Home Car Stories One Owner 1968 PONTIAC GTO- Bob and Sharon Bruzek
1968 PONTIAC GTO- Bob and Sharon Bruzek PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Thursday, 08 January 2015 23:32

1968 PONTIAC GTO- Bob and Sharon Bruzek

oneownercollectorcar.com

Writing copyright D. S. Brown, photography copyright and courtesy of Bob Bruzek.

 

Here are two photos of Bob Bruzek with his 1968 GTO.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek 1968 shot

The top one was taken in June, 1968. The bottom image is from June, 2010. The GTO has been with Bob for over 40 years now.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek 2010 shot

What is it about this GTO that has made Bob stay with it all these years? Looking back to 1968 the new body design on the GTO was revolutionary. When cars suffered from 'log style' 5 MPH bumpers and baroque styling in the 1970s the GTO looked even better. And all the while the car served as racer, commuter and a comforting constant in Bob's life.

Bob's 1968 GTO debuted at a time when Pontiac was riding a wave of success where it seemed they could do no wrong. Pontiac's rise back up through the sales ranks traces back to Bunkie Knudsen's revitalization of the brand in the 1950s. Bunkie stated that,

"You can sell an old man a young man's car but you can't sell a young man an old man's car."

Knudsen overtly supported Pontiac's status in racing by supplying the right hardware. Knudsen pushed for exciting Pontiac design. One design feature that proved to be practical as well as providing a great image builder for Pontiac was the famed "Wide Track' stance of the new Pontiacs.

When John DeLorean became General Manager of Pontiac he took over where Bunkie left off. It was under John's tenure that the 1964 Pontiac GTO was launched. The GTO ignited the musclecar wars overnight. Everyone copied the GTO formula of big engine intermediate car but no one packaged a car with as much image and youth appeal all in one simple option.

By 1968 the competition was closing in. Chrysler finally had better looking cars to wrap around their monster power plants. Chrysler also launched the Roadrunner: a new youthful stripped down, inexpensive, fast and instantly recognizable musclecar that emulated the GTO of 1964.

Meanwhile the GTO was getting bigger and more expensive. The GTO was also held back by the GM corporate ban on multi carburetors (Corvette got a pass) coupled with a 400 cubic inch engine size limit for the intermediates. As if Chrysler's 440 Magnum and 426 Hemi wasn't bad enough news for the GTO, 1968 was also the year Ford finally got it together mid model year with the Mustang 428 Cobra Jet.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek side

How did Pontiac retain their arrogance and market position against a flood of amazing musclecars all the while hamstrung by a 400 cube limit? The answer to this question is apparent as soon as you look at a 1968 GTO. It wasn't the fastest musclecar out there or the best handling. It was the best looking, hands down. The 1968 GTO still looks modern today despite being over 40 years old. The front Endura bumper is better integrated into the lines of the car than even the most modern vehicles of today.

Despite an avalanche of competitors, the GTO was still holding its own. Everyone felt the pinch of the new emissions equipment federally mandated for the 1968 model year. Joe Oldham the famous HIGH PERFORMANCE CARS test pilot dumped his newly purchased personal 1968 GTO because he could never get it to run right. He blamed the problems on the emissions add-ons.

Pontiac's own Firebird also took a bite out of the GTO. The same 400 in a lighter car with less frontal area meant lower E.T.s. A HOT ROD test of a 400 Firebird that was running in a real sweet spot showed what that Pontiac 400 was capable of. The Firebird roasted giant cube musclecars during its street racing phase of the road test.

The 1968 GTO carried some extra weight of course, but it could also be ordered out with some pretty impressive hardware that put it back in the running against the competition. The Ram Air II 400 was a seriously fast car. In the end, the GTO was mainly ordered as an image car with pep but mainly it was a beautiful looking, great riding car that you can live with. For every guy prowling the strip in a 4.33 geared GTO there were ten guys driving to and from work in their GTOs. It's large enough for a family man, small enough to have tight lines and be easily maneuvered and fast enough to satisfy most but the most ardent street racers.

Bob Bruzek is proof of the livability of the 1968 GTO. Bob fell in love with the looks of the new GTO but he stuck with it because it's a car you can enjoy and use as a daily driver. 45 years and counting, Bob has no intention of ever parting with his GTO.

Bob's life with his GTO began in a reverse pattern from the usual young man/ Vietnam/ musclecar story we have all heard at some time. Instead of getting the musclecar and then losing it when drafted, Bob got to keep the car for a lifetime.

