1968 GTO Royal Bobcat
1968 GTO Royal Bobcat
This 1968 GTO Royal Bobcat was Ordered new from Royal Pontiac by Arnie Beswick for original owner Mike Rutherford. This High Performance Conversion at Royal was performed by Milt Schornack and Dave Warren and it is a Documented Royal Bobcat 428 conversion. This GTO Royal Bobcat was the March 1968 Popular Hot Rodding magazine cover car. It was raced and owned by Rutherford until 1999 and has only had two owner since then. It still retains its original 428/425 HP engine. This 1968 GTO Royal Bobcat is a piece of American Muscle Car history.
Mecum Auctions listed it and this is what they had to say about it. Royal Pontiac is widely accepted as the most-significant Pontiac high-performance dealer, and as the Pontiac equivalent of other “American Supercar” builders such as Nickey, Yenko, Baldwin-Motion for Chevrolet and Grand Spaulding Dodge for Mopars. No supercar collection is complete without a Royal Bobcat Pontiac, and the rarity and significance of this 1968 Royal Bobcat GTO make it truly unique.
Original owner Mike Rutherford had planned to buy the car and have his good friend Arnie Beswick replace the stock Ram Air 400 engine with a 428/425 HP unit. Because of his busy racing schedule, Beswick advised Rutherford to order his new GTO from Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac, whose elite crew would handle the transformation. As Arnie tells it, he had to make appeals on Rutherford’s behalf to GTO Godfather Jim Wangers and “a few people at Royal,” before consummating the deal. Word of the project apparently spread, because the car’s arrival at Royal coincided with a visit from “Popular Hot Rodding” magazine photographer Lee Kelley, who took the now-famous cover shot of Royal’s Milt Schornack and Dave Warren hoisting the 428 into the car’s engine bay.
Rutherford, who owned the car until 1999, raced it extensively on the street for the first couple of years, with Beswick tuning the car for the occasional foray to the drag strip, where the two shared turns at the wheel. Beswick’s search for more performance in the GTO began even before its arrival at Royal when he secured a pre-production set of Ram Air II cylinder heads, which were bolted to the 428 short-block prior to its installation. He took the car to JR Headers, who installed a custom-fabricated set of tubes, and he modified the front and rear suspension for improved launching, always respecting Rutherford’s caveat that the car not be cut.
As Beswick recalled in a feature article on the car in the June 2009 issue of “Muscle Car Review,” “Even though it was more of a street car than a race car, it did make numerous trips to some Midwestern drag strips, including Cordova, Illinois, and Kahoka, Missouri. The ‘Boss Man’ lettering was put on the car when Mike felt it had paid its dues and earned the title. That’s also when he had my name put on the fender.”
The Boss Man Royal Bobcat GTO was eventually acquired by noted muscle-car collector Mike Guarise. Muscle Car Designs of Minooka, Illinois, performed a frame-off restoration using primarily refinished parts original to the car, including the 428 CI engine that appeared in the famous “Popular Hot Rodding” cover photo. In fact, that shot was recreated for two magazine articles when Schornack and Warren flew in to help install the engine to complete the restoration.
The race day graphics, which remained on the car until Rutherford sold it in 1999, were recreated in vinyl for easy application and removal should the stock Royal Bobcat look be preferred by the new owner. In addition, the stock tires, wheels and hubcaps are included to return the car to its original Royal appearance.
The Boss Man Royal Bobcat GTO is unquestionably unique. Its creation was approved by Jim Wangers, its conversion was performed by celebrated Pontiac talents Milt Schornack and Dave Warren; it is the only 1968 GTO known to be associated with both Royal Pontiac and Arnie Beswick when new. It met with instant celebrity status as a magazine cover car and earned its Boss Man moniker as a street fighter and drag racer tuned by none other than “The Farmer” himself. Together, it all makes the Boss Man Royal Bobcat GTO singularly significant in Pontiac and Royal Bobcat history.