In keeping with this issue's theme of Pontiac muscle you can afford, we present a perfect example of a 350-horse '68 GTO that's owned by Mark Amodei of North Providence, Rhode Island. What makes this and similar base-model GTOs so attractive are their relatively affordable prices in the '07 collector's market. Whereas Judges, Ram Air, and 455 H.O. Goats of all years currently command astronomical prices, the standard GTOs like this '68, which was manufactured to the tune of 64,586 examples and packaged with a 350hp, 400ci pure-Pontiac engine, will not require a mortgage to buy or a private investigator to locate.
If you take a look at the 350hp GTO without lifting its hood, you'll find it's 90 percent of the very same Ram Air GTO that's bragged about at an auction for $90,000 and more. Sure, the Ram Air GTO was trained by the factory to be faster, but both it and the 350hp affordable version share the same sheetmetal, wheels, interior, and similar-looking and designed engines. Think of it this way-the 350hp '68 GTO is like taking home Nicky Hilton because you don't think her more expensive sister, Paris, is worth more than double the cost.
Mark knows all about making a choice between a rarity and a standard model. He had a "shot of choosing between a '70 Judge and this '68 GTO" and opted for the earlier vintage, which he purchased from a broker in Chicago. He learned through PHS documents that his Texas-raised GTO was specially built by executive order from the Pontiac zone office in Oklahoma City.
At first, Mark intended for his GTO to be a nice driver. But he says, "I'm fussy," so before long and with the help of HPP contributor Quint Stires, Mark's 34,400-mile GTO became Concours-Gold-ready. In fact, Quint described this "brass hat" Goat as "the best '68 he has ever seen." So it's not surprising that it took Best of Show at the 5th Annual Pioneer Valley GTO Association Car Show in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, in 2003, and First Place at HPP Day at E-Town in 2004.
How did it get to this condition? Before Mark bought his tameless tiger, the A-body was stripped, primed, block-sanded with 320-grit sandpaper, sealed with PPG K93 sealer, sprayed with a basecoat-clearcoat PPG urethane paint in Meridian Turquoise (code K), and then wet-sanded with increasingly finer sandpaper grits of 1,200 to 1,500. The result is a mouth-watering, perfect finish, which the factory never intended to compare itself against.
Beneath the hood, you'll find the original and correctly detailed YS- stamped 400 engine. Inside the 4.12-inch-bore cast-iron block is a Pontiac nodular iron crankshaft with a 3.75-inch stroke rotating stock cast rods and pistons. Cam timing for the 066 unit is 273/282 degrees duration and 0.410/0.414 lift with 1.50:1 rockers.
Just like a Hollywood star and starlet, the Hurst His-and-Hers shifter smiles for its clos
Gardner Exhaust Systems has painstakingly reproduced these tailpipes that were standard fo
Owner Mark Amodei enlisted the help of fellow Rhode Island resident Dave Graham to pull an
Topping the short-block assembly is a stock pair of No. 62 heads with 2.11/1.77 valves and 72cc combustion chambers that provide a 10.75:1 compression ratio. The Q-jet is identified with a 7028268 code and sits on an iron intake with casting no. 9794234. Exhaust flows through standard manifolds, casting nos. 9779032 (left) and 9779325 (right). Rotating the spark to the plugs is a Delco points distributor, stamped 1111270.
Backing the powerplant is the optional Turbo 400 trans (code PX) that's shifted by the famed Hurst His-and-Hers stick. Out back is a highway and A/C-compressor-friendly, 2.93:1-geared open rear (code WD), and as you may have guessed, this Goat has A/C, not to mention a host of convenience options.
Mark is an operating engineer, which means he uses heavy machinery such as pavers and bulldozers to build and pave roads. Rest assured, his GTO drives only on the smooth ones, weather permitting. Though his Goat may not have been built as a Ram Air model, it easily takes First Place awards every time it is shown. Mark tells us his GTO "didn't cost me all that much to bring up to Concours-Gold-ready level." You, too, can have a First Place GTO by following Mark's example and the advice in the accompanying sidebars.
This Meridian Turquoise GTO is an exquisite example of how great a "regular" GTO can be, and it didn't cost the owner a fortune to get there.