1966 Pontiac Gran Turismo Omologato – Our Kid and the GTO

Little GTO


This is a story of a boy and his car . . . two boys, actually, one being me.  Tangentially, it is a story of 58,220 boys, but that will be explained as we proceed.  For now, the focus is on that one boy, who was my brother, and his car, which was a 1966 Pontiac GTO.  How he came by the Little GTO is a long story, and it began in a little Idaho town in the mid-sixties that has been referenced before in my COAL series. https://www.curbsideclassic.com/cars-of-a-lifetime/simca-1204-stranger-in-a-strange-land/

My brother and I hailed from a place high in the Rockies (6000 feet for those who are counting) bordering a large lake whose main claim to fame, aside from it’s turquoise splendor, was a purported creature in the mode of the Loch Ness Monster.  No one seems to know for certain where the legend came from; some claimed  that it originated with the Shoshone Tribe, whose homeland my ancestors acquired by the usual means.  Others laid the origin of the tale at the feet of of our great uncle who had a reputation for convoluted pranks, including writing messages in invisible ink on the eggs that he sold to the locals.  Once boiled, writing appeared out of the void, frightening some segment of the population while bemusing the others.

Whatever the explanation, I never personally witnessed said monster, despite years of looking, so odds are it is either legendary or defunct.  Other exotic creatures in our little community were real enough, including moose, bears, elk, and other critters that thrived in the high mountain valley.  One of the tasks assigned to my brother and me was to keep watch over any domesticated stock that were assigned to flourish and fatten in time for market, as our father owned a cattle ranch.  At times the question of who was actually in charge was posed as some male members of the Hereford breed were perfectly willing to assert their dominance and would charge even in the absence of a red cape waved in front of them.  Being chased by a quarter ton of beef is actually enough to give you religion, even in the absence of any recorded cases of someone being caught and trampled, which lends credence to the suspicion that the bulls in question were messing with us for their own amusement.

By the time I turned twelve, however, all such hijinks came to an end as my father grew tired of low prices on the literal stock exchange together with the swords crossed with the federal government over the issue of range rights.  In retrospect, the government had good reason to limit the number of cattle sh*tting in the clear mountain streams and trampling the native vegetation, but of course concerns about actually earning a livelihood were uppermost in Dad’s mind at the time.  In any event, the ranch was sold and my family moved lock, stock, and barrel across the valley to a railroad town, population 3000, which was ten times larger than the village we left behind.

All this occurred as I was twelve and my brother fifteen.  He’d had just been elected president of his class at the local high school.  Uprooting us meant that we were tossed into the milieu of a new school and a different social pattern. Well, as they say, kids are adaptable, and in the end we adapted each after his own fashion.  For me, it meant a chance to buy my first electric guitar and join a band.  For my brother, it meant being let off his leash to some extent.  Now, my closest sibling was an interesting case:  he was one of those effortlessly brilliant people who is perpetually annoying to those of us with lesser gifts.  Aside from possessing a penchant for mathematics that totally eluded me, he was also tall (6-4), handsome, and charming.  Up to that point he had been a model child, the apple of his parents’ eye, a pliable and unquestioning son who did his duty and didn’t complain.

Our move, or maybe it was the zeitgeist, seemed to trigger a bout of intellectual and spiritual turmoil, or maybe he just fell in with what was then termed ‘the wrong crowd’.  At least that’s what the general parental consensus was.  Again, looking back over the span of years it seems evident that someone with his intellect would naturally want to push the boundaries of convention and explore what was out there in the much wider world.  Maybe if he had displayed that kind of attitude before my parents would have been less concerned and less confrontational.  Who knows?

Madison Avenue paradox.

In any event, he found an outlet by procuring a job at the local grocery store, which allowed him to save up for a car that no doubt offered a certain degree of freedom–at least of movement–all while maintaining his 4.0 G.P.A.  I don’t actually recall when that first car appeared, but the other particulars I remember clearly enough:  it was a 1963 Chevrolet Impala SuperSport, gold, with a 283 V8 and four speed transmission.  He probably would have preferred a 327, or even a 409 (she’s. so fine), but they must have been relatively rare and, of course, more expensive.  As it was, the 283 had enough oomph to get him in trouble with the law, and he soon began to collect speeding tickets and a more than passing acquaintance with the local constabulary.

The SuperSport

I likely never drove the Impala much, even though I got my first driver’s license at the age of fourteen, given that we were residents of Idaho where the argument went that kids hardly in their teens and barely able to see over the steering wheel were competent enough to pilot a two ton Detroit automobile with massive external dimensions, marginal brakes and questionable handling, ostensibly so they could be allowed to drive tractors to and fro on the local byways.  Needless to say, as a newly minted fourteen year old I heartily concurred with this flawed notion and actually found myself doing the yeoman’s share of the driving on a summer trip to Southern California the summer after I was awarded my license.  I should note that Dad did have some misgivings when it came time to drive on the California freeways, where I was relieved temporarily of my duties.

