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Written by Double Dragon
Saturday, 28 June 2014 10:21

1965 PONTIAC GTO- Barry Troup


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

65 gto barry troup logo

The 1965 Pontiac GTO was wildly popular when it was new and has remained a favorite of collectors throughout the years. The GTO was in its second year after a breakout first year in 1964. Credited as the first factory hot rod the big Pontiac 389 coupled with the lightweight 'intermediate' body of the Tempest resulted n a very fast car. Prior to this the hot factory cars combined a powerful engine with the largest (and heaviest) cars in the roster which resulted in a correspondingly high price tag and slower acceleration. The GTO intermediate not only weighed less than the top supercars of the time but it was affordable to speed crazed kids. The larger high performance cars had always remained out of their financial reach.

65 gto barry troup front

The final ingredient was image. The GTO was arrogantly marketed and outfitted with round gauges, bucket seats, hood scoops and even a grab bar. The circumstances surrounding the 'birth' of the GTO added to its mystique as a symbol of the individual flagrantly flaunting the corporate rules. In 1965 General Motors was out of racing and imposed a 330 cubic inch cap on engine size for the intermediates. Releasing the GTO while this rule was in effect would be a blatant act of defiance. Pontiac didn't care. They did it anyways. John DeLorean of Pontiac crystallized the Pontiac mindset: rebellious, always striving for something new and never asking for approval. Despite flying under the General Motors radar when sneaking the GTO out as an option package it didn't take Pontiac long to let it all hang out. In 1965 'GTO Tiger' marketing was in full swing. GTO mania swept away corporate discomfort with high sales volume.

65 gto barry troup int

The 1965 GTO became a 'classic' in its own time when some fans became a bit disenchanted with musclecars as the late 1960s unrolled. The clean crisp cars of the early musclecar era were now distorted by the oneupmanship race between manufacturers to pile on the most stripes scoops and spoilers possible. Many performance fans loved the new peaks in styling and the vivid primary colors that began to define the musclecars but there were those who didn't appreciate the wild looking new cars. These guys began to look back at 1964 and 1965 as the 'pure years' when the whole thing started with discreet but fast cars.

Another issue facing musclecars was that they weren't getting much faster despite continual engine improvements. Power gains merely kept pace with weight gains. The loss of the GTO Tri-Power combined with GM killing the Tiger campaign hurt the GTO but not as much as emission controls. Musclecar racers viewed model years 1967/ 1968 as 'B.C and A.D.' The new 1968s came out with emissions equipment and lean carburetors that messed with the way musclecars ran.

65 gto barry troup 389 tri power

Popular opinion was indifferent to the great air flow capability of the new Rochester 4 barrel that Pontiac used starting in the 1967 model year as a replacement for the Tri- Power. No one wrote a song about a 4 barrel Rochester. The Tri- Power is immortalized in song and is nearly as well known as the "She's real fine my 409" song from the pre musclecar era. A Tri- Power was 'supposed' to be ordered with a 4 speed and a GTO in this trim is referred to as: "Three deuces and a four speed..."

The new 1968 GTO was literally a work of art that eclipsed anything else on the road at the time and still looks modern today. The updated GTO wasn't exactly a youth car anymore. Weight and cost had crept up. Plymouth copied the GTO in 1968 with a cheap youth musclecar formed from a stripped Belvedere named the Roadrunner. Plymouth used a 383 with 440 heads which was an exact duplicate of the Pontiac route to a cheap high performance engine in 1964. Pontiac put big heads from the 421 onto the less expensive 389 block to create the GTO engine. The opportunity for Chrysler to repeat the GTO formula and plug a hole created by the GTO's upscale placement in the supercar ranks by  is only part of the story.

Up in the higher cost areas of the musclecar jungle Chrysler's savage beasts were plain and simply brutal. The 440 Magnum and 426 Hemi put the 400 GTO at a disadvantage. When Ford finally got it together with the 428 Cobra Jet the 400 GTO was getting squeezed from all sides. If you bought a GTO for its beauty, imagery and great performance you were a happy owner. If you were a street racing guy tuned to the ragged edge, running 400 cubes made you felt like you were starting to be left behind. This created an instant nostalgia for the 1964 and 1965 GTOs. The simple square lines on stripped lightweight bodies and absence of emission controls fostered a perception of a pure street warrior able to hold its own even in the deeper new waters flowing through the late 1960s musclecar movement.

