Did your new pair of shoes come with a four-speed? They may have if you were one of the winners of a Thom McAn GTO giveaway in 1966. Actually, to win one, you didn't even have to buy a pair of the company's GTO shoes, you just had to fill out an entry form at one of the 1,500 Thom McAns across the United States and then wait for the grand prize day to arrive. Fifty such winners were announced in Fall, 1966-one from each of the 50 states.
The 1966 Thom McAn giveaway GTOs were planned to be a genuine high-performance thrill. According to GTO guru Jim Wangers, the idea man behind the first contest promotion, "The cars were all [to be] painted Tiger Gold with black vinyl tops, and the winner was [to be] given a choice of a four-barrel or Tri-Power engine with either a four-speed stick or an automatic transmission. They were all [to be] equipped with power steering, power brakes, AM radio, Rally I wheels, and a choice of a black or pearl white interior." However, the '66 model year had expired by the end of the contest, so instead, the winners were presented with vouchers for the cash value of the above mentioned '66 GTO that could be applied to any new '67 Pontiac.
The contest was so successful that Thom McAn quickly arranged a second contest to give away approximately 22 '67 GTOs. These second contest GTOs were identically built during the fourth week of October, 1966, and this contest ran from November 14, 1966 to December 17, 1966. The winners were notified by telephone during Christmas week of that year.
If a Pontiac fan had won a Thom McAn GTO, there is not a doubt in the world he would have cherished his grand prize throughout the decades, even to today. But such was not the direction of these two successful Pontiac-Thom McAn promotions. Like many sweepstakes, the grand prizes sometimes seem to go to the people with the least amount of passion for them.
Such is the true story of our feature vehicle, a second contest Thom McAn GTO won by a Colorado woman whose name is lost to history. Our story resumes at the second owner of this special GTO, Rito Vargas, who was on leave from Viet Nam and watched the Goat pull into the Denver Colorado's Porter Pontiac. He waited eagerly for the story on the great-looking Tiger Gold GTO. He then learned that its original owner had been unhappy with its four-speed and was there to find it a new home, while she looked for an easy-to-drive and less flashy replacement. When a salesman told Vargas the GTO had just traded hands, Vargas made the quickest deal he could and proudly drove the Thom McAn GTO home.
He enjoyed it until 1979, when it was stolen and recovered with a broken motor. Vargas was heartbroken. He lost his passion for the GTO and allowed it to sit untouched and unrepaired.
This is where current owner Bryan Stumbaugh comes into our story. Eighteen years old at the time, and looking for a transmission for his '84 Mustang, Stumbaugh saw the primered GTO sitting in a backyard behind a salvage yard. The salvage yard owner had just bought it for $100 and, after negotiations, traded it straight up for Stumbaugh's '84 Mustang, bad tranny and all. The year was 1992.
Stumbaugh tells HPP, "When I bought the car, all I knew was that it was an original 400 H.O. four-speed GTO. I sent the VIN to PHS, and it came back as a nicely-optioned Special Paint GTO. I was very excited." Excited is right. Only two of the 1967 model Thom McAn GTOs are known to exist today, but Stumbaugh didn't even realize that his was one of them. Working on a college student's budget, he took three years to rebuild its original WS-code 360 hp 400 H.O. engine. According to him, it required a sleeved cylinder, a new crank, two rods, a windage tray, and an oil pan. In 1996, Stumbaugh was finally able to get the GTO running again.
Though this engine shares its cast bottom end, 670 heads (2.11/1.77 valves) and cast-iron dual-plane intake with the standard 335 hp powerplant, the cam is a more aggressive 068 grind with 288/302-degrees duration and 0.414/0.413-inch lift. Other engine upgrades for the H.O. include free-flowing exhaust manifolds (casting # 9777646 driver, 9777641 or 642 passenger), an open element air cleaner, and tweaks for the Q-jet carb (7027263) and Delco points ignition to exploit the component upgrades.
Backing the stout engine is the original M20 wide-ratio four-speed (code FO), which sends power through a stock driveshaft to the factory Safe-T-Track rearend equipped with 3.55 gears (code YH).
Additional options on this GTO include manual radio (code 348), door edge guards (code 382), custom sport steering wheel (code 471), electric clock (code 474), front disc brakes (code 521), ride and handling springs and shocks (code 621), and front/rear floor mats (codes 631/632). Note power steering is not included.
Then came the day that forever changed Stumbaugh's plan for the GTO. Going through a "For Sale" listing in 1999, he found the only other known surviving '67 Thom McAn GTO. "I realized what I had," he says, "when I looked at the PHS and the two cars were identical. Built on the same day, 50 numbers apart on the VIN, shipped to the same factory-owned dealer-the Pontiac retail store-located in downtown Pontiac, Michigan, I knew my GTO was a Thom McAn GTO." A letter from Jim Mattison, president of PHS, confirmed it.
Can you imagine the contest...
Can you imagine the contest winner's reaction when she was handed this original set of keys for a brand new GTO?
Stumbaugh began the restoration of his Thom McAn GTO in 2005. Stan Thoene of Chief Auto Restoration performed the minimal rust repair, bodywork, paint, and some reassembly. Its frame, suspension parts, inner fender wells, radiator support, and other parts were cleaned, prepped, and powdercoated by Roadrunner Fabrication. Original hardware was sent to Denver Metal Finishing to be replated in correct black, gray or silver zinc phosphate. The cadmium-plated parts were replated by Aero Propeller, and the brake booster was restored by Steve Gregori. Inside, Performance Restoration handled the dash bezel. New parts included Auto City Glass date coded glass, and Legendary Auto Interiors' seat covers and interior kit. Outside, a correct exhaust system from Gardner Exhaust was installed. The restoration was completed in 2007.
It's very first showing was at the 2007 GTOAA in Columbus, Ohio, where GTO owners from all over the country witnessed its debut. Stumbaugh tells us his GTO was awarded Concours Gold.
"The ownership of 'The Great One' has given me the opportunity to research, learn and be involved in many aspects of the GTO," Stumbaugh stated. "Because of this car's rarity, I had the opportunity to restore a true piece of Pontiac history. My goal was to be sure the restoration was as correct as I could make it," he says. Like a good pair of shoes, owning the Thom McAn GTO has changed Bryan Stumbaugh's life.
A beautiful reproduction of...
A beautiful reproduction of the optional Walnut GTO four-speed shifter knob (code 524) is shown.
Ever hear the saying, "I'll...
Ever hear the saying, "I'll keep your advertisement on the vehicle if you give me the car for free?" At least one of the second contest Thom McAn GTOs came with bold advertising on the doors, and owner Bryan Stumbaugh used it as an example to detail his Thom McAn GTO.
This original cowl tag shows...
This original cowl tag shows company fleet special order and special paint (3-), which, in the case of all second contest Thom McAn GTOs, was Tiger Gold.