Home Car Stories One Owner 1972 PONTIAC GTO- Bill and Patti Nawrot
1972 PONTIAC GTO- Bill and Patti Nawrot PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Monday, 16 August 2010 21:09

1972 PONTIAC GTO- Bill and Patti Nawrot


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown. Bill Nawrot is individually credited for his photographs which are copyright Bill Nawrot. All scans of paperwork are provided courtesy of and copyright Bill Nawrot.

72 gto bill and his car.

Bill Nawrot is one of the rare guys who ordered a brand new GTO back in 1972. Few GTOs sold that year, so Bill was already swimming against the tide. Rarer still is the fact that he still owns the car. Very few one owner collector cars from 1972 pop up. The gas crisis and insurance hassles forced most people to give up their GTOs. Most amazing of all is that despite driving in the salt belt of North America Bill’s GTO is in pristine unrestored condition. Car guys are starting to appreciate unrestored cars and finally enthusiasts are recognizing how nice the 1972 GTO really is. It wasn’t always this way.

The 1972s sold slowly at the time when the muscle car wars had been lost. The 1972 intermediate muscle cars were lost in the shuffle when released and stayed off in no man’s land for years after that. I find the cut off line that excludes the 1971 to 72 GTOs hard to justify. True, we all have our personal cutoff point for when a car model “went bad”. With the GTO there is some logic behind the line each person draws in the sand. Conversely every model also has its devotees. For instance, there are good things about the ‘orphan GTOs’ of 1973 and 1974 and the later 2004-06 GTOs. But even the supporters of these cars admit that of all the GTO years the reasoning behind their exclusion makes the most sense, since these cars had body styles that deviated from the original series.

The banishment of the 1971 and 1972 cars always perplexed me. Back in 1972, the GTO’s marginalization was somewhat understandable albeit disappointing. The pressures against the muscle cars were coming from all directions. But the ‘echo effect’ which relegated these years to second class status in the GTO collector car world doesn’t have relevance now. These GTOs still have great looks and adequate performance that could easily be restored to earlier model year levels. The 455 HO is in the same league as the hallowed RA IV.  Popular opinion seems to have finally salvaged these years, but it was a long time coming.

The line between 1970 and 1971-2 has softened over the years, but it is still a defining line amongst many other ‘cut off’ points in the pecking order in the history of the GTO. There are various perceptions about when the GTO went ‘downhill.’ Convincing arguments run all the way back to the beginning of each model year. Just pick a year and there is a reason.

Soon after the GTO bomb first hit the street, dismay greeted the new 1966 GTO. The 1966 had grown in size and weight. The 1965 GTO was a taut tiger and the 1964 even more of a strippo street warrior. Car collectors agreed and perpetuated this ‘cut off line’ by placing a premium price on these first two years of the GTO a few decades later. When the 1967 came out sans the tri-power option, suddenly the 1966 was looking really good.  No one cared that the new 1967 400 and updated 4 barrel was providing comparable performance. For many the last “true Tiger” was a tri-power.

1968 came along with the amazingly stylish and timeless bodylines. But it was also the first year of noticeable emission controls.  Magazine tester Joe Oldham described all the trouble he went through trying to sort out his personal 1968 GTO. He finally sold it in frustration. A lot of guys were now fondly looking back at the 1967. Car collectors also seemed to have made this a cut line, too. The first generation 1964-7s command a premium price. The second generation 1968-72 line composes the ‘also rans’ of the GTO collector car world in spite of the amazingly integrated lines in the body design and legendary engine options.

Exciting engines like the HO and Ram Air engines kept the line new and vibrant even as the base car gained weight. The RA IV and development rumors of the RA V were regarded as the high water mark. Looks hit their peak for many people with the lightly redone 1970 GTO. This also coincided with the prevailing wisdom that muscle cars went into decline right after 1970, across the board for all car manufacturers. It was the peak year for cubic inches, compression ratios, horsepower and wild graphics.