The Kid’s had a four speed manual, not a Powerglide.

All that aside, I was old enough to appreciate the Impala SS, not because it was the end-all performance car circa 1967, but because the SS on the fender did lend it some cachet, as did the four speed manual, dual exhausts (I may mis-remember this, as authoritative sources insist that they were not an option on the 283), rear speaker between the seat backs in the rear, and the faux engine turned appliqué on the dash.  Other than that, memory dims.  Whether or not my brother made any engine mods or other gestures toward hot-rodding is lost in the mists of time.  Suffice to say that no matter the rated horsepower, it was enough to get him into some hot water, but at the time speeding tickets were considered to be a rite of passage and we all reaped the whirlwind, although I confess I made it to the ripe old age of 21 before scoring my first moving violation, partly due to dumb luck, partly because I’d spent a chunk of the previous years in Italy, where I had also managed to escape the wrath of the Carabinieri.

Note the speaker nestled in the rear seat back!

Speeding tickets were one thing, but at some point the stakes were elevated when Dad got a call from the county jail, where my brother had spent the night after . . . siphoning a gallon of gas out of a school bus as a prank.  This tale reads like something out of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” with a foolish stunt somehow ending with a carload of kids in the slammer with their belts confiscated so they wouldn’t hang themselves in their cells.  Officer Obie had nothing over our town cops as they gathered up their self-importance and charged the kids–and our Kid–with an actual crime.  For siphoning a gallon of gas as a joke.

Needless to say this situation did not go over well with my father, who was a pillar of the community and unaccustomed to bailing close relatives out of the cellar of the county facilities.  Some screws were deemed in need of tightening and restrictions were set on our Kid’s activities.  They were mostly ignored.  The atmosphere grew icy in our new home and I for one found myself walking on eggshells, trying to maintain a positive presence in both camps.  Of course given that the Kid was sixteen and I was all of thirteen, mature thinking wasn’t much of a factor, but I’d grown up with my brother as a sole influence given that my next closest sibling was ten years older than me, and I did not have it in me to abandon him.

The Kid and I were mostly on the same wavelength in many matters in any case, and though he might act out according to whatever demons in his psyche were in ascendance, with me he remained generally even-handed and open.  As it was the mid-Sixties, music was our language and for years we’d spent our nights listening to the rock and roll emanating from KOMA out of Oklahoma City, whose 50,000 watt signal reached all the way to our little Idaho town,  By the time I was twelve all my pocket money was going for 45’s and LP’s, but I was vastly outspent by the Kid, whose burgeoning auto fund was constantly depleted at the record store.  Eventually, I left the record buying to him and spent my money on guitars and amplifiers, but I am still the beneficiary of his taste as I still have his extended collection of LP’s.

Sears Silvertone Twin Twelve: my second ever amp.


Our unsettled situation simmered for a couple of years as the Kid completed high school, finishing up as valedictorian his senior year despite the school principal lobbying for someone without a prison record to represent his hallowed institution.  Nevertheless, the honor was his by merit and it was left to him to give the valedictory address at commencement.  Additionally, he’d been awarded a four year university scholarship, which tended to ease household tensions somewhat.  However, his driver’s license had been suspended after one too many speeding tickets courtesy of the SuperSport, which resulted in an awkward situation as it fell to me to drive him where he needed to go.  He had a job on a ranch that summer, cutting, raking, baling, and hauling hay, and moving sprinkler pipe in the early morning hours.  Sometimes he persuaded me–I forget by what means–to assist, and so I spent my summer rising at dawn and being feasted on by mosquitoes, but I was happy to be with Kid, and he always kept me entertained . . . we had long, convoluted discussions that always seemed to have a mind of their own and ranged far and wide.

Our Kid, giving his valedictory speech.

I’d turned sixteen by this time and my actual, official job was running the projectors at the local movie theater, which meant I was often up past midnight and had only a few hours of sleep before I was up at dawn to assist the Kid.  This did result, though, in one amusing interlude as the Kid’s girlfriend also worked at the theater and I often gave her a lift to and from work in the Jeep Ambulance, referred to in my very first COAL back in the mists of 2022.  It so happened that I was giving “AJ” (name withheld to protect the innocent) a ride home sometime after the witching hour when we were unceremoniously pulled over by the town cop.  I knew I hadn’t committed any infractions as I was very conscious of minding my ‘P’s’ and ‘Q’s” due to the often tense circumstances at home . . . I hadn’t been stopped by the police since I was thirteen for riding a motorcycle on the street without (obviously) a driver’s license.  I rolled down the window and handed my license to the officer without a word; he turned and walked to his squad car where he sat for moment, and then promptly got back out of the car and returned, this time looking me square in the face.  “Who the hell are you?” he asked.  He thought he’d caught the Kid, apparently, as he recognized the Jeep and even the Kid’s girlfriend.  Deflated, he returned my license without a word and waved us off.  He’d imagined he had the Kid dead to rights and I’d gone and ruined his evening.

