In hiding for more than 30 years and found on a bank repo lot, the original '69 Ray Faro P
If you ever get the chance to meet Chuck Henley in person, be sure to bring a lottery ticket with you and rub it on his forehead-he's just about the luckiest guy we've ever heard of. How lucky is he? How about this: In September 2005, he purchased a rust-free '69 GTO Judge for just $4,600. Yeah, that lucky. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let's start at the beginning.
Henley, who already had a Carousel Red '69 Judge, was talking with one of his neighbors outside his home in Uniontown, Ohio. The neighbor said, "I saw a car just like yours parked at a bank repo lot across town. You ought to go check it out." Without saying another word, Chuck blasted over to the repo lot, looked over the car, and was convinced it was a real GTO Judge. Under the hood, though, was a garden-variety 400, something that was obviously transplanted some time in its distant past.
The Judge's original race livery was replicated from photos by the talented team at Z&Z Re
The Judge was actually in pretty decent shape, though it looked as if it had been in storage for a long time. It was nearly devoid of rust, and the odometer showed just 54 miles. While most people would assume the odometer was on its second or third trip around, the very clean interior indicated this might be a legitimate number. With the swapped-out engine, nearly mint interior, and ridiculously low mileage, Chuck made an educated guess and figured it was probably an old race car. If so, he just might have a megascore waiting to happen.
"I went over to the auction and got lucky," Chuck says. "I was able to get the Judge for just $4,600. The thing was, I brought $40,000 in cash with me-I was bringing that car home, no matter what." Now there's a determined Pontiac man if there ever was one.
Chuck's hunch proved to be on the money, perhaps even more than he realized. When he got the PHS documentation on the car, he nearly passed out. It was a real Judge alright, and then some. Remember we said he was lucky? It turns out this was a factory Ram Air IV car built under special memo instructions-the race-car hunch was pretty well nailed with that revelation.
The current Ram Air V engine uses a '70 400 Ram Air V block with the top end from one of t
It was time to start pounding the pavement to find out the story on the car. The first clue was the shipping manifest from PHS. In addition to itemizing the few options ordered, it also indicated that the Judge was delivered to Ray Faro Pontiac in Elyria, Ohio.
Unfortunately, none of the locals "in the know" remembered the car, but one of Chuck's friends, Bruce Mihalak, lived about an hour away, near Elyria. At Chuck's request, he started asking around. Bruce's research into the local scene turned up the name of Dave Weber, owner of Weber Racing Equipment in North Ridgeville. He built the engines for Ray Faro back in 1969; Elyria is the next town over from North Ridgeville, so he was right near the dealership. Weber remembered the Judge and said that it wasn't just delivered to Ray Faro Pontiac-it was raced by the dealership for at least two seasons.
At the same time, Chuck contacted Pete Woodruff, owner of Super Duty Promotions and one of the most knowledgeable Pontiac guys in the country. He didn't know of the car personally but he did take an interest in the story-how many GTO Judges are left that still have less than 100 miles on the clock?
Pete ran an "information wanted" ad in the local POCI newsletter, and it turned up a gentleman by the name of Dennis Landers, who worked at Ray Faro Pontiac in 1969 as a mechanic. Ray had since passed away, but Dennis put Chuck in touch with Ray's son, Jeff, who was still in the area and owned a gas station. Jeff put Chuck in touch with his cousin Eddie Faro, who had been the dealership's service manager and team driver.
The license plate says it all. Even better, Jeff Faro donated an N.O.S. license-plate fram
Eddie had ordered the Judge; he knew what it would take to make a competitive race car. It was built with a Ram Air IV, a Turbo 400 automatic, 4.33 gears, and was originally white with a black interior. The details of the special memo are a bit unclear, but it appears that it outlined a "delete package," meaning the Judge was built without a radio, sound deadener, or seam sealer, which was allowable under the GM ban on racing that went into effect in January 1963. Cars ordered for fleet use sometimes had similar deletions to save money. In this case, though, it was done for weight savings.
From there, the Judge was shipped to Leader Automotive, which was owned by George DeLorean, brother of the legendary John DeLorean. Leader Automotive was formed when Royal Pontiac decided to get out of the racing business. George bought the racing operation from Ace Wilson and continued on from there, moving it to nearby Troy, Michigan.