Bob didn't have the GTO when he was drafted. Bob was shipped to Vietnam May, 1967 and spent one year over there. When Bob returned home to Illinois the new GTO for 1968 was on dealer lots instead of the 1967 model that Bob saw when he left for Vietnam. The timing here is important because the 1968 model year GTO has a special resonance for Bob. The timing for when he bought his first car lined him up with what he came to see as the ultimate incarnation of the GTO. The timing of Bob's return and the assembly line in Pontiac also lined up as will be related further down in the story.

When Bob arrived back from Vietnam he needed a break. His plan was to indulge himself with one month of downtime to just live and relax after his intense war experience. While Bob was readjusting to life back in the USA an Alpine Blue 1968 Pontiac GTO was coming down the assembly line in Pontiac, Michigan. On June 3, 1968 the car was complete and billed to a Cicero, Illinois dealership named Bartell Motor Company Incorporated. Read more about Bartell in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website filed under ILLINOIS. The original billing history for the GTO is presented below minus the final VIN digits and key codes.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek billing history

Bob called his old supervisor at his former electrician's job. His supervisor insisted that the backlog of work required Bob's presence back on the job right away. Bob countered with the problem that he didn't have a car. The boss had so much work backlogged that he gave Bob his word that if he went out and bought a new car it would be paid off in six months.

With that assurance in mind, Bob headed out to buy a brand new car. On June 10, 1968 Bob arrived at his local Pontiac dealer Bartell Motor Company Inc in Cicero, Illinois. Bob spotted his new car immediately. It was the freshly built Alpine Blue GTO invoiced a mere week earlier on June 3rd. As soon as Bob laid eyes on this GTO there were no doubts that this was the one. The 1968 GTO Bob fixated upon contrasted its Alpine Blue paint job with black top and interior. Inside Bob spotted a console and dual gate shifter. Red line tires set things off perfectly. The window sticker below lists the details of the car that grabbed Bob by the throat and hasn't let go since.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek window sticker

The window sticker lists all the extra items included in the GTO package. The GTO option added the obvious GTO identification, unique hood with scoops, Endura front end and the 400 engine. Other expected items included choice of red line or whitewall tires, dual exhaust, heavy duty battery, and heavy duty three speed floor shifter. Aside from those requisite performance oriented items the GTO option included a surprisingly large number of comfort and visual upgrades. GTOs received external mouldings, floor carpet, courtesy light plus lamps for the glove box and ashtray. Dress- up items inside included brake pedal chrome trim and the deluxe steering wheel with dual horns.

A bare bones GTO was not a stripped down taxi cab interior Roadrunner. The GTO was a nice car already several steps above a standard Tempest or LeMans. The GTO that Bob was drooling over had been tweaked with options that made the driving experience so enjoyable Bob never relinquished the car.

On the outside, the extremely popular vinyl roof named a 'Cordoba Top' added $94.79 to the price. At a quick glance 1960s vinyl tops made the car look like a convertible, as well as breaking up the lines and colors to enhance the long, low, and wide effect stylists sought at that time. Of course, cynically speaking the real motive for the factory installation of vinyl tops was the pure profit they represented for GM. Also on a cynical note the black tops raise interior temperatures in summer by about 10 degrees. Long term ownership has also revealed the fact that vinyl tops are notorious for harboring rust over the years. Practicalities aside, it must be admitted that the black top combined with black interior trim really does set off the appearance of the car.

The addition of $34.76 Soft Ray glass to all windows may have been an insightful ordering tactic on the part of someone from the dealership. With the black vinyl top sucking up heat in summer, the tinted glass all around would help compensate for this effect by shielding occupants to some degree. The interior racy style is cemented through the addition of the $52.66 console nestled between the front bucket seats. A mere $9.48 added a left hand outside mirror with remote control.

The $84.26 Rally II mag wheels contribute a huge reinforcement to the GTO's performance image. Combined with the Red Line tires the Rally II wheels look so good that they abolish the usual 'Day Two' ritual requiring the addition of aftermarket Cragar S/S mag wheels.

$94.79 Power Steering and $42.13 Power Brakes teamed with the $236.97 Turbo Hydromatic auto transmission make the driving experience effortless on a daily commute. The only thing missing from the option list was a radio. Bob requested that one be installed in the car of his dreams when he started bargaining with the salesman.

Comparing the build sheet with the window sicker can be interesting. The build sheet displayed below is complete except that the key codes and final digits of the VIN have been removed.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek build sheet

Box 37 describes the axle ratio as "H" which stands for the 3.36:1 axle ratio. This ratio was the factory ratio provided on all non air conditioned standard engine automatic GTOs. The standard GTO 400 engine with a 3 or 4 speed manual was bumped up to the same 3.55:1 ratio used in the automatic 360 HP HO 400. The Ram Air 400 received a high winding 4.33:1 ratio.

