In October of last year, 28-year-old Dalton Summitt read a story about an unusual car hoard to be auctioned in Big Spring, Texas. The estate of John Haynie contained 250 vintage vehicles in various states of repair, most of them Mopars, but because Dalton is a GM guy, it was a lone 1970 Pontiac GTO that caught his eye. Unfortunately for the GTO, Haynie and his family considered themselves Mopar people, and over the course of four decades the run-of-the-mill 400-equipped Goat was relegated to target practice duty, saving the remaining 249 cars. By the time of the auction, the 1970 GTO was more hole than car, and if you were like Dalton Summitt, it was somehow irresistible.
Dalton Summitt is not your usual car-loving hobbyist. By day, he's an industrial electrician in the Kansas City, Missouri, area, but his passion during all other waking hours is bringing forlorn machines back and documenting them on his YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram pages as Pole Barn Garage. The sketchier, the better. (Even though Dalton isn't a Mopar guy, be on the lookout for his next, similar project, the Rolled Runner. "It's everything I imagined, and a little less!") He saves these cars with his son, JD. "My son JD has a particular knack for all things mechanical and he loves cars," says Dalton. "He's 11, and we're now building his 1959 Ford Custom on the channel for his first hot rod. He's my number-one go-to man for help around the shop, and he assisted me with a large portion of the build. JD is every bit my equal when it comes to wrenching, not just a kid."
We picked up the trail of Dalton's GTO—called the Holey Goat, for obvious reasons—in June of 2021, when Steve Magnante of Junkyard Gold sent HOT ROD a massive load of auction photos that included the 1970 Pontiac GTO in question. When word of the Haynie hoard hit Dalton, he had to peek at the Spanky's Freedom Car Auctions site on which it was listed. The many Mopars in the Haynie hoard were certainly cool, but it was the 1970 Pontiac GTO that pushed Dalton to make a stunning $200 bid. "The bid was at $7, but I'm like, let's throw a bid on it, say $200. Two weeks later, I get a notification on my phone that says, 'Congratulations! You've won a 1970 GTO!' and I'm like, 'what are you talking about?'" On one hand, $200 might not sound like much for an iconic muscle car like a GTO, but on the other hand, the damage to the Pontiac was so great that no rational person could ever hope to restore it. This of course assumes two things: that your definition of restoration fits everyone else's, and that you're a rational person.
Dalton sums it up with the characteristic deadpan sarcasm that has become his trademark: "I'm a moron." (If you've got a quick 55 minutes, you should watch the compendium of all 23 of Dalton's Holey Goat build episodes here.) But what good hot-rodder hasn't at one time realized the folly of a bad decision well after it's too late? Upon arrival in Texas, the Pontiac looked bad. It defied logic that the car could even be moved in one piece, yet not so much as a cactus fell off the vehicle as it was meticulously loaded on the back of Dalton's trailer—with a forklift. (The cactus, still growing from the floor where the driver's seat had been, would later make its debut with the GTO at the Kansas City ISCA Autorama World of Wheels car show in March 2022.) Equal parts archeological dig and restoration project, the GTO would be transformed by Dalton and JD from a non-running basket case to a running, burnout-producing basket case in a scant five months.
The mind of madness has its own twisted logic, and in this case, Dalton had seized upon the notion that the coolest thing to do with the GTO was preserve as much of the rot and rust as possible while performing the automotive equivalent of a moonshot: get it running well enough to do massive burnouts on command. Thankfully, the A-body's perimeter frame looked good, which is really the only important thing required for a project such as this. Nevertheless, the svelte lines of the GTO were long ago replaced with kinetic embellishments so brutal that none of its articulating sheetmetal (doors, trunk, hood) could move without the infliction of great bodily damage (to the human, not the car). Most hobbyist restorers would set about straightening and replacing sheetmetal, but Pole Barn Garage does things differently. All manner of straps, come-alongs, winches, saws, bottle jacks, sledgehammers, and hydraulic rams were employed to coax the GTO's shape back to normal (or at least a semblance of normal for someone, perhaps, with a greenhouse full of psychoactive mushrooms).
"I can say this is the worst GTO on the face of the planet," Dalton says on his YouTube channel early in the build. "As you can see, it needs light bodywork, light interior work, light mechanical … it needs everything, but that's OK because we can do that. We're going to save this car, and I use 'save' as a very, very relative term. What we need to do with this is get her to run, drive, stop sometimes, and do large burnouts, but mostly just fix it because everybody says I can't." With that, Dalton and JD began systematically attacking every part of the GTO, eventually spending a total of around $2,500 to get it fully running, including $200 for the GTO. Above all else, as a Pontiac guy, Dalton made the effort from the start to keep the GTO true to the brand, maintaining all its Pontiac-osity throughout the drivetrain, from the vintage lo-po Pontiac 400ci V-8 to the BOP-specific Turbo 400 trans and Pontiac rearend.
