This is the view seen by most of Denny’s competitors at Tri-City Dragstrip in the ’60s and
Denny Kloha was not unlike most red-blooded American kids growing up in the industrial city of Flint, Michigan, in the ’60s. He was seriously into cars, liked to drag race, and, more importantly, he liked to win.
His ’65 Mustang was a competitive car on the track, owing to its light weight and the hi-po 289 Denny built himself, but Southeastern Michigan was an epicenter of street performance, and few street cars were as quick as the GTOs tweaked by high-performance dealer Royal Pontiac. Denny was working as a GM apprentice when he lost a drag race to a friend who owned a Bobcatted GTO, and he knew that any attempts to get his pony to go faster would equate to beating a dead horse. He decided to go car shopping.
He accompanied his friend, also a GM employee, to the Pontiac Retail Store, where many GM employees purchased new and used Pontiacs. Sitting on the lot was a brand-new ’67 GTO post coupe in Regimental Red with a matching red bucket-seat interior. The striking hue may have drawn Denny in for a closer inspection, but popping the hood was what sealed the deal. The factory had fitted this Goat with everything necessary to go fast in a straight line: 400 cubic inches of XS-code Ram Air V-8, conservatively rated at 360 horsepower at 5,400 rpm; backed by a close-ratio M-21 four-speed gearbox sending power to the 4.33 Posi rearend. Also listed on the otherwise short option list were front disc brakes and seatbelts for safety, along with a rally gauge cluster, console, pushbutton AM radio, and a power antenna.
Denny kept every scrap of paper pertaining to the GTO from day one, including the original
Denny took note of the missing battery and went inside to inquire about taking the GTO for a pre-sale spin. Apparently, he had not been the only young guy wanting to try out the brand-new Poncho with the hot engine, for the sales rep offered to reinstall the battery in exchange for a deposit on the $3,764 car. Undeterred, Denny put down the required deposit, and the next day he drove home in his new GTO.
Denny’s GeeTO did not disappoint. After carefully tweaking the Ram Air 400 with headers, ignition, and fuel-system components from the Royal Pontiac catalog, the car’s performance improved, but the modifications caused a fuel starvation problem at the big end of the track, requiring the addition of an electric fuel pump to keep the deep-breathing mill properly fed. The lil’ red GTO would roar through the traps at 103 mph at 6,000 rpm, and stop the clock at 13.76 on bias-ply tires in the stock class at Saginaw’s Tri-City Dragstrip. Denny ran the car in this configuration through the ’67 racing season, but numerous hard launches took their toll on the factory clutch, which was in need of replacement about the time cold weather was settling in.
With his Goat penned up in the garage for repairs over the winter, he purchased a used ’63 Catalina as a driver, and wasted no time beefing up the Cat’s 389 with cam and exhaust upgrades topped off with a Tri-Power setup. Denny says, “... at 33 cents per gallon for gas, I could afford to run three carbs on my driver!” Over the winter, he turned his attention back to the GTO, and treated it to a very careful engine rebuild, a competition clutch, 4.88 gears, and 7-inch M&H wrinkle-wall slicks.
A common source of debate and speculation is the altered head casting code (from 670 to 97
The next spring, the Cat took on its new assignment as a tow vehicle to and from the dragstrip so the GTO could click up the odometer a quarter-mile at a time. Denny piloted his Goat past most challengers with 12.20 e.t.’s at 112 mph.
In many instances, cars like Denny’s wind up with tubs and rollcages in the name of quicker passes and safety, but from day one he wanted to keep his GTO as stock as possible. He even carefully stored all of the original parts he removed so the car could be returned to original when it was retired from racing duty. That day came in 1980 when Denny lined up against a friend’s Mercury Cyclone Spoiler and the GTO sheared its driveshaft in two at mid-track. Imagine the anguish of Denny’s friend when the GTO broke and still managed to win the race! Denny towed the GTO home from the dragstrip and left it on the trailer in the garage for several years.
