1965 Pontiac GTO Convertibles - Beauty And The Beast
Ambrose Claybar, of Orange, Texas, and Bruce Ling, of New York City, New York, are two hobbyists who did not know each other, yet they shared a similar vision of owning, in their opinion, Pontiac's most beautiful Tiger-a '65 GTO. "I own a '64 GTO, but '65s are really my love," said Ambrose. "I had to have one, and started looking for a highly-optioned example." Bruce shared a similar sentiment. "The '65 GTO has always been my favorite. I've owned a few over the years, and just can't get enough of them."
After hearing those comments, it should come as no surprise that both men jumped at separate opportunities to purchase such unique '65 GTO convertibles. Both vehicles needed serious restorations, and it was this fact that caused the men's paths to cross, ultimately bringing their GTOs together.
Jim Mott of Jim Mott Restorations in Kimberly, Idaho, is considered by many to be among the best GTO restorers in the country. His work has graced the pages of HPP in the past, and it has yet to disappoint. Ambrose's and Bruce's individual endeavors led them and their GTOs to Jim's shop for expert restorations. Today, these two beautiful Pontiacs are nothing short of spectacular.
Ambrose's Beauty
Ambrose told HPP that his search for a '65 GTO convertible led him to a collector-car advertisement in a large auto trader-type publication in 2001. "When I responded, I found the gentleman who placed the ad didn't actually own the cars, but instead sold them on consignment. He told me about a loaded '65 GTO convertible in Atlanta, Georgia, that he was selling, and that piqued my interest."
Over the course of a few discussions, Ambrose learned the owner's name and immediately attempted to locate him. "There were several 'John Eatons' in the Atlanta phone book, and I tried each until I found the right one. I learned that the car had sat outside for 30 years, and was totally covered by leaves. I requested pictures, and what I saw was really rough, but it was loaded with factory options including Tri-Power, a four-speed transmission, and air conditioning. I knew it would take a lot of work, but I felt that this was the right car for me."
Searching for a restoration professional to expertly restore a vehicle can be a worrisome task, and Ambrose wasn't about to entrust his latest possession to just anyone. "I wanted the car to look as good as the day it rolled off the assembly line, so my wife and I attended the 2001 GTOAA Nationals in Red Wing, Minnesota, to get ideas. I heard that Jim Mott was one of the best in the country, and he was there with a '65 GTO he had just restored. I introduced myself to him, and explained my car's condition. He agreed to take on the project and, in March 2002, drove to Atlanta to pick it up for me."
When Jim arrived in Atlanta to take possession of Ambrose's GTO, he found that the car wasn't alone. He said, "It was with 14 other GTOs in a heavily-wooded area that a developer purchased to build new homes on. Among them were several '64 and '65 GTO hardtops and convertibles, and at least one Judge. They all had plates that dated back to the early '70s. The developer literally gave them to a local-areacollector for simply hauling them off the land. They were quickly sold or parted out."
The Restoration
Once Jim got into the project, he found that the GTO was heavily rusted. "It was pretty bad, but it's what you might expect to see from a vehicle that had sat outside for so long," he said. "We replaced the floor with original rust-free sheetmetal, and Ambrose purchased a host of N.O.S. pieces, including fenders and quarter panels, to properly finish the body."
After the body was entirely stripped and the necessary repairs made, Mott primed and painted the underbody, frame, and suspension components with PPG products, and sanded them using 320- and 500-grit paper. The exterior was treated to four coats of PPG Blue Charcoal base, and five coats of PPG clear. The topcoat was wet-sanded numerous times with papers ranging from 600- to 2,500-grit, and polished to a mirror-like appearance.
The original drivetrain, including the WS-code 389ci, was with the GTO when Ambrose purchased it. According to Jim, it was very complete. "When we pulled the engine, it was surprising how original it was-everything was correct. The upper radiator hose was the only item that had been replaced over the years. The hood was partially open while it sat, and the engine compartment was full of leaves and pine needles. I believe this kept water from entering the engine."
Remaining true to its concours-type restoration, Jim rebuilt the engine to stock specs. The numbers-matching block was bored 0.030-over, and the No. 77 cylinder heads were completely refurbished. A stock-replacement No. 068 camshaft with 288/302 degrees of duration and 0.407-inch lift actuates the valves. The trio of Rochester two-barrel carburetors is mounted atop an original cast-iron Tri-Power intake manifold (No. 9778878). The engine exhales through its original exhaust manifolds and a complete N.O.S. exhaust system, including Tri-Power-specific mufflers and tailpipes with resonators.
An Executive Decision
During the restoration, Ambrose sent his GTO's V.I.N. to PHS Automotive Services. In return, he received a broadcast sheet showing 34 total options and learned that Gay Pontiac in Dickinson, Texas, was the selling dealership. With it came an unexpected note from Jim Mattison explaining to Ambrose that his loaded GTO was actually ordered as a Pontiac company car and sent to the Houston Zone office. Once its short-lived tenure as a company vehicle was complete, it was then sent to Gay Pontiac for delivery to its first retail customer.
While such an event early in a car's life might not seem extraordinarily meaningful, Jim feels there's a bit more than meets the eye. His opinion is that this '65 GTO convertible was built especially for and delivered to John DeLorean-Pontiac's General Manager at the time.
