Pete Greene's 1965 GTO
(from Volume 19, Issue 237)

story by owner Pete Greene, photos by Michael B. Kelly


It was the spring of 1973, I was a senior at Shore Regional High School in West Long Branch, New Jersey, and I had finally saved up enough money to buy my first car. My dad (who was a big gear head – he used to race Elva’s and Lotus Eleven’s at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen against Roger Penske and Walt Hanskins in the late 50’s and early 60’s) found a 1968 Pontiac GTO for sale that he said was right up my alley! It was Verdoro Green with a black interior, the base 400 cubic inch V-8, with a 4-barrel Rochester carb and a 4-speed transmission. The guy selling the car told my dad that he had added a hopped up cam – at the time I did not know what that meant. I bought the car and dad drove it home, because I did not know how to drive a stick shift. I spent the next few days learning how to drive the GTO and after I got the hang of it I discovered what “hopped up cam” meant – boy was that car fast!

I spent the summer cruising/racing around my hometown of Monmouth Beach, and then it was off to Miami and Biscayne College (now St. Thomas University) in late August. I really missed my GTO and wished I had it with me at college, so eventually my dad brought it down for me. I had a blast driving that GTO around South Florida the next few months, but that Spring I enlisted in the Army. Before I left, I entrusted my GTO to my brothers to take care of while I was gone. When I got back two years later, the GTO was in really rough shape. A few months later, I went to the University of Florida to finish college and I never saw my GTO again. The best I can determine it was crushed into a small pile of metal in a junk yard in Davie, Florida in the late 70’s.

I loved and missed that car and wanted to get another one. Marriage, the birth of my son, and a career followed my time at college, and my dream of owning another GTO took a back seat to those priorities.

Fast forward to 2009, and after 25 years of a great marriage, an excellent career, and my son was halfway through college. The GTO dream began to come alive. I started looking to buy another ‘68 GTO. I was not in a rush as I still had two years of college tuition to fund and I thought I wanted to find a replica of my first GTO. While going through the car sale ads one Sunday morning, I came across an ad for a ‘65 GTO in St. Augustine. My first reaction was “Well it’s not a ‘68, don’t bother”, but I decided to go see it anyway. Later that day I pulled up to the house in St. Augustine and there sat the ‘65 GTO – under the house! The house was on stilts and the GTO sat under it, in the mud and sand. It was love at first sight. I was drawn to the body style so much so, I did not pay much attention to the rust, the dents, the interior, or the shape of the engine – I bought it on the spot and brought it home.

I immediately started ordering parts with the full intention of restoring it myself. My son Peter, a true chip off the old gear head block, stopped me by saying “Dad you are too much of a perfectionist to do this yourself, you need to find a professional to restore it for you”. He was right, I had been waiting over 30 years, and in my dream the car was always perfect. This car had to be exactly what I wanted it to be.

I found a company in Stuart, Florida that specialized in restoring Pontiacs and so just before Christmas of 2009, I had the car dragged down to Florida Pontiac. The restoration began in early January of 2010. This was to be a complete frame-off, and because it was not a matching numbers car I designed it to be exactly what I wanted.

The frame and body were restored to the original factory specs, and the body brought back to perfection. 2002 BMW paint colors were used, with Orient Blue metallic for the main body, and Steel Blue metallic and Electric Red for the graphics, which were designed by John Gable. During the mid-60’s John was a top designer in the concept car division at Pontiac, working for John Delorean and Pete Estes. He was largely responsible for designing the “Thunder Chicken” graphic on the hood of Trans Am’s. I sent John a picture of the car, the wheels and paint chips. He spent hours working up a design and ended up sending me a color rendering with detailed specs that would make Chip Foose envious! Florida Pontiac did an excellent job with the paint and body work – to use their words: “You can read the reflection of a newspaper in the paint from 10 feet away”.

We took the 69 GTO engine block that was in the car, bored it out and added a stroker kit, to make it 467 cubic inches, and built a motor that produces 520hp and 560 ft. lbs. of torque. The engine connects to a Richmond Super Street 5-speed transmission. From there a custom polished aluminum driveshaft powers a Mouser 12-bolt rear end with 3.42:1 gears.

A Hotchkiss Sport Tubular Suspension was utilized, with front and rear sway bars, 2-inch drop spindles and QA1 coil-overs. Power disc brakes from SSBC sit at each corner with 4-piston calipers in front and 2-piston calibers in the rear. The GTO rides on Billet Specialties “GTO” rims (18x8 in the rear and 18x7 in the front), wrapped in BF Goodrich G-Force tires (245/35/ZR18 rear & 235/35/ZR18 front). Other amenities include air conditioning, a chrome tilt steering column, power windows, power door locks, push button start, a custom stereo with an iPod hookup, power antenna, xenon headlights and LED taillights.

The interior was done by Lane’s Trim Shop in Stuart, Florida, which has been owned by Bill Cullere since the mid 80’s. Not much I can say here except “Wow”! We talked about something custom but subtle, and he absolutely nailed it. The custom console is by Jay Brown from Soundwave Audio (also in Stuart), and turned out phenomenal.

I brought the car home from Stuart in May of 2012. Finally! There were some kinks we had to work out, but that is to be expected. At the end of the day the car I dreamed about was home, in the garage, alive, and I could sit in it and drive it. The car has won many awards since then, and I am so blessed for I have been able to realize many of my hopes and dreams. My marriage, my son, and another GTO! -Pete Greene