The general consensus is that cars after 1970 are leftovers bearing nothing more than a passing resemblance to the Real Thing. 1971 Cars that looked the same as the 1970 cars and drove with the same seat of the pants response suffered from HP image problems. The cars were rated in net HP ratings which merely reflected a more realistic way of measuring HP. The problem for GM cars was that in 1971 the simultaneous move to lowered compression actually did slash real world HP, but not as extravagantly as the doomsayers would have you think.

The perception that the 1971 GTO was emasculated has some truth. The power was down and weight was up. The new GTO hood scoops and grille resembled the Firebird Formula, which is a bit of a comment on where the performance thinking was flowing in Pontiac. The GTOs father, John DeLorean was over at Chevrolet, and Pontiac’s emphasis was moving away from the GTO to focus on the Trans Am and the coming Grand Am. Attention to GTO extra touches faded out. Engines no longer included the traditional GTO chrome air cleaner, valve covers and dipstick.

There is some logic in making another cut off between 1970 and everything that followed. But this argument is only seriously valid if you were a dedicated street racer or drag strip regular. The real world decline wasn’t huge for the driver who wanted style and some fun.  1971-2 maximum HP is down because of the lower compression ratio but a big block has tons of torque. For around town action, the 1971-2 is still formidable. One bonus is that the 1971-2 will run on unleaded gas. Back in the day, serious racers would simply change heads, carbs and power tune the car and be home free. The body is very well styled and retains the million dollar looks of the 1968-70.

The 400 Ram Air engines were gone in 1971, but a Ram Air engine was now available with the 455 HO. This is an amazing and previously overlooked engine, even with a low compression ratio. The 455 engine had been a non performer in 1970 and a lot of people assumed that the 1971 engine was just a repeat with lower compression and hence even worse performance. However, the second fastest factory proving times for a GTO were posted by a 1971 455 HO. Unlike the 1970 version of the 455, the 1971 engine used Ram Air IV parts to wake it up. This engine was carried over for 1972 as well.

The 1972 GTO itself was a carryover, which contributed to the disdain the car received when new and which dogged the car through decades of car collectors bypassing it until recently. When the 1972 GTO was released it was ‘old’ in terms of the usual styling cycles. The 1972 was supposed to have been restyled this year. The new intermediate bodies were delayed until 1973 because of strike related problems. For those that prefer the 1968-72 A body cars this was fortuitous. One very nice tweak made to the classic second generation GTO body is the integration of functional air extractors behind the front wheels. This is a 1972 only design. I also like the dual sport mirrors on these cars. The body and interior remain clean and stylishly modern right to this day.

72 gto nawrot fender air extractor

Some of the best GTO option packages came out in 1972. TheWW4 package combined 400 engine, suspension, brakes and wheels to produce a complete performer and handler. The WW5 was one of the best GTOs ever, starting with a 455 HO and choice of 4 speed or auto. The WW5 went further than the WW4 and included gauges, formula steering wheel and other desirable options in addition to the utilitarian handling and braking bits. These true muscle cars weren’t heavily promoted and hence barely anyone knew about these great cars or ordered them.

The general belief that the GTO was dead really took hold with the midyear cancellation of the Judge in 1971. This perception in most enthusiasts’ minds was reinforced with Pontiac’s demotion of the 1972 GTO to just an option package, not a separate line. The 1972 Pontiac brochure tried to put a spin on the lower content GTO by calling the standard bench seat 'businesslike'!

72 GTO pontiac brochure blurb

You could order a 1972 LeMans with GTO goodies in convertible form but not one GTO was made in convertible this year.  The feeling was that since you could specify your drive train and get the Endura hood scooped front end on any LeMans, why get a GTO?  With only 5,807 GTOs bought that year, many new buyers were loading up a LeMans or LeMans GT with big engines and getting their GTO hit that way. Other buyers were siphoned away by the Trans Am which was getting some promotional exposure.

I’ve owned a couple of 1972 LeMans cars that were factory ordered with GTO equipment, likely as “insurance beaters”.  A regular LeMans was insurable at decent rates even loaded up with a big engine and GTO performance equipment. These cars are good looking and fast, but there is something about the mystique of the name and imagery of the GTO that is lost when just stacking up options. The original appeal of the GTO was that it put everything together in one package.

