Chris LaCasse's GTO was refinished...
Chris LaCasse's GTO was refinished right down to a restored license plate. He now faces a decision that many hobbyists do once a project is complete--to drive it or not to drive it.
"Even though my '65 GTO has been modified heavily, I wanted it to look mostly stock to the casual observer," says Chris LaCasse. "I didn't want them to notice [certain] parts didn't belong there since I didn't build it to show off aftermarket pieces." One look at Chris' Goat should reinforce his stated intent. But did the 42-year-old automotive and Harley Davidson technician go too far? Is the Pontiac too pristine to enjoy now that it's done? This is one decision that its owner is currently wrestling with due in part to his satisfaction with the finished project and also his reverence toward Pontiacs in general.
Should he decide to "show only," his garage certainly offers respite from non-Pontiac influences in the form of other road-going Ponchos. Inside you'll find a '70 GTO convertible with a R/A-III and a four-speed, a '61 Catalina Bubbletop, and a '71 GT-37 four-speed car.
This obsession came naturally to Chris whose dad raised him with the belief that Pontiacs were above all other forms of transportation. "My father has had them all his life," he says. "He even still owns the '79 Firebird he bought new."
Initiation for Chris came with the cost of a '74 LeMans Sport. From there he picked up a '70 GTO after college, and then got really carried away after moving to Rocklin, California, in 1991 from Clifton Park, New York. "I found quite a few Pontiacs to buy, and quite a few I didn't," Chris says. "I passed up this '65 GTO the first time around because it was too expensive." In 1992, he received a call from a friend at a shop asking if he wanted the very same '65 GTO for $1,200. Chris agreed, and the car was trailered to his shop so that he and the GTO could get reacquainted.
It was in solid shape, but all of the original driveline pieces had been replaced with poor substitutions. The decision was made to bring the Goat back from parts-car hell, so Chris began a five-year search to collect as many desired pieces as he could for his new project. When the final item was located, the Pontiac was stripped to its bare shell and set for a "frame-on" makeover.
Upon the A-body's arrival post media blasting, Vice's Collision in Sacramento, California, went to work. "The owner, Jay, fixed a couple of dings in the body panels and made the GTO laser straight," Chris says. "He then semifilled the firewall for me." It was afterward that Jay Vice could show his painting skills. It was sprayed with PPG acrylic primer in three coats then block-sanded and sealed. Next, PPG Cabernet Metallic Pearl from the '97 Jaguar line was applied in four coats. Then came multiple coats of clear. With the car cut and buffed, it was time to move onto the suspension.
Deceleration is assisted by...
Deceleration is assisted by a Power Brake Service dual-diaphragm brake booster, while acceleration is provided by a '72 Grand Prix SJ's 455. Punched out to 462 cubes, topped with an 850-cfm Holley carb, a Performer intake, and ported No. 16 heads, power is aplenty. Topping this all off is an air cleaner by Moon and Cal Custom valve covers.
Next, all of the hand-picked frame and suspension parts were simply coated in Rust-Oleum from rattle cans so they looked somewhat stock. Suspension mods up front included '69 GTO front spindles and A-arms, and a Hotchkis 15/16-inch stabilizer bar. Out back, boxed lower control arms to accept a 1-inch rear stabilizer bar were mounted. Aiding in keeping the GTO flat in the twisties are Hotchkis springs at the four corners--KYB gas shocks tame pavement irregularities. If that's not enough, Polygraphite bushings reduce deflection and ward off squeaks.
Bolted to the business end of those Chevelle (12-bolt) upper and GTO lower rear control arms is a 12-bolt Posi rear out of a '66 Chevelle donor, fitted with 3.31 gears. Its Moser axles add durability and provide a mounting flange for the rotors of a '79 Trans Am disc brake system. Following the brake lines reveal Aeroquip braided brake hoses connecting to the calipers and 10.9-inch front disc brakes donated by the aforementioned '69 GTO. Dot 5 Harley Davidson fluid, a dual-pot master cylinder, a Power Brake Service dual-diaphragm brake booster, and a disc brake combination valve completes the system.
A WS-6 steering box from a Second-Gen Trans Am was bolted in to keep the Wheel Vintiques 16x8s pointed in the desired direction. Of course, the rear 16x9.5s are happy to follow in tandem. For sure grip and to fill the wheelwells, Chris went with BFGoodrich 245/60R16 Radial T/As in front with the rears measuring 265/60R16. He says no modifications were required to fit this no-rub wheel and tire combination under the GTO, just 4-inch front and 53/4-inch rear backspacing.