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Let's do a frame-off on a 1969 GTO hardtop     In words and pictures.

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This is a rare treat. This is probably the first web site EVER to show you step-by-step how to do a frame-off restoration on a GTO. And most people would agree that car magazines only scratch the surface of this lengthy subject with their black-and-white photos. Dan Zabetakis (DAN@cbmse.nrl.navy.mil) shows us the guts of his 1969 GTO in living color. He's two years into the restoration, and totally blew his estimated cost of $22,000. The current running total is $56,000. He tells us in his own words - how he did it...

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CLICK-> 69 resto pic #60 If you are going to restore a 60's car, you need a 40's car to store the parts in. Seats and small stuff are inside. Fenders, hood and valance are on top.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #61 This is a perspective on a GTO one doesn't usually see unless something has gone seriously wrong. May your finished car never be in this orientation.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #62 The frame has been exchanged for the body on the rack. Overall the frame is in good shape with only minor rust damage.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #63 Here is one area where there was rust, and it is being cleaned up and will be patched with a simple metal plate.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #64 The underside of the body has been painted black. Beforehand the body was given a heavy coat of sealing primer. It was sprayed on extra heavy in all joints, and into inaccessible areas in order to provide as much anti-rust protection as possible. The primer is the light yellow-green. It was put on with the body in different orientations so that it would be easier to get the hard-to-reach areas and also the easy-to-overlook areas. Note the area around the altered AC port on the firewall.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #65 The trunk was also coated with the sealing primer. Note how hard it is to see the joints unless you know where to look. Also observe the note written directly on the car. A convenient place to leave reminders.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #66 After much soul searching I have decided to paint the car orange and white using the style of the Royal Bobcat. Unlike the model shown here I will make the interior Parchment. It will be a bit more noticable on the street than I really want, but I doubt that any GTO will fade into the background. The orange (i.e. Carousel Red) is probably the best color for GTOs, and is a very traditional color for Hot Rods, IMHO. Even though I am using the basic scheme of the Royal Bobcat, I am not intending it to be a replica. This is important because the stripe end on the door has a graphic that reads "ROYAL BOBCAT". I will need a replacement for that.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #67 Here, the suspension components hang waiting for primer. I glass-beaded the parts to remove rust, primer, and grime. In the foreground you can see boxed lower control arms for the rear that I purchased used from Potomac Classic Pontiac. They were not an original option, but were supposedly a common swap Back In The Day. They should add some extra stiffness to the rear, and avoid the sort of problem that might have led to the bent control arm shown earlier. By "boxed" we mean that they are a full rectangular tube rather than the stock three-sided stamped version shown before.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #68 The frame has been completed and painted Chassis Black. With the installation of the fuel and brake lines it will be ready for reuniting to the body.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #69 Here we see the crossmember and front and rear anti-sway bars. The front bar (grey primer) is stock, while the rear bar I also bought used. Since these parts are too large to fit into the glass-bead booth, I cleaned them up with an angle grinder with sanding pads and Scotchbrite.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #70 The front suspension is mostly complete, with the sway bar, new springs, and all new rubber.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #71 It took me about 2 hours to clean up the edges and area around the bolts on the inside of the trunk lid. The outer skin of the trunk lid is folded over and a bead of sealant was placed along it. Grinding this with Scotchbrite and sanding disks cleaned out the old material as well as removing the old paint and some minor rust. We sanded down to bare metal because of dirt, grime, sealant, and residue from the trunk weatherstripping. Cleaning up this way will ensure that we get good coating with the primer and paint. Its less important to sand the rest of the piece, as the old paint was intact and clean. I sanded it part by hand and part by machine to ensure we had a rough clean surface to coat.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #72 This is a shot of the front suspension. Compare it to pictures previously shown of this same area.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #73 Part of the work in repairing the door is to ensure that they fit properly. Here is a view of the bare interior with the bare door.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #74 This is the badly damaged area under the windshield. Many cars have suffered this same type of damage due to water getting trapped under the windshield beneath the trim parts. Often, potential GTO purchasers overlook this problem area. It is very time-consuming to properly repair this area. Dave has welded in a fabricated panel.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #75 Closeup of the same area. It is very difficult at this point to tell how it will look in the end. With the discolored metal from the welding, the joints, and the ground off areas, it looks pretty rough.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #76 Some repairs were needed to the inside corners of the doors.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #77 What's this? Just an explosion-proof bellhousing. But flanged for mounting to a Chevy Big Block? What could that mean?
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #78 Here is a view of the inside of a panel with rust holes. From the outside it is easy to think that a rust hole is a small defect. But in reality a hole is just a sign of major rust on the side you can't see.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #79 At this point we are about one full year into the restoration. The fenders have been installed to check fit and alignment. I'm thinking it looks good enough to hit the road, regardless of the fact that it lacks an interior or engine, much less wheels or a rear end.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #80 Repair was necessary to the trunk lock area, and well as to close up the holes where the PONTIAC chrome letters had been on this LeMans trunk lid.

CLICK-> 69 resto pic #81 Here we are matching up the fenders to the door to check the metalwork. A patched area of the door skin can be seen next to an unpatched area on the front fender.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #82 The rear end had been sent away for refurbishment at a local speed shop. It has returned with new high strength axles, ready to be painted and installed.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #83 Here you can compare the rusted fender to the patch panel that will be installed.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #84 The rear has been painted and installed. It was painted a combination of gloss chassis black and "steel".
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #85 Here the body-work proper begins, and we begin to accumulate some serious hours in the labor charges. Car Craft magazine says that the more block sanding you pay for the better the finish will be. This is the way it goes. You apply a coat of body filler, and then sand it off. Then apply, then sand. Over and over, until low points are filled and high points reduced. This picture shows a fresh coat of filler than has just been applied.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #86 Altering colors of filler shows when you have sanded through a high point. This picture shows an "after" view, ready for another coat of filler. Remember that body filler isn't "filler". It doesn't fill large defects, but rather goes on as very thin coatings that make the car smoother and smoother. It will fill up and smooth over the scars left by welding, but cannot be used as a substitute for metal. (See the early images of the quarter panel-roof joints.)
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #87 Work begins on the interior. First the seats must be disassebled. If you intend to do this yourself, get first a good set of hog-ring cutters. They save a lot of work. Save the seat covers until you are done, no matter how seedy they are. You will need to refer to them to see how to reassemble the new covers. Work on one seat at a time. Leave the other fully assembled for reference. Once you have one completed, then work on the second, using the first as reference.
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #88 These are the original seat covers, as evidenced by the date stamped on the underside: 10 February 1969. Is 7737586 a GM part number? Remember you Concours people: your car better have correct markings inside the seats or the judge will deduct points. (Ha Ha.)
CLICK-> 69 resto pic #89 Anyone remember punch cards? This one was found between the springs and the seat back. There are numbers visible on it that I think refer to color and style options.

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