I met Factory Five customer Michael B. (a.k.a. The Stig on The Factory Five Forum) quite a while ago down in Charlotte, NC at a customer cruise-in event. At the time, he was at the beginning of building his GTM which he had purchased partially assembled from another customer. Over the years, Mike has put significant time and energy into his build and documented the whole process online. He has also become a valuable member and contributor to www.thefactoryfiveforum.com.
He has now completed his Gen 1 GTM which is one of the nicest anywhere and takes the design to a very high level. Here is his story.
Factory Five customer Michael B.: “I had always wanted to custom build a dream-car myself, but I figured that would be in the form of a 33 Ford Hot-Rod, or C1 / C2 Corvette restoration. Little did I know that during a walk through the Charlotte Auto Fair car show, I would see the car that I would build. I came around a corner and saw the Factory Five transporter with a nice display of cars under an awning. But one in particular caught my eye… A metallic red, LS7 powered GTM.”
Immediately, I went over and started asking what had to be at least 100 questions about the car. What is it? Who makes it? How much does it cost? All the standard questions. And I have to say that the answers came back very patiently. When I walked away, I looked back at the car, and thought to myself that it would be really cool to build one. I called my wife and asked if she would like to come to the car show and see a car that I’d like to build. She thought it would be fun, so I drove home, picked her up, and we went back to the car show at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
We walked straight to the Factory Five display, and she apparently had the same reaction that I had earlier. The GTM caught her eye. We walked up and she started asking her list of questions. The guys there paid attention to her and answered her, just as they did for me earlier. We picked up the GTM brochure and the DVD that they gave away: (because what person doesn’t want a DVD of cool fast cars to watch)?
When she and I walked away, she looked at me and said, “You have to build that car”. When we got home, we grilled some steaks, had some wine, and watched the DVD. (Great combination, right?) Pam seemed even more excited about the project. I’m not sure whether that was due to the DVD or the wine… But in any case, I started saving money here and there to pay for the kit. While doing so, I started a mental build plan of what I thought it would take to build it, and what the goal was for it when it was done. I saw a post on the forum, for a GTM kit/project that was being sold, with an LS1 engine and G50/01 Transaxle for a very good price. I called, we negotiated, and I committed.
I purchased my GTM on August 9th, 2009 from Reginald H. in Lowell, MA. Reginald had started the build, and then due to life circumstances decided to forego his build and sell it. My wife and I jumped into the car with cashier’s check in hand, and made a road trip to Massachusetts from Charlotte to buy the GTM. When we got there, I found that the kit was not packaged or anywhere near ready to be shipped as we were told. So we went out and bought boxes to package the parts and get everything ready to be transported.
Stewart Transport happened to have a truck that was picking up at Factory Five, and agreed to drive up and pick up the GTM and delivery it to my home in Charlotte. Honey Badger was the driver. He delivered the GTM to my house, on the following Monday. And so, began my Factory Five journey that would take many different twists and turns over many hills and through many valleys, over the course of seven plus years, before we would ever get to the expected destination.
The trip has certainly been educational. It has been fun. It has been very frustrating at times. But in all, it was one of the most satisfying things that I’ve done so far. The Factory Five Forum was one of the greatest support mechanisms that allowed me to keep marching forward, no matter how stuck I became, or how frustrated I was. There was always someone there who would take the time to try and answer my questions and get me back on track again. After a while, I started to notice that I was no longer the guys asking all the questions of others, (as much) but now I was becoming one of the people jumping in to help other people whenever, and however I could. I’ve always liked to give back in some way. It was satisfying to know that I was now able to help!
Along the way, I started to notice that this build seemed to have a life of its own. Just when I thought things were going pretty smoothly, it had a way of reminding me who was really in control… Later down the road, someone on the forum told me that needed a name for my car, because I had always referred to it as “the GTM”, and I guess people had followed along for long enough to feel that they were part of the build as well.
I’ve never been one to name cars or airplanes or such, so I hadn’t really thought about it.
But one afternoon, I walked into Tony Kutas’ shop where I was having body work and paint done, and he just started shaking his head. The first words out of his mouth were to say that working on this car was like Pandora’s Box. Once you get one thing corrected, two more issues show themselves. At that point I just started laughing! Because he was right. And I knew that “the GTM” just became “Pandora”. Tony, Kevin, Rodney, and Kenny all continued to do an amazing job getting all the panels and body sections ready for a an absolute show quality finish. Since then, the name “Pandora” has been blamed for quite a number of things…
Fast forward to 03/17/2017. Caffeine & Octane at the Beach: Jekyll Island, GA
Pandora is finished, and has been in her first show, where she got the attention that she deserved.
This show marked the completion of my project, and I am now calling the build “done”.
It was a long time in coming, but it’s here now, and Pam & I could not be any happier with how she has turned out.
Michael B., a.k.a. The Stig
Congratulations to Michael on a job well done. It’s not just a sales pitch, it’s really true that starting a fresh build with new parts is usually easier than starting with a partially built car. In any event, Mike’s GTM is a true family heirloom and a beautiful example of craftsmanship and dedication.