The issues of the past have melted away over the years and now most car collectors appreciate the 1972 GTO as being a fast and very good looking car. This realization is reflected in the narrowing of the vast divide in collector prices between high 1970 prices and the previously cheap lost years of 1971-2.

72 gto nawrot 09 front

In 1972 even though the GTO package was a bargain very few opted to go this route. Bill Nawrot was able to get into a GTO for a reasonable investment, likely for less than what other buyers would sink into a LeMans with minimal options.  If he could go back in time Bill would order a WW5 optioned GTO, but money was too tight at the time. Bill managed to come out with a GTO that has kept him happy over the years.

72 gto warnot phs invoice

The GTO option cost him $344.00 which agrees with the amount given in several enthusiast books. However, $353.88 is quoted in some other books. Both of these option prices are actually correct. I have seen invoices and window stickers with either price listed. Bill is able to explain this mystery. On Dec 11, 1972 the US government repealed a ‘hidden excise tax’ which lowered not just the GTO option cost but the overall car price. Early 1972 GTO hardtops listed at $2,904.00. At this time, the GTO option accounted for $353.88 of the total cost.

Bill’s best friend Bob Melinauskas also ordered a 1972 GTO hardtop in the same geographic area that Bill purchased his GTO. Bob was charged the high ‘early’ price when he ordered his car on Aug 1, 1971. Bob’s GTO was nearly identical to Bill’s future GTO, except Bob specified a white vinyl top and an automatic. Bob later sold his GTO. The second owner restored it and sold it to a buyer from New York several years later. Below you can compare the disparate prices of the GTO by comparing the first window sticker which is Bob's with the second one, which is Bill's.

72 gto early price- bobs car

72 gto later price bills sticker


Bob’s experience purchasing the GTO explains the different window stickers and source book price quotes for 1972 GTOs. Bob paid the higher retail price of $2,904.00. When his car was delivered Oct 18, 1971 to Community Pontiac in Oak Forest, IL the total cost was $2972.00 once the $68.00 destination charge was added on. When the repeal of the tax went through, Bob was sent a rebate for the difference between his cost and the new lower price of GTOs.

GTOs built after Dec 11, 1971 and prior to Jan 1, 1972 are the least expensive of all 1972s. Once calendar year 1972 began, a small charge was added to the cost of the GTO when a government mandated seatbelt buzzer was put into all GM cars. Consumers were charged for this safety item and in most instances immediately set about disabling it! Bill’s car has the buzzer. Bill’s window sticker has a base price of $2,850.60. Destination was $70.00 for a total of $2850.60. The GTO option price was $344.00.

Bill was a factory worker at the Chicago Ford plant in 1967 which enhanced his car knowledge and fed his passion for cars in general. He was a regular fixture at the local Ford dealer when he was a kid. But despite his Ford background Bill has been a GTO man most of his life after getting bitten by the bug in the early 1960s.

Bill’s history with GTOs traces back to the days when his neighbor blocked Bill’s garage with a 1965 GTO. The neighbor handed over the keys to the 1965 GTO so Bill could move it out of his way when needed. Bill became addicted to the GTO and an unusual feature of the car: its three speed manual, a little seen feature in manual shift GTOs, the majority of which were 4 speeds.

On May 3, 1967 Bill bought a Tyrol blue 1967 GTO from Kole Pontiac in Oak Lawn, IL, and yes, it was a three speed manual. Bill worked in the Kole Pontiac service department doing oil changes and was familiar with staff members. After 25,000 miles of memorable driving, the car was reluctantly sold when Bill entered the Army in August of 1968.

