In the minds of many, the first real muscle car was the 1964 Pontiac GTO. Early in 1963, most of the marketing at Pontiac revolved around performance. Word was handed down from GM Brass that there was to be no more involvement in competition. In 1957, GM had entered into a voluntary agreement with the other members of the Automobile Manufacturers Association to stay out of competitive auto racing after the horrific crash at LeMans in 1955 that killed 83 and injured 180 more. Many privateers had been racing GM products in that time, some with backdoor help coming from the various GM divisions. Pontiac would have to find a way to build excitement outside of racing.
Three of the whiz kids at Pontiac, John Z. DeLorean, Russ Gee, and Bill Collins, thought a factory hot rod based on the mid-size Pontiac Tempest might be just the thing. By swapping the Tempest’s 326 cubic-inch V8 with the 389 from the full-size Catalina, they could make the Tempest into a beast. They would also have to find a way to skirt GM’s internal decree that mid-size cars were not to be fitted with engines in excess of 330 cubic inches. They did so by saying the rule didn’t apply to engines offered as options. The trio got former Pontiac president (and soon-to-be Vice President of GM) Pete Estes to sign off on an initial run of five thousand cars. The option package would be called the Pontiac GTO, taking the name directly from the Ferrari 250 GTO, much to Enzo Ferrari’s chagrin.
The Pontiac GTO was an immediate hit, with demand resulting in over 32,000 GTOs leaving the factory. 1965 saw more than double that number, with over 75,000 GTOs sold.
Pontiac restyled its intermediate line for 1966, and the GTO became its own model. Among the aesthetic changes were unique grille, taillamps, rear fenders with a more pronounce arch, a tunneled rear window, and greater overall width with a one-inch wider rear track. The GTO could be had as a two-door post, two-door hardtop, or as a convertible. 1966 was the first year for Strato bucket seats. The dash was redesigned with walnut veneer, and the ignition moved from the left side of the dash to the right side of the steering wheel.
Pontiac GTO styling carried over for 1967, but there were a number of mechanical changes. General Motors issued a new corporate edict banning multiple carb set-ups for all cars save the Chevy Corvette. This meant the raucous 389 Tri-Power that had proven so popular in the GTO was a thing of the past. In an effort to appease the performance faithful, Pontiac increased displacement on the GTO engine to 400 cubic inches. The GTO came with a standard high-output 400 cube V8 fed by a new Quadrajet four barrel rated at 360 horsepower, but two other engines were available for the 1967 model year. One was an economy version of the 400 fed by a two-barrel carb and rated at 265 horsepower. Available only with an automatic, and was poorly received. A higher performance variant came with the Ram Air option, and could be had for an additional $263.30. The package included a functional hood scoop, longer duration cam, and stiffer valve springs. The package could only be had with 3.90 or 4.33 rear gear ratios. This was a far more robust offering, but the claimed power rating remained unchanged.
A 1967 Pontiac GTO Ram Air with a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic TH400 and the 3.90 rear gear, Strato buckets seats, console, and a Hurst Dual Gate shifter was tested by Hot Rod magazine. The Goat laid down a 14.51-second quarter-mile at 98.79 miles per hour in showroom trim. Removing the accessory drive belts, swapping in a new set of plugs, and a bit of carb tuning got that down to 14.11 at 101.23.
Our feature 1967 Pontiac GTO convertible is equipped with the Ram Air package. It is finished in Regimental Red over a Parchment interior and a white vinyl convertible top. It has been the subject of a frame-off restoration. It has a numbers-matching drivetrain that consists of its factory 400 cubic-inch V8, four-speed manual transmission, and original differential. The interior is all new, as is the power convertible top. The Goat rolls on painted steel Pontiac Rally wheels shod in new redline tires. It has covered only 300 miles since completion of the restoration. Pontiac Historic Society documentation is included in the sale.
This handsome 1967 Pontiac GTO Ram Air Stage I convertible will cross the auction block at the Mecum Auctions Harrisburg, Pennsylvania sale taking place July 27th through the 30th.