Copyright 2013, Leo Stearns
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2006 GTO
1985 El Camino
Once I defined the project, I needed to locate the required vehicles. I focused on acquiring the right ’05 or ’06 GTO first as that was more scarce. I set out to purchase a GTO that met my needs:
  • Salvage car auctioned by insurance company
  • Under 50K miles
  • Automatic Transmission
  • Minimal or no front end damage
  • Clean Interior
  • All Black Interior (the red and blue seats are sights to behold…)
  • California emissions
  • Approximately $5K before fees.

There are two online auction sites I’m aware of that focus on moving wrecked cards for insurance companies. It’s amazing the volume of cars these folks move.  At any time, Copart for instance will have over 95,000 vehicles listed and will auction over 20,000 in a week. At this writing, they are clearing out cars that were flooded by the Sandy storm. For my car, I settled on using Copart because they had more GTOs going through their site at the time. Because of state regulations, it’s necessary to use a broker to purchase the car. I selected AutoBidMaster out of Oregon because they appeared to be the cheapest. After purchasing through them, I was very, very pleased with their service and how well their site was integrated. The auction sites provide the VIN number of the cars as they are scheduled for auction. CompNine is a website that allows you to look up a vehicle's RPO codes by inputing a VIN number. This allowed me to confirm that the car I was going to bid on had California emissions.  It took a bit over a month to find the car I wanted at the price I was willing to pay (sat through several auctions). The car was delivered through AutoBidMaster within a few days of completing the auction for a very reasonable price.

Once the car arrived, I began the task of stripping it and breaking it down. Because I needed the interior and ALL of the wiring harness in tact, I purchased the Helm service manuals. I would have broken more than the manual’s purchase price without their guidance disassembling the car. All components that I did not plan on using were also stripped and are being sold on Ebay to offset costs. The Holden made GTO was sold for 3 years and was never all that popular (around 35,000 total sales). That coupled with the number of folks wrecking them, results in relatively low prices for their parts on Ebay, but also led to a lower purchase price.  

Because I am going to be moving the interior of the GTO over to the El Camino and I want to preserve all of the GTO’s electronic functionality, I am going to be grafting the GTO’s firewall and the floorpan into the El Camino. This required a bunch of cutting.  

When complete with the dismantling and cutting, I was left with three piles.

  • Stuff to transfer to the El Camino
  • Stuff to sell on Ebay
  • Stuff to sell as scrap at the recycler
The pile of stuff to sell was different than I had anticipated. Removing the entire wiring harness, every switch and every sensor in the car rendered several otherwise good parts unsaleable. The entire exhaust system that arrived with the car was aftermarket and ended up in the ‘to sell’ pile. This was quite unplanned. The previous owner had installed Kook’s long headers and cat’d mid-pipes. Nice exhaust, but definitely not CARB approved. One the bright side, I sold the exhaust parts for a bit more than I purchased the stock replacements, so I was net ahead as long as I ignore my time…

Overall the GTO was pretty simple to take apart. The biggest issue for me was pulling the main body wiring harness through the firewall. The upper portion of the firewall that mounts the dash is literally glued into the car completely assembled (this occurs after the body have been painted and apparently the engine is installed). The hole in the firewall for the harness is ALMOST big enough to get the harness through. Turns out that a small, but very important, section of the opening is closed off when the upper firewall is glued into place. Because I was really concerned about leaving the harness in the car when I started cutting it apart, I cut a small section to allow me to remove the harness. I will need to fix this as I reassemble the car.

Another big surprise was that someone filled insides of the rear quarter panels with flammable foam. I figured it out when I started cutting the damaged quarter panel off with a plasma cutter.  The flames were about two feet tall before I got to the fire extinguisher. I have no idea if all the GTOs are built that way or it was the previous owner’s idea.

Because the previous owner changed the exhaust system and air intake, I’m now concerned that they may have had the car “tuned”. Because I don’t want to find out the hard way, I will need to reprogram the PCM with a stock tune before going to the referee station. Purchasing the software and adapters from hptunes will set me back almost $650. This is unplanned, with hindsight, it probably should have been. I might be able to go to a local tuning shop and have them do it. I will need to sort that out later.
El Camino
With the GTO purchased and in the process of being dismantled, I started searching for the El Camino. Being in the San Francisco Bay area and located a bit over an hour from Sacramento affords a good selection of El Caminos.  I was looking for:

  • California car.
  • Clean title and current registration.
  • Original paint, no accidents, no bondo.
  • Straight body and truck bed.
  • ’82 or later - I prefer the quad headlights and did not want to change the front clip.
  • Prefer one with the 4.3L FI engine - Fuel tank set up for FI and better resale on the 4.3L.
  • Prefer power windows and locks.
  • I wanted to spend under $3K

I blew my budget a bit and I didn’t get the power windows, but I found a really clean car just south of Sacramento. The car has about 72K miles and everything is original – including the paint (it’s actually been buffed through in spots). There are a handful of dings and one good dent on the inside of the tailgate, but it’s otherwise straight and clean. The car was owned for the past 15 years by a car guy who was going to restore it, but never got to it. He did restore a beautiful ’55 Porsche 356 Continental show car and a very nice ‘65 356 driver.

Below are some snapshots of the car as purchased.