Jerry Eckerle is a Pontiac loyalist who was fortunate enough to be of driving age at the zenith of the musclecar era. And while many of his contemporaries back in the day pored over the relative attributes of PMD’s performance machines in the hopes of someday buying one, this veteran lived his automotive dream. “I bought a used ’67 Firebird 326 H.O. four-speed convertible in July 1967 upon returning from Vietnam,” he tells HPP. “I traded it in on a new ’69 Firebird convertible in December 1968. It was equipped with a 350 H.O., a four-speed, and a 3.90 Safe-T-Track rear.
“Street racing took its toll on the 350,” laments Jerry. “McEntee Motors in Brookville, Indiana, the selling dealer, opened up the motor for warranty repairs on a few occasions. The trunk in the Firebird wasn’t big enough for a spare tire and a cooler, which prompted me to look for a larger car. Being a Pontiac guy, the GTO was the obvious choice.”
While deciding which model to order was easy, selecting the options required more thought. By 1970, insurance companies had caught on to the musclecar movement and levied heavy surcharges on them based on published horsepower ratings. Sure, Jerry would be dinged for his GTO, but he planned to save some money by not ordering a 366 or 370-horse Ram Air engine. Instead, he retained the standard 350-horse 400, but backed it with a Special Order 3.90 rear axle and M21 close-ratio transmission.
The street racer in him also checked off Rally Gauges with clock, hood tach, and the Ride and Handling package, skipping power steering and power brakes. Though creature comforts were few beyond the AM/FM radio and rear seat speaker, he did specify visual enhancements like the Décor Group, Light Group, and others you can view on the reproduction window sticker.
Jerry placed his order in February of 1970. The GTO arrived on April 25, and he took delivery on April 30—just in time for warm weather top-down cruising. And cruise he did, daily, for the next 9 years.
This special-ordered 3.90-geared,...
This special-ordered 3.90-geared, Atoll Blue GTO has only known one owner in 42 years. Those gears turn original 14x6 code-JT Rally II wheels on reproduction G70-14 Goodyear Polyglas tires. Behind them are stock 9.5-inch drum brakes.
He street-raced his Goat and drove it to and from work, reveling in the newfound power and the way “the GTO held the road much better than the Firebirds.” He drove it on his honeymoon to Virginia, and when each of his three children were born, he and his wife brought them home from the hospital in the convertible.
When life’s responsibilities increased after the children arrived, the drop-top was forced into early retirement from road duty and was stored for the better part of the ’80s. Once Jerry’s children were old enough to enjoy riding in the Goat, it became “The Sunday Car,” and was driven in clear, warm weather only.
In the early ’90s, after oil pressure dropped to zero during a weekend cruise, Jerry had BES Racing Engines in Guilford, Indiana, rebuild the original code-WT 400 engine. The block was bored 0.030-over, and the stock refurbished crank and rods with new TRW forged pistons were installed.
A factory “041” Ram Air IV cam with 308/320-degrees duration and 0.469/0.469 lift (with 1.50:1 rockers) replaced the stock stick, and the 2.11/1.77 valved No. 12 heads were rebuilt and modified for unleaded fuel. Jerry wanted to retain the 10.5:1 compression ratio, the factory Q-jet, iron intake, Delco points distributor, and log exhaust manifolds. Once the engine was reinstalled, a Gardner reproduction exhaust system was bolted in to restore the Humbler’s growl.
Jerry always did his best to maintain his Pontiac’s appearance and performance, despite the harsh Indiana winters. Back in 1977, when rust began to show around the wheelwells and rockers, he had the areas professionally repaired and repainted.
By the mid ’90s, however, the GTO began to show its age once again, so Jerry decided on a cosmetic restoration. He had the quarter skins and inner and outer wheelhouses replaced, and the GTO was repainted in its factory hue of Atoll Blue with more modern DuPont Chroma base and clear in 1995 by Pulskamp Restoration in Greensburg, Indiana.
FAST Automotive freshened...
FAST Automotive freshened up the mildly modified factory 400 engine, and completely detailed it and the engine compartment to concours-gold standards.
In that same year, and again in 1999, Jerry and his GTO participated in a parade, escorting The Beach Boys into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium for concerts. He also discovered a new way to enjoy his Pontiac—car shows.
He started at local events, progressed to national events, and really got into concours competition in the early ’00s. After taking home GTOAA Concours Silver awards in 2003, 2004, and 2005, Jerry was ready to do what was necessary to garner the gold. He wouldn’t have to travel far to find a restorer who specialized in GTOs. FAST Automotive is based in Batesville, Indiana, the same town Jerry calls home.
He contacted owner Paul Freese in 2006. Paul and Jerry formulated a plan that included repainting the front clip of the GTO and completely detailing the engine compartment, drivetrain, and suspension.
The code-50 blue Morrokide...
The code-50 blue Morrokide interior is all original right down to the Comfort Weave seat covers, with the lone exception of the reproduction door panels from Legendary.
While the engine was out, it was torn down for inspection and received new rings, bearings, oil pump, timing chain, and gaskets. The original 7040263 Q-jet carb was sent to Cliff Ruggles for a rebuild, and the distributor was refurbished.
FAST also replaced the front springs, ball joints, and bushings in the suspension. Paul recalls: “Jerry’s GTO was in pretty good overall shape. It had been factory undercoated, and more was added over the years. It did a great job of protecting the underside of the Goat, but took a ton of labor hours to remove.”
Paul Freese of FAST Automotive...
Paul Freese of FAST Automotive proves the rebuilt powerplant’s prowess by toasting those repop tires.
All of their efforts culminated in GTOAA gold in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. In the midst of the GTOAA accolades came numerous Best in Show, Best Pontiac, and other awards at various events.
Now, 42 years after Jerry placed his order with McEntee Motors, his GTO convertible is appearing, running, and driving better than ever.
Definitely not your typical...
Definitely not your typical option choices as this reproduction sticker shows.
The 67-year-old retired Hoosier says, “I have never tired of the way my GTO looks and the attention it always garners. I love driving it, experiencing the way it handles and the power that’s always available when I need it.”
Pontiac must have built a pretty impressive product to keep Jerry this passionate regarding its preservation and restoration for over four decades. Despite the fact that the Division is gone, he and his uniquely optioned GTO still remind us how great it once was.