Originality is getting hard to find, most of all when it comes to muscle and pony cars from the classic era. Almost every ’69 Camaro left has been turned into a rumbling Z-28, or at least an SS. And there’s probably more GTOs today than were ever built in their day. So when I saw this shiny blue Pontiac across the parking lot with its Rally II wheels , “GTO” was the first thing that came to mind. But wait a minute…it’s a Le Mans…and with a 389 emblem on the front fender. Huh?
For you non-geezers or non-Poncho aficionados, that emblem does not belong there, for at least two different reasons. The Le Mans of this general vintage was only available with the 326 V8, as well as the OHC six. And in 1967, the larger displacement Pontiac V8 was now a 400 incher, having replaced the venerable 389 whose last year was 1966. So why is it here?
Presumably, because they dropped in a 389 from an older Pontiac, and felt no shame in telling the world about it. And more significantly, didn’t feel the need to turn it into a GTO clone. Which is admirable, in my jaded eyes.
And they didn’t stop with the engine either. The shifter’s L2 and L1 positions give away the fact that a THM is at the receiving end of its commands. The Le Mans was still stuck with its two-speed automatic. So is this console gate from a GTO, or? Whatever its source, it looks highly original. Le Mans buyers should have been this lucky, to get a THM with their 326. Or better yet, be able to order a mild 400, the THM, and long gearing; just like the ’67 Olds Cutlass Turnpike Cruiser.
I distinctly remember Pontiac equipping a Catalina with just such a package, and taking it cross-country to promote its high fuel economy numbers. But that was kept for the big cars.
While we’re here, let’s not forget a brief homage to the ’66-’67 A-Body tunnelback roof. Curiously enough, the origins of that design were pure GTO; Ferrari, not Pontiac.
The 1964 Series II GTO was the first to wear that distinctive roof, although GM certainly refined it a bit for their use. But it was a two-year thing only, and then handed off to Dodge to use on their 1969 Charger. The design hand-me down.
Any way you look at it, this Le Mans is a handsome exponent of its genre, and its owner has taken some judicious steps to improve its dynamics, without resorting to stereotypes. Even if it does wear a genuine GTO roof.