Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine
Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389
Listen to her tachin’ up now, listen to her why-ee-eye-ine
C’mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO
It was 1964 and you couldn’t go to an ice cream shop without hearing Ronnie and the Daytonas siren song about the mid-sized Pontiac.
It was an era when popular music groups sang the wonders of monster V-8s, squealing tires and fast trips down the quarter mile.
The Beach Boys’ “She’s Real Fine, My 409” went toe to with Jan and Dean’s iconic “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” only to go to the final round with the Rip Chords’ “Little Cobra.”
They were words to live by for Frank Richards.
He was a married man with a couple of kids all squeezed inside a Corvair.
“I really needed something bigger,” he explains.
Then reality kicked in.
The cost of Pontiac’s GTO was $300 more than the price tag on the somewhat tamer Le Mans coupe.
And insurance on the big engine car was a whopping extra $100 a year.
“That was a lot of money back then,” he says.
So Richards...like most married men of that era...bought what he needed instead of what he wanted.
“I ordered it directly from the factory,” he says. “April 14, 1965.”
He still has that same Pontiac he purchased when he was 32 years old.
He’s owned it since new. Even when he really didn’t.
“I got divorced in the early 1970s and my wife got the car,” he says. “But part of the divorce was that she couldn’t sell it to anyone but me.
“A few years after the divorce, she called and asked if I wanted it back. It needed a bunch of work and she didn’t want to spend the money to do it.
“When I got the title, I realized she had never changed it. My name was still on it. I’ve been listed as the owner since it was new.”
And he now has his GTO.
They are one in the same car.
Gonna save all my money
and buy a GTO
Get a helmet and a roll bar
and I’ll be ready to go
With more than 170,000 miles on the car, it was time for an upgrade, so a few years ago he pulled out the 326 cubic inch engine that came in the Le Mans and filled the engine bay with a GTO-spec 389.
“I went from 20 miles per gallon down to 15,” he says with a shrug...and a smile.
“You can still get all the parts for the car, either new or reproduction. Just about everything is being manufactured.”
He added GTO trim, period-correct wheels and red-line tires. He also switched the color from white to black.
Only a purist would know it didn’t come from the factory as a member of the Goat Herd.
But Richards doesn’t try to fool anyone. Ask him and he’ll gladly tell the tale of the car he’s always wanted...and the one he has.
“I never really expected to keep it this long,” he says. “I figured I’d give it to my daughter.
“But she wanted a Mustang.”
Umh...that works only if her name is Sally.
Frank Richards is also the proud owner of a model GTO, autographed by Jim Wangers. Wangers was Pontiac’s chief marketing manager during its muscle car heyday. He is also author of Glory Days: When Horsepower and Passion Ruled Detroit.