Mike Budnick's 1960 Pontiac

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1960 Pontiac Ventura hardtop restyled by the Alexander Brothers for Mike Budnick of Detroit, Michigan. Known as "The Golden Indian," the magazine photos of the car were taken at the intersection of Auburn Ave and Wide Track Drive in Pontiac, Michigan.[1] Photo by George Barris
A cardboard pattern was made to find the shape of the headlight tunnel.
The newly shaped headlight tunnels being welded onto the car.
Leading was applied where there was no room to pick out the low spots.
The newly restyled front end in primer.
The Golden Indian as it appeared in the late 1970s, when Phil Johnson bought it from Jeff Anderson. By then the car had been painted white and renamed "The White Ghost." Photo courtesy of Phil Johnson.
Phil had seen the car at Cobo Hall, so he knew what it was when he bought it. "The guy in Cadillac had a taxicab company. He was going broke and was going to use the old custom as a cab. Can you imagine that?" Phil told Kustomrama in 2016. Photo courtesy of Phil Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Phil Johnson.
The interior was still in a good condition when Phil bought the car in the late 1970s. Photo courtesy of Phil Johnson.
The Golden Indian as it appeared after Old Stillwater Garage restored it.
"The Golden Indian" at the 2017 Jalopyrama. Photo courtesy of John Helmuth.

1960 Pontiac Ventura hardtop restyled by the Alexander Brothers for Mike Budnick of Detroit, Michigan. The elegant creation is also known as the "Golden Indian".

A Regular at Woodward Avenue

According to Mike Alexander, Mike Budnick couldn't have been older than 18 when he brought the Pontiac to the Alexander Brothers. Young Budnick had bought the car brand new in August 1960, just two months after graduating from high school. The car was black and powered by a tri-power 389 that was hooked to a four-speed transmission. Mike's Ventura became a regular on the Detroit cruise scene. One night while cruising out on Woodward Avenue, Mike met up with another Pontiac owner who had had the Alexander Brothers restyle his car a little. Mike liked what he saw and in January 1961 Mike drove his Pontiac to the Alexander Brothers shop on Littlefield Street.[3]

Built Over a One and a Half Year Span

Larry and Mike Alexander gave Mike's Pontiac a new and ultra-clean look that had never been done to any of Detroit's "new-look" automobiles before. The car was built over a one and a half year span, following young Mike's budget. There was never a full design plan for the car. Mike and Larry just started with their usual hood, deck, and door handles treatment and took off from there.[3] The front bumper was removed and the lower pan was rolled. The license plate was frenched and the front of the fenders was tucked in to meet the pan. The doors were rounded, the antennas frenched, the hood pancaked and each fenders wheel arch was subtly radiused and reshaped. By 1960 most modern cars had dual headlights, so in order to make the Pontiac stand out from the crowd, Mike and Larry tunneled the headlights on the car. A set of quad headlights with expanded chrome channel trim and protruded center blade was installed and tunneled, giving the front a whole new look. The grille was swapped for a simpler tube grille consisting of seven chrome rods with a larger diameter tube as its lower element. The turn signals were mounted at the ends of the bottom grille bar. Chrome was removed from the sides of the body before it was smoothed. A unique pair of antennas were tunneled and peaked into the driver's door. The most elegant detail change on the car was the cove panel that used the existing body line. The panel stretched backward from the rear wheel opening as a scooped-out side section. The rear bumper was removed and a completely new rear end was created featuring a grille opening below the taillight housings which was extended and shaped out of sheet metal stock. The taillights were reshaped into half-moons and fitted with custom lenses made of red plastic trimmed with white ribs.[4] An aluminum bar was created and polished to finish off the rear styling.[5] Air scoops were sculptured in the rear fenders, formed by tubing welded to the lower fender line.[6] The car was lowered 8 inches by C'ing the frame, cutting the coils and by adding lowering blocks in the rear. The car got chrome reversed wheels and knock-off caps[6] Once bodywork on the car was done, it was painted in a Lemon-Lime Candy finish.[5]

Space Age Interior by Ray's Kustom Trim

Ray's Kustom Trim created the interior with fresh kick panels, door panels and four bucket seats in rolled and pleated Pearl White Naugahyde. The front swivel bucket seats were mounted on a polished aluminum channel while the rear seats were solidly mounted. A wide center console reminiscent of a surfboard ran the length of the car from the front seats to the rear. An armrest was mounted on top of the console for rear-seat passengers. All the moldings were chrome plated and the floor was covered with gold carpet. The steering wheel originated from a 1963 Pontiac. Mike paid Ray $700 US for the upholstery job.

