Gibbs’ GTO is way more than what meets the eye

04/12/2014 12:00 AM

04/12/2014 6:29 AM

Gary Gibbs was originally a Chevy guy, but when he went looking for a car for his son, his rule that it could not be a big block car backfired on him. They found a really nice big block Pontiac and Gibbs decided to keep on looking for his son, but bought the Pontiac for himself.

“I don’t think he’s ever really forgiven me for that,” said Gibbs, who quickly became a diehard Pontiac fan, more specifically a GTO aficionado. Today, he owns a small fleet of them.

It’s hard for him to name a favorite, but there’s one that holds a special place in his garage: a Linden Green 1967 GTO convertible that he found nearly 20 years ago in New Orleans. It came equipped with a 400 cubic inch V-8 mounted with a Quadrajet 4-barrel carb and a TH-400 automatic transmission.

“I was looking for an air conditioned convertible. It worked real good for four or five years, but then they reformulated the gas, the water pump went bad, we lost Freon for air conditioning and any time it was over 95 degrees, it would run hot,” he said.

He figured it would be a fairly simple matter to bring the car up to snuff. Little did he know what lay ahead.

“I wanted a really tame fuel injected Pontiac engine, something bulletproof,” said Gibbs. He got in touch with noted Pontiac engine builder Butler Performance in Leoma, Tenn. “They said 500 horsepower is about as low as we go.”

That wasn’t exactly “tame,” but Gibbs was impressed by the potential. The new 455 cubic inch power plant uses Edelbrock aluminum heads and intake manifold, with a Butler port injection system. Butler also supplied the engraved, welded aluminum valve covers for the engine. Doug’s Headers are used in conjunction with Flowmaster mufflers and a Butler exhaust system.

Gibbs says the engine not only produces an honest 520 horsepower, but churns out 600 foot-pounds of torque on the dynamometer at Wichita Dyno.

He took the car to Premium Auto Restoration in Derby, hoping to keep the paint and bodywork original. But it quickly became apparent that not only the trunk pan, but the entire floor pan would need to be replaced.

“Somebody had put tar paper over what was left of the floor pan and then undercoated the under side of it. We had to gut the car,” Gibbs said. In that process, it was revealed the GTO was riding on a 1966 frame, not the correct 1967 chassis.

“I found a ’67 Le Mans convertible frame and body in Tulsa. I only needed the frame, but had to buy the whole car. But it came with a Hurst 4-speed shifter and a Muncie transmission, which I was able to sell and recoup some money,” Gibbs said.

The frame was completely restored to original specifications, with a modern 2004R automatic overdrive transmission built by California Performance Transmission bolted up to the big block power plant. Wilhite Performance in Derby built the rear end.

“With a 3:55 gear, at 75 mph, it is turning about 2,200 rpm,” said Gibbs.

Equipped with an oversized aluminum radiator and twin electric fans, along with a factory front air dam, the car no longer suffers overheating problems. The hood scoop was opened up, too. The owner is planning to install an upgraded alternator and complete new wiring harness to handle all the extra electrical demands.

Inside, Gibbs called on Stylecraft Auto Upholstery to refinish the black vinyl Morrokide interior. He restored the wood-grained center console himself, added a wood-rimmed factory sport steering wheel and installed a set of Auto Meter gauges in the instrument panel. But a just-released set of Dakota Digital analog instruments will be installed shortly.

With a fresh paint job completed, Gibbs also added an appropriate hood-mounted Pontiac tachometer. Finishing off the GTO’s good looks are a set of 5-spoke Halibrand mag wheels manufactured in Wellington, wrapped in BF Goodrich T/A 215 /70R15 rubber. Aluminum drum brakes in the rear and discs up front supply stopping power.

“I use this as a daily driver. I wanted a touring car that I could take on the Hot Rod Power Tour with my brother, who has a ’67 Camaro convertible,” Gibbs said.

After the long journey to bring this GTO back to form, it would be a shame not to enjoy it in all its reincarnated glory.

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