Some people are blessed, or cursed, with the ability to fib, but Doug Norrdin isn’t one of them. The official company line, the kind of thing you tell to your accountant or spouse, is that the ’65 GTO you see before you was built for business purposes. Uh, OK. That business is Global West, a company that’s been pushing the aftermarket suspension cause for decades, so at least on the surface this line of reasoning seems legit. The thing is, the GTO is far too nice for your typical test mule. There’s no denying that the Goat most certainly assisted in the development of Global West’s A-body suspension components, but does getting the job done really require a supercharged Pontiac 400, a six-speed stick, a mint interior, and perfect paint? It doesn’t take much prodding to get Doug to admit that using the GTO as an R&D vehicle merely served as a good excuse to build his dream car. Hey, we’re not complaining, because the end product is a sweet back-to-basics street machine that harkens back to the early days of Pro Touring.
In the beginning, Pro Touring was all about purposeful tweaks intended to improve road course prowess and street cruising competence. It was a time when wheel diameters had yet to grow 5 inches too large, and trunks were stuffed with toolboxes and racing slicks rather than lawn chairs and ice chests. That’s what Doug’s GTO is all about, a refreshing throwback to a bygone era. Its Vortech-blown Pontiac motor puts down 410 rwhp, enough to launch it effectively out of corners, but not so much as to roast the hides in a tail-wagging stupor. The Goat’s iconic 17-inch Torq-Thrusts II wheels are big enough to accommodate 275mm road race tires and 13-inch brakes, but aren’t so massive that they adversely affect unsprung weight and gearing. Considering Doug’s extensive background as a race car builder, the GTO’s emphasis on performance over showmanship isn’t the least bit surprising.
During his decorated career, Doug has designed the suspension systems in everything from Formula Ford to IMSA to USAC race cars. After years of touring the country helping racers set up their instant centers and camber curves on a freelance basis, he earned enough business to venture out on his own full time in 1980. “I rented out an 800 square-foot building, took out a $5,000 loan to buy some tools, and opened up a shop,” he says. “I didn’t like a lot of the suspension parts that were on the market, so I decided to make my own. One of my instructors in school used to test suspension parts for USAC cars, and I got a job working for him. While performing stress tests, I found out where the parts usually broke and which metals were more durable than others. Through that experience, I learned a lot about materials, which helped greatly when I started manufacturing parts.”
Granted, Doug’s been building race cars for most of his adult life, his love of GTOs goes way back to his childhood. His aunt had a ’65 GTO, and he weaseled his way behind the wheel from time to time. “Back when I was growing up in the Midwest, we got our driver’s licenses at 14 years old. I got a taste of my aunt’s 389 Tri-power GTO, and I was instantly hooked,” he says. “I had to have a GTO, and I found a ’66 four-speed car parked between a stack of hay bales while driving through South Dakota one day. The car had some issues with the motor, so the owner sold it to me for $400. That was my high school car, and ever since I sold it I’ve been trying to get it back. They say that the cars you had in school are the ones you should have kept, and that was definitely the case with my first GTO.”
An MSD BTM reads manifold...
An MSD BTM reads manifold pressure, and adjusts timing accordingly. It retards the timing a set amount per every pound of boost.
With memories of his high school car refusing to relent, Doug found the perfect candidate through which to relive his youth 16 years ago outside of San Diego. The ’65 Goat he spotted was an original 389-powered four-speed car, and had nary a hint of rust. “Back then, GTOs weren’t nearly as expensive as they are today, so I traded a pile of parts for the car and took it home,” he says. Over the next six years, Doug used the car as a daily driver, but eventually the motor got tired and the paint had seen better days. Thus began an exhaustive restoration process that took much longer than Doug cares to admit. “Since the GTO is my own personal car, it’s the last car I work on at the end of the day, and we just finished it up two years ago. The original goal was to build a daily driver setup for handling, but somewhere during the process I went over the edge. The car went to paint jail for a year and a half, and needed some rust repair beneath the bottom of the rear windshield. I figured that while the car is apart, we might as well drop the frame and clean it up. That led to pulling the Muncie for a Richmond six-speed, running new stainless steel brake lines inside the frame, and powdercoating everything.”
From the comfort of the cabin,...
From the comfort of the cabin, Doug can dial back the ignition advance if necessary.
Fitting the Richmond six-speed...
Fitting the Richmond six-speed proved to be an extremely labor intensive chore. Since the factory Muncie is tiny in comparison to the big Richmond, the entire trans tunnel was cut out and widened. The six-speed shifted the rest of the driveline rearward 3.5 inches and required a custom crossmember.
The interior has been restored...
The interior has been restored rather than modified. The buckets, gauges, dash, and carpet are all reconditioned originals or stock replacement parts. For cruising comfort, a Vintage Air A/C system and a Sony 11-speaker stereo have been neatly integrated into the stock-looking cabin.
