Tom Ulrich’s Unique 1968 LeMans Is One Fine Pro-Touring Machine

ulrich-leadartWalking into an open track day event, you never quite know what you’ll find. That was certainly the case with the KBPI open track event at High Plains Raceway in Deer Trail, Colorado, last month.

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A non-traditional pro-touring car, this 1968 LeMans proves that anything can be built right with enough effort and attention to detail, no matter how many people would question the intentions.

While we encountered plenty of imported performance and modern muscle, we were lucky enough to come across some impressive classic cars and it is in that form that we take a look at one of our favorites – a 1968 LeMans owned by Tom Ulrich.

We first came across this classic LeMans at the Goodguys Colorado Nationals event in Loveland, Colorado, in early June. An impressive ride, we just couldn’t take our eyes off of it, but it was the car’s nimbleness on the autocross course that really took it over the top.

Walking into the KBPI open track day event and seeing the car once again, we knew we had to get the scoop on what this impressive Pontiac has to offer.

A Classic Start

Being into cars from a young age, Ulrich started off strong in the classic muscle car community when he got his first car, a 1972 Nova, when he was just 16. From there, the Bowtie pride continued and Ulrich acquired a 1969 Nova 396 SS,  which he drove throughout high school.

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Just like many late-model Pontiacs, Ulrich’s LeMans is powered by a modern LS1, the only difference is that Ulrich’s car was built about 45 years ago.

Over the years since, Ulrich has built several classic Chevys, including a 1953 Suburban, 1961 Parkwood Wagon, 1969 Camaro and a 1952 pickup. He also dabbled in other brands, having built a 1962 Mercury Monterey and a 1961 Buick LeSabre as well.

Many years after Ulrich’s first encounter with performance Chevys, it was the classic muscle car genre and a difference of opinions between friends that ended up resulting in the build of the unique Pontiac you see here.

“My friend was building a 1967 Chevelle and we were talking colors to paint his car,” Ulrich explained to us in a recent email conversation. “I suggested a muddy green and semi gloss black. He said that would look terrible. I decided to prove him wrong and figured I would build another car. I then tried to figure out what car to build that had not been done the way I wanted to build the car. I decided on a ’68 LeMans because I have never seen one done in the pro-touring style. Most are restored or still sport the 70’s look with air shocks and Cragar 5 spokes.”

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Almost an Army Green, the 'muddy green' color layed on this LeMans is the result of Tom Ulrich's distinct taste and a difference of opinions between two friends.

An Unconventional Pontiac

Started in the fall of 2010, this ’68 LeMans had quite the journey to become what it is now. “I like the challenge of building something nobody else has or in a way that is fresh,” Ulrich told us. “I get bored with stuff fairly easily and look forward to the next project.”

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A real looker, this Pontiac LeMans impressed right from the start! Even the Goodguys couldn’t get enough at the car’s debut show in September of 2012.

To start things off right, Ulrich pulled the frame from the Pontiac’s body and sent it to be blasted before a fresh layer of powder coating was sprayed. Over the winter, Ulrich then built the chassis for the car while Stu Waldron worked on the bodywork, repairing rust issues around the back window, as well as shaving the door handles and emblems.

Once the chassis was fully built, the body was bolted back on in preparation for wiring. In July of 2012, the LeMans hit the paint booth where Waldron sprayed it in a custom DuPont green mixture with black single-stage semi gloss accents before giving the car a nice clear coat.

The car was completed the following September, just in time for the 2012 Kansas City Goodguys show, where the car won a Builder’s Choice Award. Not a bad start for the car, which Ulrich nicknamed Rotten Olive.

Pro-Touring Suspension or Bust

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From a full Ridetech suspension system to the sticky Nitto tires, this Pontiac LeMans is all pro-touring.

So what does this Pontiac offer that’s out of this world? Well, to start, the suspension is fully built with Ridetech spindles, single-adjustable ShockWaves, control arms, and Muscle Bar sway bars in both the front and rear. Equipped with compressors, the Pontiac rides smoothly along on full air ride while it can be slammed low for parking and show purposes.

Backing the suspension is quick ratio power steering and Wilwood brakes with 6-piston calipers up front, 4-piston calipers in the rear, and 14-inch rotors on all four corners.

The big brake look is especially appealing behind a set of Intro Raider wheels wrapped in sticky Nitto N555 235/40/19 (front) and 285/35/20 (rear) rubber.

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The Pontiac’s massive brakes not only give the car extreme stopping power, they also add to the LeMan’s overall aesthetic appeal.

With a built suspension, it would almost be a let-down to use a minimalistic engine. So Ulrich chose to swap in a 2001 LS1 engine, complete with Bullet racing camshafts. The engine is backed by a Tremec T-56 6-speed transmission, which is controlled by a B&M Shifter. This forces all the engine’s power back to the Ford 9-inch rearend that Ulrich smartly chose for the build. While Ulrich didn’t give us official horsepower numbers, he did mention that if he had to do the build all over again, it would make more power.

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While this LS1 is not overly built, it provides a bit more power and many more advancements than the 265hp 2-barrell and 325hp 4-barrell 350ci (really measuring 356ci) engines originally offered in the 1968 LeMans models.

Finishing Features

While Ulrich’s Pontiac has everything that could be expected of a pro-touring beast, it also features some enticing old-school cues. Inside the car, you’ll find the Pontiac’s stock seats upgraded with TMI sport foams, original but modified dash board, and no stereo system. The interior also features a custom floral headliner and Speedhut gauges.

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From the modest stock seats to the only slightly modified dash, the Rotten Olive gives the driver and passengers alike a comfortable classic cockpit to enjoy.

Special Thanks

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Even with other performance machines on the track, Ulrich’s Pontiac LeMans got tons of attention from onlookers at the KBPI open track event in late June.

Although Ulrich played a major part in his car’s build, he also had the help of some great friends and superior craftsman. These people include Stu Waldron, who helped with the bodywork and paint, Tom Stark, who helped with the car’s final assembly, and Matt Wagner, who helped with the wiring and keeping with Ulrich’s official deadline.

Of course, there is also Ulrich’s wife. “I have to give a huge thanks to my wife Sandra,” Ulrich explained. “She helps with some of the design work and puts up with me when things do not go right during a project.”

Our thanks goes out to Ulrich for sharing his beautiful Pontiac with us and allowing us the opportunity to experience it’s pro-touring possibilities on the road course at High Plains Raceway during the KBPI event! Check out more images of this unique Pontiac in the gallery below.

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About the author

Lindsey Fisher

Lindsey is a freelance writer and lover of anything with a rumble. Hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles - she's owned and driven it all. When she's not busy writing about them, she's out in her garage wrenching away. Who doesn't love a tech-savy gal that knows her way around a garage?
Read My Articles

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