Is it genetic? Are some of us born with a desire to own and build Pontiacs, or is it learned? Since his parents were never really big on Pontiacs, for Kentuckian Eric Emmerich it appears to be learned from his uncles, Bud and Jerry—two hot rodders who sold their Chevys once they discovered the GTO. “They found the Pontiac to be more powerful and better looking than the countless Chevys they had owned and raced,” Eric tells HPP.
“My uncle Bud bought a new GTO in ’66 and traded it in on a new convertible GTO in 1970, which he still owns. I’m helping to restore it now. As a kid, I got a thrill ride in it on a trip to the Smoky Mountains—I think the ride was better than the destination. My uncle Jerry found his ’67 GTO in the early ’70s and still owns it today.
This GTO sensory overload led to Eric’s lifelong passion for The Great Ones. He drove a ’66 GTO in high school and college, and has owned another ’66, two ’67s, and recently a ’65 LeMans. He restored a ’65 GTO hardtop over a 10-year period, which he sold to finance this project.
This 462 is stuffed with a...
This 462 is stuffed with a potent Comp cam, forged rods and pistons, ported E-heads, and a Six-Shooter induction system.
In January of 2005, Eric embarked on an extensive resto/mod buildup after dragging home a shell and a pile of boxes that once was a ’65 GTO convertible for $3,500. The PHS revealed it was originally equipped with the 389 four-barrel engine, automatic transmission, Safe-T-Track rear, Super Lift rear shocks, and a few other convenience options.
The problem? “It was very incomplete,” Eric laments. “The original engine and trans were gone, and there were pieces everywhere.”
The good news? It came with a machined 0.030-over 455 block, and there was no temptation to restore the Goat to stock, so upgrades were limited only by Eric’s wallet. Over a four-year span, a killer 462, five-speed transmission, disc brakes, big swaybars, wide wheels, and fat tires were added.
Before all these great mods could be integrated, however, the Goat had to be restored. Happily, this wasn’t Eric’s first rodeo.
“My GTO screams,” owner Eric...
“My GTO screams,” owner Eric Emmerich quips. “It’s a scary amount of power. However, at 70 mph, it tachs at just 2,200 rpm—the five-speed gets all the credit here. My ’65 rides a little firm with the poly bushings but handles very well—the trade-off is worth it.”
Though the body was in decent shape, it did require metal work. Eric applied Aircraft stripper, working in small 2x2-foot sections to bring the shell down to bare metal. He had to replace most of the floor, the passenger rocker panel, and the trunk. The fenders required small patches too, but minimal work was needed on the hood and doors. After the welding, grinding, and bodywork, he then sprayed a few coats of PPG epoxy primer.
He did lots of research on the Autobody 101 forum and PY forum, and even made some of his own tools. “I got the GTO fairly straight with a ton of sanding and by building my own sanding boards,” he recalls. “To make long boards for the ultra-long quarters of a GTO, I took 40-inch levels and used about 36 inches of each. I turned each on its side, attached a straight edge, countersunk its screws, and added rubber padding.
“I skim-coated the whole shell, and then carefully and slowly sanded until it was close. I made sure not to lose the curves of the quarters or the other panels. Then I used Evercoat’s Slick Sand, which is a high-build polyester-based primer, and sanded and did lots of guidecoats.”
After transforming his two-car garage into a makeshift spray booth by adding filtered ventilation and exhaust, covering the walls and ceiling with plastic, and washing and wetting down the floor, Eric applied PPG epoxy sealer, sprayed three coats of DuPont ChromaBase urethane in Fontaine Blue, and wet-sanded with 600 and 800 grit. He then shot three coats of DuPont clear and wet-sanded with 600 up to 1,500-grit before polishing with 3M and Wizard products.
“My wife really didn’t like the Mayfair Maize, white top, and gold interior combination,” Eric explains. “So we made the executive decision to paint it the color we would want, and to coordinate with the white top, we also settled on Parchment interior. My wife picked the Fontaine Blue from the ’65 color chart of Pontiac colors. Good choice.”