Built in the heyday of American Muscle cars, the freshly redesigned second generation Pontiac GTO took the country by storm. This 6.8 liter, 350HP machine faced stiff competition from Ford, Dodge and particularly the low cost Plymouth Road Runner, but emerged a champion after selling nearly 90,000 models in it's first year and taking Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" award. Nicknamed the judge for its 455 cubic inch engine the 1970 GTO could accelerate from 0-60 in 6 seconds flat.
Bodie and Wade Kawaski from Coker Tires have been business partners for years, so it made sense for Wade to go to Bodie to get his barn find of his GTO Judge restored in time for SEMA.
Wade tells Bodie he needs the car restored in time for SEMA, the world's largest auto show held annually in Las Vegas. Wade was wanting to build the Wheel Vintique booth to look like an antique gas station and wanted the GTO to be the centerpiece. This gave us a month to do a complete ground up restoration.
Wade found the car sitting in disrepair in a barn in Hawaii with 44,000 original miles. The car was damaged in an accident and never repaired or driven since the late 1970's. So there was major body work needed. Wade wants to modernize all the electrical and mechanical components for safety and comfort. (brakes, steering, AC). Lastly Wade wants Bodie to reconstruct the all original interior features of the car. It was always Wade's dream to own this car so he wants to completely overhaul the GTO and bring it back to its original glory.
We first tackled the body work, which amounted to replacing the damaged fender, fitting a new hood (provided by Wade, as the existing hood was a damaged aftermarket part) and tweaking the panel fit to get acceptable gaps all around. No rust repair was needed, so the body was media blasted, primed and resprayed in Cardinal Red. Underneath, the chassis and rear-end were sent out for powder coating, and in the interest of safety, new brake lines, fuel lines and a new gas tank were fitted. Next came the interior work, and most of the original interior was saved, though the car did receive new glass and trim.
The 400-cu.in. Ram Air III engine and Muncie four-speed transmission were pulled and sent to Wade for assessment, but little rebuilding was required. The heads were sent out for work (largely to ensure the car would run well on unleaded pump gas), but the rest of the engine remained mostly untouched. Even the transmission was left alone, a testament to the car's gentle use during its time in Hawaii.
We admit that we were still finishing the car as the transporter sat waiting outside the shop, but in the end, we finished the Judge in time for its scheduled public unveiling, to rave reviews, at SEMA 2015.