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...
Just like a Hollywood star and starlet, the Hurst His-and-Hers shifter smiles for its close-up.
Gardner Exhaust Systems has...
Gardner Exhaust Systems has painstakingly reproduced these tailpipes that were standard for part of the model year on '68 automatic transmission-equipped GTOs only. The upper pipe is pinched closed behind the bumper. According to historian John Sawruk, this quarter-wave-tuner setup was used in place of a resonator.
Owner Mark Amodei enlisted...
Owner Mark Amodei enlisted the help of fellow Rhode Island resident Dave Graham to pull and reseal the factory YS-code 400 engine and Turbo 400 trans, and Barry Browning detailed the engine and all engine-bay accessories.
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.
The White-Ivory Cordova Roof...
The White-Ivory Cordova Roof (code SVT) contrasts beautifully with the Meridian Turquoise body and stainless trim, the latter of which is all-original and was polished by owner Mark Amodei.
The mostly original Parchment...
The mostly original Parchment interior (Code 224) features standard bucket seats reupholstered with Morrokide covers by Carl's Quality Upholstery in Johnson, Rhode Island (who also installed the Cordova roof), an optional center console (Code 472), custom sport steering wheel (Code 471), tilt column (Code 504), and a Rally Clock (code 474).
Tunes are provided by a push-button...
Tunes are provided by a push-button GM Delco AM radio (code 382) with the optional rear speaker (code 391).
How He Did It
Let's say you really want this perfect-looking GTO, but like Mark, you have a dollar limit for your project. Here's what he did to find his GTO and get it concours ready.
Seek out a low-mile and/or original-owner GTO as Mark did. You'll pay more up front, but it's worth it down the road. The lower the miles, the less wear and tear, and fewer functional and detail pieces will need to be replaced.
Enlist the help of a fellow GTO owner for his advice. Mark worked with HPP's Quint Stires who had years of experience and knowledge in GTOs. Perhaps you'll find a near-concours-ready GTO that needs only $3,000-$5,000 of N.O.S. and reproduction pieces to bring it to gold status like Mark did. More likely, you'll spend $5,000-$15,000 to bring your Goat up to this level. Either way, pair with someone who has traveled this road many times, and he or she will gladly share the cost-effective methods of the route.
Take your time sourcing parts and working your plan. Mark worked from 1999 to 2003 to complete his GTO. N.O.S., and reproduction parts availability and pricing can change quickly. Today's $100 in-the-old-box N.O.S. part may be reproduced tomorrow for a retail price of $50. Use online auctions, club classifieds, print classifieds, and the advertisers in HPP to compare prices.
This GTO rides on 14x6 Rally...
This GTO rides on 14x6 Rally II wheels (code 453) and Firestone G70x14 reproduction Red Line tires. The trim rings are N.O.S.
7 Reasons To Consider Buying A Standard Gto Over A Ram Air CarThey're cheaper.They're more plentiful.The rarity of a Ram Air GTO excites the Pontiac elite and is a great conversation piece, but at multi-make shows and in the real world, most people are excited just to see a great-looking GTO.Choose your color. You can find most any year base GTO in any of the standard colors and interior shades offered by Pontiac. Try that with a Ram Air car.Choose your options. Ever see a Ram Air or R/A-II GTO with A/C?You can drive it because of the first two reasons above and because 4.33 gears are no fun on the highway.If you really want Ram Air performance, you can get it cheaper than buying the real thing. Have the stock heads ported to flow approximately 230 cfm, swap the 066 or 067 cam for a 744 (Ram Air) or 041 (R/A-II) with the required valvetrain parts, bolt on a set of repop R/A exhaust manifolds and pipes, swap in a set of 4.33 gears, rejet the carb, and recurve the distributor. For about $3,500, you have Ram Air acceleration. You can even open up the hoodscoops and buy a repro Ram Air system to complete the transformation.