A 1970 Pontiac GTO shot down in Texas, then brought back to life!
In October of last year, 28-year-old Dalton Summitt read a story about an unusual car park that was to be auctioned off in Big Spring, Texas. John Haynie’s estate contained 250 vintage vehicles in various states of repair, most of them Mopars, but since Dalton is a GM guy, it was a 1970 Pontiac GTO that caught his eye. Unfortunately for the GTO, Haynie and his family thought of themselves as Mopar people, and over the course of four decades the regular 400-equipped Goat was relegated to target practice duty, saving the remaining 249 cars from the ravages of relaxation. . itchy fingers even by Texas standards. At auction time, the 1970 GTO was riddled with thousands of bullet holes (some of significant caliber) and if you were like Dalton Summitt, it was screaming at you from the grave.
Dalton Summit is not your usual car enthusiast. By day, he’s an industrial electrician in the Kansas City, Missouri area, but his passion during all other waking hours is bringing abandoned machinery back from the dead and documenting it on his YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram pages like Pole barn garage. The more summary, the better. (Even though Dalton isn’t a Mopar guy, be on the lookout for his next similar project, the Rolled Runner. “It’s everything I imagined, and a little less!”) He saves those cars with his son, JD. “My son JD has a special talent for all things mechanical and he loves cars,” says Dalton. “He’s 11, and we’re currently building his 1959 Ford Custom on the line for his first hot rod. He’s my first point of contact for help in the shop, and he helped me with a lot of the build. JD is totally my equal when it comes to snatching, not just a kid.”
We hit the track again for Dalton’s GTO – called Holey Goat, for obvious reasons – in June 2021, when Junkyard Gold’s Steve Magnante sent HOT ROD a massive slew of auction photos that included the 1970 Pontiac GTO in question. When news of Haynie’s treasure hit Dalton, he must have taken a look at Spanky’s Freedom Car Auctions site where it was listed. The many Mopars in Haynie’s hoard were certainly cool, but it was the bullet-riddled 1970 Pontiac GTO that prompted Dalton to make a jaw-dropping $200 bid. “The bid was $7, but I’m like, let’s put a bid on it, say $200. Two weeks later, I get a notification on my phone that says, ‘Congratulations! You won a 1970 GTO!” and I’m like, ‘what are you talking about?'” On the one hand, $200 might not seem like a lot for an iconic muscle car like a GTO, but on the other hand, the damage to the Pontiac was so extensive that no rational person could ever hope to restore it. This, of course, assumes two things: that your definition of catering matches everyone else’s and that you are a rational person.
Dalton sums it up with the characteristic tongue-in-cheek sarcasm that has become his trademark: “I’m a moron.” (If you have a quick 55 minutes, you should watch Dalton’s collection of 23 Holey Goat build episodes here.) But what good hot-rodder hasn’t at some point realized the folly of a bad decision long after it’s too late? When it arrived in Texas, the Pontiac looked bad. So much lead had entered its body that it defied logic that the car could even be moved in one piece, but not so much that a cactus fell from the vehicle as it was meticulously loaded into the back of the trailer from Dalton – with a forklift. (The cactus, which still grows from the ground where the driver’s seat used to be, will later make its GTO debut at the ISCA Autorama World of Wheels car show in Kansas City in March 2022.) Equal parts crime scene, archaeological dig and restoration project, the GTO would be transformed by Dalton and JD from a non-running cart case to a running and burnout-producing cart case in just five months.
The spirit of madness has its own twisted logic, and in this case, Dalton had grasped the idea that the coolest thing to do with the GTO was to preserve as much rot and rust as possible while performing the automotive equivalent of a moonshot: make it work well enough to do massive burnouts on command. Luckily, the A-body perimeter frame looked good, which is really the only major thing required for a project like this. Nevertheless, the GTO’s svelte lines have long since been replaced by kinetic embellishments so brutal that none of its hinged metal sheets (doors, trunk, hood) could move without inflicting great bodily harm (to the human, not the the car). Most home restorers would undertake to straighten and replace sheet metal, but Pole barn garage do things differently. All sorts of straps, accompaniments, winches, saws, bottle jacks, hammers, hydraulic rams and even loaded guns were used to return the GTO’s shape to normal (or at least some semblance normal for someone, perhaps, with a greenhouse full of psychoactive mushrooms).