The GTO flame was reignited when Bill bought a used 1966 GTO in spring of 1970. Within one year Bill had found another 1967 Tyrol blue GTO like the one he bought new back in 1967. That car kept him happy for awhile, but he wanted a new GTO. Of course it had to be a blue 3 speed manual car. It was a cold January day in early 1972 when Bill began visiting car dealerships in the vicinity of Oak Lawn, Illinois. After seeing half a dozen dealers he had a good idea of pricing and service variables between dealers. Below is a post card from Kole salesman Ron Hull reminding Bill of his visit to the dealership. The GTO image used on the card is the same image that appeared in the 1972 Pontiac LeMans brochure.
72 gto post card feb 5

72 gto post card r feb 5

72 gto kole salesman card

Bill ordered his GTO from Kole Pontiac in Oak Lawn, Illinois. This is the same car dealership Bill bought his new 1967 GTO five years earlier. Kole Pontiac was started in Chicago and relocated to Oak Lawn. In 1983 the dealership was sold and renamed Haggerty Pontiac. Shortly thereafter the original building was torn down to build a new showroom. The service department was relocated one block away. With the sad demise of Pontiac, another name change was made to Haggerty Buick and GMC in 2010. See the DEALERSHIPS section of this website for a detailed history of Kole filed under ILLINOIS.

72 gto nawrot order form feb 15

Bill paid a deposit of $30.00 to order his GTO on Feb 15, 1972. He wanted a Lucerne Blue GTO 400 with a three speed manual. He also specified the Rally Cluster, front disc brakes, Firm Ride and Positraction. Bill especially regrets not knowing about the WU3 Ram Air Option for 400 engines at a cost of only $56.00. He probably would have had the only factory Ram Air 400 built had he know and ordered this buried option. The build date for Bill’s GTO was March 1, 1972 in the Pontiac, Michigan factory.

72 gto build sheet 1

72 gto build sheet 2

Bill inventoried the various parts listed below with part number followed by date manufactured.

Part Name      Part # Code   Date
Frame            6263667        2 4 72
Engine Block    481988 WS    B 23 2
L Head           7K3               B 24 2
R Head           7K3               B 24 2
L Exh Man.     480602          B 24 2
R Exh Man.     9776922        A 31 2
Intake Man     485912           B 18 2
Carburetor      7042263  
Distributor      1112121        2 B 17
Flywheel         9779233        L 09 1
Fuel Pump      33 
Water Pump    488296         B 17 2
Alternator       1100927 SN 
Pwr St Pump  HG 
Starter           1108495 95 2  B 22 1
Trans            3952657 RM H 2 B 07 B
Rear Axle       9799168 XH 
L Muffler       486976  
R Muffler       486976  
L Tailpipe      487046  
R Tailpipe      487045  
Radiator         NJ 
Air Cleaner                         11/24/1971

72 grand prix post card f

72 grand prix post card r

On March 3, 1972, a Friday, Kole Pontiac salesman Ron Hull called up to say that the GTO was in. That night Bill went down to the dealership to see the car, which had not been prepped yet. When he popped the hood the engine build sheet was still taped to the distributor. On Saturday, Bill came back and took some instamatic pictures of what was soon to be his new car. The Rally II wheel center caps and trim rings were still in the trunk.

key chain 72

72 gto keychain

(Photos above of keys taken by and copyright W Nawrot)

72 gto nawrot warranty sheet


72 gtowarnot kole receipt

72 gto final sales cotract

On Monday, March 6 the transfer was made. Bill traded in his 1967 GTO and took possession of his new 1972 GTO.  He found a second build sheet above his sun visor on the ride home. Build sheets abounded in this car. At home he discovered another build sheet in the trunk. This build sheet was for the car ahead of him on the assembly line: a four door Catalina.

72 catalina build sheet

The 1967 GTO Bill traded in to get his 1972 GTO was listed for $1,295.00 in an April ad from 1972. Here is a blowup of the listing. (Ad copyright Economist Newspapers)

72 gto tradein kole apr 72 closeup

Check out the DEALERSHIPS section of this website to see a copy of an April 9, 1972 newspaper ad from Kole Pontiac. Kole was blowing out cars in preparation for a showroom remodeling.

72 gto nawrot protecto


72 gto warnot letter from kole

Bill had barely had any time with his new GTO when it was stolen in broad daylight on July 6, 1972. The car was parked in the same spot as always in the company parking lot for Illinois Bell Telephone where Bill worked. The lot was in Chicago at 69th and Cottage Grove. This was a bad area of town replete with stolen cars stripped and abandoned in alleys and vacant lots nearby. When Bill came back for lunch the police were already there. A Monte Carlo had also been stolen from the same lot. Bill searched the usual stolen car dumping locations to no avail.

