Not every Pontiac restoration needs to be a high-dollar concours endeavor. “Over the past five years my GTO went from a driver to a real nice No. 2 show car,” says Artie Simonelli, a 50-year-old information technology technician from Staten Island.
While some may boast of how great their cars are and how they are better than everyone else’s, Artie doesn’t. He knows based on his experience going to events that his Goat is currently a solid No. 2 and he isn’t claiming anything more. Yet his methodical approach and the steady progress are getting his GTO noticed.
I met Artie at the Pontiac Fall Nationals in Atco, New Jersey, in November 2011. He asked me a question that I usually get at events, “How can I get my car in the magazine?” I explained to him what we were looking for in feature cars and offered to take a look at his GTO. Though it was a rare car, which made it good feature material, it was a work in progress. There were still a few areas that needed attention to make it really pop off the pages.
The code-223 black upholstery was refurbished by Javier at Bremar in Staten Island. Legend
Over the years, I’ve given plenty of readers guidance on how to make their Pontiacs look their best for features. (I only do this when they ask—I don’t walk around car shows and pass judgment on people’s Pontiacs.) Some rise to the occasion, but many I never hear from again. Artie was an exception. He took my advice and used the winter months to further improve his Goat.
By the Performance Years Open House in June 2012, he and his GTO were ready, and he was looking for me.
He addressed all the areas we had discussed and not only did we photograph it for this story, but his post coupe also took First Place in the Stock 1966 class for the GTOAA Eastern Regionals, which was held in conjunction with the PY event.
Now that you have seen how far it has come, let’s find out how it got here. Artie recalls, “It all started in 1981 after I sold my ’69 Camaro. My friend, Karey, took me to an auto auction where I saw a GTO for the first time. It was a Signet Gold ’67 with a black vinyl top. I won it for $2,400. I had the engine done by Farks Super Cars in Brooklyn. It put out 425 hp and was a lot of fun.”
By 2005 Artie was ready to relive his youth. After buying a motorcycle that did not satisfy him, he sold it and spent two years hunting for a GTO. He found this one in Long Island. Fellow Richmond County Pontiac Association (RCPA) member Joe Portagallo went with him to look at the Goat and told him he had to buy it given its options, condition, and price.
It was rare, powerful, very presentable, and driveable—$21,000 later it was Artie’s. “I bought the car and drove it to the Atco show [Pontiac Fall Nationals] the next day,” he remembers. After enjoying the new car honeymoon, Artie knew he had some work ahead of him.
Though it was a nice driver it had many incorrect parts and some paint chips and imperfections. Mechanical parts and options came first and $1,000 went to Performance Years for the initial batch. More would follow over next few years. By April 2011, Artie decided a full paintjob was necessary.
Amazingly, all the body panels are still original to the A-body. Jack O’Hara and Paul Raymond of Jack’s Auto Body in Staten Island handled the light bodywork and paint, beginning with stripping the sheetmetal via soda-blasting.
Once the minor body imperfections were corrected, the PPG primer was block-sanded and sealer was applied, then five coats of PPG Omni urethane in Martinique Bronze were laid down, followed by two coats of Nason DuPont clear. Wet-sanding came next, and 3M products were employed for final polishing.
Engine and Drivetrain
The WS-code 360hp 389 is unencumbered by power-robbing options except for power steering.
Since the 389 Tri-Power that his GTO came with was not original, Artie searched for two years and finally purchased a correctly coded ’66 Tri-Power engine from H&H in Arizona. It had been rebuilt with a 0.030 overbore and a 0.010/0.010 cut on the crank.
A Comp Cams 270H stick features 224/224-degrees duration at 0.050 and 0.476/0.476 lift with a 110- degree LSA. The 093 heads were rebuilt with hardened exhaust seats, new 1.92/1.66 valves, valvesprings to match the cam, and the 1.50:1-ratio stamped-steel rockers were reused.
Artie had the Trips setup by Mikes Tri-Power. Ignition originates at the stock distributor, and the juice is delivered via ACDelco wires to AC R45S plugs. From the log-style manifolds, the byproducts of the combustion process flow through 2.25-inch pipes and mufflers, and out of chrome fluted tips Artie added.
He also installed a new Centerforce clutch, which connects the close-ratio M21 four-speed to the crank. Torque is delivered to the 3.55 Safe-T-Track rear via a stock driveshaft.
Though it looks gold, the actual color of the GTO is code-T Martinique Bronze. Owner Artie
A set of Eaton springs is responsible for the Goat’s stance. Moog products replaced just about everything else in the suspension system, and the shocks are stock-type spiral. An 0.875-inch rear swaybar and boxed lower control arms were added out back to improve handling prior to Artie’s ownership.
The stock manual 9.5-inch braking system could use an upgrade, but for now Artie had the system completely rebuilt, down to the wheel cylinders and lines, with parts from Ames. The rolling stock was upgraded from steel wheels with Deluxe wheel covers to 14-inch Rally I wheels before Artie bought the Goat. He had modern 225/70R14 Firestone Indy 500 tires installed that were treated to redlines vulcanized onto the blackwalls by Diamondback Classic Tires.
To further personalize his GTO, he added a few more of his favorite options, like the Custom Sports (“wood”) wheel, Rally clock, underdash lamps, and passenger side rearview mirror.
What makes this GTO special—besides the obvious: it’s a real Tri-Power, four-speed, post coupe with a correctly coded engine that retains its original trans and rear—is how Artie went about making it better each year without losing sight of his goal to drive it regularly and not let costs get out of hand.
He purchased the GTO when it was about 85 percent finished in 2007, a time when prices were nearly peaking on Goats. In the years that followed, he invested $13,500 in the engine, paint and body, and other resto work to get the Bronze Bomber to its current level.
We’re not claiming that $34,500 is cheap by any means. However, in this case it certainly represents a solid value. The fact that the remaining $13,500 was spread over five years and he sold the incorrect engine made Artie’s goal that much more attainable. We have seen Pontiacs for sale that are this rare and desirable, yet not nearly as clean, and with considerably higher asking prices. Artie doesn’t care too much about what it’s worth, as he prefers to just drive it.
“I drive my GTO as much as possible,” he says. “Usually two or three times per week. One of my favorite moments behind the wheel was when I took some of the ‘new generation’ car guys for a ride. I stepped on the gas, the end carbs opened up, and the growl it made and the power it unleashed was unreal. The kids were sold: ‘Wow, this car can move,’ they said.”
Just think, the GTO didn’t need a high-dollar concours resto to impress those kids, either. It appears that moderation has certainly worked in Artie’s favor regarding his Tri-Power, four-speed post coupe Goat.
Artie would like to thank his wife, Connie, for being so understanding.