Mom’s 1967 Pontiac GTO

Smith Family Restoration Project of This Pontiac GTO

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography By Grant Cox

Young girls, like young boys, have cool car dreams–hot rodding is truly inclusive and isn’t the exclusive “right” of one gender. Sometimes we, the guys, just don’t see what’s obvious. Dawn Smith of Missouri grew up with many memories of her dad taking her for “white knuckle” drives. What these memories of her holding onto the dash grab bar did was to engrain in her mind that someday she would own a 1967 Pontiac GTO. Here is what she tells us.

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“In 1997, 27 years later, I purchased my GTO. I spent $11,000 through a bank loan and began making the payments. This 1967 Pontiac GTO had the original 400 under the hood and was in fair condition. The family joked that it was a good 50-footer.”

03 Dawn Smith s restored 1967 Pontiac GTO in stunning blue and white paint

Dawn goes on to tell us that like so many of life’s events, the time to enjoy her GTO lessened as life’s other priorities demanded attention. The GTO began its demise as “she” sat out in the weather, which proved hard on the paint as well as accelerating the deterioration of all things mechanical. Other life’s disappointments kept Dawn going in one direction while her GTO was going in another. But sometimes life does a turnaround. Her husband, Steve, and kids, Will and Lilly, joined forces and set about to come up with a birthday present to end all presents for her. Mom had earned something special.

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06 The GTO s stock sheetmetal with added LED taillights and Halo headlights

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For two years the GTO spent its restoration time at the RestoMod Store in Missouri, which has a long history restoring Mustangs and has now branched out to other marques such as this 1967 Pontiac GTO. (Back in the Jan. ’22 issue of Modern Rodding we featured another one of their builds, a ’70 Chevelle.) The sheetmetal on this GTO is stock, with the addition of LED taillights and Halo headlights (originally introduced by BMW). However, the paint is anything but stock, having first undergone hours of bodywork and then the application of Axalta three-stage paints. White with pearl was used to cover the sides while a custom blue was then laid over the top (hood, roof, decklid areas) of the body. Next came the light blue, silver, and black pinstriping by Eric.

09 The GTO s original factory bench with fresh black leather recovery

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Inside a lot is going on. The factory dash was modified with the likes of a Dakota Digital instrument cluster (HDX-64P-GTO-K), followed by an ididit steering column with a Billet Specialties three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel. Another dash-mounted custom appointment is the touch screen from Kenwood and its eXcelon stereo that powers the JBL speakers and subwoofers along with a 110-power converter. Of course, there is air conditioning that comes by way of Vintage Air while bringing together all the car’s electronics in a Painless Performance Products wiring kit.

The front seating consists of a pair of custom-covered Tea’s Design seats in black leather with embroidery by the Chop Shop utilizing a Morris three-point seat belt system. There is the factory console resting between the buckets now fitted with a “His and Her” Dual Gate Hurst shifter for the Turbo-Hydramatic. Also, note the console-mounted power window controls for the Nu-Relics power window conversion kit. The rear seating, with a two-point ’belt system, begins as the original factory bench now features fresh foam recovered in black leather to give the appearance of “bucket seating” while the custom door and trunk panels were upholstered by Karen Ethridge of the RestoMod Store. The attending carpeting is a fitted dark gray German weave.

13 The Kenwood eXcelon stereo and JBL speakers inside the GTO

The chassis is based on the 1967 GTO frame that was blasted and painted, freshening up its appearance. Rolling stock consists of Boze Alloy forged wheels in a brushed finish, measuring 18×8 in front and 18×10 in back, with Nitto NT555 G2 245/45R18s and 275/40R18s. Also located at the corners is a combination of Ridetech air suspension, Wilwood brake kit, consisting of disc brakes with drilled-and-slotted 12.9-inch rotors, Dynalite two-piston calipers coupled with a Wilwood master cylinder, and factory pedals.

17 factory seats with custom upholstery

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Nestled between the ’rails is the original 1967 Pontiac V8 engine maintaining its factory 400 inches but having undergone a thorough rebuild by Maschmeier Performance Engines. Now the  GTO’s balanced & built motor is sporting JE Pistons 9:1 slugs, a Comp Cams Thumpr series camshaft, Edelbrock cylinder heads, an Edelbrock water pump, a 165-amp Powermaster alternator, an XS Torque starter, a serpentine belt system along with the liberal use of ARP bolts. From here an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold supports the Super Sniper Stealth 4150 Holley EFI system that is fed by an Aeromotive fuel pump and features a K&N air cleaner. Blowing through the Sniper is a TorqStorm supercharger while the electronics are provided by a Holley HyperSpark ready-to-run ignition and coil and a set of Pro Sidewinder 8mm Mallory spark plug wires. Moving the exhaust falls to a set of Doug’s headers with 1-7/8-inch primary tubes that then empty into custom stainless steel exhaust tubes with electric cutouts all combined with a pair of 3000XL SpinTech Sportsman mufflers.

19 The original 1967 Pontiac V8 engine rebuilt by Maschmeier Performance Engines

Linked to the GTO V8 engine is a Hughes Performance reworked 1967 GTO TH400 transmission now with a 3,200 stall converter, a shift kit, an ATI flexplate, and an interior-mounted Hurst shifter. Once the trans takes over the power is run through a Gear Vendor over/underdrive, a Strange Engineering driveshaft, and then a Ford 9-inch rear end with 3.91 positraction controlled gears, and a pair of 31-spline axles. The remaining drivetrain, electrical, and mechanical work became a family project handled by Steve, Will, and Lilly at home and in the garage.

Well, along comes Dawn’s birthday in 2021, and after the obligatory great evening out with the family there was a sidebar visit to the garage. In her own words, the reveal was something to behold.

18 The German weave carpeting in the GTO

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“I still did not know that the time had arrived for me to see the car. When we pulled up in front of the garage, they blindfolded me and led me into the garage. I was overwhelmed and on the verge of tears just knowing the time had arrived. My blindfold was removed, and l must say, it was just like in the movies. There was fog, music, special lighting, and a red carpet that led right to the driver door. All I could think was, “Is this real?” but what I said was, “Oh my word, I won’t be getting groceries in THIS thing!” We all laughed and then cried together. The completion of this project was a family triumph. MR

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Mom’s Ride.

mr february 2024

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