By Erik Onstott
The Orange Leader
Orange resident Ambrose Claybar is very proud of his charcoal-gray 1965 Pontiac GTO, so much so that he’ll take it all over the country to show it off — and it recently earned him a major award.
At the 28th Annual GTO Association of America International Meet in late June — held in Worthington, Ohio, just outside of Columbus — the car was awarded Best of Show out of approximately 307 cars, as well as Concourse Best of Show, for which about 65 GTOs were judged. The car will also get more visibility in the coming months, when it will be featured on the cover of High Performance Pontiac magazine along with another GTO Ambrose is having restored.
The car had 34 options on it, including a 389-cubic-inch V-8 with three two-barrel carburetors, tilt steering and an AM/FM radio.
“The car’s just like it was when it was unloaded off the truck,” Claybar said. “I didn’t add anything to it that wasn’t on it to begin with, and I didn’t leave anything off.”
The story of Claybar’s charcoal-gray GTO started in late 2001, as he was looking through Classic Car Trader magazine.
“I saw this guy listed in Atlanta, Georgia, and I called him,” he said. “He had some fairly rare cars. I came to find out he sells other people’s cars on consignment.”
After several talks with the man, Claybar said, he found out the car he was searching for was owned by John Eaton, who was also an Atlanta resident. There was, however, just one slight problem.
“There were 11 John Eatons in the Atlanta phone book,” Claybar said. “I called every one of them, until I found him.”
Eaton wanted $16,000 for the car, despite the fact that it had been sitting out in the elements for almost 30 years.
“They sent me pictures, and the car was in really rough shape,” said Claybar, as he spoke of the leaves in the car’s air breathers and the dead possum in the engine bay. “But you do what you have to do.”
A veteran of the classic-car show circuit, Claybar knew what he had to do. He asked around at various shows around the country, and he was given the name of Kimberly, Idaho resident Jim Mott, one of the top Pontiac GTO restoration experts in the United States.
“I told him about the car,” Claybar said, “and the following Easter, he went to Atlanta, picked up the car, took it back to Idaho and started working on it.”
As it turned out, however, Mott was in high demand among classic-car enthusiasts, and Claybar’s GTO was put on a waiting list.
In the meantime, Claybar contacted Pontiac Historic Services in Sterling Heights, Mich. to find out more information about the car’s history; he found out that over the previous 15 years, the service had seen less than ten GTOs that had all the options present on his car.
“It is very possible that your car, with thirty-four options may be the only vehicle so equipped,” Mattison said in a letter to Claybar.
Claybar also discovered the car, when it was originally ordered, ended up relatively close to Orange; the car was sent to Houston as a company car for a Pontiac executive, and it then went to Don Gay Pontiac in Dickinson, about 30 miles southeast of Houston.
Claybar had no problem with having to wait for the car to be restored.
“It was a good thing, because I had time to find all the NOS parts I needed,” said Claybar, referring to new old stock parts, which were originally manufactured for the car but were never used. Mott already had several boxes of new old stock parts to be used on the car as well.
“Jim Mott called the car Lazarus,” Claybar said,” because it rose from the dead.”
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