When Gary Arvanigian opened the side door of the car carrier, he thought he had made a mistake. The 1967 GTO, black with black interior, looked restored, “like a porcelain Easter egg, it glowed.” This Pontiac had to have been repainted. Likewise, the black bucket seats glistened like they were brand new. Where was the patina?
Gary, from Worcester, Massachusetts, thought about the statement that seller Jack Townsend, more than a thousand miles away in Georgia, had made to him: “If you don’t like this car when you get it, call me. I’ll pay for the return shipping and give your money back.”
Gary checks eBay “religiously early in the morning” and “at night,” for muscle cars, which he has loved since the 1960s. “I’m a historian,” says Gary. “I was enamored by Detroit’s marketing campaign of these cars when I was a kid. I look at muscle cars as a work of art and a piece of history.”
When an original-paint 1967 GTO popped up for sale one day at 6 a.m., Gary remembers getting so excited his mouth “dried up” and his vision “got blurry.” The price was right, the photos corroborated the car’s originality, and he hit the “Buy It Now” button before talking to the seller. Gary is a seasoned muscle car buyer and owner. He wasn’t about to snooze and lose, and was willing “to take a chance.”
His interest did not lie in the GTO’s two-door hardtop body style, and certainly not in the base, 335hp 400. The manual transmission was a pleasant surprise. Gary has owned dozens of muscle cars and believes “most of the four-speed muscle cars have been thrashed.” His primary interest was in the car’s superb originality combined with a black-on-black color combination that he said “in its full glory takes your breath away.”
After the purchase, Gary got the chance to talk on the phone to the seller, Jack Townsend, a man he found to be “a real Southern gentleman.” Townsend, in his early 80s today, had purchased the car from the original owner, another man in his 80s named Jack Slocum. Slocum had purchased the GTO brand new from Boomershine Motors, a Pontiac dealer in Atlanta.
Townsend, also a car collector of many years, explained to MCR that “about 35 to 40 years ago a neighbor told him he ‘ought to go see this hardtop GTO that this fellow had’ that lived about two blocks from me.”
Townsend thought it strange he had never noticed the car in his neighborhood. He drove over in his 1964 GTO as a “conversation starter.” The owner was a single man, very reserved, in his late 40s, about the same age, then, as Townsend.
Townsend said at that time Slocum “hardly drove the GTO.” He lived on a dead-end street. He would “drive to the dead end, drive back, and put the GTO back in his garage.”
Townsend asked about buying the car, but it wasn’t for sale. Over the next 15 years he kept in touch with Slocum, but the answer was always the same: The car was not for sale.
Townsend kept tabs on the GTO because he could see potential in the car. Yes, it was dusty and dirty and “not kept real nice, and not polished and so forth,” but the car was original, had low miles, had been garaged since new, and was in the hands of its first buyer.
Townsend also got a kick out of the story of how Slocum went down to the dealership and bought this coupe, which was a “stripper” GTO without any options, just a set of hub caps and a four-speed, not even a radio.
“His mother bought him the radio, and they took a radio out of another new Pontiac and put it into this car. So that’s how he purchased his GTO.”
Townsend recalled, “Two or three other guys that talked about buying the GTO” were turned off by the car’s appearance. In contrast, he said, “when I look at a car, what I see is what the car can be.”
Townsend finally got his opportunity to buy the GTO after 15 years of hanging in there. He says, “[Slocum] had a brother with a restaurant in Smyrna, Georgia. I went in there one day, and he and his brother were sitting there eating. Whenever he introduced me to his brother, his brother said, ‘You ought to buy his car.’ I told him I had been trying to buy it for 15 years. “
A couple weeks later Townsend was surprised when Slocum said he would take $15,000. Finally, Townsend bought the GTO, which he added to his collection of “eight or nine” cars.
Townsend purchased the car for its extreme originality, but he still made a few blunders here and there that were very common back in the 1990s. For one, he painted over the weathered exhaust manifolds and used his spray can on some other components under the hood.
He replaced the steel rims (which at the time wore Oldsmobile “flipper” hubcaps) with Pontiac Rally wheels that were optional on the 1967 model. He mounted a set of redline tires, and hired a pinstriper to “freehand” the factory white upper body stripe to red. He freshened up the trunk with a reproduction floor mat and spare tire cover.
Otherwise, Townsend was the force behind this car’s preservation. Another buyer might have thrashed the GTO, which at the time (early to mid-1990s) was not a really valuable piece. Instead, Townsend parked the car in the back of his collector car facility. He did not want to run up the mileage, and for the next “20 to 25 years” he mainly drove the GTO to shows in the area. He says, “It always won. It was that nice.”
He had moved the odometer from about 32,000 to 35,000 when he sold the GTO to Gary several years ago. Rather than get into a professional concours tour de force, Gary decided to detail a few things in his spare time, such as add new heater hoses and date-coded tower-style clamps.
Overall, his inclination has been to simply enjoy the GTO. He wasn’t going on the national show circuit anyway. Yes, the exhaust manifolds need some TLC, but overall this GTO fit the car of his dreams.
A couple minutes after the GTO rolled off its trailer, Gary realized this car did have original paint and was without a doubt “the best unrestored muscle car” he had ever run across.
His friend, Steve O’Neill, who restores his own cars part time, did a walk-around and was amazed that he could find no sun damage in the original paint, which “glowed like brand new.”
Not a restorer, but a car collector his whole life, Gary compared his new unrestored muscle car find to a 1967 GTO that a person might see in the front row of a Pontiac dealer’s used car lot in the spring of 1968.
Cars like this—complete, with original paint, and in such excellent condition overall—are not candidates for restoration but are fit for preservation, a term that is gaining acceptance in the hobby today.
At a Glance
1967 Pontiac GTO
Owned by: Gary Arvanigian, Worcester, MA
Restored by: Unrestored original
Engine: 400ci/335hp V-8
Transmission: Muncie M21 4-speed close-ratio manual
Rearend: 10-bolt with 3.36 gears
Interior: Standard black vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 14×6 Rally
Tires: F70-14 redline
Special parts: “GR-RRR!” license plate; original paperwork, including 1967 Georgia title; original leather key fob; plastic Pontiac floor mats; N.O.S. hubcaps wrapped in 1967 issue of High Performance Cars magazine; Protect-O-Plate; owner’s manual; metal Boomershine dealer badge.