1966 Pontiac GTO Restoration Project Turns Into Stock 389 Tri-Power Restomod


Much has been said about the Pontiac GTO. Some claim it’s the model’s first generation that made the muscle car segment so popular. Others think it even kickstarted the trend of street-oriented performance cars with all U.S. domestic automakers. No matter the case, it’s a model that’s both praised and kept in high regard by fans and rivals alike.

So, it’s always a celebration when somebody decides to give an original 1966 GTO a new lease of life. According to the good folks over at the Hand Built Cars channel on YouTube, this particular example came to the attention of the experts over at Woodstock, Illinois-based Schwarts Performance for a basic chassis upgrade. But, then again, nothing is usually as imagined, so it’s no wonder it evolved into quite a bit more.

By the way, before starting on the actual build (video embedded below), a few things need to be known about Schwartz Performance. They are one of those cool aftermarket outlets that not only perform classic car restorations. Instead, they focus on performance-oriented rejuvenations, as well as custom car builds that rely on their experience with bolt-in muscle car chassis work.

So, it’s no wonder the ‘66 GTO work debuts with images of a bare frame. It’s the Schwartz Performance G-Machine chassis system, an “ultimate upgrade” that includes a modern chassis construction that’s “stronger yet lighter” and comes with a 200% reduction in torsional flex. It’s no wonder the chassis gets enough time to shine before the video story moves to the chassis-powertrain marriage from the 4:30 mark.

The frame and suspension chapter also includes a power steering rack, single-adjustable coilovers from Ridetech, racing-style sway bars, as well as the necessary stopping power to freeze an elephant in its tracks – in the form of 14-inch Baer Pro Plus six-piston brakes front and rear. After a lot of work has been done under the body, it’s time to see the chosen crimson color for the GTO from the 6:50 mark.

Just to show this outlet really is one “where classic style meets modern technology,” there’s a lot of work showcased for the build ahead of the project starting to come to life from the 10:20 mark. So, the body was repainted in Carousel Red and reworked with PPG materials, while the vintage atmosphere was upheld with help from the custom 19-inch Evod Industries wheels that mirror the factory Pontiac Rally 1 setup.

New rubber (Michelin Pilot Super Sport, 255 up front and 305s in the rear) was needed to keep in check the performance. Even though the customer opted for a stock 389 tri-power Pontiac engine, the mill was still treated to a few modifications for good measure (Autotrend EFI, custom aluminum intake manifold, bespoke air intake, or a March Performance serpentine drive).

Additionally, the powerplant was mated to a Tremec TKO five-speed manual transmission, a custom steel driveshaft, as well as a TrueTrac differential. That means it has the looks (check out the showcase from the 18:05 mark) of a vintage 1966 GTO and the prowess of a modern car, so it’s clear that for this owner the details make the difference.

And we also appreciate them greatly, starting with the nice interior that was kept as vintage as possible. That’s even though it also comes with creature comforts: custom pearl white leather-upholstered Scat seats, or a Vintage Air setup.

For us though, aside from the car in its entirety, the coolest details were also the smallest ones or the hardest to see. Such as the nice cue ball stick shift, the blacked-out underside of the hood, or the thoroughly reworked exhaust system that ends with downward-facing dual-chromed tips on either side…