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1968 Pontiac GTO Burns to the Ground, Gets a Pressure Wash, Then Casually Drives 200 Miles

1968 Pontiac GTO 62 photos
Photo: YouTube/Mr. Goodpliers
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‘These were a hot car in ’68. Car and Driver tested them into the low 14s on a bias-ply.’ The statement belongs to a man who’s driving the hottest car of all time – a 1968 Pontiac GTO. I’m not saying that the entire GTO line-up was a red-hot production run – just this particular example. At least, it was at some point, right before the fire brigade showed up and cooled it off by around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Forget the new Bugatti Tourbillon – or any other hypercar, or even any of the modern cars, for that matter. The phrase ‘They Don’t make them like they used to’ could not be more appropriate than in the case of an incinerated Pontiac GTO from 1968 that refused to die. Not only that, but – with the conjured efforts of a team of YouTubing car rescuers – the mighty GOAT is running and driving again.

Although it looks as if it just came out of hell – but only because it did, and the goat reference could not be more cringy than in this instance – this 'Tin Indian' blood brother isn’t going to the Happy Hunting Grounds just yet. The backstory is that the crispy automobile was the collateral victim of a catastrophic fire that scorched the car almost to the point where it could well have been deemed a total loss.

It wasn’t, however, and a YouTuber (Mr. Goodpliers is the video hosting platform call sign) bought it with the honest intention of saving whatever parts could be recovered from the wreck of this once mighty tire-burning machine. Ironically and amazingly, at the same time, the only parts that were the least affected by the blazing flames were the rubbers. The rest of the car was mercilessly torched, leaving very little hope for… anything, in all honesty.

1968 Pontiac GTO
Photo: YouTube/Mr. Goodpliers
Enter the merry team from the Pole Barn Garage YouTube channel, who bought the cremated muscle car and revived it. Like ‘tree-shade-fix-it-and-drive-it-200-miles-home’ revived it. Although they are the type of jack-of-all-trades that strongly believe that a hammer can fix anything and that the best way to fight fire is fire, they didn’t lay down their wrenches on this burned-out victim.

Incredibly, external combustion didn’t kill internal combustion, and the 400 V8 comes back to life – after a lot of soot-and-sweat wrenching. By what miracle of mechanics is the V8 still among the living goes beyond all automotive engineering science, but the Poncho runs and drives. Sure, the barbequed shell is not a beauty pageant finalist, but its will to live is downright zealotism.

1968 was a great year in the history of the primordial muscle car, and the GTO got a well-deserved redesign, gaining the semi-fastback profile that became a staple of the muscle car genre. Remember the same-year Dode Charger and its Mach II-Jet-on-Wheels looks? Or the mighty Buick GSX of the early seventies?

1968 Pontiac GTO
Photo: YouTube/Mr. Goodpliers
The fact that this well-done, extra-crispy GTO did not perish in the fire is a testament to the sturdy engineering standards of the era. It’s also a solid argument in favor of the ‘Old cars are better’ paradigm. No sooner than a few days ago, another classic Pontiac – a four-door hardtop Catalina – demonstrated how easy and cheap it is to resurrect a 70s’ classic.

The burned-to-the-ground ’68 GTO has a 400 cubic-inch V8 (6.6-liter) under the hood - it was the largest displacement available in Pontiac Motor Division’s intermediates back then. The reason is well-known: In 1963, General Motors forbade its divisions from participating in any motoring events. It also put a limit on engine sizes to prevent any form of instigating the buyers into putting on the lead-right shoes before walking into a GM dealership.

As we all know, that backfired big time: Pontiac immediately reacted by slamming the full-size-reserved 389 cubic-inch V8 (6.4-liter) into the mid-size Pontiac Le Mans, calling it a ‘GTO’ and pushing the thermonuclear horsepower warfare button. The muscle car was born and became an immortal emblem of Detroit’s finest hours.

1968 Pontiac GTO
Photo: YouTube/Pole Barn Garage
So immortal, in fact, that not even ‘Kill it with fire!’ seems to work on the nameplate. The laid-back wrenchers from Pole Barn Garage got it running and driving again – engine, brakes, transmission, and rear lights. This particular fire-proof example has a 400-cube eight-cylinder (version unknown) and a turbo Hydra-Matic three-speed with a dual-gate console shifter.

The 400 cubic-inch motor was the only displacement available in 1968 for the GTO, but it came in two-and four-barrel carburetion setups, with a low 8.6:1 compression ratio in the 265 hp, 397 lb-ft (269 PS, 538 Nm) 2-bbl variant. The other three choices were nearly identical in output specs. 10.75:1 squeeze, 445 lb-ft of torque (603 Nm), four-throat fuel induction, with the 350-hp (355 PS) variant offered as standard equipment. (The 265-hp was a no-cost option).

1968 Pontiac GTO
Photo: YouTube/Pole Barn Garage
The remaining two motor choices were both rated at 360 hp (365 PS), and one had a functional hood scoop that rammed outside air into the carburetor – hence, the name Ram Air. Allegedly, it didn’t make any difference whatsoever – or so Pontiac claimed. The main difference was that the Ram Air Pontiac GTOs came with a 4.33 rear axle from the factory – the only gearing offered in that setup, actually. But it was available only without air conditioning.

The detail is relevant to our case because the baked GTO had air-cooling equipment installed, so it was either the regular 350-hp V8 or the 400 High Output V8 variant. The automatic gearbox leaves only two possible differential ratio combinations: either a miles-per-gallon-friendly 2.93 (if this is a standard V8 plant) or a slightly livelier 3.23 axle. Whichever one may be lying (not in state, but in wait) between the rear wheels of this smokin’-hot 1968 Pontiac GTO is of no importance – it got the job done and took the car on the interstate without issues.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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