Before the release of the 1964 Pontiac Tempest, John Z. DeLorean gathered a group of engineers at General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground. They were testing a Tempest that had been stuffed full of the largest production engine Pontiac offered, a 389 cubic-inch V8. The muscular Tempest was spinning the back tires with ease and bristling with power. Though the name had not yet been determined, the Pontiac GTO had been born.
The idea for the Pontiac GTO came out of a bit of necessity and desperation. Word had come down from GM brass that all advertising related to competitive motorsports would cease immediately. GM, along with other American manufacturers, had signed an agreement to stop engaging in motorsports in 1957, following a horrifying accident at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1955. The Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) had voluntarily entered into the agreement with the hopes of dissuading government intervention. Despite this, most of the manufacturers had continued to engage in competition, albeit in a clandestine fashion. In 1963, GM held 55 percent of the new-car market in the US, and as such was leery of federal anti-trust intervention. GM didn’t need any additional governmental attention, so GM brass put a stop to any involvement in auto racing, clandestine or otherwise.
Since Pontiac had so strongly aligned themselves with motorsport in their advertising, they would have to find another way to court the youth market. DeLorean thought a factory hot rod might be just the thing. He and his group of engineers installed a 389 under the hood of the mid-size Tempest and went to the test track. The combo that would become the Pontiac GTO was powerful and fun, just the ticket for luring in younger buyers.
DeLorean pitched the Pontiac GTO to then Pontiac general manager Pete Estes. The GTO would be an optional trim package for the Tempest. DeLorean said they could skirt the GM rule of limiting mid-size passenger cars to 330 cubic inches by saying that didn’t apply to optional trim packages. Pete Estes wanted an initial production goal of 5,000 units. The 1964 Pontiac GTO sales eclipsed the 32,000-unit mark.
Our feature 1964 Pontiac GTO has been treated to a frame-off restoration, returning it to factory specs, with air conditioning added. It is one of about 1,500 GTO convertibles equipped with the optional Tri-Power induction featuring triple two-barrel carburetors. Backing the 389 is a Muncie four-speed wide-ratio manual gearbox. The GTO is finished in Grenadier Red with a white vinyl power convertible top over a black interior. It is equipped with a center console, Vintage Air, Saf-T-Trak rear diff, power brakes, PMD wheels shod in redline tires including a redline spare. Pontiac Historic Society documentation is included in the sale.
This rare Pontiac GTO will cross the Mecum Auctions block at their Indy Fall Special event happening October 5th through the 7th.