Having owned a '71 GTO when...
Having owned a '71 GTO when he was 19, Mike Watkins knew that this '70 convertible was for him. His first drive, however, turned into a two-week odyssey, traveling from Mississippi to Delaware to escape hurricane Katrina back in 2005.
Executive Auto Body in Elsmere, Delaware, handled the body, paint, and chrome work. Once the bodywork was completed and the PPG 3055 primer was block-sanded until the panels were straight and smooth, three coats of PPG Deltron Urethane in Corvette Torch Red were applied by David Jeandell at Executive, followed by three coats of clear. After it cured, the body was wet-sanded with progressive grits up to 2,000; then polished.
The GTO had a very competent suspension system in '70 with a 1.125-inch sway bar up front, paired with a 0.875-inch rear bar and matched springs and shocks. Although this Pontiac also benefits from front disc brakes and variable-ratio power steering, nothing is immune from the ravages of time. To that end, the chassis was sandblasted and refinished in GM chassis-black paint, and Executive and Mike painstakingly refurbished or replaced all undercarriage wear items, such as the coilsprings, shocks, brake parts, and the like. Even the master cylinder and booster were sent out for a rebuild and refinishing.
Mike remembers, "There were many other details, such as clamps, battery, belts, beauty rings, and chrome, that needed restoration or replacement. My friend Rick Rainey and I handled that work." Once it was all said and done, the total cost for the purchase and restoration work was-what would seem in today's market-an economical $36,000.
Now back at the helm, Mike's favorite aspect of the GTO is how it drives. "It's a great, tight, fast car that feels and performs like brand-new," he says. Mike's heart-stopper is also the only vehicle that can ease his yearning for those summer days as a kid in Mississippi.
GTO convertibles had power...
GTO convertibles had power tops.
White interior had replaced...
White interior had replaced the original black before Mike bought the GTO. He sourced a Formula wheel to replace the missing original one. Though he would rather have the factory four-speed, at least the Turbo 400 was upgraded with a His-and-Hers shifter, so he can still have some manual shifting fun. The AM radio has also been swapped for an AM/FM stereo.