Joseph Solch vividly remembers the first time he hopped into the driver’s seat of his 1967 Pontiac GTO. He was seven years old and unable to see over the steering wheel. The car had been sitting in his uncle’s barn in Circleville, Ohio, since 1986. Without realizing that the ignition had not been properly mounted to the dash, Joseph attempted to start the car. Key in hand, he dislodged the ignition, pushing it into the dash. Terrified he had broken the car, Joseph ran back inside his uncle’s house, never to tell a soul. “That’s why the ignition isn’t mounted in the car and never will be. I still have the same key and ignition and I have to hold it from the back every time I go to start it,” he explained.
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The classic Poncho has been in his family since 1976 when his mother purchased the car from a used car lot in Columbus, Ohio, for $600. Years later, the car was sold off to a neighbor and Joseph knew he had to buy it back. It was his dream car, and this specific GTO had a lot of sentimental value. He got in touch with his old neighbor, and they eventually reached an agreement. At 17 years old, Joseph was the proud new owner of one of America’s most iconic muscle cars.
The GTO is actually a rare Sports Coupe body style – one of three options available in 1967. The easiest way to identify a Sports Coupe is by its obvious B-pillar and thicker window frames. Pontiac offered this body style as a cheaper alternative to the hardtops and convertibles, resulting in much lower production numbers. Despite the car being a relatively rare Pontiac, Joseph never swayed from his vision of building the bone-stock A-body into a full-blown hot rod.
He wanted to build the Pontiac 400 into a 461ci stroker engine. Barker Machine and Fab located in Owensville, Ohio, helped build and balance the powerful Poncho using all new internals. An Ohio Crankshaft spins the connecting rods and CP pistons up the 4.155-inch bore with a 4.250-inch stroke to create the 461 cubic inches of displacement. Pontiac 4X cylinder heads were selected for the application, and the valves were cut to improve flow. Joseph also opted for a Comp Cams hydraulic roller camshaft. Atop the Edelbrock Performer RPM intake sits a Quick Fuel Technology 750 cfm carburetor to deliver its air/fuel mixture. The stroker engine makes approximately 425 horsepower and 540 lb-ft of torque at the wheels and is backed with a Muncie M21 four-speed transmission and 4.10 gears. Definitely a great setup for roasting tires.
The weathered Mariner Turquoise paint creates an unsuspecting appearance.
Upon moving to the West Coast, the GTO became Joseph’s daily driver. From the beaches of San Clemente, up the I-5 towards Los Angeles, the GTO rubs shoulders with the everyday Prius and Corolla. What once was Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” more than five decades ago now idles among the flow of modern-day traffic. It is not what most people would deem to be the ideal commuter car, especially given the fact that the car runs open headers. Joseph drives 160-miles round trip each day to get to his job at Universal Studios in Burbank, averaging 9 miles per gallon all the way there. He also admitted that the 4.10 gear ratio and 4-speed do not help the fuel economy.
Since taking ownership of the car, Joseph has added more than 40,000 miles to the odometer and has no plans of slowing down. Being an avid motocross rider, he also uses his GTO as a multipurpose vehicle to help transport his dirt bike to the track on occasions. “I went without a truck for six months and I ride motocross quite frequently. Whenever I wanted to ride, I would remove the passenger seat from the GTO, disassemble the bike and store the wheels, bars, front fender, and forks on the floor where the seat would have been, and then reassemble the bike at the track” he casually explained.
Joseph’s GTO proves there is no excuse for not driving your classic. Whether you own a fully restored muscle car or a clapped out old station wagon with less horsepower than you’d like to admit, it’s all about enjoying the ride. “My favorite part about owning the GTO, is when people tell me how much they love it. I get to have conversations with so many great people of all ages and backgrounds,” Joseph shared. “It’s just a fun car and my family has had such a long history with it. I am continually making memories with the GTO every time I drive it.” It is this mentality that keeps hot rodding alive and well.
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