Great Poncho's can be born or made. In the case of this '69 GTO however, it had to be reborn before it could reestablish itself as one of the top Pontiacs of all time. One of two sets of helping hands on this project, owner David Foglton knows this fact all too well. And much like his prized show car, David was born into this automotive hobby of ours. "I started learning about cars at only 8 years old in 1969 when my cousin Tony let me help work on his '58 Corvette Fuelie," he says, remembering his start.
Continuing on the path of early lessons and early starts, David, now a foreman at a corned beef company and a resident of Westchester, Illinois, bought his first GTO, a '68 convertible, in 1978. His "motor-vation" was that of most teens: "I thought it would win me the attention of the girls!" David wasn't disappointed with the results, and the following year he sold his GTO and purchased a '69 convertible he still owns today. But his growing obsession with GTOs didn't end. "Since my first '68, I've owned 12 additional Pontiacs," he states proudly. Of course, with each one he learned a lesson. What he hadn't gleaned from Tony he picked up from "monthly car rags, checking out the top bills at a show, studying the unrestored low-mile survivors, and later, scouring the Web for details and tips." Eventually, his amalgam of knowledge was put to use in his most recent creation, this '69 Ram Air IV Goat.
David was first told about the GTO by his stepfather in 1997. Advertised as a parts car in the local paper, the owner said that it was "complete from the firewall back" and could be David's for a mere $150. Yes, one-hundred and fifty dollars. The seller made no bones about the remains being sold as a parts car since all the front sheetmetal, firewall forward, was missing. But David figured for the money, he should at least go take a look to see what was useful on the Poncho's hulk.
A short drive away and expecting the worst, he was pleasantly surprised when it was much more than advertised. "It was truly a good parts car," he says. "It had manual steering and brakes, wood wheel, gauges-all of this was intact." An added bonus was the original block, heads, and trans that had been hidden in the trunk for safekeeping.
After trailering the remains home a week later, David started cleaning out his new purchase. That's when he found a hole in the firewall for a Ram Air cable. Then, inside the glovebox, David made the discovery that ensured the '69s future. "Shoved back inside it was a Ram Air sticker that is usually on the cable mounting plate." Also stuffed inside was the original Protect-O-Plate. "I had to know what I owned," David tells HPP, "so I sent the VIN to Pontiac Historic Services." What he got in return was like walking into King Solomon's mines. "It turned out to be a Liberty Blue Ram Air IV car with a parchment interior. It was only one of 210 R/A-IV GTOs built with a 4.33 differential and a four-speed," David says. Obviously, the parts car graduated to restoration project at that very moment.
It took an entire replacement front end and several coats of PPG Liberty Blue paint to bri
Dave is no check writer; he did his fair share of the work. While he says Dan Finkenbinder
Much of the underpinnings were redone with slightly used or N.O.S. parts. Even certain rep
The refreshed Ram Air IV engine retains the original WW-code block. Induction, ignition, a
In the obligatory before photo, you can see the overall body condition and that the front
Here is the frame, stripped bare and ready for paint. Despite a serious traffic accident,
David had his work cut out for him inside as well. Note the rusted-through front floorpan
First David tracked down the original owner. Purchased in March of 1969, the GTO had been built as a racer with very few options and was used as such until 1980 when it was parked. It was around then that the original owner's son went for a ride that ended in disaster for the Goat. Involved in a front-end collision, the Pontiac was decimated, and even the frame and firewall felt the brunt of the hit. That's why the front sheetmetal was missing at the time of purchase. With the finer historical details of his Poncho uncovered, David proceeded to gather parts for the restoration.
Given the GTO's rarity and worth, he decided on a concours restoration that would bring it back as close to factory as possible. Over the next six years, he scoured the swap meets, Web, shows, and junkyards looking for the missing pieces to his Pontiac puzzle. But not just any old replacement part would work. David wanted the correctly coded stuff. "I found an original date-coded carburetor, alternator, waterpump, manual steering pulley and brackets, and distributor," David says, "To find much of it, I had to wait until after the restoration began." But thankfully, he was a bit of a packrat and had been buying N.O.S. parts since the early '80s. He had items to trade or sell to get the parts he didn't already have.
With the correct-parts pile growing, the restoration began in 2003 when he took the GTO to his friend, Dan Finkenbinder, of Pontiac, Illinois, and it was fully disassembled. The body and frame were separated for the first time, and the chassis work began. Locating another '69 GTO, which he actually purchased for its N.O.S. front sheetmetal, Dave had something he could work from to resurrect the rare GTO core. "I paid a bundle for it," he says, "but it came with N.O.S. parts galore!" Dan handled any remaining frame issues and repaired the firewall damage.
