Owner Rich Rizzi is enjoying...
Owner Rich Rizzi is enjoying his time behind the wheel so much so that he says his next mod will be an overdrive trans to reduce highway rpm.
Imagine it's 1965 and you're buying the Montero Red GTO of your dreams. With an order form in hand, you begin to pick the options: 360hp Tri-Power, four-speed, 3.90 rear, Rally Gauges, Rally I wheels, and so on. Then reality sets in. You're young and newly married. Though the heart is willing, the bank account isn't. So the options begin to fall off the order form. By the time all is said and done the GTO is back to the standard 335hp four-barrel 389 and three-speed trans, manual steering and brakes, and the only three options are AM radio, power antenna, and tilt wheel.
That's how it went down for Brooklyn native Rich Rizzi back in the day. He didn't care too much, though. After all, he still had a brand-new red '65 GTO.
In fact, its lack of options may have been a blessing in disguise. Rich related that his GTO was stolen three times, and each time he got it back with no parts missing. He reasons, "Since my GTO had so few options, there was little to strip, so whomever stole it simply walked away from it."
In 1969 Rich joined the NYPD to become a Tactical Patrol officer and soon realized through encounters on the job that he didn't want to raise his family in the city, so he moved to the more rural town of Monroe, New York. By 1974, the 120-mile roundtrip commute each day and the OPEC oil embargo had put enough of a financial strain on family finances that the GTO had to be sold.
A Colorado Customs billet...
A Colorado Customs billet wheel with a large horn ring was covered in matching two-tone leather. Its horn button is Rich's design and was made by a trophy shop in Goshen, New York. Auto Instruments handled the restoration of the original Rally gauges and the reproduction OEM A/C dash vents are from Ames Performance. Eclipse's component system 6.5-inch front speakers were mounted in the doors.
But Rich did tell his wife Maria that he would be getting another '65 GTO in the future and next time it would be equipped his way. By 1988, he was once again on the prowl for a Tiger. In the local want ads, he located a Burgundy '65 with black interior, that still had its factory 389 four-barrel engine, four-speed trans, and 3.23 Safe-T-Track rear. It also had the Rally gauges, the ride-and-handling package, and power steering.
Rich hit the local shows and began to relive the good old days with his new Goat. Then in 1992 a mishap with a telephone pole creased the rear bumper and left him heartbroken. Not able to afford repairs, the GTO was retired from show duty and driven sparingly from then on.
Some years later Rich got back into building up his GTO as money allowed. He had the engine rebuilt and, "In 2005, I brought my GTO to Classic Restorations in Pine Island, New York, just to fix the bumper and quarter and paint it," Rich remembers. "But when looking over my insurance papers, I realized that the policy covered the damage and had zero deductible. With some cash freed up thanks to the coverage, one thing lead to another and here we are.
"I wanted to have the GTO built the way I would have ordered it back in the day if I had the money (and if Maria would have said OK). And I wanted it to be unique. I visited Classic Restorations two or three times a week to see all the different types of projects that were coming together and before I knew it I was bit by the bug and began to personalize my GTO beyond the factory order form."
Multiple coats of PPG base/clear...
Multiple coats of PPG base/clear urethane in Torch Red, which were applied by Classic Restorations, make Rich Rizzi's '65 GTO a standout at car shows and on the street. Hand-painted pinstripes by Creative Car Crafts in Middletown, New York, rechromed bumpers by Superchrome of Asbury Park, New Jersey, and shaved door handles add to the fresh and clean look. The door latches are now released via solenoids activated by hidden switches.
Melvin Benzaquen, owner of Classic Restorations, designed the interior. "Additional comfort, power adjustability, looks, and function were key," he explains. "The idea was to make it evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Rich thought I was nuts when I was proposing ideas, especially the color scheme, but it all came together well."