He explained, "DeLorean was famous for flying into zones and using cool cars to transact business. Pontiac paperwork for the car has handwritten instruction for it to be hand-waxed upon delivery, and the GM executive billing number matches that of another GTO connected to DeLorean during a California visit. Gay Pontiac also had a connection to the Houston Zone office from Don Gay's successful racing career during the 60s. Though it can't be confirmed, the theory is certainly logical."
Bruce's Beast
Bruce first learned what became of his Pontiac in 2004 when a friend in Alabama approached him about a '65 GTO convertible he had found in the area. "It was at a restoration shop in Atlanta that went out of business just after the restoration began, and a collector in Alabama ended up with it. My friend heard about it and knew how much I loved '65s, so he called. When I heard of its color combination and that it was a stripper loaded only with performance options, I knew I had to have it, and that Jim Mott would perform the restoration," he recollected.
Bruce said he was first made aware of Jim Mott several years back. "I called about a car for sale, and found it had already sold. During our conversation, the seller mentioned Jim Mott Restorations and how great his work was, so I began asking around at various shows and found he had a superb reputation. I saw his work in person at the 2001 GTOAA Nationals in Red Wing, Minnesota, and knew from that point forward that Jim was the person for me. I was very happy with the Grenadier Red '64 GTO post coupe he restored for me (featured in HPP July '05), and sent this '65 to him for similar treatment."
Another Project
Of the day Bruce's GTO arrived, Jim recalled, "It still had attached to it the rotisserie brackets and doorjamb braces that support the body when it is separated from the frame. Parts were stolen off it at some point, and it needed a new trunk floor and front floor work, but otherwise, it was pretty solid. Bruce's GTO was finished using a process similar to that of Ambrose's, but single-stage paint was used instead. The body was treated to five coats of PPG Montero Red, and the final coat was color sanded and machine buffed.
"This car was originally equipped with performance options typically associated with hard-top drag cars, and finding them in a convertible is especially rare," Jim said. "It has the 360-horse 389ci Tri-Power engine, four-speed manual transmission, and a limited-slip differential. It's also equipped with a 3.90:1 axle ratio, which required a host of other options including metallic brake linings, heavy-duty springs and shock absorbers, a heavy-duty cooling system, and a close-ratio transmission."
An Injection Of Power
Bruce was looking for a little more performance from his GTO, and Jim went a step beyond while rebuilding its original WS-code 389ci. The block was zero-decked, and its cylinders were bored 0.030-inches to 4.09. Forged-aluminum TRW pistons fill them and ride on original cast-iron connecting rods, which ult-imately spin about the original 3.75-inch stroke crankshaft. Total displacement equates to 395ci.
The original No. 77 cylinder heads were treated to new 1.92/1.66-inch intake and exhaust valves, and a multi-angle valve job. The intake and exhaust ports were gasket matched, the rocker stud bosses were tapped, and threaded rocker arm studs were installed. Valve timing is controlled by a custom-ground camshaft with specs similar to an original No. 744, which was subsequently used in Ram Air applications the following year.
Like the 389ci in Ambrose's GTO, Bruce's engine inhales through its original Tri-Power intake manifold and Rochester carburetors, but its original exhaust manifolds exit into a reproduction exhaust system from Gardner. "We spent an entire day on the dyno dialing the engine in," Jim said. "It's basically a blueprinted version of the original 389 Tri-Power package, and will literally melt the tires in First or Second gear. It'll even leave two black strips if you stand on it in Fourth. It's just a pleasure to drive."
The Results
Ambrose says he couldn't be happier with his finished GTO, and that Jim deserves the credit. "He worked very hard-the car is absolutely gorgeous. I'm a freak about original cars, and told him that I wanted a top-class restor-ation that looked like it rolled off the truck in Houston. Well, the results speak for themselves."
When asked what he likes best about his GTO, Ambrose replied, "I love the stacked headlights. It gives the '65 GTO an elegant appearance, and my GTO is equipped with a distinct combination of performance and luxury. It's got a Tri-Power engine and a four-speed manual transmission for going fast, but it's loaded with convenience options including air conditioning for comfort when it's needed. It's really an all-world car."
Bruce says that what initially attracted him to his GTO still captivates him today. "I love the color combination, the lack of convenience options, and all the musclecar features. In my mind it's the perfect GTO-a stripper in elegant clothing. Of Jim's effort, he adds, "I couldn't be any happier with the result, and I'm absolutely thrilled with the way it runs and drives. Jim satisfied my ultimate fantasy-it's truly a dream come true for me."
The first public appearance for both GTOs was at the 2007 GTOAA National Convention in Columbus, Ohio, and the pair was certainly captivating. Show judges intently discussed which to award Best of Show honors, and though the final nod went to Ambrose's Blue Charcoal GTO, that's no indication that Bruce's Montero Red model is at all inferior.
Ambrose and Bruce are now acquaintances, and neither is shameful in saying that their respective '65 GTO convertibles could be considered Beauty or The Beast. The fact is, both Tigers are classic examples of the beautiful Pontiac Design Staff styling, yet their Tri-Power engines and manual transmissions are among the signature characteristics that made the GTO a performance leader of its day. It may be easiest to classify these GTOs simply as Beautiful Beasts.

Photo Gallery: 1965 Pontiac GTO Convertibles - High Performance Pontiac Magazine

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