“I can say this is the worst GTO on the planet,” Dalton said on his YouTube channel as the build began. “As you can see it needs light bodywork, light interior work, light mechanics… it needs everything, but that’s okay because we can do it. We’ll save this car, and I use ‘save’ as a very, very relative term. What we have to do with that is make it run, drive, stop sometimes and do some big burnouts, but mostly just fix that because everyone says I can’t. With that, Dalton and JD began systematically attacking every part of the GTO, eventually spending a total of about $2500 to get it fully working, including $200 for the Above all, as a Pontiac guy, Dalton made the effort from the start to keep the GTO true to the brand, retaining all of its Pontiac-osity throughout the drivetrain, from vintage lo- po Pontiac 400ci V-8 with BOP- specific Turbo 400 trans and rear Pontiac.
Armed with a well-stocked trove of wartime humor (the guy is really funny) and a keen sense of irony, Dalton set his sights on the World of Wheels car show in Kansas City in March 2022 in the final goal to stink generously the place. (Spoiler alert: mission accomplished!) With only five months to do the job in a cold, drafty lean-to, Pole barn garage got to work taking the GTO apart, vacuuming it, washing it, and using all manner of cudgels to coax it into something resembling its original form. Periodic applications of donor sheet metal (old street signs, the hood of a square-bodied Chevy truck) and black tractor paint kept the engine bay, interior and trunk working. Quips Dalton during this stage of the build: “We really don’t want it to look good, we just want it to look.”
The goal of repairing the original engine was abandoned when it was discovered that it had spent quite a bit of time underwater. While the original Pontiac V-8 400ci seems to have escaped the shots, Dalton is deadpan: “I know if the bottom of your gauge is rotten, there’s a problem.” The photo above shows what the bottom end looked like with the oil pan removed: a clump of brown mud and rust in the shape of an oil pan. Dalton swung into action and repurposed a ’69 Pontiac 400 from an older project that he says is nothing special, but has been treated with a Summit Racing SUM-2800 cam, dual timing chain roller, a Holley Brawler carburetor, ACCEL wires and coil, hardened tappets and an old Holley Street Dominator single-plane intake manifold, the latter of which Dalton correctly notes, “it’s going to run horribly on this engine.”
While the original BOP (Buick, Olds, Pontiac) specific Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission proved to be salvageable, time dictated that Dalton temporarily used a BOP Turbo 400 with known features, a theme that returns thanks to a stash of parts from Dalton’s other completed 1972 Pontiac LeMans project. This stash also yielded a posi-equipped Pontiac rear when it was discovered that rust had squandered the original Holey Goat axles, bearings and carrier plates. The non-original but all-Pontiac powertrain was a relative walk in the park, but the same couldn’t be said for the wiring, which consumed much of the allotted time before the World of Wheels show.
An electrician by trade, Dalton tackled the wiring job with a $32 12-circuit offshore wiring kit, then moved the battery to the trunk with a $30 jumper cable set. “It really hurts the next guy, but the next guy is me, and I hate that guy, so…I didn’t look at the diagram, it’s barely in English.” Dalton does a good job of toning down the difficulty of the task with humor, but safety is where he gets a little serious. “You might notice I cut some corners, but I’m also that corner, actually I’m that very tight corner on some things. You can do things halfway, but when it comes to big things , make sure you do it right, because death is bad.”
Another area Dalton and JD spent a lot of time on was suspension and brakes. With little money available for a UPS truck of blister-packed parts, the stock suspension parts were cleaned and painted; in-stock wear items were replaced with the lowest priced items available. Revealing a list of shoddy foreign-made brake parts, Dalton warns: “If you see me on the highway, maybe keep your distance.” Splurging in the suspension area, Dalton threw in vintage air shocks in the rear to provide the car with the necessary rake. Pointing to dodgy coil springs and sketchy plumbing, Dalton says, “…it’ll give it that floor-sniffing rake that all the cool guys had in 1977 when that car was busy getting shot. You ready to be the coolest guy in the trailer park.” This sentiment, of course, extends to the matching chrome Cragar wheels and the side exhaust.
Dalton credits Roadkill Customs and Holley with some sponsorship, but it was the local big-box home supply store, with its low prices on non-traditional restoration parts, that really helped his cost-cutting process. These elements include barrel bolt door locks, dryer ducts for cold air induction, aluminum flashings and thousands of self-tapping sheet metal screws, a major component of the interior and body of the GTO. These raw materials were combined in some cases with tried and tested used components like traffic cones and traffic signs, all obtained legally of course. As we understand it, only one commonly recognized aftermarket restoration part was used for the GTO: a repop gas tank that arrived at the Pole barn garage in typical condition, with its central filling tube broken and cleaned. “No problem,” Dalton said. “I can use my all-time favorite multi-tool: JB Weld.”