The easiest way to tell a Ram Air V from other Pontiac V-8s is by the individual exhaust p
Once delivered to Leader, the Judge's engine, transmission, and rearend were removed, balanced, and blueprinted. The car was put back together, and slicks were installed. The Judge was picked up on a racing trailer and sent back to the Faro dealership. Reportedly, this was the first car completed by Leader Automotive. The total bill was more than $9,000-a huge sum in those days, but it proved to be money well spent.
With Eddie behind the wheel, the Ray Faro Pontiac GTO Judge proved to be a winner. During the '69 and '70 seasons, they racked up class wins at Norwalk Raceway Park, Thompson Raceway Park, and Dragway 42, as well as an AHRA National record for F/Automatic in Formula 2 Stock with an 11.97 e.t.
Sometime during the '70 season, the original Ram Air IV engine blew up. Undaunted, the team took this as an opportunity to get onboard with Pontiac's new Ram Air V program. Eddie was invited by Pontiac Engineering to attend a seminar on the new tunnel-port Pontiac V-8; he was duly impressed, purchasing a 400 crate motor for $900 and bringing it home with him. The dealer service department installed the engine with a set of JR headers to complete the swap.
Dennis Landers still had a page of the "Fasten Seat Belts/Drive Carefully" decals left ove
Dealership owner Ray Faro was impressed with the Ram Air V's 11-second performance, so much so that he attempted to purchase another one. Unfortunately, no more were available by then. He went to a neighboring dealership, Jack Shaw Pontiac, and pieced together a 400 Ram Air V using a tunnel-port top end on a Ram Air IV Service Replacement short-block. They alternated the engines on a race-by-race basis-one was in the car, while the other was freshened up. The next race, they would switch. This continued for the duration of its race career.
Ray Faro Pontiac finally sold the then-5-year-old Judge in 1974, and the car faded into obscurity. The dealership was also sold. It doesn't appear the Judge was ever pressed into service, and the car moved from new owner to new owner, from storage area to storage area. According to Chuck, the previous owner nearly lost the car once before but somehow came up with the money to hang onto it. Eventually though, the bank took it from him.
The restoration of the Judge had a few different directions available. First, it could be returned to stock, complete with a Ram Air IV engine. Secondly, it could be returned to its original configuration, complete with its original, as-raced paint scheme and a Ram Air IV. Lastly, it could be brought back to its Ram Air V race configuration. It's this version that Chuck decided on, for two specific reasons.
First, the car would never be numbers-matching because the original engine was destroyed during the '70 race season. Second, Dennis knew where one of the car's two Ram Air V engines was-still with the same guy Eddie Faro sold it to decades ago. At first he wasn't interested in selling the engine, but when he found out that Chuck had the car, he relented. Can this guy's luck get any better? Actually, yes, it can. He managed to get every piece he needed for this ultra-rare engine build.
As it turned out, the engine that Chuck purchased was actually the second engine, the pieced-together Ram Air V top end on the Ram Air IV SR block. He took that engine apart and used it as the basis for his R/A-V buildup.
Chuck located a '70 WY-coded 400 Ram Air V block in Connecticut, just like the one the crate motor used. Barry Martin of Sonic Motors sold him an original #4486 780-cfm Ram Air V Holley carb, while West Coast Ram Air V guru Tom Schlauch supplied the specific R/A-V harmonic balancer and correct 1111972 distributor.
Radio delete was part of the Special Memo instructions. Also deleted were the seam sealer
Chuck then took his stash of rare Pontiac componentry to Don Johnston at DCI Motorsports in Mogodore, Ohio, for the buildup of a correct-appearing-but-larger tunnel-port Pontiac. Boring the block 0.010-inch over, Johnston added 4.13-inch Ross custom racing flat-top pistons with pocket reliefs for an 11.3:1 compression ratio. File-fit Speed-Pro rings seal the cylinders. The pistons swing on 6.800-inch Eagle H-beam rods that are connected to a nodular-iron 455 Pontiac crankshaft, which was cut down to 3-inch mains. Likewise, the rod journals were cut down to a 2.200-inch journal size. A Melling high-volume, high-pressure oil pump was also added.
