3 June 2014

Got the Goat: An Old Friend Comes Home

The car bug bit me at a young age.

I was 15 years old living in St. Louis Missouri. My first car was a 1951 Plymouth two door that my uncle sold to me for $5, with the understanding that I would fix it up. I worked on it day and night, putting my resources into the engine the interior, and finally due to lack of funds I gave it my own paint job. Now don't laugh, but I painted that car with a brush and household paint roller and it actually didn’t look all that bad. But that didn't matter; what was important was that I had a 1951 Plymouth of my very own.

After high school my family moved to California. My beautiful ’51 Plymouth was left behind in Missouri with my uncle and aunt.

In 1965 I was 19 years old and had just gotten out on my own. I was working in the construction trade with two cousins who were bricklayers. I would mix the cement and haul it up the ladders where they were building fireplaces. It was extremely hard work for a young man, but I loved it. The money was extremely good for the time — $5.50 an hour.

Of course it wasn’t full time, just when they worked, but with this kind of money I was sitting on top of the world. I thought I was on my way to being a millionaire.  Being 19 years old I loved cars. I didn’t have a car but I thought that with my newfound wealth I could more than afford to buy one, so I went shopping. We were living in Santa Barbara, Calif., at the time and I went to the local Ford dealer. I had heard that a Ford was just released and I wanted to see it. The salesman walked me over to a car he called the Mustang. I was surprised by how small it was. I knew my friends would be the ones putting their loose change into my gas tank if I would haul them around in my new car, and when I saw the size of a backseat I knew there was no way my friends (with their gas money) would fit.

I went up the street to the Pontiac dealer. I walked in and the first car I saw was a GTO convertible on the showroom floor. I looked at the size of the backseat; I looked at the engine. I looked over that car for an hour and a half. I talked to the salesman and told him I would be back, then I went home and talked my mother into cosigning for this car and very secure $5.50/hour 19-year-old construction entrepreneur. We went to the dealership and sat down with the salesman, and of course I had to order a convertible with a four-speed, 389 three twos and a special Tiger Gold paint job. It took a few weeks to arrive from the factory but what a thrill when it showed up!

Gasoline was round 35 cents a gallon and my friends gladly would chip in to ride around in my beautiful new ride. We would cruise up and down State Street in Santa Barbara, smiling at the young ladies.

I joined a local car club called the Channel City Competition Team, (CCC). There was another GTO as well as guys with Chevy 409s, Chevelles and all manner of muscle cars. We would drive a few miles north of Santa Barbara on the weekend then turn around facing south, where we had highway 101 marked off for a quarter-mile. We would choose opponents and late at night, from 12:00 a.m. to 1 a.m., we would ease out onto the deserted highway and drop the clutch for a quarter-mile. What fun we had! Life was good.

During this time I met a girl and after about a year of dating we decided to get married. She was a great girl but she didn't think that my 1-year-old GTO convertible was a good family car. She also thought that the car was a gas guzzler, even though I tried to explain to her about the three twos and progressive linkage. Being young and newly married, I gave in and traded in my beautiful car for an Opel Cadet. I started thinking about it and I ran back to the car lot and told the guy that I wanted my car back. He said, “Sorry, son, it's been sold.”

For the next 46 years I searched high and low for that car. The VIN number was not on the paperwork. I tried to call the dealership but they were out of business. I wrote letters to Pontiac, Pontiac car clubs and untold other organizations. I didn't know if the car had been restored or it had become a transistor radio somewhere in Japan. I would not give up; I searched and searched. Then, finally, in 2012 I found a 1965 GTO convertible on the East Coast that seemed right. I compared items, parts that I had previously chrome plated and other items. The paint was different and it sported a few new modifications, but I would have recognized my old car anywhere.

My old friend finally came home!

12 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Tim Texas June 4, 2014 at 13:39
    I just want to know what all was changed and is there still some tiger gold paint in places? Looking at the pics it looks very nice but has it been restored or does it need to be?
  • 2
    Steve Hamilton June 4, 2014 at 15:43
    Great story! Nice to find the old goat again! Very nice car! I had a 1971 Pontiac Ventura that I got from my Dad. Put a 327 in it and a set of 4:11's. Ran 13's all day long. Sold it years ago. Last time I saw it, was on a rack in a wrecking yard about 10 years ago. Oh well....
  • 3
    Garry Weatherly United States June 4, 2014 at 15:45
    I'm very happy that Marty was able to find his beautiful GTO. In 1964 I had a beautiful 1963 Impala SS with the 425 horse 409, 4 speed, I too loved that car. I had a pretty good paying job and I was married. My car payment was $103. per month, no problem until my Uncle Sam came knocking in August of 64. How did so many obviously healthy young men escape the draft, it was several years later before I was able to start over again. Yes, I resented having to sell my SS. I'm glad Marty didn't have to go to war and give up his GTO.
  • 4
    Don Royer Lafayette, LA June 4, 2014 at 16:36
    Great story with happy ending
  • 5
    Lrac USA June 4, 2014 at 18:03
    Should have ditched the new wife!
  • 6
    Keith Kennewick, WA. June 4, 2014 at 20:35
    I bought a 1965 GTO, red, in the spring of 1965. GM was on strike and had to wait about two months for it to be built. Wife sold it and I sure wish I could find it after all of these years. I probabley couldn't afford it now. They have gone up in price. Any suggestions on locating it?/ Great car!!
  • 7
    Mark Seattle June 4, 2014 at 12:58
    question is whether Marty still has the wife who tossed the Goat?
  • 8
    Patty Arkansas June 5, 2014 at 18:54
    Give up any of my cars? My hubby is great but I'd have him committed if he said I had to give up ONE. So glad I married someone who understands my car habit!
  • 9
    Tony Moseley Fort Worth Texas June 5, 2014 at 09:43
    Let me think for a minute; wife or 65 GTO? I'm sure gonna miss her cooking.....
  • 10
    Denise L. Clumpner United States June 5, 2014 at 11:07
    The first husband is gone.....the GTO and I are still together after 35 years! Moral of the story? NEVER sell your car unless YOU want to. Believe it or not, some men don't want a woman to have a car nicer than theirs. Good thing husband #2 is a confident man with cool stuff of his own!
  • 11
    j-me upton,mass.01568 June 6, 2014 at 13:47
    I loved your story and know exactly how you felt looking for car.I am also looking for my "first love" a 1968 Shelbygt500kr that I purchased new.I also do not have the vin #.I do have a1968 Shelby gt500 I purchased in the 80"s that looks exactly like my first one but I will continue to search for my original one.Any info regarding your search would be appreciated.....thanks J-anne
  • 12
    charlie fleenor blountville, tn. June 9, 2014 at 19:20
    I purchased a 65 GTO Conv. ( only car I have purchased brand new ). It had all the goodies, also. I traded it in Kingsport, Tn.. Would love to fine it, if it is still around. It was a metallic green with a mint green top. I, like you, looked at the mustangs.

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