And so, with limited time and means to get in any further trouble, the Kid, his driver’s license restored, went off to college in the fall and things settled down to some degree.  He’d drive home some weekends, mostly to see “AJ”, but I imagined that he liked to see me, too.  I would hear his car pull in the drive late on a Friday night and listen for him to come down the basement stairs, where he would open my door a crack and peer in to see if I was still awake, as a I always was.  If I close my eyes I can still see him, a tall figure highlighted against the shadows.  Some things you don’t forget.

One Friday night he was very late getting home and I didn’t hear him come in.  I found out why the following morning when he related the story of the SuperSport blowing its engine somewhere west of Laramie.  I have no idea how fast he’d been going and would just as soon not know.  Small block Chevy’s are sturdy beasts, after all, but the Kid, whose mechanical sympathy was never something to write home about, had somehow managed to overcome its bulletproof reputation.  Or maybe he’d forgotten to add oil. In any case, he was temporarily without wheels, although the tow truck operator had made him an offer on the Impala.  No doubt the tow guy could source a small block for cheap and the rest of the car was in good shape.  Now Dad hated the very idea of an unreliable car and whether or not it was his or the Kid’s idea to replace the Impala, I can’t say.  Dad may have even offered financial assistance in a gesture of detente.

More Madison Avenue.

No matter where the idea originated, the Kid was immediately out looking for a car and soon found one the next town over:  a used ’66 Pontiac GTO.  The salesman said it had been traded in by a lady school teacher, a fact I found somewhat suspicious (at least it wasn’t an old lady who only drove it to church on Sunday).  On the other hand, although the GTO had the ubiquitous 389 of song and legend, complete with four speed, there remained a few clues that pointed to the possibility that the used car sales guy may have been telling at least the partial truth:  you see, the car was Fontaine Blue, a very light shade of blue, and it had a white vinyl top, or Ivory in Pontiac sales brochure parlance, maybe one of the very last choices on the macho man list.  Searching the net, I find very few Ivory top GTO’s extant, and it does seem possible that they were ordered mostly by women rather than men.  Also, the interior, too, was white (Parchment), so odds are that the car’s original owner may have very well been a woman, school teacher or not.

The louvered taillights have never been matched.



Now the GTO was in great shape, understandable as it was only a couple of years old, and white furnishings notwithstanding, it remained one awesome automobile.  So far as I can tell, it was most likely the 335 horsepower version rather than the 360 as it never seemed high strung or in a particularly high state of tune.  Still, a 389 in a GM intermediate was a pretty quick car by the standards of the day, although you wouldn’t want to run for pink slips with some of its stablemates, such as the 396 Malibu SS.  And from my perspective, it was drop dead gorgeous.  I mean, I get the whole nostalgia business and how people of a certain age think that anything from their late teenage/early adult years remains without peer, but I’m not one of those people.  I don’t sit on my porch and yell at the neighbor kids to get off of my lawn and I actually appreciate a variety of new things whose origin wasn’t in the 1960’s . . . nevertheless, GM in the mid-Sixties seems undeniably a high water mark so far as automotive styling goes.  It’s hard to believe that it all went to sh*t only half a decade later, ending up in the Brougham era, the low water mark of Detroit history.

Stratobuckets . . . did Fender consider a lawsuit?

Schoolteacher Parchment interior.

I mean, just look at that ’66 GTO–not a bad line on it; sleek, purposeful, timeless.  No wonder it’s regarded as a classic, together with a number of other Detroit designs from that period.

Much more common black vinyl roof.

So far as how it drove . . . I remained a novice driver with very few cars under my belt, so of course it impressed.  What’s more, the Kid let me drive it to my Ninth Grade Middle School one day.  Seriously, a fourteen year old with a Goat?  In 1967 Nirvana was still a state of enlightenment, not a band, and I came close to it that day.  I took a select few friends with me and the Kid’s trust was repaid as no mishaps or incidents occurred, and no county cops pulled me over, so win-win.

And the awesome wood rimmed steering wheel and walnut dash.


I wish I could end on that note, but this story’s ending goes on, I regret to say.  The Kid decided to drop out of university the following spring and he went off to some new-fangled computer school in Kansas City, ready to ride a wave that wouldn’t crest for another few decades, but he was already out in the bay, paddling his board, waiting for the wave to hit.  And then . . .