Bill then worked off of a list of ‘hot spots’ provided by a local cop who Bill had recently installed a phone for. The second location from the list that Bill checked out was a big apartment building at 110 East 70th. There was his GTO! The photo below shows the building in 2006.

72 gto billl nawrot gto found

(Photo above taken by and copyright W Nawrot)

The passenger door lock was ripped out. The thieves knew the GTO was factory keyed with identical door and ignition locks. The thieves made a key from the passenger lock cylinder and returned with the key to drive the car away.

The thieves didn’t know that the GTO had to be placed in reverse gear in order to take the key out of the ignition. The thieves had placed a Kleenex over the key to disguise the fact that it was left in the ignition. The car thieves were worried other thieves would see the key in the ignition and steal it! Witnesses who saw the car being driven off heard the gears grinding. The thieves had obviously not encountered the unique gear pattern of the 3 speed before.

Once he had the car back, Bill’s dealer Kole Pontiac repainted the passenger door using factory spec paint. Thus the paint on that door is 4 months newer than the rest of the paint. The remainder of the life of the car was less dramatic. In fall of 1972 Bill bought a used beater 1967 GTO as his daily driver for the winter salt and snow. He stored the 1972 GTO for the winters of 1972, 73 and 74. In June, 1975 Bill sold the 1967 GTO for $500.00 and bought a new Chevy pickup.

The 1972 GTO was now placed into duty as the family car and accumulated a few dings due to Bill’s second wife. She parked at the closest spot next to the door in the busy Kmart and shopping center parking lots. The GTO saw winter driving in 1975 and 1976. The one plus for Bill about having the car out those winters was bringing home his son in the GTO. Richard was born Feb 28, 1976, one day away from the GTO’s build date. Rich has very occasionally been allowed to drive the GTO.

In August of 1977 Bill bought a 1977 Cutlass which enabled him to preserve the 1972 GTO from doing further winter duty. He has since consistently stored the car for the snowy months.  The GTO was a family car for only 2 years and 2 months which explains how it managed to survive.

The fastest Bill has had the GTO was 100 mph and at that speed it was floating badly. Bill attributes the majority of the problem to the factory correct bias ply tires. I agree with him. When I switched my LeMans to Michelin radials it tracked smooth and straight at 100 and more, although float rears it's head on less than perfect asphalt.

The furthest road trip Bill has taken his GTO on was in 1983 to the POCI Nationals in Niagara Falls, 1200 miles round trip. He has also taken a pleasure trip to Niagara Falls on another occasion. The GTO cruised easily at 65-70 mph without incident on both road trips.

The GTO gets about 150 miles per tank, but early in the ownership, Bill learned not to go right down to the E line on the gas gauge. He did this once. The GTO stopped running as he pulled into a gas station- momentum took it up to the pump.  After that close call Bill never lets the tank go below ¼. AMA specs claim a 20 US gallon tank, while Canadian brochures list “approximately” 15.8 Imperial gallons, which is equivalent to 18.9 US gallons. My own experience with a few 1972 GM 'A bodies', including Pontiacs is that from empty on the fuel gauge it takes 14 to 15.5 gallons to push the needle above Full. The total usable tank size is likely smaller than the specs claim. Taking the specs at face value, a fill up from 1/4 should take about 14 gallons.

Using 14 gallons as a typical fill up, Bill’s highway mileage is above 10 MPG, but not by much- which isn’t surprising with a 3.55:1 axle ratio combined with the smog equipment. Bill has used Shell gas for the life of the GTO and has had to suffer with Mid West legislated 10% ethanol content. He uses Quaker State oil and does all of his own oil changes and lubes. Oil changes were done frequently as you can see in this partial service record page provided with the car's original documentation.

