After 40 years of upturned noses and the scorn of purists, the Pontiac community finally recognizes the '73 GTO as a valuable member of Poncho history. The truth be told, there is actually a lot to like about the one-year-only Third-Generation Goat.

From an engineering standpoint, the '73 GTO is considered superior to the previous generation. The march of technology made it safer, and provided it with better handling and braking. The '73 GTO is rare—only 4,806 of them were produced—and some truly unique examples exist. Then there's the mystique of the Super Duty 455, which was intended for this GTO, but was blocked at the very last moment by party-poopers within Pontiac.

Our neighbor to the north, Rick Sturge of Campbellcroft, Ontario, is a huge GTO fan. "My love of the breed was cast when I was 15 years old and worked as a gas jockey at a service station," he says. "The image of a beautiful, long-legged blonde exiting the open door of a silver '67 GTO made an impression on me that I still fondly remember."

When it came time to buy a GTO, Rick happened upon a '73 that was in need of help. It wasn't exactly the silver '67 of his youth. but it was the opportunity he was looking for. It captured his imagination, and he was attracted to its rarity.

As it turned out, this GTO was even rarer than he guessed. Originally a Regatta Blue 400/four-speed, it was one of just 187 Colonnade GTO coupes with that powertrain combination. Beyond that, it was a modestly optioned model with power steering and brakes, Custom Cushion steering wheel, Rally gauge cluster, and Rally II wheels. The original 400 was long gone, and between the framerails was a '71 455 with a cracked block. Still it was a real GTO, and it was his.

Rick got right to work on a frame-off restoration. The body was more rusted than he anticipated, but he pressed on, replacing trunk metal, the rear-seat floorpan, rear quarters, and even the cowl-vent area. "I learned a lot about metal fabrication," he says. "Not a lot of body panels are available [for the '73 GTO], new or used."

The fact that the 455 D-port engine was not available with a four-speed transmission didn't deter him from building this GTO the way he wanted. He hired Butler Performance to build a '73 455 featuring a 0.030-inch overbore, forged Ross pistons and Eagle H-beam rods, and a stock crank. Other internal essentials included a Lunati Voodoo cam (227-/233- degrees duration and 0.489-/0.504-inch lift) and Comp Cams roller-tip rockers. The compression ratio checks in at 9.5:1.

The Pure-Pontiac build also features an Edelbrock Performer intake with a reworked '73 Quadrajet built by Cliff Ruggles. The spent gasses route through a set of no-name headers into a custom, 2.5-inch stainless-steel exhaust system with MagnaFlow mufflers and reproduction exhaust tips from Inline Tube.

The original Muncie M-20 four-speed was freshened up and pressed back into service. It uses a Hurst floor shifter and transfers power to the original 3.42-geared, open rearend. "Safe-T-Track will soon be installed," Rick says.

As many Pontiac hobbyists know, a functional Ram Air system was planned for the '73 GTO, but cancelled at the last minute after a dozen or so systems were built. Perhaps the most interesting detail of this particular GTO then is its correct-appearing Ram Air system fabricated out of metal using an English wheel.

Here's how it came about: The '73 LeMans/GTO assembly manual illustrated a factory Ram Air system for the GTO. From those illustrations, Rick reproduced both the Ram Air-specific air-cleaner lid and the front spoiler. The workmanship on both is remarkable. There is literally nothing that would tip you off that they are not factory pieces other than the fact that both of the factory-built items were plastic.

When it came time to paint the GTO, Mike's wife, Debbie, suggested they come up with a color combination other the original Regatta Blue and blue stripes—it was not as striking as she envisioned. Rick agreed, and although the blue stripes were reapplied, they were under a new color—Cameo White. Dean Dillon at Professional Collision Clinic in Oshawa, Ontario, applied the color and clear.

Rick's mental image of the '67 GTO at the gas station and its attractive female occupant also inspired him to update the nose of his GTO. "The black grilles were just too bland for something as special as a GTO," he said. "I customized the front end to look just as I think it should have been by taking the design cues of the '67 and adding them to my '73."

The entire project took Rick seven years and three months, and the results speak for themselves. His next project is another '73, this time a radical LeMans custom with a Grand Am nose. We can't wait to see that one!