Tuesday, February 14, 2017

the Seymore GTO, a one owner car kept in the family, the trials it took to get it, and the man who bought and raced it, Van Seymore. It was drag raced for 4600 miles, then stored away.

Van Seymore married Patricia, had two kids: Keith and Jenny and started working at GM in 1955.

He started as a die maker with Chevy before moving up to 'Advanced Manufacturing'. Aside from making fuel tanks, radiator grills, oil pans etc. Van made experimental parts for exciting projects such as special rocker arms and air cleaners under Zora Duntov. Van contributed many components to the original Mark II "Mystery Engine", and shares the GM patent for the press apparatus for hydroforming. 

Van discovered Ace Wilson's Royal Pontiac dealership at just the right time. they were running at full steam when Van needed a new car in 1963. Van wanted to replace his 1960 Ford Paxton supercharged Convertible. He requested one of the new factory lightweight Galaxies with fiberglass front end but Ford was giving him the runaround doubtlessly because he was employed by Chevrolet.

A Royal Pontiac salesman crossed his path at the Royal dealership and after some joking around, a new red 1964 GTO, a very early one that needed the factory to repaint it was handed over to him with a manufacturers lien.

 Van performed his own 'Royal Bobcat supertune' job on the car which provided undefeated status in B/S class competition. Rumor says this may have been the first local GTO to run in the 12s.

Van worked a second shift at GM which gave him time to hang out at Royal Pontiac, attending press events and test sessions. Van also helped the Royal crew pump out the popular customer street Bobcat packages. Van took Tri-powers home in batches of 5 or 6; re-jetted and performed other 'Bobcat' procedures and converted wide ratio 4 speeds into close ratio 4 speeds in batches of 5 or 6.

Van's work didn't pass unappreciated, he ran his new 1964 'sleeper' GTO under the radar as a fully sponsored and supported factory car. Van was given a Shell credit card to pay for fuel and enjoyed access to an open account for race car parts. Royal shipped Van's parts via Greyhound to the Flint, Michigan bus station for pick up. Van's parts frequently had red paint on them indicating 'scrap',  enough 'scrap' parts to remain undefeated in B/S competition. Van held the NHRA B/S record of 13.42 until Art Noey of 'Shaker Engineering' took it to the next level.

But, a mix up at a big car show caused the sales guy to sell the car, as the dealership still officially owned it. Van could plate the car and drive it on the street but Royal held final say over the title. One of Royal's salesmen mistakenly sold Van's GTO to an enthusiastic show goer. It was shipped back east to the new owner at the end of the show.

Royal not only sold the GTO but all of Van's hours of skilled hard work built into performance upgrades; headers, tow bar brackets and slicks mounted on wheels still in trunk.

Trying to make it up to him, Royal offered him one of 5 lightweight thin gauge sheetmetal GTOs, heater and radio delete, undersized radiators, Tripower, manual transmissions, manual steering and manual brakes. He passed on them, but they became famous... one was 'Mr Unswitchable', one was raced by Knafel Pontiac and Arlen Vanke and another by Cecil Yother.

So, they delivered to Van a double black, 389 tripower 4 closed ratio speed, 3.90 gears, GTO with the hood inner already cut for a ram air system, semi-metallic brakes, and the battery mounted in the trunk.

The build of his GTO had been expedited to prevent the completed car from getting trapped on the property if and when an anticipated UAW strike occurred and the haste of build was apparent: it had three 7.75 whitewalls installed, one 7.75 redline and a 7.35 whitewall for a spare. A three speed was installed in the car with the specified four speed loose in the trunk. The paint job showed evidence of hastiness and sloppiness. The black GTO had handprints in the hood in two locations, hairs in the paint, and a large 'swiped' area on the decklid. Fit and finish was poor, with gaps in the headliner and carpet. All these faults are visible in the car today due to the low miles which have preserved all the factory faults present the day the car was delivered.

Van drove it home and took apart the top end right away, cut the heads .030 reworked the carbs, re-curved the distributor, shimmed the valve springs, and put it all back together with thin head gaskets and “new for 1965” intake gaskets. The first outing resulted in performance consistent with where the previous 1964 GTO left off, 12.90s in the quarter

The goat was actually too light for B/Stock, so Van loaded the car up before rolling through tech. The goat made weight with the tow bar, safety chains, toolbox and slicks in the trunk, a full tank of gas and his son Keith strategically placed on the scales.

 Van finally got nailed by a technical inspector. Van was stopped on the way to collect his time slip and instructed to cross the scale. Van balked but the tech insisted,and when Van reluctantly crossed the scale he came up short, earning the GTO a ban from that track for awhile.

The goat served as a test vehicle for M and H's new slicks named 'Wrinklewall'. After 6 runs van got to keep the tires. The following weekend at the dragsttip, the Wrinklewall tires caused times that had everyone else at the track letting air our of their tires.

 He raced in B/Stock in 1965 and B/MP from 1967 through 1974, where he was a regular class winner and 5 time NHRA record holder (12.20 ET best). Arthritis set in, and the GTO was parked. It only had 4656 miles on it.

It was freshened up and brought back to life in 2000, and now has 5000 miles on it.


No comments:

Post a Comment