1969 GTO Judge - From Start to Finish

This is an archival media piece from 2004 written by John Kryta. It has been recovered and is unchanged.

I have begun this restoration with a car out of California that was neglected its entire life. The good new is, not a belt, clamp, or hose was ever replaced and the car is not missing a single piece. Did didn’t run when I purchased it and had been sitting since 1983 under a car port. Let’s start the restoration on this a-body. This is the car: a 1969 GTO Judge, 4 Speed, Ram Air III, hide-a-way headlights, with all the go fast options. Disc brakes, rally gauges, the Judge package. NO A/C

It was not long before the car was coming apart. There was not even one broken or rounded off bolt on the entire car, since it was rust free. It came apart with no problems. Although the parts look rusty they are not. The frame has 35 years of road grime, dirt and grease. Being a CA car it has not bee exposed to snow, salt, and very little rain. You can start to see the colors of the different parts with close examination.

Taking pictures of how things are prior to taking a car apart is the most important step in the process. As good as we think we will remember, the pictures never forget. 600 photos were taken as the car was coming apart. All the parts were plastic bagged and a picture of each bag was taken for future reference. All these parts were sand blasted, plated or repainted to the factory colors. The rear end is complete with new Inline Tube brake line and parking brake cables. The rubber bushings came from Kanter parts. All the drum hardware is original repainted. The rear end also has new bearings and seals.

After 250 hours of blasting, painting, part gathering, and assembly the chassis with out the engine and trans was complete. The engine and transmission rebuild, detailing, and assembly took another 175 hours. When doing an entire restoration on the complete car you could have 1500 to 2000 hours in the entire project. So lets add up some numbers: the price of the car $8000 to $20,000, The cost of parts $15,000 to $20,000. Labor, if you do all the work yourself $0 IF you pay someone to do all the work $50.00 an hour you could have as much as $75,000 to $100,000 into a full restoration. Paint takes another 250 to 300 hours. All interior, AC, Firewall, trunk items takes another 170 hours and the final assembly 250 hours. So the restoration could cost between $98000 to $140,000 depending on how bad the car is. You have to remember rusty cars do not make show winners and add hundreds of hours to the restoration. When spending this kind of money pick you car carefully you do not want to have a $140,000 AMC Pacer, especially the base model.

Inline Tube provided all the: brake & fuel lines, parking brake cables, rubber flex hoses, line clips, clamps, disc brake parts, and all the line tags. Kanter provided the original rubber control arm bushings. Fusick Oldsmobile provided the body mounts. YES Oldsmobile, they matched closer than the Pontiac one sold through several companies. The exhaust came from Gardner exhaust.

A two part epoxy paint is used, which required no primer and is tough as nails when dry. It has a semi gloss finish not too shiny and not too dull right in the middle. Start from one end of the frame and finish at the other, repeat for all black parts. We used as many of the original parts as we could. The wheel cylinders are original and rebuild as is the starter, alternator, gearbox, power steering pump, transmission, carburetor ,and rotors.

This shows the correct two part rotor, caliper is to be painted black, rotor is the original turned down. The Coker tire is mounted on the rim with the correct color gray on the backside. Notice the upper ball joint is riveted just like the factory, on a car like this points will be deducted for a bolted in ball joint. The rim should have over spray through the slots as shown.

The engine and trans are ready to be bolted together and set in the frame.

Drums are Grey Phosphate while the drum springs are multiple colors and the wheel studs are black.

Frames are marked from the factory, if there is multiple holes for components such as engine mounts the interior of the body shell have been painted red primer and the underside black. The body has its first coat of high build primer applied.

The trunk is also painted black, this allows a light coat of trunk paint to cover, without building up and looking thick. The dash is painted semi black, and the cowl is also painted semi black.

The interior jambs are now cut in. All the edges of the GTO have an orange over spray look. At the factory nothing was taped or masked off the spray went everywhere. The trunk shows some of the primer at the back seat divider and the underside of the package tray and the quarter panels was bare metal. We sprayed cast/silver to duplicate this look.

Before the jambs are cut in the quarters and the doors had a small amount of sound deadener applied. All the black seam sealer was applied after the red primer before the over spray. We have not been able to find black seam sealer so this is cream color with black paint brushed over the top.

Sound deadener is applied to the rear wheel wells. I have seen this applied many ways. The factory work was instructed to spray the path of the tire but a lot of guys got a little crazy and sprayed the entire well. Sound deadener is not to undercoat or protect from rust. It is to stop stone noise as they come off the tires. It is also a super detail to see the body over spray in the well.

All the body panels are now mocked up and checked for final fit. This step gives you the chance to enlarge holes, and fit panels with no paint on them. So you can get a little rough if you have to. All the trim is also fit to the car. Anywhere the trim does not fit too good is going to look far worse when the GTO is painted. On the back window we taped off the trim, snapped it into place, and then filled the gap with high strength body filler.