Naturally, the Goat boasts premium Global West suspension hardware. After all, it’s the car that Doug used to develop the company’s A-body prototype pieces. Up front, Global West’s Negative Roll system consists of tubular upper and lower control arms, a 1.125-inch sway bar, inner and outer tie rods and sleeves, a centerlink, an idler arm, and coil springs matched with QA1 shocks. Out back are Global West adjustable tubular control arms, frame supports, spherical bearings for the rearend housing, springs, and QA1 shocks. The suspension upgrades were matched with a Delphi fast-ratio steering box, and the steering column was shortened 3 inches for better arm extension from inside the cabin.
Doug had a 535hp Pontiac 400...
Doug had a 535hp Pontiac 400 laying around the shop that he planned on installing, but when Vortech rang him up he couldn’t turn them down. The head unit routes pressurized air behind the motor and into an air-to-water intercooler before being channeled into a carb enclosure box.
Although these components yield substantial improvements in handling, Doug took things several steps further. “In the handling department, the stock A-body platform doesn’t have much going for it. The frame flexes a lot in the middle, and you have to be very careful with the ride height because small changes in instant center can really hurt how effectively they hook up,” he says. “With an A-body, correct suspension geometry is far more conducive to handling than lowering the ride height. If you build a frame from scratch, you can put the suspension pickup points where you want them and lower the car as much as you want. With a stock frame you don’t have that luxury, so we had to correct the geometry as much as possible with our suspension hardware. Likewise, simply boxing the frame doesn’t add any rigidity, so we welded tabs inside the rails as well. Now we have diagonal tabs inside the rails that reinforce the frame in addition to custom inter-locking body mounts. The benefits of a stiff frame is that a car will transfer weight much faster, and therefore respond faster to steering, acceleration, and braking inputs. It’s much easier to diagnose a car that has a stiff chassis than one that’s flopping around everywhere.”
Doug’s GTO may be a rolling showcase of cutting-edge suspension hardware, but that doesn’t mean the motor has been neglected. He pulled the original 389 for a stock 400 out of a ’68 Firebird. When Vortech got word of the project, they decided to use Doug’s car to develop a new centrifugal supercharger kit for first-gen GTOs. Other than a rinky-dink 214/214-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet cam, the motor is bone stock. Nevertheless, it still manages to put down a respectable 410 rwhp at just 7 psi of boost. The horses are then channeled back to a GM 12-bolt rearend fortified with 31-spline axles.
Despite the Goat’s aversion to billet and chrome, people dig it wherever it goes. Perhaps they too are growing tired of the ostentatious flare of many modern Pro Touring machines. “Don’t get me wrong; I wanted to build a nice car but nothing that was over the top,” Doug says. “People walk up to the car, look it over, and say, ‘There’s a lot going on beneath the sheetmetal, but it’s still a GTO.’ That’s exactly the kind of car I wanted to build.”
Doug Norrdin • San Bernardino, CA
Type: Pontiac 400
Oiling: Melling oil pump, Milodon pan
Rotating assembly: stock
Cylinder heads: factory Pontiac iron castings
Camshaft: Lunati 214/214-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet, .450/.450-inch lift, 108-degree LSA
Induction: Vortech centrifugal supercharger and intercooler set at 7 psi, Holley 750-cfm carb, Edelbrock dual-plane intake manifold
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet distributor, coil, and 6-BTM ignition box
Fuel system: MagnaFuel pump, Aeromotive pressure regulator
Exhaust: Doug’s 1.75-inch long-tube headers, 3-inch collectors, dual MagnaFlow 3-inch mufflers
Cooling: Edelbrock water pump, Be Cool radiator, custom dual electric fans
Output: 410 rear-wheel horsepower
Transmission: Richmond six-speed manual trans, Lakewood bellhousing, McLeod clutch and flywheel, Long shifter
Rear axle: GM 12-bolt rearend with 31-spline axles, 3.42:1 gears, and limited-slip differential
Front suspension: Global West upper and lower control arms, springs, tie rods, steering linkage, and sway bar; QA1 shocks
Rear suspension: Global West upper and lower control arms, springs, and frame supports; QA1 shocks
Brakes: Wilwood six-piston calipers and Coleman 13-inch rotors, front; Wilwood four-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors, rear
Wheels: 17x9.5 American Racing Torq-Thrusts II
Tires: 275/40-17 Kumho MX
The intercooler reservoir...
The intercooler reservoir and pump are mounted behind the passenger headlamps. On track outings it can be packed with ice to keep the inlet air temps at bay.
Back in the mid ’80s when...
Back in the mid ’80s when the GTO was first being built, big brake kits weren’t readily available. Using his race car know-how, Doug built his own kit using Wilwood six-piston calipers, Coleman 13-inch rotors off of a stock car, and custom billet hubs. The kit is still available through Global West under PN C5-1300-6.