Nestled between the radiator...
Nestled between the radiator and the engine is the fabricated-aluminum fuel tank, flanked by a fire-suppression system, which is remotely deployed via a T-handle accessible from the driver’s seat.
Though the short-block featured a stock forged-steel crank and SD connecting rods and pistons, when he installed it into the Star of the Circuit with the aforementioned blower system, the setup didn’t last for long. “I was blowing the stock head gaskets frequently (no copper or Butler/Cometic gaskets were available in those early days), forcing me into trying to lower the engine compression with M/T pistons. About that time, I also installed M/T aluminum rods and an Isky 550 Le Gerra cam (330/330-degree advertised duration, 0.594-/0.594-inch lift, 108-degree LSA) to try to stay ahead of the competition,” he says.
The rest of the drivetrain consisted of a modified torque converter, a mostly stock Turbo 400, a stock, but shortened ’64 GTO driveshaft, and a Big-Car rear-end, which was stuffed with a 4.30-geared Posi unit that in turn rotated stock Super-Duty axles and 15x10 Cragar S/S mags shod in Goodyear Bluestreak tires (28x7.5x15, front/30x10.5x15-inch, rear.)
Did high-test gasoline power it? “No way,” Beswick says. “Though I used the highest-test Sunoco gasoline I could get my hands on in the ’64 Mystery Tornado [until mid-1965], I ran methanol in the ’66 from Day 1, and after I added forged aluminum rods, I began adding 10 to 15 percent nitro-methane to the mixture.
After some half-track test runs at Gay Pontiac’s Houston Dragway in Dickinson, Texas, Beswick’s first full quarter-mile pass in this ’66 GTO made the drag-racing news of the day with an 8.73 e.t. at 173 mph. He campaigned it throughout the ’67 season, and into 1968, eventually earning a best e.t. of 8.48 at 178 mph at U.S. 30 Dragway in Gary, Indiana. Later in 1968, he retired it from duty and introduced his first full-tube-chassis Star of the Circuit II ’68 GTO.
What happened next?
The engine’s relocation required...
The engine’s relocation required putting the driver’s seat just forward of the rear wheelwells. Notice how far apart the brake pedal on far left is from the accelerator pedal to the right of the steering wheel.
“In 1969, I sold the ’66 GTO to a drag racer in neighboring Indiana,” Beswick says. “From then, it dropped out of sight until Rick Johnson located it and I bought it back in the ’80s. I sold it for the second time in May 1991 to a good friend and neighboring farmer Russ Ottens (who applied the new paintjob), and then a few years later I helped Otten arrange the sale of it to my crew chief, John Holmes, in February 2003.”
Holmes, who started with Beswick as a Tameless Tiger crewmember in 1999, recalls that his introduction into the hobby was when he started as an oil changer and car washer at Jim Detcler Pontiac in Oswego, Illinois, in 1971. When he was 18 years old, he bought his first Pontiac: a blue, four-speed ’66 GTO. In the late ’90s, he re-entered the Pontiac hobby with his purchase of a ’67 GTO project car. Two years later, he hired Beswick for a personal appearance at his company Holmes Auto Repair’s open-house event. “I’ve been around Arnie ever since,” he says.
“When I first saw Arnie’s old Star of the Circuit GTO, I liked the car a lot, and expressed my interest in buying it,” Holmes says. “Ottens had already repainted the fiberglass body and freshened up the aluminum interior, and the frame and straight axle were still intact the way Beswick had raced the car.
Several engine parts for a motor rebuild were with the car, a Mickey Thompson blower intake, one of Beswick’s TSI Turbo 400s, as well as some wiring and fuel- and cooling-systems pieces.
Because Beswick raced the car with only rear drum brakes and a ’57 Pontiac rear end, Ottens upgraded the GTO to Strange four-wheel disc brakes, and a Ford 9-inch with Strange axles and spool to pacify the track tech people on the stopping and the axle-safety issues.
John Holmes is proud to keep...
John Holmes is proud to keep Arnie’s legendary GTO in the public eye at racing events—both on the track and on display.
After first assisting Arnie with rebuilding the Tameless Tiger, Holmes started the Star of the Circuit GTO’s rebuild in 2009, beginning with sourcing a 400 block, KRE 85cc heads, and a Weiand 6-71 blower, assembling the engine, and bolting it to its vintage race frame.
It didn’t take much work—“Basically just some rollcage updates,” Holmes says—to get the famous GTO to pass NHRA 8.50 e.t. certification and then get back onto the track.