The console was mocked up in cardboard so it could be easily modified until a final design was agreed upon. Then it was made in sheetmetal, and a '98 Jeep Grand Cherokee armrest was integrated into it before it was all wrapped in red vinyl.
Regarding the front seats, Melvin said, "We fabricated brackets to adapt the '06 GTO seats, but kept the original mounts in place for both safety and the ease of putting stock seats back in if desired." In the rear, custom retaining brackets were fabricated for the upper and lower sections. Classic's techs removed 3.5 inches from the middle of the upper seat and then made filler panels for the sides.
The interior was treated to...
The interior was treated to ceramic insulation from Lizard Skin before the ACC-molded carpet was laid down. According to Melvin Benzaquen of Classic Resto, "Adapting the front '06 GTO seats to bolt in wasn't too difficult." He also sourced NOS Parchment Morrokide from SMS Auto Fabrics, had it custom stitched in red at the seams and for the GTO logo, and sewn together by Gillin Custom Design in Middletown, New York.
The body received its fair share of attention, too. Aircraft stripper relieved the shell of its paint, the accident damage was repaired, the rest of the sheetmetal was straightened where needed, and two coats of PPG DP50LF epoxy primer were applied. Block-sanding followed, and then the body was shot with PPG DP90LF sealer. Three coats of PPG DBU2000 in GM Torch Red were sprayed, followed by four coats of DBU2021 clear.
Once the paint cured, it was wet-sanded with 800-, 1,500-, 2,000-, and 2,500-grit paper before final polishing with 3M compound, Finesse-II, and Hand Glaze.
Under The Hood
Per the aforementioned rebuild, the Goat's WT-code 389 was punched 0.030 over and filled with the refurbished stock cast crank and rods, replacement cast pistons, and a high-volume oil pump.
A stock-spec 067 cam with 273/289-degrees duration and 0.410/0.413 lift was installed to work with the 1.92/1.66-valve No. 77 heads and 1.50:1 rockers. Later came a '65 Tri-Power induction system with a non-stock center carb, and a set of Dougs' ceramic-coated headers with 1.75-inch primaries and 3.00-inch collectors that dump into 2.50-inch pipes and Cherry Bomb glasspacks. The factory distributor with a Pertronix conversion fires the plugs.
A heavy-duty 11-inch Zoom clutch was installed ahead of the factory M20 four-speed, and the 3.23 Safe-T-Track rear remains.
Under The Rockers
The chassis is an exercise in affordable mods that make for a comfortable street cruiser, and bucks the Pro Touring trend of huge wheels/tires/brakes. This GTO features a '79 WS6 T/A steering box with a 14:1 constant ratio to tighten up the turns-to-lock to 2.7 and increase effort and road feel. QA1 adjustable coilovers offer an increased spring rate and allow for ride height adjustability to get just the right stance, while ensuring the front fenders don't get rubbed by the tires. Out back, convertible springs are combined with load-leveler shocks to keep the tail up, despite the added weight of the stereo equipment. The stock 0.937-inch front swaybar is complemented by the addition of a 0.875-inch rear bar and boxed lower control arms.
A set of 15x7 Rally II wheels were widened to 15x8 and chromed by Stockton Wheel and then painted and fitted with 235/60R15 Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tires up front and 255/60R15 tires of the same brand in the rear. Aftermarket 11-inch front disc brakes were installed to shorten stopping distances, while working in concert with the stock 9.5-inch drums.
The road to automotive bliss was paved over by a few potholes and indecision due to the fact that the project began simply and grew more intense as it progressed. As such, it took longer and cost more than if a plan was in place ahead of time. That fact certainly hasn't squelched Rich's enthusiasm for his GTO, however. Since completion, he has hit the road once again and has begun to frequent car shows. At HPP Day at E-Town in May, the GTO took First in Class and Best of Show Modified.
After 45 years, Rich Rizzi finally has the '65 GTO he has always wanted. It didn't come from a Pontiac order form, but the result is much better than he had ever hoped.