Bill joined POCI in 1980 and GTOAA in 1983. He has since logged 30,000 highway miles driving the GTO to car shows. Total mileage stands at 66,100 miles as of 2009. The car is mainly all original and unrestored. Normal wear items such as tires exhaust and batteries were replenished with era correct items. The car is on its third exhaust system now. Bill was able to find a New Old Stock clamp and cables for the Delco battery now in the car. The low beam headlights have been replaced once with New Old Stock T3 beams. The original high beams haven’t needed to be changed.

The master cylinder was changed with a NOS piece from a dealer and is an actual Delco part, not reproduction.  Bill retained his original master and is investigating a shop that rebuilds your original instead of exchanging it. Once that is done he’ll put his original back on the car. The original calipers were rebuilt in 2008. Incredibly, the brake lines are still original, although there is now a small amount of rust forming at the rear fitting after 38 years! Bill bought a correct steel line for safety’s sake. The two front brake hoses were replaced in 2007. Bill hasn’t encountered a strange issue that haunts my LeMans 400. The passenger front brake hose which appears not to be binding or taut wears out prematurely and regularly.

72 gto nawrot engine drvrs

Bill still rides on the original coils and shocks. Back in 2007 a perfectly good set of radial tires were replaced with era correct reproduction Goodyear Polyglass G70 x 14s on the original rims.  The trim and center caps are still appear fresh.

The GTO is running just fine with the original plug wires. Bill has been lucky with his starter. The original lasted over 34 years before developing intermittent problems. Bill replaced it with a Delco rebuilt starter from a GM dealer. Like the master cylinder it will eventually be rebuilt and reinstalled on the car.

Bill has lived a charmed life at least when it comes to starters. I have had two 400 LeMans cars that refused to turn over when the engine got hot despite reasonable air clearance around the engine in that fairly large engine bay. This problem crops up with the emission controlled Pontiac 400s. In the smaller engine bay of a Firebird 400, even ordinary city driving can cause the problem the LeMans cars suffered from prolonged highway driving. The Firebird needed 20 minutes with the hood open before attempting to restart it when hot. Restarting was futile until heat dispersal had taken effect. The starter on Pontiac 400s is on the driver’s side and hence aftermarket Chevy heat shields won’t fit on these engines.

My 1972 LeMans with a 400 has gobbled up starters every few years, being replaced at 55,000 87,000 and 105.000 miles. Earlier model cars often still have the original starter at 100,000 miles or more possibly due to pre-smog equipment cooler running temperatures. Any 400 takes up more space in the engine compartment than a 350 and runs hotter regardless of model year. Coupled with its more extensive emission controls the 1972 400 runs much hotter than previous years. My LeMans runs hot despite the four core radiator.

The irony is that 1972 was the first year for Pontiac’s gasket less tapered seat spark plugs. These plugs allow for larger water passages in the cylinder head enabling the engines to run cooler. Interestingly, the 1981 edition of the Lemon-aid guide targeted the 1972 and 1973 LeMans for running hot. All other years of LeMans are free of this quirk which was attributed to a faulty exhaust pipe. This evaluation was based on the 250 six cylinder 1972 model and the 350 for 1973, which suggests that this exhaust restriction issue affected all engine sizes. In the case of my LeMans the exhaust has been changed a few times due to age but it still runs hot. The book also warns of fire potential specific to the 1972 only. Too hot!

Bills’ good luck with the starter could be possibly due to not logging enough miles to be plagued by this quirk of the 1972 400s.  Bill did change his starter at the approximate mileage that the original starter in my LeMans gave up at, but not due to a complete failure as was the case with my LeMans. Another possibility is that the GTO air extractors are sufficiently lowering under hood temperatures

Another ‘heat related annoyance’ factor with my LeMans 400 is PCV grommet hardening which causes the PCV to become stubbornly lodged in the intake. Bill’s factory experience paid off in this area. Bill foresaw that problem and has replaced his GTO grommet three times thus far. Bill was inspired by seeing the factory use heat lamps on rubber pieces and realized that using a hairdryer to soften up the rubber would work just as effectively.

Bill’s GTO has new belts and hoses, although the original hoses running to the charcoal canister are intact. Heater cores seem to last about 20-25 years. Bill’s gave out a bit later than scheduled, waiting until 2003 to go kaput at age 31. His youngest son Dan was driving the car on Father’s day when smoke started pouring out of the car.  After some initial panic, the problem was found and Bill’s son bought him a new heater core- a generous Father’s Day gift!

