Wheels always turning for GTO owner | Local News

AMESBURY – Fifty-one years ago, Jeff Picard’s signet gold GTO coupe was born. But one look at the muscle car today and you’d be hard-pressed to tell that it came off a Framingham assembly line the same year “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released.

In a word, the car is immaculate. It wasn’t easy, however. It took seven years, plenty of patience, an abundance of know-how, incredible attention to detail and a little bit of crazy.

“It’s a great hobby and I can’t get enough of it,” Picard said.

The pride on his face as he described how he took the car apart and put it back together – literally piece by piece – was impossible to miss.

Sliding behind the wheel, it would be impossible not to be impressed. The car’s clock works as well as the AM radio, tachometer, every gauge, every dial, every switch. With only 44,326 miles on the 400-cubic-inch engine, the car is primed for many more years of driving fun.

“This is a special car, the plate says it all,” Picard said, referring to the license plate that reads “RARE-1.”

Picard recently began showing off the GTO at area and regional cars shows. Last weekend saw him take home the Chairman’s Award at the seventh annual Boston Cup held at Boston Common.

Picard, who lives in Exeter, New Hampshire, and works on his cars in an Amesbury shop, bought his prize winner in 2009 after a friend spotted it at a car show in Saratoga, New York. The friend was approached by a 93-year-old woman who said she had an original 1967 Pontiac GTO in storage and would sell it for the right price.

After Picard bought the car, he cleaned it up and drove it around for a couple of years. He then decided it would be a fun project to completely restore it. The car was taken to the Amesbury garage where Picard stores his other 1967 GTO and he began taking it apart.

“Every nut and bolt came out of this car,” he said.

It took seven-plus years for the car to be torn apart, reassembled and repainted. Along the way, he kept on getting calls from friends asking whether he would be entering it in area car shows.

As a carpenter by trade, working meticulously and carefully was already in his nature when Picard first started getting into cars. It’s a hobby his wife, Doris, and his sons, Craig and Josh, fully embrace, he said.

“They support me immensely,” Picard said.

Picard is a regular at area car shows, including Cruisin’ the ’50s in Newburyport and the annual show in Amesbury’s Market Square.

For those shows, Picard has shown off his white 1967 GTO that he’s owned for 21 years since buying it from his cousin. That car took five years to get into shape and, according to Picard, it will eventually be put up for sale, considering how much he loves his gold GTO.

Asked how much he would want for it, Picard smiled but declined to answer, not wanting to tip his hand too early.

He admitted that being a gearhead takes a certain kind of personality. You have to play the long game and not get flustered when you tear apart a month’s worth of work after realizing things aren’t working out as planned. You also have to know what you’re doing.

“You really have to be hands on,” he said.

But don’t think for a moment the 65-year-old Granite State resident is going to take a break now that the GTO restoration is wrapped up. His next project, a 1959 MGA, is parked only a few yards away. But because it’s a smaller car, that project should take a mere three years.

“It’s a passion, I’ve always been a worker,” Picard said.

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

Editor’s note: Captions with this story have been corrected to indicate the GTO was made by Pontiac, not Oldsmobile, as was stated in an earlier version.

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