Project Lessons Learned The Hard Way
What else should be found...
What else should be found under the hood of a '65 GTO but a Tri-Power Pontiac engine? This original four-barrel WT-code plant got its three deuces added later and features an 0.030 overbore, and fresh replacement internals.
Rich laments, "I learned that it's better to lay out a full restoration and customization plan from the beginning and stick to it-not let my emotions take over." Read below to learn from Rich's experiences, so you can save time and money on your project.
• The addition of 8-inch-wide front and rear wheels required rolling the inside edges of the wheel openings, straightening the lower fenders, and mods to the wheel opening moldings to avoid contact with the tires.
• QA1 adjustable coilovers were needed up front to accommodate the larger 8-inch wheels. Changing the springs would also achieve the proper ride height, but it could be a hit-or-miss proposition, requiring swapping a few sets of springs to get it right. The QA1s provide easy adjustability for ride height.
• The stereo system grew from a head unit and amp into a high-end en-deavor. Since Eclipse products are for the most part only compatible with other Eclipse components, the cost went up.
• As the stereo system grew, space became an issue, resulting in custom work in the trunk.
• Also, as the stereo system expanded, it became a bigger tax on the electrical system, so another battery was added in the trunk. To keep the stock alternator body and pulley so as to not upset the accessory drive-belt arrangement, the unit had to be sent out and upgraded from 37 amps to 100 amps. A battery switch had to be installed so both batteries could be charged by the alternator, but also to isolate the rear battery so the stereo wouldn't draw from the front battery.
• The weight of the stereo equipment and battery caused the rear to sag, which required convertible springs, 1/4-inch-taller urethane spring pads, and load-leveler shocks to get load rating and the tail back up.
• Rich decided to go with '06 GTO seats after his '65 seats were already restored and ready for installation.
• Changing to '06 seats also required a redesign of the custom console.
• The custom dash and console went through a few design iterations. Rich had a vacuum gauge restored to incorporate into the console, but didn't like it and ended up going with a different design.
A Vintage Air Super Gen II...
A Vintage Air Super Gen II A/C system with a Sanden 508 compressor was installed using 326/400 A/C brackets that were modified to fit the 389 head. The radiator is an original '65 Harrison four-core from Melvin's '65 that's augmented with an 11-inch SPAL electric pusher fan for the A/C condenser.
The custom console features...
The custom console features a Brazilian Coca Bola wood top and even has a cup holder. Stewart Warner gauges are period correct. An A1 electric power-window kit and Watson Streetworks power-window switches raise and lower the side glass and the Eclipse AVN 7000 5.1 Surround Sound stereo head unit has a built-in motorized screen-it's just the tip of the iceberg for the stereo equipment.
Here's the head unit with...
Here's the head unit with the screen retracted. This system features a Sirius satellite tuner adapter, an Eclipse DCU105 5.1 channel decoder/AV matrix unit, an Eclipse BEC 105 backup camera, and an Eclipse IPC 106 iPod interface. The Vintage A/C system sports billet aluminum center slider vents and a backlit four-knob control panel.
Installing the rear seats...
Installing the rear seats took considerable massaging. Just behind them, a pair of Sony 6x9 four-way speakers are mounted on the package shelf.
The finely detailed carpeted...
The finely detailed carpeted and vinyl-clad trunk features custom panels mounting a pair Rockford Fosgate 12-inch subwoofers that will pound your fillings out. Also shown is a Rockford Fosgate P8002 800-watt, two-channel amp for the stereo head unit.
A 900-watt Eclipse XA5000...
A 900-watt Eclipse XA5000 amp to power the subwoofers resides on a custom panel on the driver side. Other stereo features include a Power Acoustik 20 farad capacitor (extra battery storage), Eclipse 8445 dual crossovers, an Optima 40-pound red dry cell battery mounted into the subwoofer box area, and a Perko three-way battery isolator.