Bitten By A Goat
A third GTO proves to be a gem
Jim Black - April 05, 2012 10:00 AM
“After completion, my wife Donna purchased a set of the Hurst wheels for me as a surprise birthday present.”
It was 1964 when a young Will Bowers visited his local Pontiac dealership, insurance check in hand, looking to buy a new car.
There, on the showroom floor, were two new ’64 GTOs, one black, and one aqua. It only took a few minutes for Will to decide on the goat in aqua. It was Will’s first GTO, a sport coupe, which came equipped with matching aqua interior, 389 Tri-Power, four-speed, tach, 3.90 posi, splitters, and redline tires with three-bar spinner hubcaps.
“If it hadn’t been for that summer storm which rained down golf-ball size hail, I probably would have never got rid of my ’62 Ventura,” Will recalled. “It was set up just like the new goat with the same 348hp 389, four-speed, 3.90 posi, and eight-lug wheels. God, I loved that car. It was a beautiful automobile that I would have never considered parting with, save for that storm.”
We move ahead to 1983. The aqua goat left years before. Will was now living in Edwardsville, Illinois, and the muscle car bug bit again. After watching the local paper for some time, he was able to locate and purchase a 1965 GTO. “I really liked the ’65, but the more I drove it, the more I really wanted another ’64 back, so I continued my search.”
About three years later, Will spotted a ’64 convertible, advertised as having the original Tri-Power motor, four-speed, and a rust-free Florida car. After a few phone calls with the seller, he learned that the car had been relocated to Chicago. Will bought an airline ticket and headed north. “Funny how things are never quite the way they’re represented in the ads,” he said. “The car was advertised as drivable with a rebuilt Tri-Power, but when the seller met me at the airport I learned it hadn’t been driven for two years, and that the carbs were off the car. He said not to worry, because a friend would meet us at the house and rebuild the carbs while we looked at the car.”
After arriving at the seller’s house, Will got the opportunity to look the GTO over. “It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. It was painted burgundy and paint-chalked so badly that it looked like it was still in primer. I could see evidence of the original paint in aqua hidden beneath. The seller’s friend rebuilt the carbs but it still didn’t run right. He pulled another Tri-Power from a ’64 Catalina and installed them on the goat instead. They were actually in much better shape anyway, correctly tagged, and the correct carbs for the GTO. We finally got it running after correcting a few other electrical issues.”
After checking the car out one last time, Will determined that the body was straight and nearly rust-free even if not visually appealing. After some serious negotiation, they agreed on a price and Will headed for home. “I didn’t leave the seller’s house until 9 p.m., driving all night, and finally arriving home at 3:30 a.m.,” he said. “Looking back, that was probably a stupid thing to do, setting out at all hours in a car I was unfamiliar with, but I never had a problem with it.”
Will tinkered with the GTO over the next winter and decided to have some paint and body work done the following spring. It was repainted in the original aqua color. “As time allowed, I continued to make improvements such as rebuilding the Muncie four-speed, the front suspension and other components,” Will recalled. “I also located and installed the correct 3.55 posi, upgraded the trim with NOS, and added other options like a tilt column, wood wheel, and tissue dispenser.”
Under the hood, Will’s GTO is equipped with Pontiac’s famous 389ci V-8, topped with that trio of Rochester carburetors. The 389 had a bore and stroke of 4.06 x 3.75 inches with a 10.75:1 compression ratio, rated at 348hp at 4,900 rpm and 428 lbs-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. The base engine for the GTO was the same 389 but with a Carter four-barrel carburetor producing just 325hp and 428 lbs-ft of torque. Both engines were of a cast iron alloy and overhead valve type. “Soon after I bought the car, I had the original engine completely rebuilt, .030 over, and added a 1965, 068 Tri-Power camshaft,” Will said.
Never really satisfied with that initial paint and bodywork, Will decided to have the car professionally restored in 1996. It went smoothly, since the engine and most all the other mechanical components had already been done previously.
Jim’s Auto Body of Wentztville, Missouri, prepped the car for paint, which included the usual sheetmetal repairs common to A-body cars, albeit only minor rust repair. Following the repairs, a metal-etching primer was applied, sanded twice, then epoxy primer sprayed and sanded to 320 grit, then final blocked to remove minor imperfections prior to color coat application. A basecoat/clearcoat system was used with four color coats of P-code Aquamarine Poly, followed by three coats of high-build urethane clearcoat. After sufficient cure, the clearcoat was wet-sanded with 1,200 and finished with 2,000 grit, then machine compounded with an ultra cut and ultra finishing polish. The resulting finish is like glass. Along with the new paint and new white interior, other exterior details feature splitter exhaust extensions and bias redlines mounted to a set of reproduction Hurst wheels complete with spinners. “After completion, my wife Donna purchased a set of the Hurst wheels for me as a surprise birthday present,” Will proclaimed.
Following the GTO’s restoration, Will has shown it on a number of occasions, racking up several first place and popular vote awards at the POCI and GTOAA Nationals, and the Indian Uprising to name just a few.
“In addition to my ’64 GTO, I also have a pair of ’67 GTOs, one hardtop with a four-speed, and a convertible with his & hers shifter,” Will admitted. “I’m also fond of Pontiac’s full-size lineup too (remember my ’62 Ventura?), so I subsequently added a ’64 Catalina two-door sedan to the collection.”