Pick of the Day: 1964 Pontiac GTO, first year of the legendary muscle car

This clean Tri-Power coupe is documented as an authentic example

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The first-year GTO was a surprising success for Pontiac

Although the Pontiac GTO was never meant to be a Gran Turismo Omologato – a grand touring homologation race car – it did kick off the muscle car wars that raged between U.S. automakers throughout the 1960s and early ’70s. 

That makes the first year of the GTO something special, when Pontiac took the plunge and made this performance package optional for its Tempest LeMans midsize car.

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The Pick of the Day is a 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans GTO, a clean-looking example of the original lightweight muscle car, packing a 348-horsepower Tri-Power V8 and 4-speed manual transmission.

While there are many GTO clones out there muddying the water, this first-year GTO is the real deal, fully documented as a factory original, according to the seller, an Orville, Ohio, dealer advertising the Goat on ClassicCars.com.

“This 1964 Pontiac GTO has its Protect-O-Plate and is PHS (Pontiac Historic Services) documented!” the dealer says in the ad.  “It has a nice straight body and the paint shows well. The front and rear bumpers have been re-chromed. It sits on a new set of BFG redline radials with factory spinner hubcaps. The interior has been redone including the seats and door panels.”

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Most muscle car people know the story of the GTO, how the famed John DeLorean along with Bill Collins and Russ Gee bucked the GM establishment with a new breed of car designed to attract young drivers with its performance vibe.

RELATED:  Pick of the Day: 1969 Alfa Romeo Spider, an affordable Italian roadster

The GTO was certainly not the first Detroit machine with thunderous horsepower, but it presented it in a smaller and more-nimble package.  This was just before the advent of the Mustang from that car company across town, and the GTO was an unexpected runaway success for Pontiac.

Model year 1964 was unique, stylistically, as the Tempest and therefore the GTO received a complete redo for 1965.  In 1966, GTO became a standalone Pontiac model.


This car is apparently the upgraded version with three two-barrel Rochester carbs feeding the 389cid V8, limited slip differential, heavy-duty cooling, handling package and metallic brake-drum linings.  Brake performance was always an issue with these early models as they had the same 4-wheel drum brakes as the standard Tempest. 

The GTO looks just as the dealer describes, a clean and straight Southern car that is well-presented with a new interior and decent paint.  Photos of the undercarriage and front suspension show that it’s also clean and solid underneath. The specs claim just 33,000 miles on the odometer, but the seller does not say whether that is correct or original.


I like the straightforward design of these original GTOs, and this one seems like a good deal at $39,900

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Bob for bringing us the GTO on “Pick of the Day”. I personally never had the joy of owning one of these iconic muscle cars, but one with the 348 Tri-Power & a sweet Muncie M-21 4-Speed have always been on my wish list. I did have the pleasure of helping out a friend tune his distributor on a 67′ Tempest with a 400 CUI Automatic. That was as close to this beauty as I have ventured. Loved the article.

  2. Thank you Bob!
    My ‘64 in High School was marine blue and after cruising Van Nuys Blvd we decided to have a B&M Hydro 4 speed installed. I have been basking in the glory ever since 1971.
    Rick

  3. I had a 65 GTO after high school, blue green with black interior. My wife and I bought a 66 Montero Red GTO in 2012 and have restored it. It has a 64 steering wheel, different looking from this GTO’s steering wheel though. It has PHS documentation. Always a Southwest car, rebuilt numbers correct 389.

  4. Still one magnificent looking and driving car. Mine was a custom ordered ’67. Still regret not asking for the ’67 options book in ’68.

  5. I factory ordered a 64 goat convertible with tri-power heavy duty cooling Hearst shifter and the racing wheels. It was diamond blue with a white top and white interior it was a wonderful car I drove it for over 110,000 miles before finally giving it up.
    The sticker price with tax and delivered in Peoria Illinois was 3280 from Travis Pontiac Cadillac. I’m now at the point in my life or I’d like to find a very similar car. I’m keeping tabs with a friend of mine at Fast Lane Cars in St. Louis Missouri.

  6. It truly lived up to its title of GTO :9gas, tires, oil. I think I bought 14 sets of tires for this car before I gave it up.

  7. This car has set the bar high for others. I had a 68 GTO with a 400 ci. & factory Hurst, black vinyl top over red. But it didn’t compare really to this iconic 64 in my opinion, but I still wish I had my 68 setting in my driveway lol.

  8. I agree with Karl Fosmo. I believe the intake from a 66. I base this from the where the missing choke should be mounted. The way the choke mounts to the intake is not the same as a 64 or a 65. 64-65 each had metal tubes that came from the spring style choke mechanism that was mounted on the carb. Using a 66 intake is not all bad. The center carb on a 66 is larger than 64-65. Having a 66 intake means that the heads are also wrong. The intake bolt pattern changed in 65. I also think the steering wheel is incorrect and possibly the vacuum gauge in the console. Not sure if it was an option onA-bodies. I bought my 1st GTO in 1978. I was 19. Over the years I have been fortunate to have owned several GTO’s. Presently I have five. Two 64’s, a 69, 70 and 71. It’s hard to tell what write or wrong just from a couple pictures. All that said. Finding a numbers matching car is almost impossible. If you want it original you just have to keep looking. You’d be surprised what you can find.
    Besides the GTO’s I have a 68 FB 400, a 69 GP, a 70 GP SJ (455 HO), a 70 GP J ( this is a 3/sp stick car, very rare 171 produced), a 72 Formula 400, a 75 T/A 400 4 speed and a 76 T/A 455 4 speed. Sorry if I said too much. It doesn’t matter if it’s not all original. Adding power disc brakes wouldn’t hurt anything.

  9. I had a 68lemans when I was 18 350 320 hp gold black vynil top 3 speed 4 barrel reverb radio raised it up so I looked and now have red convertible with white interior and top it is a gto clone still with a 350 love it so yes not original but my baby 😀❤️

  10. my friend Al”the Mag Wheel” had a 64 gold convertable he bought from a body shop that put a 65 front end on it. ONE OF A KIND!!! Does it still exist?

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