Kevin Hart’s 1969 Pontiac GTO

Detroit Speed Built This SEMA Show Stopper

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography By John Jackson

By 1969 the Pontiac GTO was cemented into the muscle car history books. Some would say that it is the keynote factory hot rod that started it all, with the most famous of all magazine stories that appeared in the Mar. ’64 issue of Car & Driver. They intended to compare a Pontiac GTO to a Ferrari GTO. But alas, the gods conspired, and the head-to-head comparison never materialized. But C&D still managed to “compare” one against the other. (Do you know what GTO stands for? It’s an acronym for Gran Turismo Omologato, a classification term commonly used in sports car racing.)

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03 An iconic 1969 GTO owned by world renowned comedian and actor Kevin Hart

The 1969 Pontiac GTO displayed in front of you, while beautifully built, immensely powerful, and an amazing performer, may not be as popular as the man who owns it. If I say Kevin Hart, this may strike a chord. Yes, that Kevin Hart, the world-class comedian and actor. Turns out he is no stranger to hot rods of all sorts. He isn’t averse to having some powerful ones, including a 1969 Road Runner, an 1987 Buick Grand National, a 1967 Mustang GT500E, and a 1969 Camaro. All of them can flatly get out of their way and pass you in the process. His ’70 Dodge Challenger, 1,000hp Hellephant, powered and built at Kindig It Design, took home the Triple Crown of Rodding 2023 Street Machine of the Year category. Dare we say this Mopar can get up and scoot! Well, his latest, this 1969 Pontiac GTO can stand on its own. Joining forces with Detroit Speed & Engineering (DSE), the result is an example of the stunning craftsmanship we have come to expect. The DSE crew responsible for this build include Jason Eads, Zach Arlen, David Hoff, Curtis Larsen, Bruce Datkuliak, James Seamans, and Nate Peterman along with local outside assistance from Michael Neighbors, Austin Moore, and Josh Smith.

05 The 1970 Dodge Challenger a powerful 1 000hp Hellephant built at Kindig It Design and owned by Kevin Hart

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Read More: LT4 Powered Tri-Five Chevy

Power for this GTO is nothing less than the now discontinued but king-of-the-hill Chevrolet Performance dry-sump supercharged LT5 engine (6.2L or 376 cubes) used in the 2019 ZR1 Corvette. It was the most powerful Chevy V8 engine produced at the time with 755 hp and 715 lb-ft out of the crate. The main focal point of the LT5 engine is the new R2650 supercharger, which is an exclusive accessory. It displaced 2.65 liters and produced 14 psi of boost. Compared to an LT4 engine that is about 4-1/2-psi more achieved at a slower max rotor speed of 15,860 rpm. Why slower? The slower rpm helps to keep the air charge cooler and cooler leads to more horsepower.

17 The Hartbeat inscription on the boost gauge of the 1969 GTO

Regulating the LT5 engine is a modified GM ZR-1 ECM, Holley spark plug wires, Hooker Blackheart headers with 1-7/8-inch primary tubes dumping into a custom 3-inch stainless steel exhaust system with a pair of Hooker mufflers. Other engine accessories are a Holley mid-mount front accessory drive, a pair of ZR-1 fuel pumps, dual electric SPAL fans, and an YellowTop Optima battery now relocated to the trunk. The factory valve covers and a custom engine shroud were made in such a way to hide the PCV lines and the engine wiring harness. To this, a custom-fabricated intake (internal air cleaner) is also employed to keep this monster running.

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18 The 1969 GTO a classic muscle car ready for the winter s indoor season and the summer s outdoor car show events

The LT5 engine (PN 19417105) was intended to be used in front of a manual transmission. In this case, the V8 is backed up to a Bowler Performance T56 Magnum transmission. The 135-pound manual is capable of handling 1,250 lb-ft and runs a 2.29 First gear and a 0.67 Sixth gear. Other trans appointments include a Tilton clutch kit and Hurst shifter.

