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!
This shot of the No. 1 car shows freshly installed NOS exhaust tips. Reproductions were no
Austin, Texas' GTO club took action and found us a Pepper Green GTO on a used car lot for $1,600. We bought it and began making it look as much like the No. 1 car as possible, right down to the black vinyl top and rear spoiler. The GTO club and good friend John McHenry worked all-nighters until the second GTO was completed. Both GTOs portraying The Judge were delivered on a transport truck to the production lot in Austin with hours to spare before the deadline.
In the meantime, Rick and Jerry heard from other local GTO guys that my GTOs should not be used in the film, as they were not real Judges. Rick's comment was, "The camera does not care what the buildsheet says, only that they look the part in charismatic Orbit Orange instead of boring Pepper Green or Bamboo Cream," the colors of the cars that these local GTO experts were offering.
So there you have it. James had himself written into Dazed and appeared in many scenes. He also discovered how boring and repetitive it was to make a movie, as the cast and crew toiled night after night to film three or four minutes of usable footage for the final cut. I ended up very tired as Dazed requested we bring as many as 10 or 12 cars at a time to the various shooting locations, which we did. I appeared in some of the drive-by shots and can be seen (with a wig on) sitting behind the wheel of my Fontaine Blue '65 Catalina 2+2 in the Top Notch Drive-In scenes in the film.
This photo was taken in front of Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, where much of Daze
Eventually the main scenes were shot and the fun was over. There was only one thing left. Rick decided that my triple-black '68 GTO needed to be his. Thus, after filming the insert footage to make it appear that the convenience store fast getaway scene used a Hurst Dual-Gate shifter (which was in the black '68 GTO, not the '70 GTOs ), Rick asked if we would sell him the '68 GTO. The answer was easy. We sold it to him for exactly what we had paid for it.
Just as the earlier touchstones Two Lane Blacktop and American Graffiti inspired Rick to make Dazed, the actors and actresses were not well known, but in the fullness of time, they became household names: Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Rory Cochrane, Marissa Ribisi, Afam Goldberg … the list goes on and on. Even a little-known gal by the name of Renée Zellweger was in the movie as an extra—no screen credit was given to her minor role.
In the end, the Dazed movie experience was a lot of fun and the adventure of a lifetime for James and me. I even have a screen credit at the end: "Special Thanks To Pat Sullivan."
Here's more fun facts about the Dazed and Confused GTOs:
|No. 1 "Hero" Car
||No. 2 "Stunt Double"
|455 H.O. engine
||Pepper Green original color
|Formula steering wheel
||Deluxe wooden wheel
|Vinyl top; press-on trim
||Vinyl top; original-style chrome trim
Note: The young actors had a hard time mastering No. 2's four speed—stalling the engine numerous times before the production crew mounted the GTO on a trailer and towed it around to film the scenes. There was also a funny instance when the actors were shown just how totally the No. 1 car's 455 H.O. could incinerate a set of tires and create mountainous clouds of tire smoke.
Dazed and Confused No. 2 GTO Survives
A recent thread in The Lobby of the Performance Years (PY) website forum mentioned that the No. 2 GTO used in Dazed and Confused is owned by Cole Hastings of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We'll let him take the story from here.
"The [Dazed] GTO was advertised in Hemmings Motor News (Aug. '97). I bought it sight unseen out of Gretna, Louisiana. It had been recently restored, which included a new 455, clutch, paint, and interior. It looked sharp but still had issues. When the enclosed carrier arrived, the GTO was stuck in gear, and the brake lights and turn signals were inoperative. I ended up crawling underneath it and manually knocked the linkage out of gear so it would roll off the back of the truck. Afterwards we had to install a new turn-signal switch, brakelight switch, and new shifter bushings, which helped some, although, it would still occasionally hang up between gears.
After a few weeks of easy driving, the 455 spun a main bearing. It was supposedly a new engine, but not knowing its history, I opted to replace it with a period-correct '70 455. Within a few months, I had the M20 Muncie rebuilt as well. The car has since driven thousands of miles, including two round-trips from North Carolina to Arizona, and Oregon to Arizona twice.
Over the past decade, it's been treated to a new vinyl top and headliner, paintwork, and a rebuild of the front suspension. It's a very nice driver GTO that always attracts a good bit of attention."