Detroit Autorama Debut

The Golden Indian made its debut at the 1963 Detroit Autorama. From there it went on to become a cover car for Rod & Custom November 1963.[3] The magazine photos were taken at the intersection of Auburn Ave and Wide Track Drive in Pontiac, Michigan[1]

Sold to Larry Thaxton

Gary Oliver remembers seeing the car for sale at a gas station on Mt Clements Street and East Blvd in Pontiac in 1964. Larry Thaxton was the name on the for sale sign. "I stopped and looked it over almost every day in early 1964," Oliver told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in 2019. "It was for sale for $1600,00. Wish I had bought it but money was tight when I was 20 years old. Years and years of regret not buying it!"[1]

Doug Ward

Mike supposedly sold the car to a GM employee who then sold it to Doug Ward. We have not been able to confirm if Larry Thaxton was the GM employee, but chances are high. Ward later sold it to Jeff Anderson of Cadillac, Michigan.

The White Ghost

In the late 1970s Phil Johnson rescued the car from Jeff's backyard. In 2016 he told Sondre Kvipt that it was white and called "The White Ghost" when he bought it; "I had seen the car at Cobo Hall at a show, so I knew what it was. The guy in Cadillac had a taxicab company. He was going broke and was going to use the old custom as a cab. Can you imagine that? I had it for a couple of years before a guy in Texas offered me a new Trans Am for it, so I did. Stupid."[7]

Sold to Texas

It was Herman Horak of Houston, Texas that traded Phil the car for a Trans Am. In 1987 Herman advertised the car for sale in Hemmings, by then, the car had by then been painted Pearl white and was rusty but mostly complete. The only original parts that were missing were the front-bucket seats and the hand-made rear grille which had been replaced by a naugahyde-covered piece of plywood. Someone had also glued on a vinyl half roof.

Sold to Lou Calasibetta, Restored by Old Stillwater Garage

Lou Calasibetta of Stillwater, New Jersey saw the ad and knew that he just had to save this 1960s survivor. Lou bought the car and stored it for another decade before he decided to begin the restoration. When he bought the car, he also bought a completely stock and rust free two-door sedan for parts. Lou operates the Pontiac-friendly Old Stillwater Garage, where frame-off restorations are routine. During the restoration, his crew, consisting of Dave Symond, Jimmy Harris, Steve Decker, Bob Scabet and Gary Benson had to replace four complete body panels, one rocker, the entire trunk, the bottom of the cowl, both front and rear roll pans and the hood.[3] They also had to replace nearly all the original custom work; no small task when the roof is the only part which the Alexander Brothers left alone. The OSG crew managed to find the original lime candy paint preserved under the rear window moldings, and the color was reproduced using House of Kolor products. The upholstery was done by Jerry Ambrosi.[8] After two years of hard work, the restored version of the Golden Indian made its debut at the 50th annual Detroit Autorama in 2002. The same show that it made its first debut at almost 40 years earlier. After the restoration the car appeared almost like it did in 1963. The only things Lou changed during the restoration were moving the gas filler inside the trunk and the bucket seat swivel mount. The gas filler was moved for easier access, and the seats were positioned lower so Lou would fit better inside it. Mike Budnick was present when the car made its debut at the 2002 Detroit Autorama and he picked up the change immediately. [3]

Magazine Features

Rod & Custom November 1963
Popular Customs Winter Issue 1963
Rod & Custom August 1990
The Rodders Journal 19
Rod & Custom August 2004



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