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The need for speed

This is certainly one truism when it comes to Dennis Clark and automobiles - he likes them to have some power and go fast. It was true when he was a young man working and residing in Oakland and is true now for the 81-year-old Newman resident.

That need for speed drew Clark to purchase a brand new Pontiac GTO straight off the factory line in Detroit in 1964 and why the very same car claims a spot of honor in his garage 58 years later.

“I could have gotten one in Fremont, but I wanted all the stuff that would make it go faster,” Clark said.

Clark first saw what the GTO was capable of at a drag race.

“I used to do a lot of drag racing and I saw how they performed on the drag strip and it impressed me,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of people who say it was the first muscle car and there’s some who don’t. It’s really a matter of opinion and in mine, I say it was the first.”

Back then, the registration cost Clark $31. Now it’s up to $184.

“One of the reasons I have kept this car all this time is because I have heard so many guys say ‘I wish I would have kept my first car. I wish I could get it back,’” Clark said.

Clark estimates he has done about 90 percent of the work on the car over the years, and everything that was mechanical based.

“Anything to do with mechanics, I have replaced, from engine, transmission, drive line, rear end, ball joints, the whole front end,” Clark said. “The car came with a 389 cubic inch engine. the way I have it fixed right now, it’s a 461 cubic inches. It came with 335 horsepower and i’d say now it’s 500, 525. Like I say, I’m an old drag racer that never grew up. I just don’t get into trouble anymore.”

Clark has won several prizes and awards at car shows, which he enjoys displaying. But the real blessing of the vehicle is the time he spent working on it, especially when his sons joined him and later when they purchased their own classic cars to refurbish. 

“I never thought about this at the time, but I can say that I never lost them. Most kids at 15 or 16 don’t want to be around their mom or dad, and they can drift away for a few years, sometimes even permantently. But we shared a common interest,” Clark said. “It wasn’t done for that reason. I just wanted to give them some mechanical experience. But now I can look back and say that I never lost them. 

Clark still takes the Pontiac to various car shows and always comes home with some new award. He likes to take it out for drives around town and if the opportunity arises, he still likes to drive fast.