Denny’s wife, Pat, joked that she worked to finance her husband’s recreational racing activity (although she’s been known to make a pass or two), so after the GTO sat for several years, she told Denny he needed to do something with it. Denny had already sold the trailer and decided restoring the GTO would be a good retirement project. Since the car had never seen winter, had a scant 11,000 miles on the clock, and he had kept all of the original paperwork, parts, and even assembly tags and labels, he was set to have a top-shelf resto when the GTO was done.
The original window sticker shows delivery to the Pontiac Retail Store and a host of speci
The owner has retained the original purchase agreement ever since he took his GTO home in
The GTO’s fourth year featured the LeMans’ Deluxe steering wheel as standard equipment. Im
Denny sourced J&B Custom Classics in Clio, Michigan, where shop owner Jeff Thomas accepted the job knowing the results would be outstanding. The floors and firewall were media-blasted to guarantee an ideal surface for the paint to adhere, and the damage from the broken driveshaft was repaired. The very thin factory paint on the outer panels was carefully sanded down to bare metal to keep the original panels completely undefiled. In fact, the only real straightening needed was on the quarters, which were distorted from 13 seasons of launches on slicks. “If the car had been a hardtop, the panel distortion would have been a lot worse.” says Denny.
With the sheetmetal straight and primed, Jeff applied three coats of PPG Deltron Regimental Red basecoat followed by three coats of clear, wet-sanded it with 1,000- followed by 2,000-grit paper, and buffed it all with 3M products to achieve a mirror finish.
The factory-original upholstery, trim, chrome, and hardware remain in the interior. Their flawless bright-red appearance is testament to Denny’s care of his GTO over the years. The only reproduction item inside the car is the nylon-loop red carpet.
Denny is a master mechanic, so he opted to rebuild the drivetrain to original factory specs himself. He stuffed the original numbers-matching XS block with Speed-Pro forged pistons on stock rods articulated by the original Armasteel crank. A 744 cam (0.301/0.313-deg duration) operates flat-tappet hydraulic lifters and stock 1.5 rockers. The stock 2.11/1.77-inch valves reside in the original No. 97 cast-iron heads, which were machined and assembled by Shannon’s Engine Service in Montrose, Michigan. A Melling high-volume oil pump housed inside the original Pontiac oil pan keeps things lubricated.
The Goat’s correct, original Q-jet sits atop the cast-iron intake and is fed by a stock AC mechanical fuel pump. Ignition duties are handled by a stock Delco points distributor, set to deliver a full 38 degrees of advance by 2,200 rpm to the AC 44S plugs through date-coded 7mm ignition wires. The exhaust fumes exit via factory-issue Ram Air cast iron manifolds connected to a 2.5-inch, concours-correct exhaust system from Inline Tube.
This GTO’s trunk is restored every bit as meticulously as the rest of the car. Seen here i
Pontiac fans lamented the loss of Tri-Power after ’66, but the Rochester Quadrajet ultimat
Knowing that many GTOs would be built and raced by enthusiast/owners, Pontiac included an
The post-sedan body style was both stronger and lighter than its hardtop counterpart. Coup
Denny rebuilt the chassis himself, replacing the worn items with Moog components. Cracked rubber bushings were replaced with new ones sourced from Ames Performance Engineering, and reproduction Delco spiral shocks keep everything under control. The rest of the serviceable factory items were simply cleaned and/or painted. Reproduction Firestone F70-14 redline bias-plys mounted on JC Rally II wheels round out the suspension.
The Kloha’s GTO has garnered an extensive list of awards, including Best Restored at Detroit Auto-rama and Sloan Museum; Concours Gold at POCI in St. Charles, Illinois; Best In Class at Ames Performance Tri-Power Pontiac Nationals in 2012; as well as Concours Gold at GTOAA Dayton; Jr. Gold at POCI Dayton; and Best In Class and HPP Editor’s Choice at Ames in 2013.
Denny and Pat’s ’67 Ram Air GTO is as red and rare as they come, but their history with it and all of the blue ribbons it garners is more than enough to guarantee many more years of happy memories for their one-owner, 1-of-36 Ram Air Goat.