Every class has its teacher's pet. Sometimes it's the smart kid in the front-row desk. Sometimes it's the easy-on-the-eyes cheerleader. Sometimes it's the son or daughter of the school superintendent.
For instructor Mike Doyle, it's a '64 Pontiac Bonneville. Mike has been teaching auto body repair at Fullerton Union High School for more than 30 years. He's been into custom cars much longer than that--at least since the early '60s, an era that his Pontiac strongly evokes.
The Bonneville actually fell into Mike's possession more than a decade ago as a gift from someone who wanted it to have a good home. "The car had an Earl Scheib paint job and had been hit in the right quarter-panel and left front fender," Mike says. "I started by shaving off all the gingerbread and door handles, and I got the body ready for paint."
Mike involved his students in the Pontiac's repair and prep before grabbing the paint gun and rolling the car into the spray booth. The initial paint job was somewhat similar to what you see here--metallic-orange with a white top. At that time he also lowered the car with cut coils and set it up with skinny whitewalls and chrome wheels (those eventually gave way to the current Astro Supremes). After updating the drivetrain with a 400ci Pontiac mill and Turbo 400 transmission, Mike drove the Pontiac regularly for nine years. A Steve Stanford rendering inspired the makeover that Mike began a couple years ago. The facelift included removing the wheel opening and rocker moldings, stretching the rockers 3 1/2 inches vertically, frenching and slightly canting the headlights, and building a subtle hood scoop. Mike then crafted a stainless tube grille (and a matching one for the hood scoop) before laying down the color.
Like any good custom painter, Mike hates spraying the same hue twice. So he whipped together a new orange concoction using various House of Kolor candies and pearls, and then collaborated with striper Rick Morgan on some tasteful flames and an Indian-head graphic. Even the white top got a little orange tint and some Silver Ice Pearl this time around. More Rick Morgan pinstriping finished off the new coat of color. Mike was happy just having fresh color on the big Bonneville, but his wife Helen insisted on upgrading the cabin to match. Eddy & Son Upholstery in Bellflower, California, stitched the stock seats in tan leather and suede, with purple, orange, and gold-stitched accents picking up on the exterior hues. Acrylic knobs, a custom-painted steering wheel, and a sliver of custom wood classed up the dash.
Even with the additional mods and new finish, Mike's big Bonneville still sees weekly street time and goes on regular road trips. It even has the rock chips to prove it. Mike's not worried, though--he knows just where to go if it needs a new paint job in another few years. And as long as he keeps refining his teacher's pet Pontiac, his students are sure to get a good custom education