Bill’s radiator is original. In 2003 it was recored as a preventative measure for long road trips to car shows. He still uses the original radiator cap. The Radiator support sticker is still original. The left side of the radiator core support has been dented from day one of ownership. POCI Smoke Signals ran a series about the process of building cars at the Pontiac factory where Bill’s car was assembled. The workers aligned the bumpers using a big pry bar which was placed against that core support. Some GTOs and LeMans’ with the Endura bumpers will have a bent core support in that spot because of this factory procedure.

The aluminum upper radiator house tower has given good service on Bill’s GTO. These can cause seepage or outright leaks because of mating difficulties between the aluminum and iron. My LeMans 400 began leaking here at 90,000 miles. Double gaskets worked for 10,000 miles and finally the piece had to be replaced.

Bill’s alternator and water pump are original although the water pump has been rebuilt twice.  The first time was through the dealership when the car was 8 years old. The dealership had a Service Bulletin and kit to press out the pump allowing re use of the original casting. This was lucky, because it kept the pump correct appearing for the collector car show circuit 30 years later. The second rebuild occurred in 2006 when the engine needed some work. The original water pump on my Lemans 400 held out until 110,000 miles.

Bill’s GTO engine has been the only recipient of any major work.  The heads were off for a valve grind in 2006. The pistons and bearings were found to be within spec but rings and bearings were replaced just because the engine was apart anyways. After the engine work was completed a problem arose. There was no commercially available engine paint for 1972 Pontiac engines. Luckily Bill had his original valve covers.

72 gto nawrot engine pass

When the car was relatively new the factory painted valve covers were replaced with chrome covers and the originals were put into storage. An auto paint store was able to recreate the correct 72 engine color using the pristine valve covers as a guide.  Bill’s friend Mark painted the engine and the original valve covers were installed. The engine has used no oil throughout the life of the car. The distributor and cap were replaced with a correct Delco. Bill assumed that the engine could be left alone for quite some time now.  Not so.

Three years later, when returning from the GTO Nationals in Dayton, Ohio, Bill’s wife Patti noticed a noise from the engine.  They were only 100 miles from home, but wisely Bill took the next exit he could find. The clicking noise was a rod knock. Club member Steve Lucas had just spent five hours trailering his personal car home. Without delay, Steve jumped into action backtracking 100 miles to get Bill, Patti and their stricken GTO home using his trailer. It was the first time Bill’s GTO didn’t make a trip under its own power. The # 3 rod bearing had failed and its metal chips had damaged all the bearings. The #3 rod and piston needed replacement and the crank had to be sent out. The short block was thankfully intact. It should be noted that living in the Mid West, Bill has no option but to use the 10% ethanol content gasoline which is mandatory by law.

The only repeatedly annoying quirk of the GTO is related to failure of the vacuum advance speedometer cable hookup. On the 4 speed cars this is not an issue, because vacuum advance is controlled by a switch on second gear. The 3 speed cars have the vacuum controlled by the speedometer cable. This worked by having a two piece speedometer cable with vacuum control in the middle. The cable from the control to the transmission was only 10” long and had a sharp bend. It broke at 10,000 miles. Bill replaced it with a new GM cable, but then like clockwork it broke again at 20,000 miles. Not interested in a career changing cables, Bill went back to the Kole dealership and bought a one piece cable designed for a 1970 GTO.

The GTO body is unrestored original. It has never been repainted with the exception of the passenger door due to the car theft when the car was four months old. Due to minimal weather exposure, the vinyl top hasn’t created any rust in the roof, which is usually a common sight on GM A bodies. Bill’s GTO vinyl top suffered a minor separation right where the chrome trim attaches, which was a simple repair. Bill has also been spared the rust out at the rear window so common in the second generation GTOs. My LeMans had to have typical metal repair and a replacement vinyl top due to these problems.

