Hooked by a 50-year-old goat
Original condition GTO gives couple joy
A mint-condition 1967 Pontiac GTO owned by Leroy and Florence Penner of Peabody is more than a vintage car; it’s a throwback to young love and fond memories.
It’s the same model they had when they married in 1969, although that one was Signet Gold with a black painted roof, and this one is Tyrol Blue.
Fifty years after it rolled off a production line in Kansas City, their GTO is the same as it was then. Save for typical items like a battery, tires, and such, and a small chrome strip along the back window, everything is original. It hasn’t been restored in any way.
Young Leroy was doing Mennonite service in Indiana when he found his first GTO in a salvage yard.
“Before we got married, I bought one,” he said. “I had an old 1958 Ford that I bought for $600 at Hesston. I sold it and bought that one. I don’t know what attracted me.”
Leroy and Florence hadn’t met yet, so he wouldn’t have known that Florence was an avid GTO fan.
“I always really loved the GTO, just the body style, especially this year, the 1967,” she said.
Florence and a friend would go to a drag strip to watch Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick race his GTO, something he still does at 86 years old.
While Florence didn’t know Leroy, her two younger sisters did, through CB radios. One night in Michigan City, Indiana, Leroy got a call in language only GTO lovers recognized.
“We were dragging Main and Ruth said, ‘Toot to the goat,’” he said, recognizing that they wanted him to honk his horn.
The rest is history.
“They called the GTO a goat,” Florence said. “Now here we are on the porch all these years later talking about another one.”
The couple married and made their home in Peabody. Long road trips to Indiana convinced them to get rid of the GTO.
“We only had it two years, and then we bought a car that had air conditioning,” Florence said.
But they were hooked by the goat and wanted to get another. It had to be a 1967 model, and it had to be just right. Over the next four decades none of the ones they came across were.
Finally, a promising candidate showed up on an online auction site in March 2010, but Leroy balked at the price.
“It had $30,000 on it, and I thought, ‘Man, unrestored, that’s a lot of money,’” he said. “I just kind of brushed it off and we kept looking.”
It popped up again that October at a reduced price, and after a bit of haggling, Leroy and Florence were sold. They borrowed a truck from their son, Scott, a trailer from a friend in Salina, and drove to Mark Juhl Auto Sports in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“We drove into the parking lot and we instantly knew it was the right car,” Leroy said.
The car had two previous owners. The first put 92,000 miles on it in 31 years; the second, 3,000 miles in 12 years. It was nearly perfect, and the Penners brought it home and built a garage to keep it that way.
In 2012, the Penners found out just how perfect their original GTO was. They entered it as a “survivor” in the Pontiac-Oakland Club International convention in Wichita, in a class for original-condition cars.
“We had to borrow some redline tires, some Rally One wheels, change the shocks back to GM shocks, put the stock tail pipes back on,” Leroy said.
They also gave the underneath a thorough cleaning.
“When we were getting ready for the POCI all we ever heard was clean, clean, clean, bottom side clean,” Leroy said.
Smiling at Florence, he said, “She gets the golden creeper award. She spent a lot of time under there with Windex, just cleaning all the oil. When we got it over there, they never did look underneath, not even a mirror on a handle.”
The other tweaks worked. The GTO scored 397 of a possible 400 points.
The Penners took the car to nine shows in 2011 and have continued to take it to shows and benefits, often at the request of someone who has seen the car. They’ve been invited to two Million Dollar Car Shows in Wichita and also the state fair, and the car was featured on a national car show on television.
Every year they put Christmas lights on it, hook up a sound system, and drive it in Derby’s Christmas parade.
“We’re always in the Fourth of July parade here in Peabody,” Leroy said. “My oldest granddaughter rides with me and we throw out candy. We always run out.”
What gives the Penners the most joy from their GTO are the reactions of people who see it.
“Every time we take it out somebody always comes up alongside and says, ‘Oh, nice ride,’” Leroy said. “That’s really what it’s all about.”
“It’s so much fun that you have made somebody smile, and what this car reminds them of in their lives,” she said.
They take turns driving when they go for a drive, and they’ve never had a disagreement about the car. They both said they appreciate having an original ’67 GTO in such good condition.
“Most of them are rust buckets or crashed in a junk yard, wrapped around a telephone pole or something,” Leroy said. “This one, it’s off the showroom 50 years later.”