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.
HotRod Autobody built this GTO, which features House of Kolors Emerald Green Kandy paint a
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.
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.
The 464ci Poncho engine has seen quite an upgrade in living quarters. Note the custom HotR
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.
Don’t assume the ’06 Pontiac GTO buckets represent the major interior mods. TopLine Uphols
…fabricated the door panels.
To provide a clean and logical layout for the new Legacy gauges, A/C controls, and Kenwood
Ahead of the DRC Transmission-built 700-R4 Overdrive (Elk Grove Village, Illinois) is a DRC 2,800-stall converter, a JW flexplate, and a B&M trans cooler. Behind the trans is a 3.50-inch chromoly driveshaft that leads to a ’70 10-bolt rearend with an Auburn Posi unit, 3.73 Richmond gears, and Moser axles.
KMC wheels (now made by ARE) have KMC centercaps. Coincidentally KMC is also the owner’s i
To add more modern handling characteristics, Kevin incorporated a Hotchkis TVS suspension featuring higher rate 1-inch lowering springs, heavy-duty tie-rod sleeves; adjustable rear suspension with tubular upper and lower control arms, and urethane bushings and control-arm mount braces; and a 13⁄8-inch tubular swaybar up front; with a 11⁄4-inch tubular adjustable bar in the rear. Gas shocks are used at the four corners.
Stainless Steel Brake Corp four-wheel discs with single-piston calipers are augmented with a Hydratech Brake Assist System, which employs hydraulic pressure from the power-steering system instead of vacuum to reduce pedal pressure. KMC Wheels Nova Style 17x8.5 wheels roll on Fuzion 245/45R17 and 255/50R17 tires.
On the Road
“I love the beauty and comfort of this car,” Kevin relates. “Not only can it steal attention with its looks, but on the street it rumbles, and can take off like a raging tiger. With the new seats and the modern electronics, it’s a pleasure to drive.”
“The build was a non-stop, never-good-enough, how-can-we-make-it-better-faster-more-eye-catching and just-a-purely-awesome-car endeavor,” Kevin says. “I would love to say that taking it on picnics and Sunday cruises was a highlight, but in reality, the hard work involved in giving new life to an old classic car was personally rewarding. Now we enjoy sharing and showing Irish Eyes to thousands of people.”
How well did the GTO turnout? It has already racked up an impressive list of accolades: World of Wheels Chicago 2011, Best in Class and Best Overall Street; All Pontiac Regional’s 2011, Best in Show; Goodguy’s Show Joliet Speedway 2011, Coolest Convertible; Muscle Car Nationals 2011, Gold (999 out of 1,000 points); World of Wheels Chicago 2012, Best in Class; POCI Pontiac Nationals 2012, Gold.
At the start, Kevin said, “I also wanted to be able to take it to a car show and hopefully drive away with a trophy.” Thanks to a well-coordinated effort by Kevin, Mark, and other pros, we think that has been aptly handled.
Kevin’s fraternal twins, daughter Amanda and son Patrick, are shown with the GTO before th
Here’s the body shell torn down.
The drivetrain and Hotchkis suspension have been installed on the restored frame.