- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

"A 1963 Chevrolet Impala would make me happy," thought fresh-out-of-school Paul Maxwell. The young Arlington resident bought one and, to his dismay, discovered that it was not the car of his dreams.

A few years later Pontiac's GTO caught his attention and by 1967 he was almost ready to take the plunge.

What pushed him over the edge was a visit in May to the Bendall Pontiac dealership on Prince Street in Alexandria. A test drive in a demonstrator GTO convinced him of the need no, the necessity of ordering a GTO built to his specifications.

In addition to the 400-cubic-inch, 335-horsepower V-8 engine that came as standard equipment with the GTO Mr. Maxwell ordered:

•Four-speed transmission……$184.31.

•AM/FM radio………………..133.76.

•Rally gauge cluster…………….84.26.

•Faux wood trim console………..52.66.

•Saf-T-Track……………………42.13.

•Deluxe wheel discs…………….16.85.

•Quick ratio steering……………10.53.

The benevolent Pontiac dealer did not charge for the 7.75x14-inch wide-track white-sidewall Tiger Paw tires.

Pontiac placed a base price of $3,165 on each of the 9,517 GTO convertibles prodduced in 1967.

With all the optional extras Mr. Maxwell ordered, the price soared; however, he was able to negotiate the price back down to $3,361.36.

The under-dash vents seemed, at the time, to be good alternatives to air conditioning.

Even with his down payment and his 1963 Chevrolet Impala trade-in, he needed a $400 loan from his mother to claim his regimental red GTO convertible when it arrived.

"The salesman said it would take three or four weeks before the car would arrive," Mr. Maxwell says. So, around the expected due date he and his fiance, Lynn Rockwell, drove by the dealership to see what they could see.

On Sunday afternoon, June 17, they spotted his car behind the chain-link fence."It was in there," he recalls, "looking back at me."

After taking delivery on June 21, 1967, he promptly drove the car to show the lady he was to marry eight months later.

After getting her approval, he left to put some miles on his new red convertible. It wasn't until years later that he learned of the observation of his future father-in-law, Harlan Rockwell: "He doesn't look like a man planning to get married."

Bright-red Pontiac GTO convertibles can leave that impression.

Notwithstanding, the young couple were wed in February 1968 and drove the GTO on a comfortable 115-inch wheelbase to a Florida honeymoon.

The four-speed manual floor shifter worked flawlessly. Mr. Maxwell never pushed the engine close to the 5,000 RPM red line on the 8,000 RPM tachometer.

The only flaw in the otherwise charmed Pontiac's history occurred near the Pentagon when another motorist struck the car. "It was minor," Mr. Maxwell says, "but the left front fender was replaced."

In April 1971, when Mr. Maxwell's job took him to San Francisco, he made the cross-country trip in his GTO. Before his wife was able to join him, he was transferred back to Washington. Once again, his Pontiac was up to the task.

The only other long-distance trip the Pontiac GTO has made was one to New Orleans through Chattanooga.

Even on those long-distance runs and after 118,000 miles, Mr. Maxwell says, "It hasn't been over 100 mph, yet."

One of the more memorable trips was to Ocean City when the other car in the caravan broke down. Mr. Maxwell rescued the occupants by loading his car with seven passengers and three dogs.

By the mid-1970s the family had three cars and the decision was made to sell the GTO. An ad was placed and interested buyers began calling.

That was when Mr. Maxwell told his wife he just could not go through with the sale.

There has been no mention since then of selling the 3,515-pound GTO.

About the time the well-worn car was 30 years old, Mr. Maxwell decided his Pontiac was due and deserved a restoration.

After much research he located Cave's Auto Body in Clinton. Before the restoration began, he had a nearby shop inspect everything mechanical.

Almost all parts of the suspension and drivetrain passed muster, with the powerful engine only requiring a "refreshening."

During the restoration, which began in August 2000, Mr. Maxwell had a factory-authentic power steering unit installed to replace the original quick-ratio steering. He says it is a long-overdue improvement.

By the end of 2001 Mr. Maxwell had his Pontiac back, looking like new even down to the black dual pinstripes, painted not decals."It's sweet," he exclaimed when he first saw his car.

When he first ordered the GTO Mr. Maxwell wanted either the Rally I or the Rally II wheels. Economics dictated that he get neither. All he could afford at the time were the full wheel covers. During restoration he selected American Racing GTO wheels to make up for his oversight 35 years ago.

The shiny wheels are now shod with B. F. Goodrich white-letter Radial T/A tires.

From the stacked headlights to the eight slotted taillights, Mr. Maxwell's GTO sparkles.

The well-cared-for black interior is original with the exception of the carpeting.

The black convertible top with the plastic rear window is the third one on the car.

Since the restoration was completed, Mr. Maxwell says, "My car hasn't been washed, only dusted."


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