the same attention to detail. Upon completion, the body and frame were transported back to Joe's garage where the reassembly work continued. The rolling chassis was eventually put back together in a stock configuration.

When it came time to rebuild the engine, Joe had his good friend Carl at CBM Performance in Bridgewater, New Jersey, perform the machine work. He wanted to keep it looking factory correct, however, a few additional ponies via some internal mods were also part of the recipe.

He explains, "To get more torque and power, I sourced a 455 crank, rods and pistons, and cut the mains down to fit the 400 block. I also installed an 068 cam."

As part of the rebuild, the block was punched out 0.030-over, and the stock heads received a full rebuild using TRW components. He also bolted on a pair of H.O. manifolds, mated to a set of reproduction pipes from Gardner Exhaust Systems. The transmission and rear were completely overhauled and refinished to as-new.

The last part of the puzzle was the beautiful red interior. Since it was in excellent shape, only the headliner, carpet, and seat covers were replaced.

At some point during the restoration, Joe received a phone call from the GTO's original owner. "I bought it from the second owner," Joe points out. "The first owner called me and said, ‘I want my car back.' I told him I was in the middle of a frame-off restoration. I used to send him pictures, but I haven't contacted him because he wants his old car back when it's all put back together, but I don't want to sell it."

While this may seem like it was a restoration that happened in a matter of months, it actually spanned ten years. "I worked on it on-and-off during that time," Joe says. Beyond the work performed at the various shops, he did the rest in his spare time at home. In 2007 it was finally completed.

Any regrets for Joe along the line? "I shouldn't have sold my '69 Judge Ram Air III with a four-speed," he laments. "It was a correct car. That was a stupid move on my part. My gold '78 Special Edition Trans Am—I shouldn't have sold that either. I've been searching for that car ever since."

However, the sale of the Judge funded the restoration of his GTO, and the trophies, Best of Show awards, and sheer enjoyment have softened the blow. Don't worry about it, Joe. Remember this is the one you're going to keep!