Cameron Richards brings new life to an old Goat

Originally published in Bozeman City Lifestyle

The GOAT: The iconic Pontiac GTO. A muscle car that demands the attention of anyone who happens to be near as it passes. What started out as a prized raffle car, recently won by a lucky Bozeman neighbor, quickly turned into a modern powered resto-mod that seriously gets down.

When Cameron Richards, a local custom car builder, got his hands on this 1966 GTO, the raffle winner had one main request- “Make this drive like a new car, but keep the classic Americana of the car alive, within my budget.” With these goals in mind, Cameron knew just how to direct the build. Hence the resto-mod plan. A resto-mod is a restoration of a car’s authentic appearance, keeping the correct vintage look, while updating some if not all of the drivetrain and interior with modern amenities. This helps to keep vintage muscle cars more safe and comfortable on the roads without losing their true American heritage.

As the gears began turning in his head, the vision for this Goat’s future began to come together. With the owner’s budget in mind, Cameron searched for a viable modem replacement engine. Here is where a Cadillac CTS-V enters the picture. These cars carry a factory General Motors Supercharged 6.2 Litre engine dubbed the “LSA,” rated around 550 horsepower. After some searching for a wrecked CTS-V he found the donor. A 2010 with 76,000 miles. Now that the GTO’s new heart had been found, the rest of the build list began coming together.

Since the goal of the build was to be able to hop in and comfortably navigate around The Treasure State, a new transmission was needed. A Tremec TKO600 manual 5-Speed package, supplied by the boys at American Powertrain, was chosen to transfer all those horses to the ground, while offering an overdrive to efficiently cruise Montana’s highways. Next, the suspension needed to be upgraded, because the Goat never saw power numbers like this back in the day. A QA1 Coilover Conversion package replaced the factory components at all four corners, boxed suspension components, and tubular upper and lower control arms helped to strengthen the car’s integrity and were selected to give the car handling characteristics that rival today’s modern road cars.

Making a modern engine run and operate correctly in half century old iron is no easy feat. An American Autowire vehicle harness was selected to handle the car’s electronics, in addition to the new Dakota Digital HDX Gauges. These gauges are able to monitor the engine’s vitals and display them in an easy to read gauge cluster that fits in the factory location and pays homage to the original cluster. Making the Gauge Cluster communicate with the factory ECM is made possible thanks to these products. Dakota Digital also offers cruise control options so that those long highway drives are a little bit more effortless.

Turning to the rest of the interior, one must ask the question: How do you keep the interior of a 55 year old muscle car comfortable for cruising on those hot Montana summer nights? You turn to Vintage Air as Richards did to provide modern heat and air conditioning capability. This Surefit kit keeps everything in the factory locations and maintains a low profile so as not to steer away from the vintage theme of the interior. Working in tandem with Mike’s Trim & Upholstery in Four Corners, a custom hand sewn headliner was put together along with matching sail panels to freshen up the pseudo-original interior. Mike’s also reupholstered a set of Procar seats to keep the driver and passenger safely but comfortably secure as they cruise the road. Viewing the road ahead in the darkness is easy thanks to Diode Dynamics who provided the electronics to correctly power the LED converted headlights, which are housed in an attractive set of Oracle Sealed Beam Headlights. A subtle clue that maybe this old iron is rocking a modern heart.

All of these parts, in conjunction with the knowledge and experience, were required in order for a half century old car to safely tame 598 wheel horsepower and 642 ft-lbs of torque. Now the ability to squeeze out all of that power from the Goat’s new heart requires another set of skills as well. For this, Richards turned to Chris Mitchell from Mitchell’s Performance and Tuning. With access to Power Train Plus’s dyno, the duo was able to put together a custom calibrated tune that is optimized for Bozeman’s elevation while increasing the power range and efficiency of the LSA engine.

Richards has been a car builder for years in the Gallatin Valley and set out to build a custom automotive shop with the intention of bringing people’s dreams to reality. With these custom builds, his ability to translate a customer’s initial vision into an improved final product such as this GTO is incredible. He offers a level of personable service and understanding one simply won’t receive at just any auto repair shop. The second you walk in the door, you can tell that the level of attention and detail that is instilled into these builds is top notch.

This is because building cars is more than a hobby to him; it’s a passion. A main force that drives him is sharing that passion with others in the community, and the greater Gallatin Valley. As we were shooting this GTO, a few of our friends from Pure Barre wanted to come take a look, and Richards took the opportunity to show them around and share that passion once again. Our location for the shoot was generously offered to us by Tiffany and Jerry Nettuno, and we want to thank them for letting Cameron lay some rubber down and Rico from Content Creative Lab for catching that tire slaying footage. We also can’t forget to mention the incredible talent that Cinematic Spirit puts into taking the photos that allow us to bring the closest living version of this GTO as we can into your living room.

This car truly blurs the line between raw power and elegance. It’s incredible to ride in a half century old 600 horsepower car and go from a mellow Sunday afternoon cruise, to aggressively carving up a mountain pass. The cool thing is, anyone can hop in this Goat and use it as a daily driver, or a weekend track machine.

As Cameron Richards continues fueling his passion for hotrods, his newest venture is joining forces with his father at their family business, Power Train Plus on Jackrabbit Lane in Belgrade. Here, Cameron hopes to continue building upon the Valley’s automotive community through their general repair and of course more room for these resto-mods and custom car builds.

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