Like every good story, this one starts a long time ago and at the beginning. My first car was a '62 Catalina wagon with a 389 and an automatic. It was handed down to me after my family was done driving it into the ground. That was in 1972. Trading up from there, in 1974 I acquired a '69 Firebird convertible with 400 Poncho power and a four-speed, which my father, Major Tom, helped me bring back from a non- running hulk. It was hard to believe that it was only four years old and beat to death. In fact, it wasn't even running.
The No. 1 car is in the foreground. Though there were subtle visual differences between th
It was with this '69 Bird that my oldest son, James, and I took our first steps to certified Poncho craziness. From the earliest days of being together as a father-and-son team, we did many things together, but none were more meaningful than spending time in the garage working on the Bird or driving it around. Sadly, it had to go to finance twin sons born in 1985. But not to worry, the Poncho bug had bitten us hard; as soon as we could, we acquired a '79 Trans Am that we souped up and repainted in the late '80s.
As with many projects, the things that happen along the way are crucial to shaping the final outcome. From these beginnings, I realized a longtime dream of having the space and the shop to build cars and restore them the way I wanted.
My sons and I took apart many vehicles and put them back together in those days. We also learned how to do a decent paint job. As our skills grew, so did the gaggle of cars we had on hand to monkey around with. We had a bunch of them, including GTOs, Corvettes, Shelby Mustangs and other wild machines–including more Catalinas!
My infatuation with the '70 GTO started with a viewing of Two Lane Blacktop at a midnight movie showing. After seeing that Orbit Orange muscle car, I had to either acquire one or build one. Purchasing a real '70 Judge proved very difficult—none were available to me. I took matters into my own hands and bought a running and driving '70 GTO.
I acquired that GTO for less than $1,000. It was colored yellow, green, and primer, and its roof was caved in because someone walked on top of it at a football game. Many people have asked me, "Why did you put a vinyl top on a car built to be a Judge clone?" The simple answer is, with my meager skills, no amount of bondo could make the damaged roof look right.
Here’s the The Daily Texan classified ad that turned Pat’s and his son James’ ’70 GTOs int
After collecting the best hoods, doors, decklids, and other body parts, the project took shape in my garage. Many of the fine reproduction parts we take for granted in 2014 were simply not available in the early '90s. Around this time, we found and installed a really nice rear bumper and real quad exhaust tips, and that took the project very close to completion.
It was, in hindsight, a rather innocuous beginning to the movie business for my family. James was poring over the classified ads in the local Austin paper, The Daily Texan, in 1992, as we did every weekend, and he saw an ad for vintage cars needed for an upcoming film to be called Dazed and Confused . James called me at work every day and said "Dad, we have to do this."
I was busy at work and did not think much of it until he called me again and said he had set up a meeting with Jerry McKnight, the film's transportation captain. I was pretty concerned that my GTO was messy and the battery was not charged. How could we meet with these Hollywood people?
Undaunted, James washed the GTO as best an 11-year-old could and hooked up the battery charger while I was at work. After arriving home from the office, James and I headed off to our movie meeting with destiny.
As we rolled into the production lot for Dazed in central Austin, Texas, we saw a big white limo pull right up to our GTO. Out of the limo, just back from the West Coast to seal the Dazed deal, was the film's writer and director, Richard Linklater. He walked to the GTO, looked inside, saw the shiny black buckets and stout shifter sticking up from the console, and said to me, "This GTO will be the star of my movie—it will be in every scene."
No. 1 shows the blackout treatment and the front air dam used on GTOs and Judges that year
He then said, "Lets make a deal for your car," obviously speaking to me. I responded that this was James' deal, not mine. Rick, who looked much younger than his age (he was in his early 30s at the time), shook hands with James. Seizing the moment, James pounced on his opportunity. As he spoke, he sounded unequivocal. If Rick was using the '70 GTO in the movie, they had to use him in the movie, too. Not to be hoodwinked, he said we wanted that written into the contract.
Rick and I were totally flummoxed by James' outspoken attitude. Jerry laughed, but Rick was very gracious and had his people come up with a written contract that clearly stated the GTO and James would be in the film.
As a result of this, Rick brought out an early version of the script and noted that some of the scenes could damage the GTO during chases and hoodlum mayhem. He thought it best that we also provide a stunt double as filming was only 29 days away, and a very tight schedule required a '70 GTO to be in almost every scene. As I rolled all of this around in my mind, I thought, so we spent three years putting my first '70 GTO together and [production] wants another one in 29 days? Yikes!