65 gto barry troup nose

That nostalgia for the 'first' version of the GTO has prevailed to this day. There were later GTOs that were faster and bolstered with incredible styling but collectors retain a strong attachment to the 1965 GTO. Technically the 1964 is lighter, but many guys prefer the stacked headlights on the 1965. The main thing is that the first 2 model years of GTO are a conduit back to the 'source' of the musclecar movement and as such enjoy special collector reverence today.

Barry Troup's connection to the 1965 Pontiac GTO reverses the usual pattern of collectors. Instead of preserving a car that he used to flog on the streets, Barry began racing his GTO in 1994 after it had escaped abuse back in the glory days. Barry's GTO option sheet conforms to the typical lightweight nicely equipped 1965 GTO specs that created the legend, but it wasn't raced back in the day.

65 gto barry troup glove box

Barry Troup is a walking contradiction. He likes a fast car but he is also a meticulous guy. His career as an accountant co-existed with his 'hands on' approach to cars. When work needed to be done on a car, Barry was not the stereotype envisioned for an accountant. Instead of a guy in one of those 1960s black suits with a skinny tie reading a stock report in the waiting room of a Rambler dealership service center envision a guy with slicked back long hair and a beard under his GTO Tri-Power or some other hot car in his driveway wrenching away.

Those two sides of Barry's personality are revealed in the process he went through to buy his new 1965 GTO. Barry didn't relent and order his car until his fourth visit to the dealership. He finally ordered his car from Doran Pontiac in Inglewood, California. See a story on Doran in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website filed under CALIFORNIA/ LOS ANGELES METRO AREA.

Barry was particular about what he wanted and what he didn't want. Barry's exacting buying process could be termed careful, but the raucous car he was putting together on the order form was anything but a 'careful' car. The dangerous black GTO that was so thoughtfully ordered out was not 'practical' or 'careful'.

Barry's 389 Tri Power was ordered with 4 speed, 3:55 Positraction, Rally gauge package and metallic brakes without power assist. Metallic brakes require extra heavy effort when they are cold. Dealerships are uncomfortable with metallic brakes and no power assist. The word liability flashes in their minds. The salesman had to go through the sales manager to ensure that Barrys stipulation for no power assist on the metallic brakes went through.  Barry kept that GTO light by ordering not only manual brakes but also manual steering. The mean and lean GTO didn't even have the dash pad.

Barry did concede to comfort when he included an AM/FM radio with reverb. The salesman had to go back to the sales manager once more when Barry insisted that he wanted the optional rear trunk light. This was a great but overlooked $7.95 option which was eventually dropped from the Pontiac option lists due to lack of consumer response. The trunk light has a retractable cord to provide light up to several yards away from the car. No more fumbling in the dark on the side of the road if you are out of range of streetlights. When not unraveled for field work, the light clips in place in the top inside of the trunk lid and illuminates the contents of the trunk like a regular trunk light does.

65 gto barry troup trunk light option

The light was not available on intermediate cars, only the full size vehicles. What salesman won't sell you something you want to buy? Dolman Pontiac was willing to take Barry's money and do a dealership installation. Here is where the 'accountant' part of Barry came into play. He has just ordered one of the meanest leanest musclecars around and then he chooses an option totally out of the radar of the typical gearhead. The light makes a lot of sense but the majority of people completely overlooked it. For every 50 people who cavalierly figure that if they need a light at night they can just use a flashlight, there is one Barry who says,

"The flashlight batteries are usually dead when you need it. This is powered by the car battery, so its always ready."

As Barry puts it, there were 2 lines left on the order form so he spontaneously decided to fill them in with a clock and a console. The grand total came to $3,398.00.

The GTO was ordered May 20, 1965 and Barry took possession June 18, 1965 as shown in the owner's manual where the dealership filled out the delivery date.

65 gto barry troup owner manual delivery date

Barry was sad when selling his black 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 door with a T-10 4 speed, but the sale financed the GTO buy. Barry had only owned the Bel Air for 4 years and wasn't ready to let it go. But the GTO that replaced it hit an immediate chord with Barry will never sell it. Barry loved driving the GTO and it was common for him to take the car out after work to cruise around.