The body has been blocked several times with 220, 320, 400, 600, 800. Yes it is a lot of sanding but we want that over-restored mirror finish. The first picture shows the base coat. The final color always looks different with the clear on it. Wings Auto Art did all the body and paint work. Nyle and Ross worked extra hard to make this a mirror finish. www.wingsautoart.com . These guys are the best in the country. They do everything from start to finish restorations to partials and custom paint work. Check out all the super cars they have worked on there web site.

All the brake & fuel lines, parking brake cables, flex hoses, clips, cable hardware, and line tags came from Inline Tube. Body mounts and rubber control arm bushings were from Kanter Auto Parts. After the body goes back on the frame it will take 6-8 more weeks until the car is done. All the parts are detailed and ready to be assembled back on the car.

The fenders and the hood hinges are now in place. The heater box is to have a bead of undercoating around it. The firewall was a common place for chalk marking. This 554 indicated the Judge Sales Code. The master cylinder is also black and the booster which was redone by Bob's Boosters has the correct paint dab inspection marks. Also notice all the rubber has either ribbing or a color strip. These color informed the factory work to the placement of the hose. Blue was the Hide-a-way supply vacuum line. The wiper hose was ribbed with no stripe but the feed line was thicker than the two from the squirter to the hood.

The bottom is looking great. The car would have body over spray and the frame should stick out just as it does. The gas tank has had the original filler neck soidered in and a gas tank stamp was reproduced just like original. We sprayed matte clear to preserve the metal finish of the tank. The tank was provided by Inline Tube. The exhaust was provided by Gardner Exhaust. The windows are now going back in. All the hardware has been bead blasted and plated Silver Zinc, again Bob's Boosters took car of the plating. The window glass came from Pilkington Glass. All the date codes are etched right into the glass.

Again all door hardware is starting to go in. Notice the white tag, This was to let the factory know which door panel when on the frame. The headliner is now installed and steamed, the seat divider is installed. Make sure to install it correctly the insulation goes to the inside as shown. You can also see the power trunk and the speaker wire. The wire was run under the floor tar paper until it reached the back seat at this point the extra was coiled up and and taped to the floor. All the electrical wiring was provided by M&H Electrical Fabricator's www.wiringharness.com

Seat belts were cleaned re-dyed and installed. The roof rail weather striping came from Soft Seal and Fit Like a Dream. The rubber was a bit harder than the original but the quality is excellent. All the seat frames were sand blasted at Strip IT, and painted silver/metal color. The seat tracks were phosphate and the tips painted semi black to match the carpet. Dale at LA Trim 616 897 6546 recovered all the seats and door panels. He even redid all the burlap material on the back side. We slipped the old trim card back in for the extra detail. All the seat trim received a fresh coat of the correct parchment white. Space Age Paint www.Spaceagepaint.com supplied the interior paint. The white color was applied first. The gold leaf was added to the clear to give the gold parchment match to the seat covers.

The rear seat again was restored to factory original specifications. Notice the cream color foam block at the center of the seat. We also reproduced the material that was laying in the bottom of the seat. This is the factory correct way to cut the carpet. We took all measurement off the old and transferred to the new. There is a T slot cut the full length of the carpet. The seat is installed and the flaps are tucked back under the seat. Not Visible hear is the carpet tag installed to both the front and rear carpet. These tags are located hear at the sill plate next to the seat belt.

Rear seat is now in place, Remember to leave the carpet long where the seat meets the door panel. The carpet should roll up into the quarter panel behind the door panel so you can't see the floor pan. To get the poor fitting carpet into place we first steamed the carpet and spray Glued a section at time to the floor. Now it follows all the floor pan contours. The REM door panel water shields are now installed, They are black on the other side. The craft paper side face out as shown. Our paper shields are held in place with ACE Hardware White window caulk. It comes on a roll like tape. This caulk was used on the hood scoops, heater box, roof rails and water shields.

After a few torturous hours the glass is finally adjusted. Nyle At Wings Auto Art was on his last glass nerve but he got it perfect. The door panels are now installed. We have also started to assemble other finishing pieces. The rear spoiler has been fit, re-fit and fit again not to mention the grinding sanding and reshaping of the pedestals. Ross at Wings auto art did not go home until it was done. Looks Great, Ross.

The hood and front sheet metal is now coming together. The hood has been correctly over sprayed and notice the leading edge black spots. At the factory the hood was painted off the car, they were hung on a rack system by the two square holes in the front. This is a sweet detail. The ram air pan and the hood hinges should not have any over spray. All the trim is now going back on. All the original stainless trim was polished by Sam At Patmai 586 294 9621. Sam took out all the dings and polished it to a better than new finish.

Nyle and Ross are fitting the nose one last time before final paint. The trim clips are installed and the stainless trim is ready to be popped on.

The car is almost done, ready for the 2004 Detroit Autorama

The car is finished and ready for the show.

2004 Detroit Autorama down at COBO Center