Denise C 1969 Pontiac GTO 2dr Coupe

How the High Priestess of Pontiac got her GTO

I grew up among cars at my Dad's used car dealership and Mobil gas station/repair shop in Ogdensburg, Wisconsin. We played the "Make/model/year" game on trips, and I won it for the first time when I was five (against my 8 year-old sister and 10 year-old brother!) I was always the little girl who washed and waxed my bicycle, and when my brother turned sixteen and bought a 1967 Chevy Impala SS 396 4 speed, I fell wildly in love with a car for the first time. I also started taking his disgarded Hot Rod magazines, and cutting out the pictures of muscle cars and hot rods to decorate my folders for school and the inside of my locker! When I was about 12 years old, my Dad said if I wanted a car I'd better start working at the shop. So began the process of learning that if you want something badly enough, you work for it. My job at first was to sweep the floors at night, wash windows, clean the sinks and toilet, pump gas, check oil, and answer the phones so that my Dad could get work done. As time when on, I also got the mail each day, made out all the monthly statements and sent them, learned to back a trailer so I could go to to the dump for my Dad on Saturdays, and just about anything else he asked me to do. I had the great opportunity to also be at the shop with my older brother, my grandfather's best friend (who worked for my Dad into his 80's) as well as my uncle. Best of all, I watched how my Dad treated his customers and learned how to operate a business based on trust and honesty. I started seriously looking for "the one" when I got my temps and looked at Camaros, Firebirds, a Javelin, Chevelles, and such. I couldn't afford something really nice; I could only afford a driver that needed work. No matter; I was hell-bent on getting a fast muscle car. My Dad was hoping I could be talked into a 350 Skylark, but didn't fly! My brother happened to notice a rather worn but running and complete GTO parked behind a Waupaca dealership, and the moment I heard about it I wanted to see it. I don't remember if I allowed my brother to even finish his supper before hounding him to take me to see it. The sad old GTO sat underneath a pine tree, coated in sap and needles where it had been brought to Wisconsin from Texas and traded for a new 1979 Z28. It needed a lot of work but it wasn't a rusty car. The vinyl top was torn, and dash was completely dry-rotted along with all the other rubber on the car. The hood was buckled, and the car had been painted several times with big runs in the paint. Nonetheless, my brother jimmied the hood open and when I saw the original 400 with the chrome valve covers and dual snorkel chrome lid air cleaner, I fell in love with it. As luck would have it, my Dad was able to get a cash deal for me as the car could not meet Wisconsin inspection and the dealership didn't want to put any money into it. For $300, the GTO was MINE!!!! It was June of 1979 and I had been sixteen only a couple of weeks. The next two years were spent working to earn money to finally strip the car down (which I did with a putty knife and ZipStrip over Easter break my senior year) and get it in the body shop for a much needed makeover. I was lucky enough to make many friends at car shows, salvage yards and swap meets (how many sixteen, seventeen year old girls are scrounging for parts for a muscle car and know what they need??!!) I'd been fortunate enough to find a dash with the air conditioning outlets (my car has factory a/c) as well as kickpanels in nice shape, and a replacement driver's seat. The car went into the shop in early May, and was brought home in pieces more or less in late June. With the help of many people in my family and many friends, we were able to get the car put back together with the rechromed bumper and new vinyl top in time to make IOLA 1981. Let's fast forward to 2014.......this year is me and the GTO's 35th Anniversary! My greatest honor with the car was winning an award (driver category) at the POCA at St. Charles, IL in 2012 but I have shelves filled with trophies and tons of wall plaques I've been honored to be recognized with over the years. I have a monstrous scrapbook of everything I've done to the car, photographs of everything and manila folders with receipts for things I have now done several times over on the car because I drive it. Yes, the car eventually had an engine and transmission overhaul, and it's really nice to now be the one at car shows who hears a young kid walk by and say what I used to say - "Wow! I hope my car looks that nice some day!" That makes me smile so much! The GTO is one of the greatest blessings in my life, and I feel it was created especially for me although it had several caretakers before it could get to me. Because of it, I have met nearly all of the most special people in my life, including my husband whom I met at a car show in Omro, Wisconsin on Memorial Day 2007 (where we were married in front of our cars with a white carpet between them the following year on July 25!) I also have had a lifelong wonderful friendship with my father, who taught me so many things. My mother has been a huge supporter and we are now even closer because together, Mom, Dad and I purchased a magnificent 1955 Pontiac Star Chief convertible and my parents come on all the car show treks with my husband and our friends, and enjoy beautiful cars and great company. And yes.........the GTO ended quite a few of my relationships with men who either were jealous of the car, wanted me to sell it, or simply weren't interested in cars. Before I was married, I dated someone with a fairly high profile car who told me he "was normally the center of attention at cars shows, except when he was with me" and he "didn't like it" that I seemed to know a lot more people. He wasn't around for long! I had another fellow who told me we would "get along a lot better when you put that $#@! car away for the winter" to which I replied "We will NEVER get along" and I walked out the door and we never spoke again. Lucky for me, my husband is every bit as into the car world as I am and we are like two peas in a pod. My project car is a 1951 Pontiac Catalina SD coupe, plus I have an awesome '93 Harley-Davidson FLSTN #772 of 2700 built. My husband has a LS3 2002 Camaro Z28, a 1970 Monte Carlo with a factory 400, and finally gave in to my father's joke that he couldn't marry into the family until he bought a Pontiac by buying a pristine 1967 GTO hardtop. Of course, when we got married I already had a nice single girl heated garage at my house, with all my toys stuffed in it and 200 amp service to run my compressor and anything else I needed but no room for HIM or his cars, so we both had to sell our houses and find one that would fit us and our toys. It took almost a year, but we finally found the land/giant building of our dreams (oh, yeah, there was a house too) and made a nice little shop and heated storage area that we continue to make improvements on each year. At some point, we'll start on the house but I told my husband last night we need another garage!!!! There's a lot more to the story, contact me if you want to hear some crazy cool stuff from 1981 through now!!!

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