The county cops struck again.  When he came home from Kansas Cit that summer, one ostensibly innocent thing led to another and our Kid was charged with a complete made-up crime based on false evidence and spurious testimony.  According to our father, who of course was the last person to regard the Kid as a model citizen, the evidence was all a sham and a disgrace to the American system of justice.  What’s more, the judge, whom Dad had known for years, completely bought the cops’ dog and pony show and rendered a verdict that became a proverbial death sentence:  either the Kid could serve time, or he could go into the Military.  In 1968.  Yeah, thanks, judge.

By fall, the Kid, resigned to a fate decided by small town cops, was in the Army, which upon recruitment had offered advanced computer training  at some unnamed military school and so, of course, he was assigned to the Infantry instead..  His training took place at Fort Lewis, just down the road from my current residence, where he applied himself to the usual Kid standard and excelled.  Case in point:  the drill sergeant promised breakfast in bed to any recruit who could pass a certain elevated score on the rifle range, safe in the knowledge that no one had ever grabbed the brass ring.  I have a photo of the drill sergeant handing the Kid his breakfast tray in his bunk, the Kid with a cautious smile, the sergeant notably grim.

Our Kid being served breakfast in bed by the Sergeant.

In June, our parents, together with “AJ” and me, drove to Salt Lake City to put the Kid on a plane to L.A. followed by more exotic ports.  I travel through the SLC airport occasionally and nothing remains of that long-ago facility save for a world map set into the floor; it was once in the very center of the airport, now it’s tucked off in a corner in baggage claim. It was in place when we said our fare-thee-well’s to Our Kid and then returned to our mundane world to wait for letters that were sporadic and often much delayed.  My contribution was to tape the latest hits on a cassette tape and ship them off to the tropics, and so I supplied the soundtrack to a few jungle nights in the summer and fall of 1969, Jimi Hendrix being the headliner.

Sometime in late summer a man who had been staying in the motel Dad owned while while working on a local construction project enquired about the GTO and the Kid somehow passed on his permission for it to be sold.  I accompanied the buyer in the Pontiac to his hometown in Wyoming and spent the day riding horses with his younger sister and eating his mother’s enchiladas while he signed the paperwork at a local bank for a car loan.  We then made the return trip back to my town, and that was the last I ever saw of the GTO.  I hope that it is still out there somewhere, whole, unmolested, and rust-free, but of course I have no way of knowing as I don’t have any record of the VIN or other essential information.


At the beginning of November I was sitting in History class when someone knocked on the classroom door.  The teacher opened it, spoke to a shadowy figure in the hall for a moment, and then came back to call me out of class. The man in the shadows was our clergyman.

Of course that knock on the door was not an unfamiliar phenomenon in those days; it happened 58,220 times, after all, so I can’t pretend to have any exclusive insight into the experience except to acknowledge that I know what it feels like and I have continued to empathize with all those who have suffered the event in all the ensuing years and all the wars that followed.  I do know what it means to hold a father who has displayed nothing but stoicism his entire life as he weeps for his lost son.  I recognize the prospect of bleak days that seemed to stretch out into infinity.  I understand how it feels to attempt to live life for both yourself and another, and I learned that is a fool’s errand as you can only live your own life.  I still lie awake and wonder about what might have been, about nieces and nephews that never were, as well as long-ago times the two of us spent playing the latest Rolling Stones record or peering over the edge of an engine compartment.  I still worry that had he come home he likely would have suffered from PTSD given the horrors that he witnessed (as recorded in a journal that came home with his other effects; he would never have written about them in a letter home).  We might have drifted apart, as brothers do, but of course any such thought is only conjecture.

Not many remain who remember him . . . Dad has been gone thirty years, Mom twenty-five.  I have one remaining brother and one older sister and I like to think that we are close, although we remain separated by considerable distances.  I reconnected with “AJ” some years back, and she is my other sister, bound as we are by that black road that we traveled in the wake of the loss of Our Kid.  And just to prove that fate sometimes proves ineffable, our daughter married the son of Vietnamese refugees and so we have a son-in-law and three grandchildren of Vietnamese heritage.  In addition, we had an exchange student from Hanoi live with us for a couple of years and now she our honorary daughter.  Things change and those changes are seldom foreseen, but there always seems to be good to counter the bad.

Sometimes I look at the listings on Hemmings or Bring a Trailer and think maybe I should try to find a GTO to buy, but I know it’s too late for that.  Prices have gone out of reach and it would only sit in the garage most of the time, a drain on time, space, and finances that I can’t justify.  In the end it would only be a reminder of trying times, and not a panacea for whatever ails me, but that’s okay.  Still, a year ago when we were visiting my sister and walking in her neighborhood, parked a few blocks from her house was a Fontaine Blue GTO, sans vinyl top, but otherwise remarkably similar to the one we let go, and once again I remembered and recited to myself the tale of Our Kid and the GTO:

One last look . . .