After his 1963 graduation from High School, a ’64 Tempest caught the eye of Pat Tobin. He knew someday he would have one. Four years later he was drafted. Upon leaving the military in 1970 he started goofing around with cars. A ‘64 Chevy SS, a ‘70 Challenger 340, yet the Tempest eluded him. Then marriage and a family came and the car hobby came to a crawl.
Fast forward to 1998, Pat’s oldest son Sean found a ’67 Firebird 400 in Riverside, CA. Father and son started tearing it apart as the youngest boy Devin, who was nine years old at the time, even got into it. That car ended up getting sold before restoration due to Pat’s job change.
Now it’s 2012 and Pat is considering another project car. Sean suggested since there were many restored Chevys and Mustangs, something less common would be fun. Sean had worked on a ‘65 GTO with a friend during the late eighties and suggested that his friend might be looking to sell it, given the fact that it barely moved for close to seven years.
Pat drove up to Brentwood to get a look. After priming the system with a fuel pump switch under the dash, the beast started right up. Pat bought it and had it towed home to Mission Viejo. Due to electrical and fuel delivery issues, the decision was made to do a complete body off restoration – which began in March of 2013 in a one-car garage. It wasn’t long before the guys decided to dismantle and restore it. A project like this is much easier when you have a parts supplier so close! The guys at the counter of OPGI became Pat’s best friends. But there was one problem – no tools.
Pat and his boys headed over to Sears. They picked up a tool chest and a bunch of wrenches. They started by taking the hood off, then the front clip, and saved every nut and bolt in Ziploc bags, taking photos all the while. The bags were labeled and stapled to the wall in the garage. The car was quickly stripped down to the bones. The frame was separated from the body and sent off for powder coating. The engine was given a once-over. The Turbo 400 trans and rear were removed as well and stored at a storage facility until the time came to install them back into the car.
At different times, each of the sons – Sean, 41, Jason, 31 and Devin, 26, worked on the car with dad. On some occasions, they all worked together. Each son had a say in every decision made on the car. Pat recalls that many times it was his sons who introduced him to new ideas for the car.
In December of 2013, the car was sent to the Family Service Center for the bodywork and paint. The initial estimate was reasonable. Doors, hood, and trunk were sandblasted and primed. It was during the sandblasting that it was discovered that somewhere in the past, custom trim was installed from the front to the rear on both sides of the car with holes drilled every 10 inches. Later, the trim was removed and filled with Bondo. All of those holes had to be cleaned and welded closed. The initial estimate for body and paint nearly doubled in cost.
Pat agreed with all this work, however, he informed the body shop that when all is said and done there better not be one ripple or pimple, or he won’t pay at all. The shop agreed, and nine months later, the panels are as straight as can be. The color is a custom mixed silvery green inspired by a Toyota Camry that Sean saw on Interstate 405. Interesting how the color is a perfect fit for this mid-’60s muscle car.
The interior has an import influence as well, bucket seats from a 2000 Saab of all things. At first, they were thinking of a tan interior and found that black contrasted better with the paint. Dakota Digital complements the carbon fiber skinned instrument cluster and original cherry wood steering wheel.
Pat recalls one moment when he needed to install the fuel sender in the tank by himself. Not usually a problem, but with a recent shoulder surgery, he muscled the tank up and down with jacks and stands. “You make do with what you can,” Pat advises.
The rear suspension is original and holds the Chevy 12 bolt with 3:73 gears installed by J&S Gears. The axles were worn from its early days racing and replaced. For the front, they installed a set of QA1 adjustable coil overs on Global West control arms. It sat a bit wonky so he took it to Frank’s Auto Suspension in Mission Viejo. They got it sitting right and added a 1-1/4” sway bar in front and a 1-incher in back.
As for the power plant, only the 428 block and cam were saved. Bob McCray Performance bored the motor .040 over to a displacement of 434. The guys at Cambra Speed Shop re-installed the motor and dialed it in with electrical, tuning, exhaust, replaced the rear axles and made the Saab seats fit. Vonn’s Transmissions tuned the 700R4 with a 2800 stall converter.
The car has been done since August of 2017 and at this time has only 1400 miles on the new drivetrain. That includes a trip to Hot August Nights and a formal unveiling at the 2018 Grand National Roadster Show where it won a class award. Although a kick to drive, Pat says the best part was working with his sons in the garage and getting the boys to know more about each other. The car will be treasured by the family for generations to come.