The terms muscle car, pony car, and hot rod are sometimes used as synonyms, but I think there are some differences for a true gear head. A muscle car, to me anyway, is a larger, more powerful performance car. One like Bill Runge’s 1968 Pontiac GTO.
A muscle car needs muscle, and Bill’s Goat has that in spades. There’s a 468 cubic inch Pontiac big block stroker motor under the hood, producing about 1 horsepower per cubic inch. That’s a lot of muscle.
Feeding all those cubes is a complete Edelbrock Performer top end, including carburetor, intake manifold, heads, and cam. The Edelbrock system is working great, but one of Bill’s next projects is to replace the carb with a FiTech EFI system.
Once the intake mixture gets into the cylinders, it gets squeezed at a 10.5:1 compression ratio. Even with that, Bill says the car runs fine on premium pump gas. The spent exhaust goes out a set of Doug’s headers and through a Pypes stainless steel dual exhaust system with a crossover tube installed.
A lot of hot rods today need an aftermarket aluminum radiator and electric fans. Not Bill’s GTO. “This engine does not heat up,” he told me. The stock Pontiac cooling system, including the brass radiator and clutch-activated fan, are up to the task of keeping the big block cool.
The drivetrain behind the 468 consists of a Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission and 12-bolt rear end. Bill’s beefed up the transmission with a shift kit and a B&M 2500 RPM stall speed torque converter. The trans utilizes Pontiac’s “his and her” shifter that allows Bill to easily bang the gears manually whenever he chooses. The 12-bolt holds an Eaton posi differential with 3.55:1 gears. Bill says his engine spins 3000 rpm at 65 mph.
GTO’s have always had a reputation of solid all-around performance, and Bill is proud of how well his GTO handles. The four-wheel coil spring suspension has been lowered on a complete set of Global West components, including control arms, front and rear. The suspension works so well that Bill does not need sway bars.
The GTO’s aggressive stance comes from the Global West suspension and a set of Forgeline GXP wheels that are wrapped with BFGoodrich G-Force radials. Bill’s got 18″ x 8″ wheels with 245/40/18 tires in front, and 19″ x 10″ wheels with 295/35/19’s in the rear.
Bill’s replaced the stock rear drum brakes with Wilwood disks. The original Pontiac disks are still doing the job up front, but Bill’s got a set of Wilwoods that will soon replace those stock disks.
The body and paint on Bill’s GTO are outstanding. The sheetmetal is perfectly straight, showing off the Mitsubishi silver, which is highlighted by red and black striping. A few pieces of the chrome trim are replacement, but much of it is original, with straightening and re-chroming where it was needed.
The interior appearance is almost completely stock, with just a few tweaks. The seats have been recovered, but in the stock Pontiac pattern. There’s a custom steering wheel and a tachometer mounted under the dashboard, and the wood grain trim that was on the dash has been replaced with black vinyl. It looks great. With power steering, power brakes, and Vintage Air air conditioning, the interior is as comfortable as it is attractive.
Bill didn’t start out looking for a GTO. “I saw this,” he said, “and I thought it looked nice. A little different than all the Chevys”
He’s had other hot rods that he enjoyed, but were difficult to drive. Not this one. Bill told me his goal was to create “a modern, older car,” and his ‘68 meets that goal.
“You start it up, and you drive it down the road,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about it.” And he takes full advantage of the Pontiac’s drivability, racking up a couple of thousand miles per year enjoying his GTO.
When I asked him how much he’s invested in the car, he quickly answered “I don’t know.” He guessed it would be more than $20k, but less than $40k. For Bill, it’s about building a hot rod – not an accounting exercise.
To many automotive historians, the Pontiac GTO was the car that started the muscle car craze in Detroit. Every year it was produced, it was one of, if not the most powerful car in the Pontiac line up.
Bill’s GTO is a rightful heir to that proud tradition.
Photos by GHR
Click here to see photos of Bill’s GTO.