Conceived in early 1963 by Pontiac’s John Z. DeLorean, Bill Collins, and Russ Gee, the Pontiac GTO was a factory hot rod born by replacing the standard 326 cubic-inch V8 in the mid-size Pontiac Tempest with the 389 cubic-inch V8 from the full-size Catalina and Bonneville. At that time, General Motors had an internal edict that mid-size cars were not to have engines in excess of 330 cubic inches, a rule Pontiac skirted by saying it didn’t apply to engines offered as “options.” Elliot “Pete” Estes approved the GTO option package for the Tempest, with an initial production limit of five thousand cars. Thus, the 1964 Pontiac GTO was hatched, and so began the Muscle Car era.
The 1964 Pontiac GTO was equipped with a 389 cubic-inch V8 rated at 325 horsepower when topped by a single four-barrel Carter carb. The optional Tri Power set-up (three two-barrel carbs) bumped output to 348 horses. The GTO could be equipped with either a four-speed manual or two-speed automatic transmission, a limited-slip differential, heavy-duty cooling, dash-mounted tachometer, and performance handling package.
Adding the GTO moniker to the Pontiac GTO was John DeLorean’s idea. The car was known within the walls at Pontiac as the “Grand Tempest Option,” but DeLorean engaged in a little artful licensing from the Ferrari 250 GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato, or an officially homologated grand tourer) race car name. The Pontiac GTO was never considered a grand touring car, but the blatant nod to the Ferrari name created its own buzz.
Our feature 1964 Pontiac GTO shows just 17,920 miles on the clock. It is powered by the matching-numbers 389 cubic-inch V8 fed by the Tri-Power carb setup backed by the four-speed transmission. The factory Sunfire Red hue is rare, having only been produced for six months, and it is believed fewer than five GTOs were built in this color and drivetrain configuration.
No mention of restoration work on this Pontiac GTO is noted, but the condition would seem to indicate such. The Sunfire Red finish is glossy, the chrome trim and bumpers look to have been re-plated, and the stainless is well polished. Black painted steel wheels wear redline radials and poverty caps. The black vinyl interior appears to be in decent nick, and though the engine bay could stand a bit of detailing, it looks to be complete and fairly correct.
This Pontiac GTO has an extensive racing history and supporting paperwork. It is accompanied by documents showing Southern California history, races at the 1968 and 1970 Winternationals in Pomona, California, a binder full of time slips from assorted California drag strips, and a handwritten letter from legendary engine builder Ed Pink that dates from 1965.
This interesting 1964 Pontiac GTO will be crossing the auction block at the Mecum Auctions Glendale, Arizona sale taking place March 16th through the 19th.