Anyone who ordered the 2 barrel economy GTO had the ratio dropped down to 2.93:1. A little known option on the order form is the 2.56:1 economy axle only available for the 2 barrel GTO. This set up duplicates the concept Oldsmobile pioneered the year prior with their Turnpike Cruiser package for the Cutlass Supreme. See a story on this in the GAS LOGS under 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass.

The build sheet lists various mirror options in box 42. Of the three choices, '4' is typed in the box indicating the remote control outside mirror just as it was listed in the window sticker.

Box 46 on the build sheet is blank where various wheel cover options are listed. Box 45 has a '3' typed below it confirming the Rally II option shown on the window sticker.

The build sheet offers three choices in box 47. 1= Custom Sport Steering Wheel, 2= console and 4= clock. The number '2' is typed on the build sheet verifying the console listed on the window sticker.

The build sheet offers three choices for entry number 50. 1= Power Stg, 2= Power Brk, 4= Tilt Stg Whl. On the build sheet a '3' is typed in this box suggesting that Power steering and brakes ordered together received a '3' code.

Box 71 under tires lists 'P' while box 72 has a 'C'. PC indicated G70x 14 Wide Oval Red Line tires.

Box 75 has a '5' typed in it.

Air cleaner= '832', Alternator= 'X6', Battery= '859' (heavy duty).

The 'YS' engine code confirms the window sticker which by absence of mention of engine infers that the default standard GTO 400 350 HP engine was installed. The carburetor is listed as 'WE'. Below is an option sheet from 1968 which Bob has used to highlight the various options which are listed in the same format as the build sheet shown above. You'll notice that on his car he now has a hood tachometer, exhaust extensions and a clock which he highlighted on the option sheet below. These options were not originally listed on the build sheet. Obviously he also had the radio added by the dealer. Bob exercised restraint when adding a few options. He resisted the trend that was very popular in the 1980s to retrofit a GTO with power windows and seats, air conditioning and so on.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek salesmans option list

The salesman worked out the price of $4,072.00 including tax and insurance. The sales contract below is complete except for the final digits of the VIN and Bob's home address.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek bartell purchase form

In the sales contract above the salesman put the dealership's commitment to install a radio in writing and included it in his reckoning of the $3,350.00 price before tax or insurance. The Radio P.B. is short form for Radio Push Button.

Leaving a $50.00 deposit, Bob rushed off to the bank to withdraw $2,000.00 in savings built up when he was away in Vietnam. At this point the secretary of state $26.00 fee was added for a total of 2,026.00 plus the prior deposit of $50.00.

68 pontiac gto bob bruzek bartell sales receipts

Below is the tax form that Bartell Motor Company had to submit on Bob's behalf for the car price. According to this the $3,905.00 purchase price of the car was reduced by a discount of $505.00 to $3,400.00. The $170.00 tax works out to a rate of 5%. Back in the day, the average car lasted about 10 years and 100,000 miles and usually went through two or three owners. The State usually made its tax money off a car two times over because of ownership changes. This was one rare case where the new tax was the last tax levied on the car!

 

Despite a healthy down payment Bob's payments were still quite intimidating from the perspective of 1968 dollars. Below the contract spells out just how big those monthly payments were to be. Bob had committed to paying $83.77 every month for 2 years. That meant that his boss had better be right about the amount of work he promised!

 

 

 

Bartell summarized the transaction in this final typewritten invoice shown below. $4,000.00 seems like a money even today, but when you spread that over 45 plus years the original purchase price is reduced to less than $100.00 per year!

 

 

 

Once all the paperwork was signed, Bob wasn't fretting about his monthly payments, or anything else. Bob drove off the lot floating in a cloud. The 1968 GTO is a good looking special car that produces a natural high when you drive it. Bob was in heaven when he took possession of his GTO. This is not a generic transportation box but the culmination of years of high performance and technological dedication from the fanatical group of zealots running Pontiac at this time.

 

Historians debate the ultimate source of the GTO but generally attribute it to John DeLorean, Bill Collins and Jim Wangers. Each of these men were true believers and contributed to the zenith of the Pontiac experience in various ways.

 

The salesman present on the lot when Bob bought the GTO occupied an incidental role in the process of buying the car. The car was already sold due to the years of marketing at Pontiac leading up to the 1968 GTO. The style was leap years ahead of the competition, the performance reputation was ingrained and believed as fact, and with hundreds of patents in his name DeLorean had rolled a multitude of advancements into this single vehicle. Every second behind the wheel a GTO told you that you were special and privileged just to be driving it.

