There are certain occurrences that emblaze an image into our minds that lasts a lifetime. Most auto enthusiasts can vividly recall when they first spied their dream car. Whether a shapely silhouette, an eye-popping color, or wild graphics drew the initial look, it resulted in a body rush of excitement, especially if noise and/or motion intensified the experience.
A constant yearning to recapture that feeling fuels the passion that drives most hobbyists. Tim Burton of Lakewood, Colorado, happily admits that he shares that same affliction. "I have enjoyed tinkering with cars since before I could drive," he recalls. "My dad was an amazing man—very patient. He would be working on the family car and I would be right there with him learning how to fix things and what tools to use for each task. He helped me pick out a complete set of Craftsman tools before I even owned a car."
Tim's high-school parking lot was loaded with GTOs, Firebirds, Camaros, Mopars, and Mustangs, and that reinforced the desire to own a muscle car. "I was a sophomore in 1981, and there were two Pontiacs in my neighborhood that really caught my eye," he says. "One was a '69 Judge in Limelight Green and the other a '73 Trans Am in Brewster Green. The two cars would run up and down the road all the time, and that memory just stuck with me."
A '79 Camaro Z28 became Tim's first car. "I worked on it all of the time modifying it and installing performance parts to go faster. During my teens and 20s, I had bought, fixed up, and sold several other cars. I even owned quite a few great ones, but I always remembered those two Pontiacs running up and down the street. All I could think about was owning both someday."
By the time Tim was in his mid-20s, he started his own live-event production business. "I found that owning your own company gives you some freedoms, but it also creates many challenges in terms of time available for hobbies and such. The 9-11 attacks made me realize that life was a bit too short, and I was working too much. I made a personal commitment to reconnect with old friends and make time for my long-put-off hobbies. That's when I started looking for these two iconic cars from my youth."
Tim's search for both uniquely colored Pontiacs began in 2002. "I posted my want-ad on a few Pontiac web forums. I located a '73 Brewster Green, four-speed Super-Duty Trans Am on the East Coast in December 2003 and bought it immediately. It had about 35,000 miles on it and was complete and unrestored with only a single repaint. My plan was to begin disassembling it for complete restoration and detail, but that changed before it started."
Tim Burton of Lakewood, Colorado, owns this ’69 GTO equipped with the desirable Judge pack
It was just two more years before Tim found the '69 Judge in Limelight Green he dreamed of. "In January 2006, a gentleman emailed me after seeing my online ad," he explains. "He lived in Wisconsin and sent several photos of the car—and the piles of parts included with it. The seller planned to restore it, but he had a young family and decided his time and money would be better spent purchasing a nice driver. The Judge was basically a rolling chassis at this point. The interior was out and the engine was disassembled, but I was still interested because it was equipped exactly as I wanted—Limelight Green, The Judge package, four-speed transmission, and fixed headlights."
Tim and the seller agreed upon a reasonable price, and a few weeks later Tim and his two-year-old son, Nic, set out for upper Wisconsin with truck and trailer. Of the first time seeing the GTO in person, Tim recalls, "Let's just say it wasn't love at first sight. The nose wasn't on it and the fenders were loosely hung. The tires were half inflated, and it had been painted dark green with spray cans and a Judge stripe was crudely applied. The body looked pretty solid and I knew finding exactly what I wanted wasn't an easy task. I recognized that this GTO had that potential, so I bought it."
The body shell and boxes of parts completely filled Tim's enclosed trailer and the bed of his pickup. Once home, he reconfirmed that beyond some small parts that went missing, the GTO was otherwise complete. "My goal was to restore it to the condition it was in when shipped from Pontiac. I immediately began evaluating the original parts to determine if they were reusable. I replaced certain pieces with N.O.S. units and searched for used examples in excellent condition for others."
