- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2000

If you wanted a Pontiac GTO in 1964 you had to order a Tempest with the correct options, sort of a do-it-yourself GTO.
Enough customers went through those marketing gyrations for the popular car that the next year Pontiac offered a GTO without the hassle. From 1965 through the rest of the decade and beyond, the performance-oriented GTO was available and easy to order.
Most were bought by gearheads, in other words built for performance with few horsepower-sapping creature comforts.
However, one 1966 GTO was built in the Baltimore factory to rather unusual specifications. The 17 1/2-foot-long hardtop GTO was ordered with a turquoise finish with an all-black interior.
The buyer specified the 389-cubic-inch V-8 with a single four-barrel Carter carburetor that produced 335-horsepower.
All that thundering horsepower was transferred to the Red Line tires on Rallye II wheels through a four-speed Muncie transmission operated by a Hurst shifter protruding through the floor.
From that point the buyer outfitted the GTO more like the bigger, upscale Grand Prix with luxury items such as:
Wood-grain dashboard.
Saf-T-Track rear end.
Air conditioning.
Power windows.
Power steering.
Dual exhausts.
Rallye gauges.
AM/FM radio.
Power brakes.
Floor console.
The GTO had worked its way through four or five owners and was sporting a menacing coat of black paint to match the all-black interior when Sam Madert first saw it at a 1985 car show in St. Charles, Md.
He had an antique car, but spying the "for sale" sign in the window, he thought of his son, Glenn.
"You've got to see this car," he later told his son. So the younger Mr. Madert made plans to see the car that captured his father's attention.
On a weekend Mr. Madert and his wife, Marie, took his parents out for a leisurely drive down to La Plata.
When Mr. Madert saw it, he concurred with his father's assessment.
Because he was driving a 1966 Mustang coupe, he told the owner of the Pontiac he'd first have to sell his Ford. The owner sympathized, but wouldn't remove the for sale sign.
Mr. Madert hurried home, cleaned up the Mustang, advertised it for sale and with all that hustling had the car sold in one week.
He immediately called to ask if the Pontiac was still available. He heard the answer he wanted to hear. Saying he would be right down, the father and son, with their wives, drove to La Plata to collect the Pontiac.
Mr. Madert and his wife drove the 3,465-pound car home with his parents trailing behind, just in case. The odometer had recorded only 126,000 miles. The powerful 6.5-liter V-8 performed beautifully, being driven home without incident.
Mr. Madert must have felt comfortable driving home in the Pontiac. He had learned to drive on his father's 1968 Pontiac GTO. Also, his uncle Tom Magruder had owned Brown Pontiac in Arlington from 1936 to 1970.
The first order of business was to replace that ridiculously thin wafer of an air cleaner with a concededly sacreligiously incorrect air cleaner, which provides enough air for the engine to breathe properly.
Next he replaced the 7.75x14-inch U.S. Royal "Tiger Paw" red line tires and Rallye II wheels with plain black steel wheels shod with radial tires.
"I bought some dog dish hub caps at a flea market," Mr. Madert explains.
The all-black car had a full-length white pinstripe. After wet sanding the pinstripe, it was replaced with a red pinstripe to match the original tire trim.
Soon thereafter, the paint near the rear window began to deteriorate. Mr. Madert stripped the paint off the top half of the car, down to the red pinstripe, and had it, after proper preparation, repainted black.
Both halves match perfectly and only Mr. Madert knows the aggravation involved.
By 1991 he had the Pontiac restored to his satisfaction. His GTO is one of 73,785 manufactured, selling with a base price of $2,847.
In warm weather the two wing vent windows can be adjusted to deflect air into the cabin. When the temperature really soars, Mr. Madert can turn on the air conditioner to blast cold air from the five vents, three in or near the wood-grained dashboard and two below the dashboard.
Since the interior of the car is all black, Mr. Madert remarks, "It'll stick to you when it gets hot."
When Mr. Madert settles into the bucket seat behind the standard black two-spoke steering wheel, he has a clear view of the 120 mph speedometer as well as of the 8,000 rpm tachometer which redlines at 5,500 rpm.
"It's torquey," Mr. Madert said. "It'll pull for sure."
A popular feature on GM cars in the mid-1960s was the reverberator function on the rear speaker.
True to form Mr. Madert's GTO has the "Reverb" switch on the dashboard. "With it turned on," he said, "It sounds like someone screaming in a barrel."
Mr. Madert has driven his GTO to several national Pontiac shows in such diverse localities as Sturbridge, Mass., Greensboro, N.C., Downingtown, Pa., and Dayton, Ohio.
"Basically," Mr. Madert concedes, "It's a fair weather car. It hasn't been rained on since 1990."
As protective as Mr. Madert is of his pristine GTO he still can be tempted, on guaranteed sunshiny days, to drove it to work in Chantilly where he struggles with the Department of Defense budget. The odometer just recorded the 150,000th mile.
The car seems to be driven less as it gets older. It's not that it can't keep up with modern-day traffic, but Mr. Madert doesn't want to chance a fender bender.
With the cost of fuel skyrocketing recently, the corresponding cost of operating a muscle car that can get up to 12 mpg on the highway is rising dramatically.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide