Project Payback Gets Some New Body Parts And Hardware

If you’re going to tear something apart, why not put it back together with even better parts? Our Pro Touring 1968 GTO “Project Payback” is going through a monumental transformation that includes some hardcore bodywork. We’re replacing the hood, trunk, and hardware with some new parts to help improve the GTO’s looks, and how it functions.

Let’s face it, old cars are going to have old car problems. Parts that are 55 years old will wear out, and the design of the replacement parts have been improved by aftermarket companies. Project Payback was pretty crusty when we found it, and some of those old Pontiac parts were in need of some serious help. Ringbrothers makes some killer hinges and hood pin systems, so they were a perfect fit to replace the aging parts on our Pontiac. To help cut weight and improve performance, we decided to also replace the GTO’s hood and trunk with parts from Unlimited Fiberglass.

As you can see, there's a big difference between the Ringbrothers hood hinge and the OEM hinge.

Hinges And Latches Get An Update

A 1968 GTO’s hood hinges were cutting-edge technology when they were first introduced, but time hasn’t been very kind to them. The stock hood hinges on the GTO have a tendency to overextend the hood and cause it to get locked into place. That’s far from ideal, and can create a whole set of problems. The trunk hinges really aren’t much better. Replacing these hinges with a set from Ringbrothers was high on our list as well. This way we had fresh hinges at both ends of the GTO that would match and work better.

The Ringbrothers hinges we selected are made from billet aluminum and just look better than the OEM units. Ringbrothers also went the extra mile to make sure the hinges were a direct bolt-on replacement. The goal was to create a set of hinges that were not only functional, but also possessed premium aesthetics.

Hunter Ring adds some details as to what makes the Ringbrothers hinges such a big improvement over the OEM units.

“Factory-stamped sheetmetal hinges are prone to flexing and corrosion, which can eventually cause the hood to become misaligned and extremely difficult to open and close. Our hinges are entirely engineered in CAD and thoroughly tested on our builds. Our hinges are precision machined from aerospace-grade 6061-T6 billet aluminum to .005-inch allowable tolerances and are able to maintain a .001-inch tolerance. So, not only are they extremely precise and durable, they’re less prone to corrosion over time.”

The Ringbrothers create functional pieces of art for high-performance vehicles. One of the big goals for Ringbrothers is to design parts that not only look better than the OEM units, but these parts must also function better. That improvement of functionality is what sets the Ringbrothers hood latches apart from the OEM units.

Removing the OEM hinges and installing the new Ringbrothers hinges was seamless. The Ringbrothers hinges are designed to fit better than the OEM parts and have more room for adjustment.

“With every build, our goal is to marry function and form. We want every component we offer to match the same functionality, quality, and attention to detail we’ve become known for with our builds. Beyond improving general aesthetics, our billet hood hinges improve the geometry of the OEM while also addressing the force needed to open the hood via integrated gas shocks calibrated for either a steel or fiberglass hood. Ensuring that you have just the right amount of assistance when opening or closing the hood,” Mike Ring states.

One of the great things about the hinges is how easy they are to install. Jim Ring explained to us that the installation process was simplified due to adjustments they made in the design of each component. Ringbrothers works to match the OEM design to a certain degree, but then exceed the limits of the original design when they look at the entire part. The final product is a part that’s better than OEM and will bolt into the OEM location with no real issues.

Ringbrothers created hood pins that not only look good, but are also very functional.

Project Payback was also still rocking the stock hood latch from 1968. The hood latch had a mind of its own and would be fairly stubborn. You never knew if it was going to stay latched, and it would allow the hood to fly up at random times. This was a problem considering we plan to run this car on the autocross course, and to take it on long drives when the weather is nice.

Thankfully, Ringbrothers had a hood-latching solution for the GTO. We decided to use a set of their billet hood pins to keep the Pontiac’s hood secure at all times. The hood pin system is actually pretty trick, thanks to the extra design work the Ringbrothers incorporated into the product.

The old hood latch was replaced with a fresh hood pin system from Ringbrothers. No more unplanned hood openings for Project Payback!

“One of the things we work on is hollowing the inside of our pins and adding in an adjustable bearing that allows for the pin to go in at various angles and accommodate multiple positions and differences in hood curvature. We do this simply because not all hoods are identical. There can be variables in the metal stamping or changes that happen over time. Adaptability is engineered into each component we produce to ensure fitment and quality,” says Jim Ring.

Fiberglass Fun

Project Payback’s hood and trunk lid were pretty rough and weren’t worth saving from a rusty death. The steel versions of these body parts are pretty heavy, so we decided to use this opportunity to shed some pounds. Unlimited Fiberglass makes composite versions of the hood and trunk lid that are a direct fit for the GTO, so of course it made the most sense for us to use these on our build.

The GTO’s old hood was looking pretty rough. The Unlimited hood is lighter and stronger.

We wanted to use a hood that looked aggressive and was still correct for the GTO. Unlimited’s 1968-1970 dual scoop ram air hood fit the bill since it already had the scoops installed. Each scoop is bonded to the surface of the hood, this helps them retain the stock appearance. This ram air hood comes with a full inner structure and the steel inserts are molded in as well. The high-quality fiberglass Unlimited used to create these hoods is not only strong, it’s much lighter than the OEM steel.

The new parts from Unlimited fit like OEM units and will really help the GTO shed some weight.

Unlimited Fiberglass also makes a trunk lid for the 1968-1969 GTO that bolts directly to the hinges. This unit works perfectly with our Ringbrothers trunk hinges. The lid is made of the same fiberglass as the hood, so it’s very light and strong. All of the edges are molded and require minimal reinforcement. We are also using a set of the Ringbrothers pins to secure the trunk to the GTO.

Now that we’ve got the hood and trunk sorted out on Project Payback, it’s time to continue to address the GTO’s other needs. The car is in the hands of the team at Innovation Performance Technologies and they’re working hard on getting the GTO ready. You can follow Project Payback’s progress right here on Street Muscle Magazine.

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Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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