PEABODY — They say you can’t live in the past. But if you’re lucky, you can drive in it.
Just ask LeRoy and Florence Penner, who longed for another 1967 GTO hardtop like the one they had when they were first married, back in 1969.
"We had it for about a year," LeRoy said. "But we were young and stupid and we kinda wanted to go bigger, so we traded it to a guy in Peabody for a Grand Prix."
"We wanted air conditioning," recalled Florence.
"We talked about getting another GTO all of these years," she said.
She scoured online sites looking for just the right car, but LeRoy insisted it had to be a 400 cubic inch, 4-speed car like their first one.
A couple of years ago, she finally located what they were looking for at Mark Juhl Auto Sports in Sioux Falls, S.D. "It was like that car was sitting there, waiting for us," she said. But the couple agreed the asking price was too high for their budget, considering it was an unrestored car.
Checking back six months later, they learned that the price had been reduced and LeRoy made a slightly lower offer, which was good enough to get the deal done.
"I told him if he would take that, we would be up the next day to pick it up," he recalled. "We bought it sight unseen … but it was just as nice as he said it was."
In fact, with a shade over 95,000 miles showing on the odometer, the Tyrol Blue GTO qualified as a "survivor car," with the original engine, transmission, paint and even interior in place.
LeRoy Penner says he’s done little to the car since they brought it home. "The tires were in good shape … I put a set of air shocks on the back and leveled it out. I’ve got a new 4-core radiator coming for it. I like to do parades and you’ve got to have some air going through there to keep it cool."
He did replace the grille surrounds on the iconic front end of the GTO and they decided to keep the period-correct chrome Cragar 5-spoke wheels on the car. "I can’t take the Cragars off of it," Florence said. "We’ve been told by GTO people that if we took them off and put thinline whitewalls on it with the dog dish hub caps that it would probably win more awards at car shows, but that’s not what we’re in it for."
They do display the factory hubcaps, a thick shop manual, a copy of the car’s $3,471.36 window sticker, the warranty service plate, an owner’s manual and the original-issued set of keys in the trunk of the car when it’s set up at a show.
The factory AM radio was reinstalled in the woodgrained dash after a non-stock cassette player was removed. "We would like to put some kind of a nice sound system in it, but we want to keep it as original as possible," Florence said.
"We don’t really wash it. We dust it and put polish on it, rather than wax," she said. The Penners even built a new garage to house their GTO. They are the third owners of the car, which was sold new at Kramer Motor Co. in Scottsbluff, Neb. They have been in touch with the original owner and have a standing offer from her to buy it back if they ever decide to let it go.
But that’s highly unlikely.
"It’s been a real joy to have," LeRoy said. "Some cool Sunday afternoons or evenings, we’ll run into Newton in it and drag Main. There’s always somebody who pulls up alongside us who says, `Boy, that’s a nice-looking car.’ ”
At car shows, he said people their age often come up and just stop and stare at the GTO. "Then a big old smile comes over their faces and I say, `I know what you’re thinking.’ And they’ll say, `Yeah, we had a lot of fun back in those days, didn’t we?’ And that’s better than any awards you can win at car shows."
"We’re not only making more memories for us, but we’re making memories for our kids and grandkids," added Florence.