Photos by John Jackson of NotStockPhotography
The beauty you see gracing these pages was built by MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration in Eugene, Oregon as their personal “shop car.” Not a bad shop vehicle huh? Before shop owner Jon Mannila and the talented crew at MetalWorks got their hands on the 68, it was an illegal daily driver… ha ha, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
The first recorded history of the GTO dates back to the early 80s when Rick, a customer of MetalWorks, purchased it for $2500. After about 3 years of ownership Rick had a blue velour interior installed in the Pontiac, as at the time blue velour was extremely cool, and it matched the GTO’s blue and white exterior. Rick’s wife became the primary driver of the 68 and would take their two children to visit Rick at the video arcade that he owned and operated (note video arcades were also very popular at the same time that blue velour was considered cool). The only problem with Rick’s wife driving herself and their children the 7 miles from Canyonville to Riddle, Oregon was that she has never gotten a driver’s license. Oh well, that’s what back roads are for.
The GTO was sold to a guy, then to another guy, until Rick lost contact with it. Then one day, Rick heard of a GTO for sale in the area, so he went and checked it out. Rick positively identified the 68 as being his old car by, you guessed it, the blue velour interior. As fate would have it with the GTO back in Rick’s posession, very little happened with it. After some time of collecting dust, Rick convinced Jon Manilla that he needed another GTO, as he knew Jon had one GTO already, and as we all know, cars are like potato chips—you can’t have just one. So a deal was struck and Jon became the owner of a 2nd GTO. Jon had just finished the restoration of his first GTO in a stock manner, and was discovering that stock was just not his style. So, with a blank canvas in front of him Jon decided to build his new 68 in more of a hot rod /pro-touring fashion with the thought that the GTO would become a promo piece for the shop. This new direction would also allow MetalWorks to build a car the way they wanted to build one, and to show people what is possible.
An Art Morrison chassis and a new GM Performance LS1 were ordered through MetalWorks’ own “in house” Speed Shop, but soon the build began to snowball as many builds tend to. The LS1 was used as a mock up engine, but a custom build LS3 by Wegner Motorsports had already been ordered running a stage 2 cam, and pushing nearly 600 hp. Then, before the LS3 was nestled inside the rails of the Morrison chassis it was topped with an MSD Atomic LS fuel injection system and coils. Initial thoughts of an automatic were replaced with a TREMEC 6 speed manual that is linked to a Ford 9” with a 4.10 Trutrac posi rear end hosting 31 spline axles. With all “go” the GTO needed some serious “whoa,” so 14” Wilwood vented rotors with 6 & 4 piston calipers were ordered. A couple wheel and tire combinations were scratched until Jon found the perfect combo in a set of Budnik “Platnium” series. Thoughts of autocross racing resulted in a Ridetech TIGER cage for an A-body being ordered, then, modifications were performed to work with the Art Morrison chassis. Ridetech 5 point harness seatbelts were also installed to keep driver and passenger secure in the corners.
While the crew was hard at work on the chassis and drive line, the body was striped, then sent to MetalWorks acid dipping facility. Once the body was at ground zero in bare metal the guys in the body shop got busy massaging the body to perfection, then they applied several coats of “MetalWorks Red” paint. The final step was to wet sand and buff the body to mirrored perfection. Once the body was ready it was sat on the chassis, and the assembly process began. The hidden headlights were converted from vacuum to electric to do anyway with any more “lazy eyed” driving. The factory gauges were replaced with OEM styled Dakota Digital replacements, as well as an electronic climate controller from DD. An Alpine head unit controls 2000 watts worth of stereo that are masterfully hidden throughout the GTO’s interior. Speaking of interiors, sadly the blue velour was past its prime and had to be replaced with a custom OEM styled leather interior that was stitched together by Jon Lind Interiors.
When all the dust had settled the crew at MetalWorks had created one wild pro-touring GTO. A comment often heard by admirers is that they have never seen a GTO taken to this level. Another common statement is that it is nice to see a less common GM model get the royal treatment, instead of yet another camaro. The GTO is definitely not just for customers to admire from a distance at the shop. If a customer is looking to have a high end pro-touring car built, or is curious about an LS conversion, Jon will take them out for a white knuckle rip in the 68, which tends to leave customers in a state of perma-grin and reaching for their wallets with still shaking hands.
Above and beyond being an excellent promotion and sales tool, the GTO is a point of pride for the talented crew at MetalWorks who built it. If you spot this red hot 68 cruising the streets of the Pacific Northwest, don’t be afraid to flag them down as you will meet some of the most down to earth and talented builders in the industry…but if you’re looking to race, you may find yourself admiring the GTO’s freshly restored taillights!!!