Rohnert Park, California's Bill Bartlett is certainly a car guy. He's had many different makes, models, and body styles in the past, yet none of them were of the ragtop variety until he spotted this open-air '66 Pontiac in the car corral at a Goodguys show.
"The bodywork, paint, and interior were already done. I had a Chevy 350 crate motor left over from a past project, so I decided on Chevy power for the Pontiac." Certainly, Pontiac purists won't appreciate this, and Bill has caught plenty of flak, but as he says, "It's not their car."
Bill certainly did not want the car to be lacking power, and the Chevy motor he had on hand was fortified for solid pump-gas grunt. The 350-cube small-block was upgraded with TRW pistons (for 9.5:1 compression) and a complete Edelbrock Performer package. This teamed component system consists of a pair of Edelbrock heads, a Performer RPM camshaft, Performer intake manifold, and a 600-cfm Edelbrock carb. The headers are by Sanderson and the mufflers are from DynoMax. Bill claims this pump-gas-friendly package delivered 430 flywheel horses, which is plenty of ponies to push the Poncho.
Powerplant aside, the car is still a great example of Pontiac style from the '60s, and many would argue the mid-'60s were the glory days of Poncho uniqueness. The elegantly stacked headlights and soft, boxy lines were unique to the Arrowhead marque, and Bartlett agrees, "I couldn't take my eyes off it." Once Bill had purchased the car, he made a few other changes even Pontiac purists can appreciate. The stance has been developed through use of home-brewed dropped front A-arms, Hotchkis 1-inch drop coil springs, and Koni gas adjustable shocks. Bill claims the total drop when compared to factory ride height is 3 inches. A similar approach was used in the rear, where more Hotchkis 1-inch drop coils are located. They were trimmed a bit further to equal the 3-inch drop in the front, and the final stance is aggressive while still being functional. Again, Koni gas adjustable shocks were chosen to ease the bumps.
This cool street cruiser didn't need a full race brake system, but upgrades were in order. Bill stepped up to 11-inch discs up front (courtesy of a '70 Chevy) and rebuilt the stock brakes on the rear. Bill likes the confidence of the discs over the factory drums.
The body has been mildly modified, with a simple removal of all emblems and the lower body trim. Credit goes to Byron Robeck, of San Jose, California, for the smooth Porsche Guards Red paint, and to Sherm's Plating in Sacramento, California, for the dipping of the brightwork.
Bill chose to finish off the car with a classic wheel-and-tire package. The Halibrand five-spoke wheels look great in 15x7 inches with 3-inch backspacing (front) and 15x9.5 inches with 4.5-inch backspacing (rear). Tires are BFG Radial TAs in 225/60-15 (forward) and 255/60-15 (aft).
When crafting a top-down cruiser, the interior gets more than its fair share of attention. The Pro Car buckets in front and custom-built rear seat were treated to generous amounts of Palomino-colored MB Tex vinyl upholstery. Matching custom carpets, door panels, a top boot, and the center console all got the treatment. The instrument panel is also custom-fabricated and filled with Moon gauges. The interior hardware is anchored by a Billet Specialties steering wheel and a Lokar shifter. Credit for all of the custom interior design and fabrication also goes to San Jose's Byron Robeck. The contrast between the gentle Palomino interior and striking red exterior add a refined flavor to the entire car. While it's definitely a hot rod, it's not lacking in luxury.
The results of Bill's efforts are obvious--a great-looking car he can drive anywhere. While this may be his first convertible, we doubt it will be his last. Cruising any cool classic is fun, but piloting a bright red flare like this is best experienced in the open air. Congratulations to both Bill and Byron for creating this smooth drop-top dream machine.