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The Ultimate Pontiac GTO Picture Site By Sean Mattingly.
There's no bigger GTO image collection anywhere!
FRAME-OFF RESTORATION GALLERY
Let's do a frame-off on a 1969 GTO hardtop
In words and pictures.
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...
I decided to change the interior color to Parchment. I can't understand why black vinyl was
thought a good material for car interiors. I can remember burning my legs on vinyl seats as a
kid. Here we see the seat covers, foam padding, and black carpet that goes with it.
Here is what it looks like when you order custom wheels. My plan was
to use a modern-style simple five-spoke wheel. I found that modern wheel manufacturers don't
make sizes to fit 60's era cars. This has been the worst part of the project so far. I did not
find a single dealer, either locally, on the net, or by phone, that really seemed to know what
they were talking about. It seems they simply have lists of vehicles that the wheels fit, and
that is the limit of their knowledge. In fact it seemed to me that if you didn't have a late
model Acura or Mustang they don't really want to talk to you.
I ended up having wheels custom made by a company called Wheel Specialists in Arizona. I went
with 18" X 10" for the rear, and 17" X 8" for the front. These are three-piece aluminum alloy
construction. A bit pricey. Four wheels and tires cost over $3400.
I picked Pirelli PZero tires to start out with. Nice tread pattern. They are asymetrical in
the rear and directional in the front. In other words, the rear tires have an inner and an
outer side (see the non-symmetric tread), and the fronts are intended to rotate in one direction
only. The rear tire specification in 285/40/ZR18 and the front is 235/45/ZR17.
This shot gives you an idea of what the wheels will look like, although the car is not painted
yet. I think it will be pretty cool. The hardest part is finding out what wheels will fit. The
issue is offset and backspacing. The problem is that every manufacturer defines these slightly
differently (or even completely differently). We spent a long time measuring to ensure a fit,
but upon delivery they just barely made it. On the inside, the wheel has about 2 inches
clearance. On the outside, they have only about 1/2 to 3/4 inch after trimming as much of the
fender well as possible. They "should" have been neatly centered.
Here is the view from the rear. The nice wide tire is exactly the look I am going for. It is
broad without being too radical. Should look good on the street.
Meanwhile the body work continues. Low spots on the hood are patched with body filler. This is
not the original hood, but one in better shape. After stripping, my hood revealed that it had
been bent at some time in the past. I have heard that there is a real chance of bending GTO
hoods when closing against the hinges. But I suspect that someone may have moved the car with
the hood up and discovered some low-hanging branches. There were also some rust holes that had
This is not the original dash either. We replaced it with this A/C dash. I'm not sure what the
difference is. What I am sure of is that I want to add a lot of gauges. Dave has cut away the
original gauge cluster, and fabricated a panel to hold Autometer Phantom gauges. I am putting
in a Speedometer, tachometer, water temperature, oil temperature, oil pressure, fuel level,
voltmeter, and vacuum. I would have put in a fuel pressure gauge, with isolator, but it is just
too expensive. The gauges cost about $420. It's not visible, but the dash vinyl is cracked. It
will be sent to Just Dashes in California.
The main body work is progressing. Here a final spot on the fender gets filled.
Here is the windshield area that was badly rust damaged and patched. Now that it has been
filled, sanded and primered, you would hardly know it was in such bad shape. It will be mostly
covered by the trim piece shown. So there are no structural or appearance worries about this
There is a tremendous difference in the appearance of the car once it gets a nice coat of
primer. The smooth, even tone makes it look finished. Since primers are not glossy, you cannot
see irregularities or unevenness. And it's smooth as a baby's bottom after the block sanding.
To fix the cracks in the Endura bumper, Dave used a flexible type body filler, and I wet sanded
it. It worked very well as you can see from the glossy finish I put on it. The red streaks are
the filled cracks. You can see them, but cannot feel them. Alas, this didn't work out. Six
months later, cracks appeared as the primer/filler and urethane bumper expanded and contracted
differently. Stay tuned, we will need another solution for this.
It looks like Christmas in June. June 2000 if you are timing my restoration with a calendar.
This is a GM Performance Parts ZZ502/502 engine purchased for $6300 delivered from Greenwood
Chevrolet in Ohio. The boxes in the background contain the heads and assorted parts. It's
brand new, and rated at 502 horsepower. Gives you a nice warm feeling all over.
Here is a shot looking down the lifter valley and into the cylinders. What a pristine view!
