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Reunited With a GTO

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Posters of Tad Butitta’s orange 2006 twin-turbo, six-speed Pontiac GTO hung in his garage for more than three years after he sold it. The pictures were a constant reminder of the car that got away, the one he’d spent two years and more than $27,000 on, but sold before he could enjoy it.

“I bought it as a repossession from a bank and it had real low miles on it,” he remembers. “It took me two months just to get it running.”

After Butitta got the car moving, the GTO had a permanent home in his father’s shop, Mark’s Auto Service in Rockford, Ill., where Butitta works as general manager.

He spent those years building the car’s twin-turbo engine and adding a mini-tub kit. Butitta had parts rebuilt, like the suspension, which he changed from a coil spring and shock to a full coilover setup. The fuel system, rear end and transmission were all rebuilt to withstand up to 1,000hp. He made the ride height and spring rate adjustable.

Then Butitta was thrilled to find out he and his wife were expecting a baby. He wanted a larger home for his growing family, and most of his money was wrapped up in his project car. It made financial sense to sell the GTO, he decided.

He did a photo shoot with the GTO, had the pictures blown up for his garage, and posted the car for sale online. It was gone within a couple months.

“I have had somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 cars in the 15 years I’ve been driving,” Butitta says. “I go through a lot of cars and I usually don’t form an attachment. This is the one that I formed an attachment to. I kept in touch with [the buyer] because I thought maybe I could buy it back one day.”

Nearly four years later, Butitta’s goal was realized. The man who purchased his GTO had a child heading off to college and wanted to free up funds for his own family. Butitta’s wife told him to jump on the opportunity.

“She never wanted me to sell [the car] in the first place because she knew I’d regret it,” he remembers. “When I brought it up, she said ‘We’d better get it back!’”

Butitta has had the car back for less than a year. Between work and time with his family, he finds just around four hours a week to spend with the GTO.

Repainting panels, adding solenoids and a custom switch panel, Butitta is focusing on the small details. He even re-color-coded and soldered all of the wires.

“When I first owned the car, everything was about performance,” he says. “Now it’s about making it show quality.”

Though he’s focusing on the details for now, Butitta still has some larger goals for his GTO. He still wants to put on a lowering kit and add big wheels to give it a drag-racing look. That will run him around $5,000, he estimates.

Butitta also plans to spend around $6,000 to $7,000 this winter rebuilding the engine with forged internals to increase the horsepower. Currently, the engine can withstand around 778hp, he says.

“I feel like I’m walking on the edge right now, where if I drove it enough, it would blow up,” Butitta says. “All the other parts that have been rebuilt can withstand more than the stock motor.”

For now, though, Butitta says he’s just glad he’s got the car back.

“For me, it’s about the closure,” he says.

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