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.
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.”
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.
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.