Foregoing the bigger-is-better philosophy, Brad installed 15x7 and 15x8 Rally I wheels fro
What’s more satisfying than hitting the highway on a warm sunny day in a Pontiac convertible? How about doing the same in one that you built to appear and perform to your specific tastes? Sound tempting? Then the story of Brad Schmelzer’s ’65 LeMans will interest you.
Prior owner of a ’69 GP, ’64 GTO, and ’65 LeMans, the 52-year-old plumbing contractor from Morganville, New Jersey, tells HPP, “At age 50, I decided to finally build my tribute ’65 GTO convertible resto-mod. One goal was to leave intact the beautiful exterior and interior. The second was to ensure it accelerated, drove, handled, and stopped like more modern muscle.”
Mike Hagan’s Antique Radio provided a ’66 AM/FM repro radio upgraded to 4x45-watt RMS outp
Talk about a ground-up build. Brad bought a convertible frame before he bought the car. His idea was to build the chassis at home, while a complete roller was delivered to the body shop to be restored over a year’s time. The bare chassis came from Texas in October 2008, and a driveable ’65 LeMans from Georgia followed at the end of the year.
Engine and Drivetrain
Dual Quads add a vintage look, and that’s the way the owner wanted it, while a Billet Spec
An ad for a 455 block and set of heads brought Brad to Jim Taylor Engine Service. After speaking with Jim, Brad decided to have him and Mark Erney work out the combo, and Mark would build a 9.4:1 compression street engine.
The YU-code ’73 455 was bored 0.035 over and fitted with Pro-Gram Engineering four-bolt main caps and a 4.210-inch-stroke 455 crank cut 0.010 and polished. Crower’s forged 6.625-inch rods use full-floating pins to attach to SRP forged flat-top pistons with Hastings plasma moly rings. A Melling pump with a 60-psi spring draws oil from a Moroso 7-quart pan, and a Pontiac No. 5 stamped windage tray reduces oil whip from the crank.
Jim modified a set of 6X heads, adding bronze guides, partially filling the exhaust crossover, and porting them to flow 240 cfm. Ferrea SS 2.11 intake and oversized 1.71 exhaust valves were employed, as were Crower dual valvesprings and Smith Brothers chrome-moly 5⁄16-inch pushrods. Jim specified a Crane custom solid-roller cam with 252/256-degrees duration at 0.050 and 0.543/0.543 inch lift (with 0.018-inch valve lash) when using 1.5:1-ratio Crower aluminum roller rockers.
A pair of K&N 7x2-inch cleaners filter air for the twin Edelbrock 500-cfm carbs on 1-inch HVH spacers, which ride atop an Offy 2x4-barrel intake, with a Holley 120-gph mechanical pump providing the fuel.
An underdash-mounted Stewart Warner green-line oil pressure and water temperature gauge cl
An MSD Pro-Billet distributor, 6AL box, Blaster HVC-2 coil and Super Conductor 8mm wires light AC R44TS plugs at 35 degrees total timing—all in by 3,000 rpm. Doug’s ceramic-coated headers send the exhaust through 1.75-inch primaries and 3.00-inch collectors.
Brad chose a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed trans from Keisler Engineering, featuring First: 2.87/Second: 1.89/Third: 1.28/Fourth: 1.0/Fifth: 0.64 gear ratios to provide a deep dig for launch and overdrive to keep the highway revs low. A Centerforce hydraulic Dual-Friction 11-inch clutch on a Center Force steel flywheel couples the engine to the trans, and a custom 2.5-inch steel driveshaft sends the twist to a Moser 12-bolt with 3.73s.
Suspension and Brakes
Brad says “when I started this project, it was just a steel frame sitting on the garage fl
For the handling qualities Brad desired, he chose Global West Suspension (GW) components. The springs are 1-inch lower than stock in front and ½-inch lower in the rear, and have a higher rate. Tubular front control arms feature improved geometry from stock, and both the front and rear control arms have Del-A-Lum bushings to reduce deflection. GW swaybars, a 1.25-inch front and 1-inch rear, quell body lean in the corners; Koni gas shocks maintain the suspension’s composure over bumps.