At 8.2 liters displacement this should just about be big enough. Maybe.
Meanwhile, if I can drag your attention away from the engine, the painting has begun in the
dash area with a coating of satin black. The windshield area has turned out perfect. There is
not a defect to be seen.
Today the body gets painted. While Dave cleans out the garage, I finish a bit of sanding on the
door jamb areas. Then I blew out the car with compressed air to remove the last residue of dust.
Dave did the same with the garage. It took several hours.
We then installed plastic sheeting to make a spray booth. Out of the shot to the right is a
venting duct that connects to a water spray vapor extractor that reduces the emission of paint
solvent to the neighborhood. Note how the picture is speckled as if there were dirt on the lens.
This is the real amusing part because just as I was taking this picture the heating system for
the garage came on, spraying out a cloud of dust that had been pushed into the vents during the
clean up. Ho ho.
Wow. I say again, wow. This car is going to look great. Here we see the first real evidence of
how the red and white scheme will look. Dave has finished the wet sanding. He put on 3 coats of
Antique White, then masked off the stripes and rear, and followed up with 3 coats of Carousel
Red and 3 coats of clear.
Here is the quater panel/roof joint. Looks perfect with not a hint of the bad cracking and poor
repair originally visible.
Back to the engine. Here it is assembled. We will need to add an alternator, pulleys and belts,
and various parts to complete it. The worst part about the engine is that it has "Chevrolet" on
the valve covers. Not only that, but they put a stupid bowtie logo on every part wherever there
was room. If costs weren't prohibitive, I would have them all ground off. The engine has an
iron block, but aluminum intake, water pump, and heads. The lifters and rockers are roller
type. Compression is a reasonable 9.6:1.
Here is the stock carburetor. It is a Holley 850 with vacuum secondaries. It comes with the
engine, and even has a GM part number.
The engine and transmission are ready to install. They were ready, but as things always go
wrong, the stock oil pan didn't fit. It only missed by a very small amount, interfering with the
crossmember. We'll be changing the oil pan next. Note the solid motor mounts. Solid mounts
are stronger, but there is a price to pay in terms of vibrations and noise. I'm not sure how
this will work out. Even though Chevy and Pontiac engines went into the GTO/Chevelle frame,
they have different mounting systems. To switch engine types you need to get matching motor
mounts and frame stands. The motor mounts attach to the engine, and the GTO frame will accept
either Pontiac or Chevrolet frame stands.
Here we have removed the stock oil pan. Visible in this shot is the oil
pump and pickup, windage tray, and oil pan gasket. The Mark VI engines
have a one-piece gasket that happens to be very expensive. We are going to
reuse this one since the engine hasn't been run. Note also the blue dots
on the ends of the connecting rods. That's another thing for you concours
guys: you must have correct internal engine markings. :-)
The new oil pan is more shallow than the stock pan, and requires a change
of pickup to this generic model. The stock pickup was press-in. This one
has a flange that allows you to bolt it onto one of the pump housing
bolts. We needed to add some washers to make it fit, and a new bolt.
Funny thing is that the whole engine uses english unit hardware, but the
bolts for the oil pump are metric.
Here the transmission, engine and new Moroso oil pan are all together.
It's a nice pan, all welded, with kick-outs, interal baffles and a
trapdoor baffle to hold oil at the pickup during hard braking. All
very nice, but it adds a couple of hundred dollars to the cost of the
engine. Looks cool too.
Ahhh, a match made in Heaven, you might say. This took a lot of patience
and work (not to mention brute force). The solid motor mounts didn't
The dashboard has come back from Just Dashes, and looks great. They did
an excellent job of covering the modified gauge cluster. It looks
OEM to me.
Here all of the gauges have been fit, and you can see the wiring and
The dash is installed, and you can see how the gauges will look. Very nice.
If you look on the cabinet on the back wall you can see a graphic I made up
months previous with CorelDraw and images from the Autometer web page to
show how the cluster should look. It seems to be just right.
Here is a shot showing the headers and the beginning of assembly of the
This is not a GTO gas tank, but it fits (more or less) and we got it on
the cheap. Dave has modified it with a hand-built sump.
The underside of the dash comes to life again. Wiring harnesses cost $300
to $400. Egad! Anyway, this pic reminds me to order new pedal pads.
Support this web site by buying your GTO and other Pontiac restoration books in our big
"GTO Bookstore" section here.
Or, here are some good engine and chassis detailing books. Just hit the GO button...
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