The GTO was the number 1 musclecar when I was growing up,” says Kevin Callahan. “After owning several collector cars that looked great but handled like ‘60s cars, I wanted something different—one that was quick, comfortable, handled well, and was eye-catching. I also wanted to be able to take it to a car show and hopefully drive away with a trophy.” Due to Kevin’s heritage, it would also have an Irish theme.

In 2006 he and his wife Joanne found a ’70 GTO convertible on the Internet and purchased it for $18,500. When they got it back to their Batavia, Illinois, home they soon realized that the Goat was somewhat less than they had bargained for.

Kevin laments: ”Joanne drove the GTO first, and I followed in her Suburban. She said she had the car ‘wide open’ down Main Street, but I could have easily passed her.” This poor display of speed led to Kevin having the engine rebuilt. Following a summer of cruising, the Callahans decided to invest in the GTO’s future, as the body needed restoration too.

After getting references Kevin concluded, “Mark Klopack at HotRod Autobody in Shiller Park, Illinois, has a passion for building up musclecars. His experience from building a [’59 Impala that earned a place in the Detroit Autorama’s] Ridler Great 8, made him the perfect choice for my beauty.” Mark helped to create the concept of Irish Eyes and then built it.

Over the next two years, the Goat morphed into a Judge-trimmed GTO with custom paint, graphics, and interior. To back up its bold appearance, a built 0.040-over 455 Pontiac engine was mated to a 700-R4 trans and a 3.73 rear, and modern suspension components, four-wheel disc brakes, and 21st-century electronics were integrated into the design.

Now let’s learn how a 165,000-mile puppy-mill Pontiac became a show stealer and a hot street car.

Body

RediStrip in Roselle, Illinois, removed the old paint by dipping the body in chemicals. HotRod Autobody then went to work deciding which panels to replace and which to save. Once the metal repair work; filling in the body seams; and making custom changes to the hood, firewall, and dash were complete, it was time for primer and blocking.

Glasurit Direct to Metal primer was laid down in two separate applications of four coats each, since much of it would be sanded off. After block-sanding and the application of a sealer, a combination of Glasurit and House of Kolor paints were employed. Two white base coats, seven coats of Emerald Green Metallic, four coats of Lime Gold Kandy, and seven clearcoats were applied with 1,000-grit, wet-sanding between them.

Once the paint had cured, final wet-sanding consisted of 1,000-, 1,500-, 2,000-, and 2,500-grits. Then came applications of 3M Super Duty rubbing compound with a wool pad, 3M Imperial Machine Glaze with a cotton pad, and 3M Finesse-it II with a black foam pad and on a micro-fiber towel to bring out the luster.

Powertrain

The ’73 455 powerplant was rebuilt by Automotive Engine Specialties (Elk Grove Village, Illinois). Its bottom end features forged flat-top pistons wrapped in plasma-moly rings, Eagle forged H-beam rods, a stock refurbished nodular-iron crank, and a Melling high-volume oil pump drawing from a Canton pan.

A set of 87cc E-heads were fully ported and polished and now have large Manley 2.19 intake and stock 1.66 exhaust valves. Compression checks in at 10.25:1. A custom ground 240/248-degree duration at 0.050 Comp Cams hydraulic roller boasts 0.580/0.580-inch lift with 1.6-ratio roller rockers. Comp dual valvesprings and 0.080-wall Manley pushrods comprise the valvetrain.

Under the K&N 14x3-inch air cleaner is a Holley 850 Double Pumper carb on an Edelbrock intake. Fuel is delivered via an Edelbrock fuel pump, and spark is provided by an MSD Pro-Billet distributor, 6AL box, Blaster coil, and StreetFire wires to NGK Spark Plugs.

Hedman Hustlers usher the combustion remains through dual 3.00-inch ceramic-coated oval pipes, with an oval X-junction and SpinTech mufflers from Ram Air Restoration Enterprises. If more power is warranted, a Cold Fusion single-stage nitrous plate kit can provide up to a 150hp shot.