Big Al's Featured Car's
"69 GTO" Crystal Frosting
Owned by Dale Brahler
Pictures & Text by John Carollo

It’s another of those seemingly age-old questions. How can a true Musclecar fan have the best of both worlds? That is, how can we have a cool, numbers matching car, yet have real fun driving it and not have to baby it? And while we’re filling out our list of big wishes, how ‘bout a little bit more in the horsepower and performance areas.
Wouldn’t that be cool?

What we’d end up with would most likely be a lot like the Dale Brahler’s “Crystal,” a tasty treat of a 1969 GTO that is both restored and modified. If that sounds like an oxymoron, it’s not. The simple truth about Crystal is all about what is on the car and what’s back in the garage. Or you could put it this way. Dale’s Crystal is a numbers matching car but with an asterisk. That is, everything does indeed match but at the time we shot Crystal, she was wearing a few different parts for a little more street fun. Rest assured, Dale showed us the real matching parts back in his Louisville, Ohio garage decorated in Pontiac Provincial. This way, if he really wants to restore Crystal, he can. In the meantime, he’s laying down miles every chance he gets going to weekend cruises and shows – and having big fun doing it.  

With over 42 years as a gearhead, Dale got hooked on Pontiacs in 1968 when his older brother’s friend bought a new ’68 GTO. It was love at first sight. It took 25 years for Dale to buy his first GTO but he made up for it with a numbers matching, one owner car. On his next car, he went, for as he says, “No frills. Just a muscle 400, three speed, in-dash tach, Rally II wheels and no other options.”

“And now I have Crystal,” he proudly proclaims these days. Crystal started life rolling out of the Arlington, Texas Pontiac plant and found her way to Buffalo, New York. That’s where Dale took possession of the one-owner car. The ’69 was restored in a mere seven months by Dale and help from what he says are “A few good friends and Mr. Busch Light.” While he lists ‘undisclosed’ as to the cost of restoring the car, he quickly adds, “A LOT.”

Pop the hood and you’ll see the perfect mix of resto and hot rod. It’s easy to see the aftermarket carb, intake and distributor. The improved intake and carb are Edelbrock models and as for the upgraded distributor; a Mallory version providing the spark. They all sit atop a factory original 400 that’s been bored .060 over and re-slugged with 10.75 compression pistons. Also inside, doing more performance work, are a Comp Cams cam and a Melling oil pump. Dale topped the motor off with factory #48 heads that have received some mild porting and polishing and a set of Harland Sharp roller rockers. With all that new fun stuff inside, balancing the motor was certainly in order so that was done, too. And, as Dale says, “After all, everybody knows those Pontiacs run a little on the hot side,” so one more aftermarket piece was added – an aluminum radiator. The original car came with a manual three speed and, of course, that sits back at the garage with all the related parts to re-install if needed. In the car now is a long shaft, big car three speed automatic Turbo Hydro to run the streets effortlessly. Dale meticulously detailed the engine compartment to wrap up the work done there. He installed numerous Concours decals and stickers in the engine bay and on the frame.

Dale points out only a few changes on the rest of the car, mostly for better handling. One was new body mounts. Up front on the stock chassis are aftermarket disc brakes and Edelbrock shocks. The factory 10 bolt rear end carries a 3:55 screw while B.F. Goodrich tires are run all the way around. For presentation, all new paint on the undercarriage makes it pop as much as the appealing outside.

Moving to the interior, it looks bone stock with its mostly stock fittings, including a factory in-dash tach. Dale replaced many of the needed items with the help of Ames Performance. Dale did the ‘brightwork’ over inside, painted the seatbacks, armrests, lower seat covers and added new carpeting and piping on the front seats. What is not as easily seen as the mods on the engine are the extra gauges wired in under the dash. They are Auto Gauge models monitoring oil pressure, amps and water temp. Look closely and you’ll see the only provision for music is the factory AM radio and that’s by Dale’s choice. Does he use it? “No, I never have the radio on. I prefer to listen to the exhaust.”

Outside, Crystal lives up to her name. Dale made sure all was normal on the body of the GTO and then redid the front grilles and headlight bezels to make them look new. Dale also replaced the taillight bezels and the front fender name plate including painting in the connecting bar between the letters G, T and O as the factory did in 1969. He went on to replace the rear quarter marker lights and bezels. A new driver’s side mirror was installed and a right side mirror added where there was none. With help from some Dupont Crystal Turquoise base paint and accompanying clear coat, this gem sparkles even on cloudy days.
We’re thinking Dale Brahler is on to something with this prime example of selective, yet restrictive parts swapping. It’s a great example of a Muscle car with new parts and no body mods that can return to being a bone stock old car with a day’s work. Hmmm, when the frosting is as sweet and tasty as Crystal, maybe Dale has figured out a way we can have our cake and eat it, too!