Jared Mason, Searcy

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1968 Pontiac GTO 

Jared Mason, 17, of Searcy stands beside the 1968 Pontiac GTO he restored for family members in Conway. 
Mason started restoring vehicles when a motorcycle accident took away his transportation. (Photo by Janet Wilson)

The Daily Citizen

Young man meets old cars 

Staff Writer     31 Aug 2003

In 1968, miniskirts, tie-dyed T-shirts, hip-huggers and bell-bottoms were the latest fashion fad. As the Vietnam War raged in Southeast Asia, students in the United States chanted "make love, not war." It was also the year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and was the year that "60 Minutes" first aired on CBS.

In 1968, Americans enjoyed television shows such as The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy and The Jackie Gleason Show. They were also having a love affair with muscle cars.

There was the 340-horse power AMC Javelin, the Buick Gran Sport, the Chevy Camaro Z28 that could go from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, the Dodge Dart GTS Six Pack, and the Pontiac GTO.

More than 30 years later, tie-dyed T-shirts have come and gone again, "60 Minutes" is still on the air, the country is once again at war, and in Searcy, 17-year-old Jared Mason has breathed new life into one of the most coveted muscle cars of that era: A 1968 Pontiac GTO.

Had it not been for a motorcycle accident and the dreams of other family members to revive the past, the car might still be sitting in San Antonio, Texas, where images of its glory days could only be seen in pictures and in the memories of those who grew up in that generation.

At first glance, the restored bright candy apple red hot rod with the black convertible top conjures up images of driving along a straight stretch of highway on a sunny Sunday afternoon listening to Marvin Gaye's rendition of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" on the radio. Looking at the car, one might also wonder if it has ever screamed through a quarter-mile dash battling for the finish line against a Camaro Z28 or Ford Mustang. Perhaps it was one of the lucky ones whose owner only drove it to church on Sunday.

Whatever the case, Mason has meticulously restored her to her former glory.

The Searcy High School senior said he discovered his knack for repairing, fixing and restoring when he became involved in a chain reaction accident while riding his 1987 Honda Rebel motorcycle to school.

"It started when a school bus hit another school bus, then a couple of cars became involved and I hit one of the cars," Mason said.

Although Mason walked away from the accident with only minor injuries, his motorcycle, which was his only source of transportation, suffered a bent frame and other damage.

"It tore it up pretty good," he recalled.

"In our words, it would have been totaled," said his father, Doug Mason.

With limited financial resources, Jared said simply taking the motorcycle to someone else to repair was not an option. When Ronnie Miller, a family friend, offered to help fix the broken bike, Mason said he discovered that the repairs seemed to come naturally.

"It just all made sense," he said.

Once the motorcycle was repaired, Mason said he felt confident enough in his abilities to take on more motorcycles and eventually a pickup truck. Uncertainty set in, however, when his uncle approached him about restoring the GTO.

"I had never done anything that extensive before," he said.

"His uncle had more confidence in him than he did," Doug Mason said of his son.

After traveling to the Conway home of his uncle Eldon Mason and cousin Clint Mason to look at the car, Jared said he laughed the first time he saw it.

"It looked like a fairly nice car, but it was full of mud," he said, referring to the compound commonly used to repair vehicles known as Bondo. "When I took the interior out, I found out that when it was wrecked, whatever hit it, drove right through the middle of it."

He said that although the vehicle had been cosmetically repaired, the mechanic left the driver's side almost two inches shorter than the passenger side.

"Nothing matched," Mason said.

Starting virtually from scratch in June 2002, Mason said it has taken him nearly 1,500 hours to complete the job.

"There were times he wanted to give up," said Jared's mother, Fonda Mason. "But he has done it all on his own and we are proud of him."

"It turned out a lot better than I thought it would, considering what I had to work with," Jared said.

"Sometimes he had to do things two or three times to get it like he wanted it," Doug added.

In the course of a year, Jared has turned what began as a $6,000 investment purchased on the Internet into a $30,000 living legend.

Even though the hours were long and the work was sometimes difficult and frustrating, the GTO helped Mason prove to himself that he does have the ability to take on and successfully complete challenging projects.

He already has his next project: Restoring a 1953 Chevrolet pickup truck he said would eventually be his personal set of wheels. As a result of his successes, Mason has formed his own custom painting, airbrushing and antique restoration business, which he named Mason's Kreations.

He has also discovered that restoring a cool car has other perks besides getting paid for something he enjoys.

When he had the opportunity to take the GTO for a spin through Searcy, Doug said Jared called from his cell phone and said, "Dad, the chicks dig it."

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