RK Nation: Cody Stiles’ Mad Max-Style 1969 Pontiac GTO

On a recent episode of Roadkill Extra (one that you can watch for free right here), Freiburger mentions the proliferation of ratty muscle cars in response to a show in Alabama for such cars. Rusty, junky-looking muscle cars have definitely become “A Thing” and, as Freiburger points out, Roadkill has spurred a lot of that on. There’s a practical element to it, however, as Roadkill Nation member Cody Stiles points out when describing the motivation behind his ‘69 Pontiac GTO: “After having my Trans Am repainted, I also think I’ve developed an aversion to nice things. It’s absolutely nerve-wracking.”

Cody’s introduction to Roadkill via the General Mayhem was a revelation in deciding a project-car direction: “Something that would be the right mix of dirt, leaks, rust and creativity that was completely devoid of stitch-counting, and lets be honest, the car you start with doesn’t have to be (and preferably isn’t) very mint.” After starting with a search for early ‘70s Chargers, Cody returned to his Pontiac roots. A few LeMans and Tempest duds came and went until he found a real ‘69 GTO nearby for cheaper than the other Pontiac rollers he’d found.

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While the GTO ran, ostensibly, Cody found a laundry list of problems, largely caused by a previous owner bodging a number of repairs on the Goat: Every single fix on the car had been undertaken with a healthy dose of sheet-metal screws except the headlight wiring, where a fuse had been replaced with a section of brake line. That had subsequently melted about 10 feet of the wiring and probably narrowly avoided catastrophic fire. The 400 cubic-inch Pontiac V8 did run, but the engine exhibited chronic overheating in spite of a bevy of new-ish cooling-system parts installed by the sheet-metal-screw enthusiast. The four-wheel drum brakes barely arrested the muscle car at all and the same previous owner (and perhaps other owners) had let the interior degrade past the points of willing renovation.

 

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We’ll let Cody talk about his work on the GTO after diagnosing the pile of Pontiac problems:

“Never trust a car with a recently rebuilt water pump, no thermostat, new radiator, and a hastily installed temp gauge to cool correctly. That’s just about every red flag in the book for a major cooling issue. So the next few months were spent stripping her down to the block. That eventually revealed the culprit: a nick in the head (above), right over the gasket compression ring, that was 0.010 inches deep. Just enough for combustion gasses to escape into the cooling system.

“Reassembly from there turned into a crash course on disturbing a 47-year-old engine. What was thought to be a blown head gasket turned into machining .010” off the heads (raising the already scary high compression…Yay for 93 octane), a valve job (I’m the king of ‘while you’re in there’), and the replacement of old parts that just didn’t want to be messed with. From there, lots of rubber, lots of hoses, lots of seals. The Quadra-fail [i.e. Quadra-Jet carb] was replaced with a Holley Speed Demon, which still requires a bit of tuning.

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“The drums were replaced with a brand-new disk kit from Speedway Motors. The electrical system was repaired and modified to accommodate future shenanigans. I don’t recommend the experience of having to pour over 2 feet by 4 feet of printed-out schematic for days because somebody decided to melt the wire harness, but it is good for one thing: I now know the wiring of a ‘68-’72 GM A-body like the back of my hand.

“The Mad Maxing of the car was put off for a bit to focus on making it mechanically reliable, which isn’t a bad thing. At 102,000 miles, I’m not sure how much life is left in the old 400, but I’ve become attached to it. With any luck it will last long enough for its planned replacement, a (currently) 6.0-liter LS with a 6-71 supercharger through the hood. Perhaps some additional stroke is in order to pay homage to the old torque monster the factory installed.

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“Short-term goals are to fix the body functionally (missing trunk pan, holes in the floor pans, and the left quarter panel is a tad too rusted), custom 3-inch exhaust, and some flat black paint probably by the end of the summer. Another item on the agenda is an Overdrive. Either a 4l80e swap I have laying around, or a Gear Vendors unit to go behind the TH400. Long-term goals include a new rear axle, a 6.0 LS festooned with a roots blower, raising the height by about an inch, and possibly some knobby tires for the back. Most of the interior pieces have been ruined in value by the carelessness of previous owners, so most of that will be removed to result in a spartan interior more suitable to the theme.

“The hardest part of this build, besides learning Pontiac V8s with no prior experience, is resisting the urge to compulsively clean or paint things. Interestingly enough I’ve had to take a step back on a few occasions and remind myself that dirt and rust is the goal to a degree, not the enemy. That’s proving to be a hard habit to break.”

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We’re pretty sure Freiburger struggles with that notion, too, since he has built a number of gorgeous cars in the past. Neverthless, Cody is building the car he wants and he won’t have to worry about it scuffed paint from rock chips or door dings when he takes his GTO into public. That’s a nice feeling to have, we think. What projects are you working on right now? If you get your own Roadkill Nation page like Cody, you can share it with the other Roadkill fans there and we just might put it on the Roadkill site or even in Roadkill Magazine. Get your RK Nation page right here.

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