He then cleaned off all the paint and rust with a good sandblasting. After the prep work, the entire frame was shot with PPG DP90 in two coats, followed by three more of DAR9000 black chassis paint, combined with DXR80 hardener and a DX685 flattening agent for a factory look.
With the frame ready for its suspension components and since David had already laid down the rules of this game, stock and N.O.S. parts were bolted on; the original 1.00-inch front stabilizer bar paired up with a stock centerlink and tie rods, N.O.S. control arms, spiral shocks, spindles, and drums. Eaton springs and replacement rubber bushings were employed as well.
Supporting the whole assembly is a set of HF-coded steel rims wrapped in 14-inch Firestone G70 reproduction redlines. "I first thought the wheels were supposed to be blue to match the car, so we painted them that way," David recalls. "They looked fantastic, but when I learned they needed to be black, black they became."
With the entire project aligned towards the way Pontiac did it back in the day, the '69's WW-coded 400 engine was freshened with a .030 overbore and stock parts wherever possible. The factory cast crank was refurbished, stock cast rods were resized and TRW .030-over forged pistons were employed.
Code 722 Ram Air IV heads were rebuilt mostly stock and the 67cc chambers put the squeeze at approximately 10.75:1 compression. A proper 041 cam bumps the 2.11/1.77 (now stainless) valves through factory 111/432-inch diameter pushrods and 1.65:1 stamped rockers to the tune of 308/320-degrees duration with .516/.516 lift. The famed R/A-IV aluminum intake manifold with separate cast-iron crossover supports a correct Q-jet carb, and ignition is handled by a stock GM distributor with the help of an ACDelco coil sending the jolt down to ACDelco plugs through Packard date-coded wires. For correctness, David says, "I found the right plugs for the era with the green ring and all that crap around them." After combustion, N.O.S. R/A-IV exhaust manifolds evacuate the chambers of spent fumes and deliver them to the atmosphere through a Gardner reproduction exhaust system.
To harness the power, a Centerforce clutch and factory flywheel connect the owner-rebuilt M21 trans to the engine, and the factory 4.33 HD Safe-T-Track rear ensures the revs climb quickly on the road.
With the major parts ready for reassembly, David and Dan began on the body. Since the front sheetmetal was missing and there were a few rust-outs in the trunk and floorpans, the duo had some work ahead of them. Once all the dents, dings, and rust were removed, the body shell was prepped for paint.
Starting with four coats of NCP250 primer, Dan block-sanded the sheetmetal with a succession of grits until the shell was straight. Two coats of DP90LF sealer were next, followed by four coats of PPG's DBU Liberty Blue. Wet-sanding with 600-grit was performed between each coat. DCU2002 clear followed with four more applications. After the body was mated to the frame, the front sheetmetal, doors, and decklid were treated to the same painting procedures. Finally, 1,000- and 1,200-grit wet-sanding and a final polish provided a healthy shine.
Once the outside was looking great, it was time to make the inside match. Using a carpet and interior kit from Ames, David installed the rugs, seats, and door panels. Details are represented in their original factory glory, down to the signal-seeking AM radio and Rally gauges, the odometer of which indicates a mere 28,469 miles-a number that won't change much. Since its inception into the show circuit, the GTO's annual mileage consists of backing it on and off the trailer. While some might take issue to resigning this still-great GTO to trailer queen status, David has a daily driver '69 to thrash on, and the Ram Air IV '69 to earn him some bragging rights.
With the GTO finished, we asked David what he thought of having a near factory perfect GTO. "It's awesome," he says. "Let me put it this way. We have crummy weather up here, so I have the GTO in a bag. One day, when I needed to get to the area above it, I had it outside running in the driveway, out of its bag. I took one look at it while I was working and thought, 'That's a beautiful @*&@*%# car. I need to call Danny and tell him!' I'm a firm believer that even after the fact, you need to call the guy and tell him you're appreciative."
But judging by the ever-growing number of trophies on his mantle, he's not the only one who appreciates it. David's GTO earned a Concours Gold (483 of 500 points) and Best Restored award at the 2005 GTOAA event in St. Louis, while at the Indian Uprising, he walked away with a First Place. Not bad for this resurrected $150 parts car!
Edged-out fresh front sheetmetal was bolted on, aligned, and prepped for paint. David used
With the GTO on the rotisserie and stripped to bare metal, you can see the shell was fairl
The chassis was completely reassembled using mostly N.O.S. and original parts and is ready
The restored chassis meets the restored body shell.
Completely gutted for the resto, the interior refurbishing begins.