Monday, February 7, 2011

The Hornell Tribune and the Raybestos GTO

Kevin was written up in the Hornell Tribune for the GTO build recently.

There will be no doubt about it. This Goat will turn heads.

A car now being assembled in an Addison, Ill., hot rod shop will promote high-end automotive products and if all goes as planned will be at the track during the August NASCAR race at Watkins Glen.

The guy behind the build is Kevin Tully, a 1988 graduate of Hornell High. His mission, from sponsor Raybestos Brakes, is to turn a “warmed over GTO into a real race car.”

Some lucky guy, or girl, entering the company-sponsored contest will be handed the keys to a 1964 Pontiac GTO-R that will be certified as race-ready for professional tracks but also street legal.

Tully says the car, a no-frills, bare-bones model with a 398 tri-power engine, was found on Craigslist near Milwaukee in good, rust-free condition. He hauled it back to his shop, Hot Rod Chassis and Cycle, and started a rebuild that will result in a one-of-a-kind machine.

Usually at work on cars from before 1964, Tully took on the GTO because it was a favorite make of a Raybestos official. But in ‘64, GTOs also could be found on the track, with Pontiac competing in Trans Am events.

“Raybestos chose us over a lot of other shops to do the build because of our craftsmanship and quality,” said Tully. “I have a very high standard for both.”

The car is made up of a long list of performance features. The brake package from Raybestos — the same used by NASCAR drivers. Those brakes are critical, because mathematically the GTO in ideal conditions should hit 186 mph, Tully said. More realistically, “it’s a brick, a big, blocky GTO body” still capable of 140 to 150 mph.

Horsepower should come in around 700, delivered through a T56 six-speed transmission. Now a unibody shell as the build progresses (removing the original frame added strength while lopping 800 pounds off the scales), it will be fully race ready with features like a driver’s safety cage and polycarbonate windows.

And that is the real draw to this classic car. It will be ready to compete.

“Why should we do another bolt on muscle car, let’s build a real race car,” Tully said.

Tully — whose mom, Martha Kratts, still lives in Hornell on Florence Street — joined the Air Force after graduating Hornell High.

“I ended up in Special Operations, which is not the easiest on your body. I had an old timer tell me to find another trade to fall back on, so for the last four years I transferred to aircraft fabrication.”

Trained as a machinist and a welder, Tully on discharge looked for work, which was there for one skill, but not the other.
“I went to Autofab Racecars just on a whim, and the guy that owned the place (Mark Constantine) read my resume, hired me on the spot and taught me how to build dragsters.”

Turned on by the possibilities, Tully left that shop in Maryland and moved to the Chicago area, where he worked at two shops he described as lessons in “how not to do business.”

The opportunity arrived to do his own thing the right way.

“There are lots of other kinds of shops out there building muscle cars. I’ve always been into hot rodding, so I decided to build my own hot rod shop.”

Tully partnered up with Chad Hill, who handles branding and marketing. Tully is in charge of day-to-day work in the shop. The GTO is just one project, with eight builds now in some stage of completion.

The Raybestos job has hundreds of details, and Tully is counting on an old friend to craft its signature fender badge in the shape of the shop’s logo — a set of wings on a circle featuring the motto “We keep ‘em flying.” John McHenry, a Hornell graduate and now a Canisteo jeweler, will form a medallion-sized badge out of sterling silver with an enamel inlay.

“ I knew John through target shooting (in Hornell) and we’re still really good friends. Every time I come home we end up hanging out, having a few, catching up.”

The details still have to be worked out, but Raybestos expects to feature the car as part of its NASCAR effort. The car will debut on the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour from Florida to Michigan, and the build itself is being chronicled in Hot Rod Magazine and on Hot Rod TV.

The best part, for at least one lucky enthusiast, is that the GTO will be given away during the 2011 Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association Show in Las Vegas. The winner will likely get some Sports Car Club of America race training, and the necessary safety gear in order to compete in SCCA-sanctioned races, such as the annual Vintage Race event at Watkins Glen, Tully said.

The GTO can be raced, but will still be street legal. “It will have all the stuff, all the turn signals. It will just be really fast,” he said. “The whole goal with the car is to build a car that can be raced.”
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