1966 Pontiac GTO - Moonshined

Written by Steven Rupp

It's often said that you can't keep a good man down. It holds true for cars as well. You see it all the time when projects falter and fall by the wayside, only to be reborn into something special. Such is the case with the '66 GTO built by Jerry Maletich Jr. of Lancaster, Calif.

Jerry's story is typical gearhead. A 25-year-old father of two, he was kept busy with the necessities of life and engaged in his hobby of turning wrenches as time allowed. It was late in '04 when fate stepped in and gave Jerry a chance to turn his car-building hobby into a career. A work injury prevented him from returning to his regular duties, so he took the opportunity to start his own hot rod business. With the support of his wife, Brandie, Jerry was ready to go. All he needed was a suitable project.

It wasn't long before Jerry spied a potential project lying very close to home in the driveway of Byron Devries, his father-in-law. The '66 GTO was a completely gutted shell that had been painted and for some reason left to languish in the elements for almost four years. Jerry told PHR: "One day I asked him what was going on with the car and he said he was pissed off over the deal and didn't want to talk about it. A few beers later Byron finally talked to me. He said he was in the middle of building the car when the shop painted the car without his permission, and not even in the right color." Seems the shop stuck him with the bill for the mis-painted GTO. This made him so mad that he lost all interest in the project. This was Jerry's big break and he wasn't about to let it slip by. After a few more beers he was able to convince his father-in-law that he could build him the car of his dreams. Byron had wanted to restore the GTO since he thought it was numbers matching, but later found out his ride wasn't so rare after all. Jerry eventually sold him on the idea of building a custom ride rather than a fully restored car. Now that Jerry had a platform to work on, he just needed the right plan.


His first stop was Pro-Machine Engine Building in Placentia, Calif., where Jerry's friend, John Beck, helped figure out what they could do with the 428 Poncho they had. What they wanted was a tri-power set-up, but unfortunately nobody makes an intake for this. Luckily for Jerry, John was good friends with Chico over at Moon Equipment. Moon was able to set them up with three polished two-barrel throttle bodies that would give the look of the old school six-pack setup. John then had a one-off aluminum sheet metal manifold fabricated to fit the throttle bodies. Seems the guys at Moon Equipment dug the GTO build enough to sponsor the car for the '05 SEMA show. With this, the Mooneyes "Moonshine" GTO was born. Besides making the three-deuce fuel injection work, Pro-Machine also went to town on the rest of the engine. They started by boring the 428 .060-over and then gave it a 4.00-inch stroke. The now 439 cubic-inch mill was internally balanced and filled with SRP 9.0:1 pistons, Eagle connecting rods and a 244/254 (.510/.533 lift) 116 LSA bumpstick. The cam works Manley valves, COMP springs and Magnum roller rockers. With a pump-gas friendly tune, the 439 was able to lay down 384 horsepower and 455 ft-lbs of torque on the engine dyno. To keep the retro-cool theme going, the bullet was painted Pontiac blue and the throttle bodies were topped with period correct six-pack air cleaners. "There's no school like the old school," says Jerry. MSD lights the fire and headers by Doug Thorley route the exhaust through the MagnaFlow crossover exhaust system. For a little extra get-up-and-go, the engine is equipped with a NOS Sportsman fogger series nitrous system.

Just because Jerry wanted to keep a retro look, it didn't mean he would have to stick with the antiquated suspension. The frame was separated from the body and after a trip to Primo powder painters for a coat of sparkle silver; it was treated to a host of hard-turning improvements. Global West upper and lower control arms work hand-in-hand with the Hotchkis TVS rear suspension system. QA1 billet adjustable coil-over shocks combine with 1.5-inch front and .75-inch rear Hotchkis sway bars to help the Goat flatten the curves. The steering was tightened up with the addition of all new suspension parts from Original Parts Group along with a close-ratio Saginaw power steering box. Up front, the tall B-body spindles got a set of Baer Track Plus disc brakes, while the rear axle ditched the drums in favor of more disc brake parts from Baer. Power assist for the brakes comes by way of a whiplash-inducing Hydra-boost system. Rolling stock consists of Foose Nitrous 18x8-inch front wheels and massive 20x10-inch wheels in the rear. Wrapped around the billet hoops are Falken TRV tires (285/30R20 rear and 245/40R18 front).

With the frame done and rolling, Jerry could now set the motor in place and work on the rest of the drivetrain. A Tremec TKO-600 five-speed tranny was chosen with a McLeod flywheel and Street-Twin clutch. This combo reliably shifts all that torque back to the Currie 9-inch nodular rear end complete with 3.89 gears. While the frame was being updated, the body was at Lanzini Body Works in Huntington Beach, Calif. The neglected paint was stripped away and numerous mods were done to the vintage tin. The door handles and locks were shaved away along with the drip rails. The firewall was smoothed and all the gaps were made just right. Once everything was perfect, the Mooneyes theme was carried forward with the application of PPG Chrome Yellow and a custom mixed "Moonshine Metallic" black by Mitch Lanzini. To jazz it up a bit, Bob Iverson laid on the unique turned white-gold-leaf accent stripe down the side of the too cool Goat. The body was once again bolted to the frame and it started to look like a car again.

With SEMA looming on the horizon, the GTO still needed an interior. Stitchcraft in Huntington Beach, Calif., was tasked with sewing up the Honey and Black Suede in keeping with the Mooneyes theme. The heavily modified front seats started life as off-the-shelf Sparco units. Outlaw Products milled out the custom billet dash then filled it with a slew of gauges from Mooneyes. The Budnik wheel keeps the Goat pointed in the right direction and cruising tunes come by way of the Alpine sound system. The end result is a comfy place to enjoy romps around town. A/C is there anytime you want to roll down the windows, which has the added benefit of letting in more sound from the mill thumping under the hood. The GTO made it to its SEMA debut and Jerry was thrilled at how the Pontiac came out. He told PHR: "This was a great way to start my new hot rod shop and at the same time give my father-in-law the car of his dreams. I would say that I've been so lucky to have been able to build this car and make it so different from every other run-of-the-mill GM or Ford. I know there will be those hardcore Pontiac guys out there who absolutely hate what I've done to the GTO, and believe me I met a few of them at SEMA, but this is what I think a '66 GTO should have looked like all along." Don't get the idea that this ride is done. Jerry is already hard at work on it for the '06 SEMA show and is working on more power from the 439 by way of massaged heads and maybe a bit of forced induction. You can bet the Moonshine GTO is going to be around turning heads for a long time to come.

Moonshine On The Dyno...

We caught Jerry Maletich at Westech Performance fine-tuning his hidden fuel-injection system on the chassis dyno. Casual observers see only a traditional Pontiac tri-power set-up, but a closer look reveals a Mooneyes throttle body fuel injection system. Here, Westech's Tom Habrzyk makes an underhood adjustment before a dyno pull that yielded 332 rear-wheel hp at a street-friendly 4,700 rpm. All idle, cruise and full-throttle tuning adjustments are done via an attractive dash-installed control panel. On a streetcar like this, it sure beats juggling jets in three different carburetors.