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‘Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine’

Restored car is finalist for Muscle Car of the Year at 29th Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Dean Fowler, left, and Reggie Kopecky take a look at the engine of Kopecky’s 1967 Pontiac GTO 400.

FARNHAMVILLE — Those lyrics from the song “GTO” by Ronny and the Daytonas seem to perfectly describe Reggie Kopecky’s 1967 Pontiac GTO.

Kopecky, with the help of Dean Fowler, owner of Dean’s Rods and Restorations of Fort Dodge, among others, were a part of rebuilding the GTO into an award winning vehicle.

Kopecky, of Farnhamville, said he has entered his car in several shows over the years, but it was the honor he received at the 29th Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals presented by BASF Good Guys Show in Des Moines that, so far, has taken the cake.

Kopecky and his GTO were awarded Muscle Car of the Year finalist at the show that was held over the Fourth of July weekend at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. The award puts him in the running for a national title.

“There will be 10 or 12 finalists from the different shows all year and out of that group, a panel sits down and they will select the Muscle Car of the Year in later September,” said Kopecky.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Reggie Kopecky’s 1967 Pontiac GTO 400 won Muscle Car of the Year Finalist at the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association’s 29th Speedway Motors of the Heartland Nationals car show over the Fourth of July weekend at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines

Kopecky said winning the national title would be “over the top,” as he knows he is up against the best of the best. Regardless of those results, he is beyond ecstatic for his most recent award.

“I never dreamed I would ever have anything that good,” he said. “That is the best award that car is going to get. I am tickled to death I walked away with that.”

The car

Kopecky said his 1967 Pontiac GTO has a 400 high output motor with a four-speed and factory air conditioning.

That combination may not sound like much in today’s car world, but in the mid- to late 1960s it was.

“Most of the cars back then did not have the air conditioning in high horsepower four-speed cars,” said Fowler.

“The cars that had air were usually the lower horsepower automatics,” said Kopecky. “So, to find a higher horsepower car with factory air is unusual.”

That feature wasn’t what attracted Kopecky to the car, however, when he bought it in Northwood more than 30 years ago.

“When I saw the color, and it was the same color as my LeMans, I wanted it,” he said, adding he drove a 1967 Pontiac Le Mans while in high school.

Kopecky said he bought the GTO in the mid-1980s and drove it for awhile.

“It wasn’t near as nice then, but it wasn’t all rusted up or beat up. It was still a good driver,” he said.

After about five or six years of driving the car, Kopecky made the decision to start the renovation process — something he always has wanted to do.

“I got it out of my system now,” he said. “I don’t know if I will do one this deep again. It was a total disassemble.”

The process took longer than Kopecky had originally hoped. He said he no sooner got the car torn a part when his job took him over the road.

“I was on the road for almost 20 years so it sat in pieces for a long time — about 17 years in pieces,” he said.

About 12 years ago he decided it was time to get the car finished. A three-year-long process then began.

“Everything needed done,” he said. “Every nut, bolt, bushing, bearing on this car has been off, refurbished or replaced. It is basically a brand new car.”

Kopecky said he focused on the engine and chassis work while Fowler’s focus was on the body.

“We replaced what panels needed to be replaced. We color matched the original color — it is as close to it as you can get,” said Fowler.

Fowler is not new to the car restoration business, but Kopecky’s GTO definitely stands out among his other projects.

“This one was a little bit of a challenge. It’s just the way the particular ’66 and ’67 models fit together in the front. To get the panel fitment on these is a real challenge,” he said. “This is one of the finest I have done. This is as good as it gets.”

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