This GTO's color was originally...
This GTO's color was originally Verdoro Green, but a body-off restification transformed it into a one-of-none tribute to the Judge, complete with '69 Judge Carousel Red paint, stripes, and a rear spoiler. Note the silver-colored hide-a-away headlight doors. The owner painted them this way because he wanted a unique look to his front-end treatment.
High Performance Pontiac readers already know that Pontiac didn't introduce the GTO Judge until 1969, but that didn't prevent one nostalgia-minded hobbyist from paying homage to the classic musclecar in the restification of his '68 GTO.
"Carousel Red with the Judge stripes is what I've been dreaming about since I got my GTO in 1989," Kenan Taskent, a 42-year-old flooring-and-tile-company owner in Brooklyn, New York, recalls. "Pontiac made a name for itself with this color, and I was hooked on it since I was 16 years old."
Kenan's GTO ragtop was built in the Pontiac, Michigan, factory in April 1968 and was optioned with Verdoro Green paint (code Q), an Ivy Gold-colored Morrokide interior (code 223), and a gold convertible top (code 8). Its original options included power steering (code 501), power brakes (code 502), power windows (code 551), and air conditioning (code 582), among others.
He first saw the GTO in 1979, when he was 13 years old, and fell in love with it. Kenan became friends with the owner and learned about Pontiacs from him. When he turned 16, he asked the owner to sell him the GTO but was told, "You can't afford this Goat."
A 428 engine now displacing...
A 428 engine now displacing 455ci was machined by Pontiac-engine expert Nunzi Romano of Brooklyn, New York, and installed by the owner into the smoothed and body-color-painted engine compartment. Dyno testing put this Pure-Pontiac engine's potential at 500 hp. A Corvette-style 11/8-inch bore, dual-reservoir master cylinder furnished by Master Power Brakes helps haul the potent Goat to a stop.
By the time he saw the GTO again in 1989 (when the owner came knocking on his door), it had degraded from a vehicle so beautifully designed that it had been awarded Motor Trend's Car of the Year (1968) to a $500 basket case, and the owner finally wanted to unload it. Although Kenan says he couldn't have afforded the once-proud GTO even if it was only $20, he and his wife Semire made an agreement to sell his '69 Firebird, to raise the money to buy it. "It hurt to let the Firebird go," Kenan confides. "So I made myself a promise that I would never sell the GTO."
Over the next 13 years, Kenan found that financing his family's future meant no funds could be funneled into the GTO's restoration, but true to his word, he never let go of the Goat or his dream. It traveled with them as they moved, and even the birth of their son could not force him to separate with the sleek Endura-bumpered Gran Turismo Omologato. "Everybody I knew said, 'You keep taking this junk wherever you go. Why don't you just get rid of it?'"
Restoration And Modification
In 2002, Kenan found himself financially secure, and it was finally time for the ragtop's new lease on life. Most guys will restore their vehicle, and then find room for it in the garage afterwards. Kenan, however, took the reciprocal route and built an entire garage for his GTO before embarking upon its frame-off restoration and modification. "I wanted a place to keep the convertible when it was completed," he says.
He took a hands-on approach to the project, beginning by stripping the GTO down to its shell. "That was the easy part," he remembers. "Finding a body shop to take on the project required more resilience."
"It was impractical to transport the body from shop to shop for estimates, so the best way to find a restorer was to take a lot of photos of the GTO, show them to the body shop staff, and hope that someone would take on the job. All the body shops in Brooklyn laughed and said they would never get involved with a project like this. Who was I kidding? These guys just wanted to do insurance work and send the car out the door."
Eventually, Kenan found JS Automotive in South Orange, New Jersey, and its owner, John Sierant, agreed to take on the project. "The meeting took more time than a U.N. council assembly," he recalls. "John accepted the project by just looking at the pictures. I took the shell off the chassis and brought it to him."
The bodywork was more than Kenan anticipated. "It needed floorpans, trunk floors, rear quarters, inner front wheelwells, inner and outer rear wheelwells, doors, a trunk lid, a right-side fender, and a hood, but I wasn't going to give up," he says.