Armed with a fully stocked war chest of humor (the guy is genuinely funny) and a keen sense of irony, Dalton set his sights on the March 2022 Kansas City World of Wheels car show with the end goal of stinking the place up handsomely. (Spoiler alert: mission accomplished!) With just five months to get the job done in a cold, drafty lean-to, Pole Barn Garage got to work disassembling the GTO, vacuuming it out, washing it down, and using all manner of cudgels to cajole it back into something resembling its original shape. Periodic applications of donor sheet metal (old road signs, the hood of a square-body Chevy truck) and some black tractor paint got the engine bay, interior, and trunk into serviceable shape. Quips Dalton during this stage of the build: "We really don't want it to look good, we just want it to look."
The goal of fixing the original engine went by the wayside when it was discovered it had spent a fair amount of time underwater. While the original 400ci Pontiac V-8 seems to have escaped being shot, as Dalton deadpans: "I do know that if the bottom of your dipstick is rotted off that there is some concern there." The photo above shows what the bottom end looked like with the oil pan removed: a block of brown mud and rust in the shape of an oil pan. Dalton got into action and repurposed a '69 Pontiac 400 from an older project which he says is nothing special but has been treated to a Summit Racing SUM-2800 cam, double-roller timing chain, Holley Brawler carb, ACCEL wires and coil, hardened pushrods, and an old Holley single-plane Street Dominator intake manifold, the latter of which, Dalton correctly ascertains, "that's gonna run horrible on this engine."
While the original BOP-specific (Buick, Olds, Pontiac) Turbo 400 automatic three-speed trans would turn out to be salvageable, time dictated that Dalton temporarily go with a BOP Turbo 400 of known functionality, a theme that recurs thanks to a stash of parts from Dalton's other finished 1972 Pontiac LeMans project. That stash also yielded a posi-equipped Pontiac rearend when it was discovered that rust had wasted the Holey Goat's original axles, bearings, and backing plates. The non-original but all-Pontiac powertrain was a relative walk in the park, but the same could not be said for the wiring, which ate much of the allotted time before the World of Wheels show.
An electrician by trade, Dalton attacked the wiring job with an offshore 12-circuit wiring kit costing $32, then relocated the battery to the trunk with a $30 set of jumper cables. "It makes it a real pain for the next guy, but the next guy is me, and I hate that guy, so … I didn't look at the schematic; it's barely in English." Dalton does a good job softening the task's difficulty with humor, but safety is where he gets a little bit serious. "You might notice that I cut some corners, but I also follow that corner, in fact I follow that corner real tight on certain things. You can half-ass some stuff but when it comes to the important things make sure you get it right, because death is bad."
Another area Dalton and JD spent a lot of time on was the suspension and brakes. With little cash available for a UPS truckload of blister-packed parts, the stock suspension pieces were cleaned and painted; stock wear items were replaced with the cheapest stuff available. Rattling off a list of poor-quality, foreign-made brake parts, Dalton warns "If you see me on the highway, maybe keep your distance." Splurging in the suspension area, Dalton did spring for period-correct air shocks in the rear to provide the car with the necessary rake. Pointing to some questionable coil springs and sketchy plumbing, Dalton narrates: " … it will give it a ground-sniffer rake that every cool guy had in 1977 ... You're ready to be the coolest guy in the trailer park." That sentiment, of course, extends to the matching chrome Cragar wheels and side-pipe exhaust.
Dalton credits Roadkill Customs and Holley with some sponsorship, but it was the local big-box home supply store, with its low prices on non-traditional restoration parts, that really aided his cost-cutting process. These items include barrel-bolt door locks, dryer ducting for the cold-air induction, aluminum flashing, and thousands of self-tapping sheetmetal screws, a major component in all the GTO's interior and bodywork. These raw materials were combined in some cases with proven secondhand components like traffic cones and road signs, all legally obtained of course. If we understand things correctly, only one commonly recognized aftermarket restoration part was used for the GTO: a repop gas tank that arrived at the Pole Barn Garage in typical condition, with its center-fed filler tube broken clean off. "No problem," says Dalton. "I get to use my all-time favorite multi-purpose tool: JB Weld."