A pair of functional hoodscoops duct fresh air into the R/A III. A knob mounted beneath th
A Hurst-shifted, three-speed manual transmission was standard equipment. A close-ratio Mun
The dark green interior was in pretty rough shape when Tim bought his GTO. The seat frames
Tim had two original surviving '69 GTOs that he used as references during the restoration of a Matador Red '69 GTO he also owns. "I decided to restore The Judge first before selling the two. It would delay the '73 Trans Am's restoration, but I wanted to finish The Judge while the GTO details were still fresh in my mind. I spent the next two years researching the tiniest details and buying up as many N.O.S. parts as I could find to make this the best '69 Judge it could be."
In March 2008, Tim sent the GTO's body shell over to friend and restoration expert Gary Riley at Level One Restorations in Arvada, Colorado. Gary's team tended to the body on a rotisserie while Tim restored the chassis.
The body was media blasted to completely strip it of any existing paint. That exposed minor rust in one fender that was easily repaired with a small patch. The rear quarters required more serious attention and both were replaced with N.O.S. panels that Tim sourced for the restoration.
Two coats of DuPont ChromaPremier Pro primer were applied to the prepped body as a base. That task was followed by three coats of Limelight Green and five coats of clear, also of the same DuPont line. The top coat was sanded smooth using 800-1,500-grit paper and then polished using Perfect-It Rubbing Compound from 3M.
Tim removed the suspension from the frame and media blasted the entire substructure, filling in any minor depressions and/or pits. He had the frame powdercoated black and reinstalled the entire steering and suspension systems reusing the original components and adding new rubber bushings and reproduction spiral shock absorbers in the process. Once the body was finished, Tim reunited it with the freshly restored chassis and began the arduous task of reassembling the GTO.
Tim had Chuck Beuthel at Madcap Racing Engines in Lakewood, Colorado, rebuild the code-WS R/A III engine to stock specs. The 400 block was bored 0.030-inch and it retains its original Code-48 cylinder heads, which are specific to the application. An N.O.S. Delco mechanical fuel pump supplies the No. 7028273 Rochester Quadrajet that sits atop a No. 9794234 cast-iron intake manifold. A stock-replacement 068 cam actuates the valves. The original No. 1111970 points-type distributor ignites the combustible cocktail while original Ram Air exhaust manifolds route spent gasses through a reproduction exhaust system from Gardner Exhaust.
Tim’s son, Nic, checks out the rotisserie action.
Backing the factory-rated 366hp mill is an M21 Muncie four-speed transmission that was completely rebuilt by Madcap Racing Engines, It channels power through to the original 10-bolt rear axle that houses an 3.90:1 gear set and 8.875-inch limited-slip differential.
Tim's GTO was finished in time to debut at the 2010 GTOAA National Convention, which was held in Wichita, Kansas, that year. There it was awarded Concours Gold and received Best Of Show-Concours Restored. Though it continues to receive awards wherever shown, he admits, "These cars are never done. It takes a great deal of work to maintain their show condition each year, and it seems I'm always tweaking or updating something."
Tim says he feels very fortunate to have found the two iconic Pontiacs that fueled his youthful dreams. "It's been a lot of hard work, but a fantastic journey to get this Judge and put it back together. In fact, my son, Nic, still talks about his trip with Dad to get The Judge. He's incredibly proud of this car. Every summer we take one of our many Pontiacs to at least one national show together. He's part of the next generation of Pontiac fans who will keep these musclecars alive."
When asked what he likes best about his Judge, Tim answers, "I really enjoy meeting other Pontiac enthusiasts and sharing stories about these great cars. But I absolutely love the unusual color. It's amazing how many people I meet who have never seen a Limelight Green GTO, let alone a Judge in that color! It really stands out on a show field and most people love it. I occasionally meet someone who remarks, ‘It's a great-looking car, but why did you paint it that color?'"
Whether you love it or not, one point for certain—Limelight Green is a color that sticks in your mind. Just ask Tim!
Sherm’s Custom Plating in Sacramento, California, rechromed the rear bumper for Tim. He po
The GTO’s drum-brake system was rebuilt and detailed, and the original code-JA 14x7-inch R
The body and frame are reunited before the return trip to Tim’s garage for final assembly.