19 custom license plate for the 1969 Pontiac GTO

The 1969 Pontiac GTO frame was retained but highly modified to accept its new performance life. The front of the frame was modified using a DSE X-Gen 595 front suspension module (track width of 59-1/2 inches) that is positioned with 2×4-inch frame rail sections. Note the front module comes with its own upper and lower control arms, DSE rack-and-pinion steering, and DSE-“tuned” suspension geometry. In the back, a custom DSE QuadraLink rear suspension is positioned, thereby eliminating the original triangulated four-link with coil springs suspension and upgrading to a more modern adjustable coilover setup. This suspension also allows for much wider than factory wheels and tires. In the case of the Hart 1969 Pontiac GTO, a DSE Ford 9-inch rearend is used with 3.82 gears and a PDE driveshaft.

21 Chevrolet Performance dry sump supercharged LT5 engine a powerhouse in the 1969 GTO

Read More: Classy Oldsmobile 442 Looks, With Modern LS Power

At the corners let us look at the shocks, braking, and wheel and tire combinations. The always-desirable JRi-tuned single-adjustable coilover shocks are used. They can be regulated between stiff to soft ride via a click-style adjuster while ride height is controlled by a spring preload. Braking contains monster Baer brakes with 15-inch drilled-and-slotted rotors and six-piston XTR monoblock calipers with D1247 pads in the front and rear. Braking is brought to life through the operation of a DSE master cylinder and brake booster kit. Rolling stock consists of Valkyrja HRE wheels (part of the now closed-out Ringbrothers Collection), measuring 20×10 and 20×12 all with 5-on-4.75 bolt pattern. From here the rubber comes via Michelin Pilot Sport 4S (summertime performance tire), sized at 275/30ZR20, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup (optimum dry surface tire) that measure 325/30ZR20.

26 The modified GM ZR 1 ECM Holley EFI plug wires and Hooker Blackheart headers of the 1969 GTO

Factory sheet metal is retained throughout but there is a healthy dose of “cleanup” to this 1969 Pontiac GTO. Examples of some of the body mods include the moving forward of the hood scoops 2-1/2 inches to accommodate the required clearance for the supercharger. The bumpers, front and back, are tucked to improve lines and in front, a LeMans bumper is used to replace the Endura nose to alleviate warping. In 1968 and 1969 the LeMans was fitted with a chrome bumper as standard equipment with the option being a body-colored Endura bumper (urethane-molded component). “Down low” you will also see a modified lower valance and a custom “chin” spoiler. Also, take note that the LeMans bumper was retrofitted with GTO hideaway headlights that are now fitted with Holley’s RetroBright headlights. The hidden headlights were optional on the Judge model as well as the standard GTO. A little more on lighting as the front turn signal lenses are now custom. There are also recessed doors and trunk locks. A modified rear spoiler, allowing for better alignment with the rear quarter-panels, and a custom wiper cowl panel. Any good-looking hot rod should be “clean shaven,” so note the absence of the factory emblems and antenna. One accessory we find particularly cool is the 8,000-rpm hood-mounted tachometer—or so we thought! The factory tach was removed and has been replaced with a 15-pound boost gauge. While we don’t expect you to be able to read the writing on the gauge, as it is too small, if you could it says “Hartbeat.” Now that’s cool. From this point, the bodywork was handled at Detroit Speed while the Mercedes Metallic Mystic Brown color was supplied by Neighbors and Moore.

30 The cream leather covered dashboard in the 1969 GTO

Inside you can see that the factory interior is extensively modified featuring a cream leather-covered dashboard and to it a custom set of Classic Instruments was added. More of the brown- and cream-colored leather was stitched by Avant-Garde Design over the front Recaro bucket seats and the custom-built rear split bench/bucket combo. The headliner is a cream suede while the door and kick panels are more of the brown and cream color combo leather. The ididit steering column is enhanced with a Truss (made to order) three-spoke leather-wrapped Sparc Industries steering wheel. The custom center console houses the Hurst shifter as well as the power window auxiliary switches. Another modern-day “required” accessory is the Gen IV Vintage Air AC system. It and all the GTO’s electrics are brought to “life” through a DSE-modified American Autowire harness by Eads.

Read More: 1966 Ford Mustang DSR350

20 1969 pontiac gto detroit speed hart

If you made it to last year’s SEMA show and visited the Holley Performance Products booth you most likely saw Kevin’s 1969 Pontiac GTO. If you didn’t, keep your eyes peeled as it is sure to make the rounds during this winter’s indoor season, followed by the summer’s outdoor car show events. MR

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Hart & Soul.

mr march 2024

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