As early as I can remember, I was exposed to the car culture. My father, Lee, and my Uncle Jack would take me and my cousin to swap meets, car shows, and junkyards on a regular basis. They always had an interesting project going on, and that started my love affair with muscle cars and hot rods.
In 1993, when I was 12 years old, I found the car of my dreams, a 1967 Pontiac GTO that belonged to a friend of my father’s. Little did I know at the time, but it would take nearly my entire life to this point to fully restore it to perfection.
I remember vividly the evening I tagged along with my dad to go help his friend get his old car running. The storage garage where the GTO was kept was small, dark, and very cramped. I remember sitting in it while the work was being done, just in awe of the GTO.
I knew I had to have the car someday, or one like it. I begged my father over the next year to buy the car so that we could restore it together. When his friend had to move and could no longer store the GTO, my dad made a deal to purchase it.
With little room at home, we continued to store the car for a year or two until we built a new garage at home and the restoration could finally begin.
In the meantime, it was my job to learn everything I could about GTOs. I studied, read books, and purchased vintage magazines so that I could read the new car road test articles. That’s how I learned of Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac and the Royal Bobcat package. More on that later.
You have to understand that in the early to mid 1990s, I was still obtaining information by writing to people and clubs by snail mail, calling for print catalogs, and checking out books from the local library. There was no internet access like today. I can assure you I was the only kid in the fifth grade reading the Ames Performance catalog cover-to-cover or the GTO Restoration Guide over and over again.
I started planning exactly how I wanted to restore the GTO, and I decided it had to be 100 percent original with maybe a few select period-correct speed upgrades. When the GTO finally came home from storage around 1997, I did what any kid would do—I took the car completely apart. I spent as much free time as I could working on the car with the plan to have it finished for my senior year of high school.
That didn’t happen. The project took a lot more time and money than I had at the time, and my wanting everything perfect compounded the problem. My father and I worked on the car on weekends over the next decade, always moving the project forward but at a very slow pace. After college, I started working at a restoration shop, where I was able to get some serious progress done on the body. By 2006, the body shell and chassis were completed.
In 2008, I set out to start my own restoration shop, and so the project stopped completely and the new shop became my focus. Working on customer cars took priority, and it would be a long time before I thought of starting back up on the GTO.
Fast-forward to 2017: I made the decision to pull the car out of storage and finish the restoration. It was completed just in time for the 2017 MCACN show in Chicago, where I presented it in my companies’ display.
FascinatedDuring my early research, I became fascinated by the tricks of the day that I was reading about in my vintage magazines. I especially liked those in Hi-Performance CARS magazine. I even tracked down an original Royal Bobcat catalog that had all the details of the performance goodies offered back then.
I became an expert in Royal Bobcat mods, parts, and so on. I researched the part numbers they used, and searched the country to obtain the N.O.S. parts needed. I learned of a mechanic that was the big wheel at Royal Pontiac, Milt Schornack. I looked him up and wrote to him. After quite a few exchanges, I made arrangements to send him the GTO’s cylinder heads, carburetor, and distributor for the complete Royal Bobcat treatment, true to the original mods of the day back in 1967.
As I saved money, I purchased parts needed for the very special restoration I envisioned for the GTO. It was a slow pace, but I was always working towards the goal in one way or another.
I collected hoards of N.O.S. and rare assembly line parts over the course of the project that have found a home on the car today.
On top of all this, I was really getting in tune with aspects of correctness, such as the differences between those N.O.S. and assembly line parts. I became an avid study of assembly-line build details. It was on this project that I developed many of the research skills and detail-oriented practices that have set my business apart from other restoration shops today. It’s been a constant development over much of my life.
For the body restoration I strictly adhered to all the details of the Baltimore production plant. All oversprays and masking patterns were documented and duplicated exactly to precise measurements. The correct undercoats and primers were used throughout, and all the interior finishes were done in OE-correct Duracryl acrylic lacquers.
It was not easy to match the true, real color of the Tyrol Blue. If you order Tyrol Blue from the paint store, what you get is a hue totally different from the original. Having many undisturbed original paint areas to color-match, I endeavored to make an exact match. What you see on the car today is a dead-nuts match to Tyrol Blue, which happened when I thought outside the box after much trouble with the process. I realized that the undercoats play a role in the final hue, so I sprayed the special match over red oxide exactly like the Baltimore plant originally applied.
Not one penny was spared or part compromised front-to-back, top-to-bottom, in this pursuit of perfection.
Roughly 25 years passed on this restoration project, but I am thrilled with the result and so was everyone at MCACN. Many people wanted to buy it, but it is not for sale and never will be.
At a Glance1967 Pontiac GTO Owned by: Michael Mancini Restored by: Owner; American Muscle Car Restorations and Instrument Specialties, both in N. Kingstown, RI Engine: 400ci/360hp Ram Air V-8 Transmission: TH400 3-speed automatic with Hurst Dual-Gate shifter Rearend: 4.33 gears with Safe-T-Track Interior: Black vinyl bucket seat Wheels: 15-inch Cragar S/S Sparkler Tires: E60-15 front, G60-15 rear Goodyear Polyglas GT Special parts: Extensive use of N.O.S. and day-two parts
3mm Acrylic Sheet
The Sum of Its PartsThe original options on Mancini’s GTO included the code-XP 400ci/360hp Ram Air engine, Turbo 400 automatic transmission with Hurst Dual-Gate (His & Hers) shifter, 4.33 posi HD axle, Rally gauge package, console with bucket seats, vinyl top, Super-Lift air shocks, HD 55-amp alternator, transistorized voltage regulator, AM radio, rear-seat speaker, visor vanity mirror, outside remote mirror, roof-rail reading lamps, light package, custom seatbelts, Rally II wheels, power steering, power brakes, Soft Ray windshield, ride and handling package, and front and rear floormats.
Among the rarest of the N.O.S. parts Mancini collected over the years and used on the car were the carb jets, advance curve springs and weights, super-thin race head gaskets, and blocked heat riser intake gaskets (new in the GM packaging) for the engine’s Royal Bobcat tune; Super-Lift air shocks; trans pan; fan belts; radiator hoses; rubber lines; brake hoses; steering and chassis components with correct OE Saginaw stamps; door handles; bumpers, and gauge sending units.
Acrylic Sheet, Acrylic Tube, Acrylic Rod, Acrylic Lgp - Kingsign Acrylic,https://www.ksacrylic.com/