"No it's not an ultra-rare ram-air car and it doesn't have a history of being a Royal Bobcat or anything like that. It was your typical GTO, if any GTO can be considered typical. However, as car hobbyists will agree, some Pontiacs just seem to run harder than others and that is what made this old warrior an exception."
Tom Cheatwood might have said these words about his standard '68 GTO, but it was his old high school friend, Randy Frazier, who must be credited with the quote. Both Poncho-heads hail from the Lone Star State's city of Henderson. The Solar Red GTO was born at the Arlington assembly plant.
Randy plays a significant role in telling this Goat's history since he has known the Pontiac since new. He, as any great friend, told Tom about it when it was languishing in his neighbor's backyard. Believe it or not, this gorgeous warrior was sold new-by Arlington's own Luke Pontiac to a grocery salesman-hence the grocery-getter connection! It was equipped with the standard GTO 350-horse 400 engine, an open 3.23 differential, and manual drum brakes but was optioned with an M20 wide-ratio 4-speed and A/C. Needless to say, the highway miles racked up quickly and made for a sweet break-in for the drivetrain. With a Solar Red GTO as transportation, this salesman meant BUSINESS when he pulled into parking lots of the local Mom n' Pops.
Detailed more like a trailer...
Detailed more like a trailer queen under the hood than a street/strip car, the potent 400 Pontiac puts the Goat at over 103 mph in the traps and sucks fresh air through a reproduction ram-air setup from Performance Years.
After 3 years of service, the '68 was passed on to the salesman's young nephew as a first car where it was "punished in the usual fashion." Thankfully, the nephew bored of the GTO when dad bought him a new '74 Trans Am. After stomping some competition one Saturday night at the local track, interest was revived. Dad and son decided to remedy that standard GTO issue.
"In 1975 the engine [WT block] was pulled and bored .060 over. A Ram Air IV cam [308/320-degree duration with .520/.520 lift] and a Holley Street Dominator intake were installed, along with headers, but the real heart of the engine was the high dollar Sealed-Power domed forged pistons. They were racing pieces with narrow rings and with the [72cc chamber] casting 16 heads, the compression ratio was in the 12:1 range. With these pistons, this engine would wind up like a small block," Randy Frazier recalled.
A 3.55 Safe-T-Track rear from a '69 Judge was installed along with an aftermarket Hurst shifter and the GTO was back on top...for a while. Some time later, the GTO once again fell to the backdrop; this time being sold outside the family. Fortunately, those youngsters took a greater interest in the '70s van craze and sold the Solar Goat back to Randy's neighbors where it sat for 10 years.
This GTO holds its head up...
This GTO holds its head up HIGH and holds its own against the competition. Here Tom Cheatwood is shown launching hard at the Texas Motorplex during the 2003 Pontiac Southern Nats. Low 13 second time slips are not much work for this warmed over 400.
Sometime in 1987 Tom Cheatwood, eager to rekindle childhood memories of his brother's '65 Goat, was informed of the '68's sad state. "I have always liked the GTO. I like the design and the body style-love those hideaway headlights," Tom told us. So a mere $900 later, the Pontiac Duo was literally dragging the '68 from a neglected home of dirt, weeds, and piles of Mack and GMC parts. Needless to say, the body was rough. "We have a lot of rain here in East Texas," according to Tom.
Through 1988, these friends struggled to find good restoration parts and make the GTO "show and race worthy". Cheatwood, like many Pontiac hobbyists, does "all his own work from porting to painting." Keep in mind, the entire restoration was performed as a frame-on project. The rear quarter panels and window deck were rotted out. Performance Years rear patch panels made the quarters solid again, however, the rear window panel required fabrication-this was before the restoration parts boom. Tom muses, "I remember when I got catalogs that were one page sheets. Some were just stapled together sheets." The Goat's nose and tail were in a sad state. Rather than replacing the nose-it had gouges and cracks all over-Tom used 3M Flexible Part Repair Material #05900 to fill it. It has only needed repainting since. The rear bumper was rechromed, the interior door panels were re-dyed, and new carpeting, also from Performance Years, was installed.
At-home porting was done to the heads to take better advantage of the engine's potential. The suspension was freshened with a full component kit including rubber bushings. Factory 14-inch rims were replaced with a set of used 15-inch Rally IIs. Tom is quick to point out, "It's easier to get slicks for 15-inch wheels." For street duty, however, they hold Cooper 225/70R15 rubber.