 

MOTOR TREND awarded their car of the year award to the new GTO in their Feb, 1968 issue. MT was excited by the new frontier in safety, bodywork repair economy and of course styling that was opened up with Pontiac's Endura front bumper. MT marveled at the advances in paint and plastics and approved of the futuristic 'newness' of the car. Testers observed the ripples of excitement following the car everywhere they went. Interestingly, despite driving a regular automatic GTO and a four speed 4.33 Ram Air screamer the quietness of wind sealing and suspension was singled out for praise. MT caught the fact that unlike many mucsclecars of the era, the GTO was a car you can live with.

 

If the GTO didn't have a comfortable interior and good ergonomics, the newness and excitement would be tempered with compromise. The fact that Pontiac had it all sorted out just right made it easy for Bob to use as a daily driver. In short order Bob knew he was never going to sell this car. This was his car for life. The GTO combined excitement with daily practical utility. Unlike the ponycars it had a back seat that although not ideal was adequate and it had a decent sized trunk.

 

Three days after driving off the lot, on June 13, 1968 Bob celebrated his 26th birthday. This birthday was particularly good because the thrill of getting the new GTO was still fresh. Several ONE OWNER stories involve receiving the car on or around a birthday which links that car to the owner in yet another way.

 

Two years less a few days, on June 3, 1970 the GMAC lien was lifted. Bob had the GTO paid off in full and the car was now all his free and clear. Some readers may have noticed that this is precisely 2 years to the day that the GTO was originally invoiced to Bartell Motor Company.

 

 

 

 

 

Bob's boss had proved to be correct that there was plenty of work out there for Bob. Although the car wasn't paid off in six months according to his boss' grandiose claim, but in two short years he owned a car that would be his for life. Bob speaks of his attachment to his GTO as a commitment to the car. All the good years to follow only deepened his strong positive feelings associated with the GTO.

 

Bob's GTO has outlasted the warranty by many years. Car guys who love to document "by the numbers" will be pleased to see that Pontiac was already including codes in the warranty page as early as 1968. The YS 400 engine and PX transmission codes refer to the application of a standard GTO engine using a cam profile intended to be hooked up to the automatic transmission. D2 paint indicates Alpine Blue and 23 trim codes mean black.

 

 

 

Despite daily use, Bob took care of his GTO. When time started catching up to the car in 1993 it was not necessary to rip it right down to frame off. Bob calls his body on revival of the GTO at that period a 'renovation' not a restoration. Bob was able to hold off on full scale restoration until 1998 because the car had periodically been repainted and mechanical issues attended to as they came up during the life of the car.

 

Bob drove the GTO for 15 years as a daily work driver logging 10,000 miles annually. As you may have deduced, mileage this high means it was driven year round despite the snowy, icy Illinois winters which are accompanied by salted roads. In the late 1970s the daily grind was taking its toll and Bob had a repaint done on the GTO in addition to the necessary mechanical upkeep that crops up at the 100,000 mile mark. The interior was untouched.

 

It wasn't until 1985 that Bob began storing the GTO in winter. From 1969 until 1984 the GTO endured 16 years of winter use! In the late 1980s the GTO was treated to its second repaint and all the requisite mechanical work expected at 150,000 miles. The interior was still original and perfectly fine. The 'Morrokide' seats in mid 1960s GTOs are famous for their resilience.

 

Bob's GTO saw all the expected use a typical GTO usually experienced back in the day. Besides the daily work trek the GTO also had its fair share of street races. Bob even took his GTO for a few runs down the quarter mile at a drag strip. Bob's GTO served vacation duty as well. The furthest from home the car has been was in 1984 when Bob took the car to the POCI Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

In 1994 the engine was rebuilt enabling the car to carry on until nearly the new millennium. In the photo below you can see how good the GTO still looks in 1998. This picture was taken on the GTO's 30th birthday and Bob's 56th. Bob's wife Sharon organized a surprise birthday bash for him. Bob's friends drove in formation with him to the local cruise night. Bob jokes that it was a party for "Two old Goats".

 

 

 

In 1998 it was time to go all the way, and the GTO was given a complete restoration with the exception of the interior which miraculously still holds up. The restoration was completed in 2000. The photo below shows Bob's GTO at the ISCA/ World of Wheels show Feb 1-3, 2002 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.

 

 

 

As of 2004 the GTO had been retired from regular use with mileage sitting at 155,00 miles. When the car is taken on an outing Bob savors the outpouring of positive response from everyone. Once well wishers spot the license plate that says, 'BOT IT NU' they are even more excited by Bob's GTO.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 10 January 2015 09:53 )