The Ram Air V heads were prepped for the buildup as well. Their ports were left stock, and SI stainless steel valves were pressed into service. They measure the stock 2.19 inches for the intake and a slightly larger than stock 1.75 inches for the exhaust. Comp Cams dual valvesprings were also used, as were Comp Cams 5/16-inch heavy-wall pushrods.
The camshaft is one area of mystery. DCI Motorsports hasn't divulged the specifications, and Chuck isn't sure of its grind either. We do know that it's a Comp Cams solid-lifter roller cam that operates Harland Sharp 1.73:1 rockers. "Don wouldn't tell me what the grind was, but he said it will idle where other engines won't," Chuck says. "I'm not sure what it is, but it runs really hard."
Ignition chores are handled by an ACCEL digital ignition system. Timing is 36 degrees total, which is all in at 2,500 rpm. The exhaust is expelled through a set of JR headers with 2.125-inch primaries and 3.5-inch collectors. They exit into a full 3.5-inch Flowmaster exhaust system.
The interior remains factory-fresh and largely original, owing to the ultra-low mileage an
The Rest Of The Resto
The Judge itself was in excellent original condition, but 30-plus years of storage had taken their toll. While the car was still solid, the finishes had taken a serious beating. The Judge was taken to Z&Z Restorations in Pittston Township, Pennsylvania, where proprietors Jack and Dan Zikoski tore it down to the bare frame and built it up, piece by refurbished piece.
"The restoration of the Judge was actually pretty easy," Chuck says. "The frame and body were rust-free, and there was no optional equipment to track down and buy. They took it apart, cleaned and painted everything, and then put it back together."
Suspension pieces, such as the control arms, were powdercoated, while the body was dipped and subsequently painted with a PPG basecoat/clearcoat system in the original Cameo White. Dell Metal Polishing restored the original trim pieces, while Tri-City Plating rechromed the bumper and other plated items.
The original dash, upholstery, and door panels were in perfect condition, so they were simply cleaned and reinstalled. In fact, everything that came from the factory was retained, save the carpet and headliner. Both of those items were replaced with reproductions from Ames Performance Engineering.
These are photos of the car in action from back in the day. Note the chrome bumper; it was
A Reunion In Norwalk
Chuck brought the freshly restored '69 Ray Faro Pontiac GTO Judge race car to the '07 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals. It was there that he and his wife, Ame, met up with Jeff and Eddie Faro, the son of the dealer and the nephew who raced the car 38 years before. Chuck invited them out specifically to see the Judge. He wasn't sure what to expect, but he knew he wanted to be there when they saw it.
To say Jeff and Eddie were overwhelmed was an understatement; it was clearly an emotional reunion for both of them. Jeff kept saying, "I wish Dad was here to see this."
Eddie beamed with pride. His contribution to Pontiac racing history was intact, restored to its original splendor. With that, his accomplishments as a driver were once again brought into the spotlight. "It was a flashback for both of them," Chuck says. "I was so happy to be there when it actually happened; it was an excellent moment for all of us to share."
The reunion took place at the '07 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals: from left, Jeff Faro
To top off the restoration, Dennis and Jeff donated two pieces to Chuck that gave an air of authenticity that is rarely duplicated. Jeff gave Chuck an original Ray Faro Pontiac license-plate frame, and Dennis supplied an original dash decal from the dealer, urging the new owner to drive carefully.
The results of the 11-month, $100,000 restoration have rewarded Chuck with an irreplaceable artifact from Pontiac's racing history. He was also rewarded with a Gold award at the '07 GTOAA Nats in Columbus and a Second Place showing in the FX class at the '08 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals.
So what's next for the Ram Air V Judge? "I'm going to have some fun with it. Actually, I've been driving it around," Chuck says. "I'm not going to race it or even find out how much power it makes. I tried to get it dyno'd before we installed the engine, but for one reason or another, it never happened. I have complete confidence in the engine and the builder. I had it up to 7,000 rpm doing a burnout in front of my house. It seems that for some reason, I'm not supposed to know how much power this engine makes."
Nevertheless, Chuck and Ame have brought back to life an exceptionally rare piece of Pontiac history, one that draws huge crowds wherever it's shown. We're guessing that since people now know how lucky Chuck is, they'll be crowding around him, lottery tickets in hand.