“My goal was to bring it back out as an exhibition car, but not to try to break any e.t. or speed records,” John says. At our Pavement Pounders Shootout, he piloted the old warrior to a 9.28 e.t. at 144.40 mph. “It had more throttle to go, but I felt uncomfortable because of a front-end shimmy, so I let off,” he says.
Since then, Holmes did a rebuild of all of the major steering pieces. The GTO is now running about as quick as when Arnie had it in the ’60s, and posted its best e.t. to date—8.53 seconds—at Cordova Dragway Park in October 2011.
Here’s Beswick—at 81 years...
Here’s Beswick—at 81 years old he’s not even thinking about retirement—helping guide the Star of the Circuit ’66 GTO back to the starting line after an aggressive, crowd-pleasing burnout.
“You can’t imagine how popular the Star of the Circuit GTO was in the ’60s. The fact that it had a GM nameplate and its performance numbers were equal to, and in many cases, better than the very popular Fords and Mopars of the day. I raced that car at more tracks nationwide than any other Pontiac racer I’ve owned to this day,” Beswick concludes. “The phone calls I got for that car was totally mind-boggling and unbelievable.” “Because of my time in the car and its popularity from coast to coast, I appreciate the efforts John has made to get my famous racecar back on the track.”
John Holmes wants to give special thanks to his personal assistant Mike Ehrhart for his help on restoring and maintaining the Star of the Circuit ’66 GTO.
Race Weight With Driver:
Cubic Inches Before/After:
Engine Built By:
Machine work and balancing by Precision Engine Rebuilders/assembled by owner
Enderle Bug Catcher fuel injection
0.150 (main) / 0.70 (high-speed bypass) / 0.58 (nozzles)
Mickey Thompson blower
Enderle Bug Catcher
AN 12 steel-braided from tank to pump, AN 8 steel braided from pump to barrel valve, AN 6 return line from barrel valve to tank
Kauffman D-port aluminum
Stainless steel, 2.11/1.66-in
Ross flat-top, 4.15-in, four-valve relief
Speed Pro, file-to-fit, 1⁄16, 1⁄16, 3⁄16
R&R billet-aluminum, 6.800-in
Scat, forged, 4.00-in stroke
Rotating Assembly Balanced:
Precision Engine Builders
Cam Dynamics/Crane solid-roller
Duration at 0.050:
Duration (advertised) 314/323-deg
Lift with Specified Rocker Arms:
Crane stud-mounted roller, 1.55-ratio
Mallory Super Mag III magneto
Autolite AR 3912
Four 1.75-in-diameter header pipes from cylinder head to edge of body (zoomie style)
TSI Turbo 400 with transbrake and reverse shift pattern
Midwest, 3,500 stall, 10-in
B&M Pro Stick, reverse pattern
Ford 9-inch by Strange
Rear Gear Ratio:
Strange, 35 spline
Chassis and Suspension
Strange 11-in disc
Weld Racing 15x4.5, widened Pontiac steel rims 15x10
Hoosier 26x4.5x15 / Hoosier Drag Slick 29x10x15
Tire Pressure F/R:
35 psi / 10 psi
Ford Econoline straight-axle and spindles
Ladder bar/traction arms
48-in wheelie bars
Complete hand-formed aluminum interior with Auto Meter tachometer, oil pressure, and water-temp gauges, custom racing seat with flame-retardant seat cover, RCI six-point seatbelts
’66 GTO Fiberglass body, wheel openings, hood, and fenders lengthened 9 inches, Lexan windshield
Safety system on board, fire extinguisher, parachute, fuel shut-off
Red, orange, brown, grey
1,500 rpm with transbrake
Arnie dug into his personal collection to provide some great vintage photos.
In August 1966, Beswick shows...
In August 1966, Beswick shows off his new Star of the Circuit front spoiler. “In June and July of 1966, a race-track announcer at U.S. 131 Dragway in Martin, Michigan, began calling my GTO ‘Star of the Circuit’ because of what he described as ‘unquestionably the most breathtakingly beautiful paint scheme he’d ever seen on a race car.’ My crew and I liked it so much that it became the official name of the car, and had it painted on it shortly thereafter.”
Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick...
Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick poses with his Star of the Circuit ’66 GTO before a match race against one of his fiercest rivals, Dyno Don Nicholson (in a ’66 funny car Mercury Comet), at Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway in Covington, Georgia, in April 1968. Beswick won the race. Note: In exchange for allowing the lettering “Hurst Test Car #7” to be applied to this GTO, Hurst loaned Beswick a truck to trailer it to some of his West Coast races, including the Smokers U.S. Fuel Gas Championship in Bakersfield, California, as well as the big funnycar shootout at Lions Dragstrip.
“Sometimes fans send me photos...
“Sometimes fans send me photos and don’t remember where it was taken,” Beswick says. “I don’t recall the location of this photo, either, but I can tell you that I had the rear wheels jacked up and the motor running, while two crew members checked for leaks. That’s me in the driver’s seat.”
Beswick lifts the GTO’s front...
Beswick lifts the GTO’s front wheels off of the ground during this launch at Smokers Hot Rod Club United States Fuel and Gas Championship in October 1967. “Don’t forget, this was a time when it was a ‘run what you brung’ all-out war, as the Ford and Chrysler factories were throwing new horsepower items at their race teams almost on a weekly basis. Unless you raced against them in that era, there’s no way to describe how badly the factory motorsport managers wanted their teams to win so they’d have bragging rights when they reported to their corporate bosses on Monday morning,” he says.
By 1967, Beswick was travelling...
By 1967, Beswick was travelling coast to coast to compete in match races at America’s most popular dragstrips. In October, he lined up against Al Vanderwoude’s Flying Dutchman ’67 Dodge Dart.