This Pontiac GTO is an ambassador for vintage car love
Chris Gebhardt can’t take his 1967 Pontiac GTO anywhere without getting a thumbs-up from other drivers or a grin and wave from kids on their bikes. People young, old, and in-between know the car is special, even if they don’t know its history—which Gebhardt is happy to share. He loves to see people’s eyes light up when the 400-cubic-inch V-8 rumbles to life. So much so that he listed it for rent on Hagerty’s DriveShare to reach a car enthusiast audience that shares his passion for American muscle.
“DriveShare opened up a whole new world for me,” he said. “I love that I can put the keys in someone’s hand and, even if it’s just for the day, they’ll know what this car is and what it’s all about.” After chatting more with Gebhardt, we got the inside scoop on the GTO’s full history, from the day he and his dad rescued it from a salvage yard in 1990.
To Chris’ father, the GTO was always the king of muscle cars, and the ’67 was the peak of style and performance. His father’s enthusiasm for the car rubbed off on Gebhardt while they fixed it up to be his high school daily driver. How many people can say their first car was also their dream car? Not many. That’s why Gebhardt didn’t mind the hand-painted, dull grey finish left by the previous owner or that the drivetrain had seen better days. His GTO was one-of-a-kind among the Camaros, Firebirds, and Mustangs at his school.
After being involved in a minor parking lot dust-up, a quick repair turned into a full frame-off restoration in 1992. Nothing on the car was left untouched except for the original headliner and rear seat covers. After the 18-month perfecting process, Gebhardt hit the show circuit in the restored GTO. His attention quickly turned to performance. “The car has raced down its fair share of quarter-mile and eighth-mile tracks around North Texas,” he said. The car sported many different combinations of wheels and tires, rear-end gear ratios, exhaust systems, carburetors, ignition systems, and tunes.
The GTO followed Gebhardt through his marriage. “My bride, Rebecca, was quick to recognize the special bond I had with the car and was supportive right from the start,” he said. Though their first one-bedroom apartment wasn’t much, the couple made sure the GTO had a garage to call home. They were active in the automotive hobby, both serving as officers in their local Pontiac club. Rebecca helped organize the Pontiac Southern Nationals, putting in the hard work behind the scenes.
After a severe mechanical mishap in the name of quicker track times, the GTO’s engine was pulled in the early 2000s. Enter the all-too-common story of a young couple building their careers, household, and family life: The GTO was pushed to a dusty corner of the garage where it sat for several years. When the couple lost the lease on the garage, they moved it to a new location with most of the engine components in the trunk. The car continued to sit, waiting for its chance to roar again.
Gebhardt had a lot of time to think about what direction he wanted to take the GTO next. “Show-and-shines are fun, and drag racing is always a blast, but for me, the car’s natural habitat is pounding the pavement around town,” he said. With that, he decided that the GTO would someday return to the street, and he vowed to drive it. Really drive it. Little did he know, the car would be road-worthy sooner than expected. An opportunity presented itself when members of the Hagerty team visited the garage and helped get the GTO back on the road. Matt Lewis and Davin Reckow spent the weekend lending insight, know-how, and a fair amount of elbow grease to put the beating heart back into the beast.
Today, a tasteful burble from the performance cam through the Flowmaster mufflers hints that this 400-cu-in four-barrel may not be one to tangle with at the stoplight. For all its bluster, though, Gebhardt states that the GTO is a real pussycat to drive. The three-speed automatic shifts smoothly and is easy to manage, but as with any classic car, there is a difference in handling compared to modern cars. “I tell people that if the yellow “curve ahead” sign says 35 mph, pay attention,” Gebhardt said. With no driver aids like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, traction control, or anti-lock brakes, drivers always need to be focused on driving when behind the wheel.
Modern improvements in safety regulations and efficiency have tamed both drivetrains and styling. An old muscle car, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. It has a look, sound, feel, and even a smell all its own. To drive one is an experience that you can’t get elsewhere.
“What I love about the DriveShare program is that it allows others to get a taste of what cars like this are all about,” Gebhardt said. “Not every renter is excited about returning the car, but they all come back with a giant smile permanently plastered across their face. I’m hard-pressed to think of something I’d rather share.”