By Dan Varner
As a young boy growing up in Ohio, I had a fascination with the automobile. The cars of the late ’50s through the ’60s were the most memorable and fascinating to me. It was a great time to grow up and be around what we always referred to as the “Big Three” (Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co. and General Motors). The great cars of these companies were sometimes trimmed in chrome with fins that went crazy, usually had looks and styles that are considered classic and often are highly sought as collectibles today.
As an adult, I became a collector of 1950s and 1960s cars. My first was a 1960 Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe with the 348-cid V-8 and four-barrel carburetor. As time went on, I began trading up from car to car as I found something nicer or of more interest than the last car. Today, I have a collection of 10 cars.
What makes my collection unique is that all of the vehicles in it are unrestored “survivor” cars, seven of which are muscle cars in amazingly original condition. I never searched or sought out any of them; I just stumbled upon them. They were found in ads, spotted for sale in someone’s front yard or tracked down by friends who told me to check out a “special car” they had spotted.
My all-original 1969 Dodge came to me by way of the 17-year-old grandson of the original owner. He knew I had an interest in older cars, so he stopped by my house one day and told me his grandparents were going to sell their “1969 Dodge Coronet” and wanted to know if I was interested. He didn’t know much about the car. I was curious, so he gave me his grandparents’ phone number. It was a good thing I pursued it as his grandparents’ “Dodge Coronet” turned out to be the high-performance Super Bee version!
Other originals in my collection include three 1987 Buick Grand Nationals and a very low-production WE-4-optioned 1987 Buick Regal Turbo with 29,000 miles. This car is a factory lightweight, and many Buick aficionados do not know such a car was ever produced.
I have two other favorites in my collection: a 1968 GTO with 23,000 miles and a 1970 GTO that had 13,850 miles when I purchased it in 2009. Together, they had spent nearly 35 years of combined time on jack stands in an owner’s heated and well-kept garage in a suburb near Pittsburgh. Let me begin to tell the story of my ’70 GTO.
One evening, I was passing time away by surfing the Internet. Suddenly, an image popped up on the side of the screen. It described a Cardinal Red, numbers-matching 1970 GTO with a factory four-speed and a 400-cid V-8 as a true all original and unrestored survivor with only 13,850 miles. This GTO was being offered for sale on eBay. To this day, I still do not know why this image ad popped up, as I was not searching for anything auto-related. Curiosity got the best of me and I clicked the ad. There were many photos, but only a very brief description of the car. The ad didn’t mention the car’s unusual history, which I would only discover later, after I purchased it.
The bidding had several days to go. I placed my bid minutes before the auction ended. I was disappointed my bid did not hit the reserve, so after the auction, I contacted the owner to learn his reserve price. Surprisingly, we were only off by a small amount of money. He explained to me that he was not the original owner, but had a large envelope of documentation that would come with the car. He talked about some of this documentation, such as the previous owners, its Pontiac Historical Services (PHS) documentation, the condition and how it was truly a unique car since it was so original. After several more phone calls and negotiating, a deal was struck and he was to deliver the car to me. The GTO arrived in a timely manner with all of my expectations exceeded.
One evening as I was going through the packet of information, I discovered the dealer’s bill of sale and window sticker. I learned that my GTO was ordered new by Daniel Schweikert on Oct. 22, 1969, from Reiber Cadillac-Pontiac Co. of New Castle, Pa. The new owner’s list of options, which included the four-speed manual transmission, Safe-T-Track differential, Rally II wheels, hood-mounted tach and a few other options brought the deal to a total of $3,848.15. Further searching brought up the build sheet and two very unusual and most important pieces of information to document the provenance of any GTO. This discovery was a hand written letter by Ray Good of West Mifflin, Pa., stating that he had purchased this GTO from the original owner on Oct. 14, 1987, with only 13,013 miles showing on the odometer. He went on to say he only drove the car 13 miles and then put the car on jack stands in his heated garage. He further stated that he started the car monthly and changed the oil faithfully two times a year until he sold it in March 2000.
Along with this letter was a copy of the title to support his letter and the mileage at time of purchase and time of sale. Sure enough, the mileage stated on the title in all those years showed it was driven only 13 miles in as many years. Good loved and appreciated his car so much, he took all the precautions he could to preserve it. I was able to search online for Good and once I found him, I was able to verify the letter. Good and I had a very long conversation about the GTO, which led to another twist of good luck. Before our conversation ended, Good told me he had another survivor ’68 GTO with 23,000 miles that has been in his garage on jack stands for the last 20 years. (This is the ’68 GTO I mentioned owning earlier.)
The ’70 GTO is virtually unchanged from the day it rolled off the assembly line in Oshawa, Ontario, during the month of October, with exception of a front bumper repaint and necessary maintenance to keep it safe for road travel.
Since buying the car, I have contacted the original owner, Mr. Schweikert. He told me it was strictly his pleasure car and was never a daily driver. The GTO had never seen a snowflake and seldom a raindrop during his ownership. It is one of the few of the thousands of all muscle cars produced that has managed to escape and defy all odds of age and destruction.
I enjoy taking the GTO out to shows on sunny, rain-free days. I get many positive reactions from people after they have read my sign that explains the originality and history of the car. Many have walked up to me, shook my hand, congratulated me and expressed thank you’s and appreciation for bringing it out to show.
I entered the ’70 GTO in the 2013 GTOAA-POCI Co-Vention in Dayton, Ohio, in both the GTOAA Concours and POCI Survivor points judging. It received a Concours Gold Award from the GTOAA, scoring 649 of the possible 700 points, and it also received a Junior Gold Award from POCI, scoring at least 390 points out of the possible 400.
As for now, I am nothing more than the caretaker of my GTO, and I do not plan any changes. The plan is to leave it the way it is and continue to take it out to car shows for others to enjoy. All I can do now is strive to continue its preservation as all the owners before me have done.
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