I have seen cars from California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico with very worn-out interiors, suspensions, and drivetrains, but they were completely rust-free. One car in particular still had the paper tags on the exhaust system after decades of exposure to the elements. Of course, the paint was fried, the drivetrain was worn, and the interior looked like Godzilla’s playpen, but every bolt came off without damage and the only rust on the entire car was light oxidation where some paint had worn off. With cars in this condition, there really isn’t any reason to pull the body off. But if you need to replace the trunk, floorpans, and quarters, a body-off restoration is the better route, and chances are you will save time with a rotisserie.

Focus your restoration on a particular goal. Not all GTOs are created equal, meaning super-rare high-performance GTOs will always be worth more than the run-of-the mill cars. There are many levels of restoration—from functional non-original transportation to the 100-point concours car that looks the same as the day it rolled off the showroom floor. Most owners restore a GTO somewhere in between these two extremes. These Goat lovers end up with a highly authentic GTO that is restored with some original parts, but also with many reproduction parts. In addition, these cars often have updated disc brakes, modern shocks, digital electronic ignition systems, and other bolt-on parts that don’t affect value.

Once you develop a goal for your particular restoration, this gives you a clear target to achieve. To arrive at that goal, you define the time, materials, and appropriate parts for restoring your particular GTO. In addition, you are able to develop a realistic budget and invest a wise amount of money in your project and not overspend.

A rare Ram Air-IV Judge commands prices of $75,000 or more, and therefore, most owners want to restore the car to factory-original condition because it retains its maximum value in that condition. Hence, a car of this pedigree demands professional-caliber body-off restoration if the body needs extensive work. A top professional shop should be enlisted to restore it, especially if it will compete in shows. A novice restorer isn’t capable of restoring a car to 100-point concours condition.

On the other end of the spectrum, a common ’70 GTO 400 automatic car was built in the thousands and does not have the collector cache of the rare Ram Airs, Tri-Powers, or Judges. As such, this vehicle is the perfect candidate for a first-time restorer because it doesn’t need the highest degree of originality, and the restoration shouldn’t come at enormous expense. Critical mistakes with a pedigree car can cost tens of thousands of dollars. With the time, patience, research, and the ability to develop and enhance mechanical and bodywork skills, restoring a high-performance and reliable GTO is well within your reach.

Your level of restoration also determines the parts you will use for that restoration. If you’re restoring a rare Goat to compete on the show car circuit, you must carefully select and use parts that are accepted by the particular organization judging the car. In these cases, many restorers use NOS parts. Finding and buying these parts adds a level of expense and complexity to your restoration. These NOS parts may be three or more times expensive than reproduction parts.

If you’re building a daily driver, high-buck NOS parts are simply unnecessary, therefore high-quality reproduction parts are the wiser choice. But keep in mind that GTOs are different than Mustangs and Camaros. Many reproduction parts including body, interior, suspension, steering, and other parts, are readily available for the GTO. But some common parts, such as full quarter-panels, are currently not offered as reproduction parts for some years. So if your rare pedigree or pedestrian GTO needs full rear quarter-panels, you may have to fabricate two panels into one. Once again, that is professional metal-work skill that few budding or beginner restorers possess.