Bill also escaped the ubiquitous rust out at the bottom of the front fenders. Bill’s GTO never had the typical leaf buildup in the vents which blocks the drain and causes the syndrome. Bill attributes all of the good body condition to the fact that it was always garaged, including his time on the job. The car was exposed to the elements only for the time it was in motion. The car had some additional help in the form of undercoating. Since Bill had once worked at the Kole Pontiac car dealership, when his car was being prepped for delivery he worked out a deal with one of the porters. In exchange for a free undercoating by his friend Clem, Bill installed an extra phone in Clem’s house.

72 gto nawrot top

Despite some salty winters and the second wife’s parking habits; the car allows us to see what a GTO looked like back in 1972. Bill stripped off the Kole Pontiac dealership undercoat in 2007 to reveal the factory black primer finish with some Lucerne Blue overspray. The driver’s quarter panel sports a line running down the paint which was a factory flaw that became apparent about one year after purchase. The rear valence panel was metal on the earliest cars off the line that year, and then it was switched to plastic. Bill’s valance is plastic and was a different shade of blue. It also came from the factory with just one bracket. Although all 1972 GTOs and LeMans’ are designed to have 2 center support brackets for the rear valence Pontiac decided to save money and only install one.

Based on his factory experience Bill deduced that a dark spot on the underside of the hood was where the Pontiac factory hung the hood to paint it. In the right front cowl area by the right wiper there is a signature in chalk “JDL”. This was the signature of the tech at the Kole dealership who did the predelivery on Bill’s car.

Both my LeMans and Bill’s GTO have suffered the seemingly universal fate of having a windshield washer that doesn’t work. This seems to be a given for cars from this era, particularly Eastern cars. The hard water minerals clog up the fine nozzle and pressure backup probably kills the pump. If it survives that, the cold gets it anyways. Bill has been luckier with the windshield wiper arm used on the driver’s side of the windshield. The articulated arm has given no trouble on the GTO despite a bad reputation in these cars. My LeMans bills show warranty repairs for windshield wiper chatter back when the car had less than 40,000 miles. It was still a minor nuisance when I got the car and finally replaced it at 100,000 miles.

72 gto nawrot st wheel

Bill’s all original GTO interior is in excellent shape despite ferrying large amounts of cargo to the car shows. Usually the trunk and backseat are packed on these trips. When Bill first got the car, the console door top began to show the underlying color through the factory applied white. Bill had it resprayed under warranty within a year of taking delivery of the car. The car is equipped with Ames reproduction floor mats. Bill removes them for judging because points are deducted if they are in the car and not listed on the window sticker.



Not only the car, but Bill himself is a natural for the car show circuit. Bill’s interest and enthusiasm coupled with his background as a factory worker at the Ford plant make him an excellent historian. His car always attracts attention because of its one owner collector car status. Being able to talk to the owner who is knowledgeable about the car's every single quirk is a real treat for many showgoers. After 35,000 miles of daily driver duty this unrestored original car enjoys a second life at car shows. Bill has driven 30,000 miles worth of road trips to visit car shows. Bill is usually competing with cars that have had frame off total restorations and are brought in via trailer. This puts him at a disadvantage because he doesn’t trailer his car which already carries along 66,000 miles worth of road wear.

Nonetheless, he has done well at car shows, particularly in recent years when the issue of originality took precedence in judging. Bill has one advantage over restored cars. There is no doubt that he has the correct pieces and finish on his car. He has owned it from day one and rebuilt original pieces when possible. Anything needing replacement was directly compared to the existing parts to verify accuracy.

Bill’s GTO has won Concours Gold three times and Best Factory Original in 2007 with the GTOAA. Bill attended the 2010 Survivor Car Show in St Charles, IL. This event is focused on the historical accuracy of the cars entered. Bill won a Freeze Frame Award. The Interior, exterior and undercarriage scored over 90% original. The engine compartment was docked due to the engine repaint but still scored over 75% original. Bill also received an Owner One certificate. Bill has gotten quite a lot of enjoyment from checking off the $344.00 GTO option back on that winter day 38 years ago and he has given car fans a fascinating look at what made the GTO great in 1972.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 18 March 2021 14:30 )