When he bought the GTO Barry was married with two kids born in 1963 and 1964. After work Barry picked up his wife, put the kids in the car and just took off. On some of the rides the kids would fall asleep. It wasn't uncommon for Barry to add 300 miles to the odometer in one evening after work. Soon a 3rd kid joined the family in 1966. This didn't crimp Barry's style; the new baby came along for the rides, too. As Barry puts it, he had four babies born in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966. The GTO was his 1965 baby!

Barry's GTO has covered an amazing 200,000 miles as a commuter and cruiser. Aside from Barry and his wife driving the GTO, his son took it on a long trip in 1970. Amazingly, the alternator is original as are the radiator tanks. The car was repainted in 1996 including the red pinstripes. The closeup shot below of the rear passenger quarter panel demonstrates how well the stripe follows the line of the fender right to the rear bumper.

65 gto barry troup pinstripes

Barry managed to find an old timer who could pinstripe. The original red pinstripes on the original paint job were perfectly duplicated. The factory actually had pinstripers working there who essentially did it freehand using a hand held paint applicator suspended from the ceiling. The old school pin stripers do it completely freehand.

65 gto barry troup spare tire

The original spare sits in a pristine trunk. The inner wheelwells are perfect. The body has never been patched or straightened. California dry weather has been good to this car. It never rusted and was never hit. The major weakness of old GTOs was leaking from the back window into the trunk which rotted out the rear quarters and inner fenders. Without rain that inherent weakness was never activated in Barry's car.

65 gto barry troup paperwork

Barry still has all the original paperwork for the car.


65 gto barry troup driver door panel

The interior is still all original except for a new driver's seat cover and carpet. The interior is pristine except for a minor dent in the metal inner driver's door panel.

65 gto barry troup dent driver door metal panel

How did Barry manage to drive all those miles with 3 kids and not have a destroyed interior? There are 2 theories here. First, the kids were trained,

"Put your hands in your lap and don't mess with stuff!"

Second, some of Barry's 'accountant' genetics transferred to the kids. Barry's toys from when he was a kid are still in perfect condition. His kids played with those toys, too without ruining them.

Some people just tend to me more aware and observant when handling things and this seems to be the case for Barry and his family. Most 200,000 mile cars have the ignition key surrounding area scarred from keys scraping it when the car was started umpteen million times or from the key chain rubbing whenever the car hits a bump. Have a look at Barry's ignition switch. It has never been restored; it was just used carefully.

65 gto barry troup ignition swtich

In 1974 Barry bought a $100.00 junker engine which he 'temporarily' installed in the GTO while the original engine was out for a rebuild. We all know about the time frame with these rebuilds. The original engine made it back into the car in 1987. The GTO had been in use while the original engine was out and the return of the 'born with' 389 made no difference to Barry's pattern of using his car liberally. At this point the GTO was a sunny day driver and show car. Barry had a 1990 Laser which he used for the daily driver grind.

The daily driver Laser didn't noticeably impinge upon Barry piling on the mileage on his GTO. This period of the GTOs life saw lots of long distance action going to car shows out of town. In 1996 Barry drove the GTO from Los Angeles, California to Denver, Colorado for the GTOAA international show. In 1998 the GTO made the trip from L.A. to the GTOAA meet in Witicha, Kansas. To make life bearable on the road trips Barry swapped in a 3.08 axle for the trips, then put the original 3.55s back in afterwards.

65 gto barry troup front seats

It wasn't until May, 1994 that Barry was bitten by the drag racing bug. The GTO did quite well during the next 3 years in the Pontiac Drag Days series. Barry managed a 14.52 quarter mile time at Los Angeles Country Raceway (3,000 ft elevation uncorrected time) with the original car and a set of racing tires. The racing was fun, but the stresses imposed on this original car began to take their toll. Detonating the number one cylinder at Brother's Raceway was a wake up call. The engine currently has new rod bearings. Aside from rebuilt insides, the original 389 has a correct '068' cam, original carburetors, throttle linkage and spark plug cables. The air cleaners are original with new foams. The transmission held up without any issues, but the original cone type rear axle needed a rebuild. Interestingly, the other part of the GTO that showed damage from the drag racing stint was the paint. A crack in the paint appeared at the rear window caused by torque twist at launch.

65 gto barry troup torque flex in paint

Barry allowed the GTO to resume its usual pattern of high usage but retired it from drag strip duty in May, 1997. He switched to building up his brown daily driver 1965 LeMans post which had already been thoroughly pre- thrashed before Barry laid eyes on it.

65 gto barry troup r

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 March 2021 21:33 )