Olde Yankee Street Rods
& Classic Cruisers
Paul Menin's 1968 Pontiac GTO earns Best in Show at Musclepalooza XXIX
Photo by Terry McGean.
51 years old and brand-new!Paul Menin’s 1968 Pontiac GTO, our Favorite Pontiac and Best in Show winner. Photos by author, unless otherwise noted.
When schoolteacher, Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, resident and lifelong GTO collector Paul Menin found this 1968 Goat in Connecticut in the early 1990s, “It was in a million pieces with many of them missing–including the engine,” he recalls. It was part of a large parts haul, so Paul initially reasoned that its four-speed and transplanted 3.73-geared 12-bolt Posi rear-end would generate some cashflow to finance his other projects.
Once he got the Pontiac home, however, he noticed that the hood was set up for Ram Air, which prompted him to order PHS documentation. From it he learned that he’d purchased a rare and desirable Ram Air GTO. He then checked the transmission and found it to be the original M21 close-ratio box. Armed with this information, the Goat graduated from parts car to high-priority project.
Though its build date indicates that it was originally equipped with the D-port 360-hp Ram Air engine, Paul already had a set of NOS Round-Port #96 heads that were developed for the Ram Air II engine, which debuted in the spring of 1968, so he decided to follow the path to 366-hp during the build.
After separating the body from the frame around 1994, Paul undertook the mechanical aspects of the project. Using a GTO 400 bottom-end, he added parts from his collection to build the R/A-II-headed engine and even installed a vintage Royal Bobcat kit.
He stripped the shell himself and had a shop do the bodywork and repaint in the correct Meridian Turquoise hue but using a more modern two-stage system. A host of NOS parts were incorporated including the front bumper, fenders, valance panel, quarter panels, decklid, rear bumper, emblems, and 90 percent of the bright trim.
Paul restored the Parchment interior, which had come with a Custom Sports (simulated wood) wheel and Rally gauges (with hood tach). He also bolted on a vintage set of Hurst wheels.
He enjoyed his Ram Air GTO for many years before trading it to his friend and fellow collector Dean Kelly around 2011. Dean had the chassis restored again, added a Royal Pontiac paint scheme in white, Ram Air emblems, an 8-track, and a correctly coded 4.33 Safe-Track rear-end and did some other work. He also decided to have the front inner wheelwells coated in red plastic.
Dean later sold the GTO to a third party and Paul just recently bought it back. “To find a Ram Air car is rare,” Paul explains. “And even though I pieced this one together, I still love it and I always get compliments on it.”
He has since been prepping his Pontiac for shows and street duty, and he even drove the Goat to Musclepalooza–about a 2-hour round trip. The attention to detail paid to this GTO’s restoration and preservation (the 1996 Meridian Turquoise repaint remains) earned it Best in Show at Musclepalooza XXIX, and there will be a full feature to follow in a future issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.
Since retiring from teaching, Paul has shown his 13 GTOs and has pursued getting younger generations interested in Pontiac’s famed muscle car. He commented that, “Musclepalooza was awesome! We had people gathered around the car all day asking great questions. The quality of the show cars was the highest I’ve seen. It’s an honor to win an award at this event.”