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.
Nice car I recently found a 400 Firebird in blue I was wondering about the badging, Churr Paul.
I like this a lot,stunning looks and gorgeous colour.GM styling back thenwas top of the game when this car was new,there was some serious competition looks wise from all the US car makers.
Sort of like putting a 283 & TH350 in a ’67 Camaro
Even that would be an improvement over the 6 they came with and power slide.
I’m glad that this guy didn’t clone it all up with GTO badges; kudos. Close to stock looking and it appears this gent may have obtained a THM console indeed from a goat or maybe the “window” quadrant that may be swap-able with that of the similar console from the Jetaway 2-speed box. Lest us not forget the floor pan stampings of the ’64-’66 A bodies only accepted a 2-speed box including the 396 SS Chevelles which were ‘glides . . . . ’67 floorpans had larger stampings to accommodate THM 400’s.
Common thing actually all our GM cars had different floor stampings for auto boxes
This takes me back to my childhood. In 1967, our next door neighbors the Bordners had two Pontiacs – the Mrs. drove a beige 66 GTO with a 4 speed, and the Mr. drove a light green 67 LeMans Sprint with the OHC 6 (and a 4 speed?). That was an attractive driveway.
What a beautiful find. In my eyes, just as desirable as a GTO.
Such a timeless design! It looks good in almost any trim level. A mid level trim like this is sometimes my favorite. Good looking, not overdone, affordable, not fussy to maintain, and more likable in daily driving compared to some of the some of the peak performance models.
An honest car with great looks.
What a nice looking Pontiac and so glad it is not another dang GTO clone. I cannot imagine what driving a 2 speed Automagic must be like, does 1st gear go to 40 or something like that and 2nd to 90 something? I have been driving three speed Automagics for years I cannot imagine having one less gear. The circa 2009 Pacific Wonderland license plate sure is nice, but I think I will get an Oregon Professional Firefighters license plate instead.
But Teddy, 2 speed automatics must have been perfectly fine, because it was almost all GM would serve you until the late 60s, at least in anything smaller than a full sized Pontiac or Olds. 🙂 Funny though, as a kid they seemed normal. I guess I never really paid attention to how the things shifted like the GM city buses of the day.
Good point, but I will say one vehicle greatly benefits from two extra gears. New Chevy Expresses since they are now somewhat quicker and less Tranny Hunt prone than their older brethren.
The 1-2 shift speed depended on the axle ratio and the engine rpm band. A six might have shifted around 45-50, but a 327 might well have exceeded 70 mph in first before the shift.
Keep in mind that the Chevy Powerglide (not the unit used in Pontiac, Buicks and Olds A-bodies) was originally a one-speed transmission, like the Dynaflow. Low gear had to be selected manually, and only to be used on steep hills, up or down. The torque converter on the PG and Dynaflow had enough torque amplification to accelerate the car in Drive only. So when the PG added an automatic start in Low gear, it was seen as quite an improvement!
Most of the two-speed autos had a low gear in the neighborhood of 1.72:1, which was roughly halfway between first and second on a typical three-speed. At low speeds you had the added multiplication of the converter, but it still was not unlike starting in second gear. A lot of V-8s of the time had plenty of low-end torque and could start in that ratio (even without a torque converter) without complaint, if not with any great amount of verve. With standard axle ratios, low could typically be used to about 50-55 mph, although with a light throttle foot, the shift point was obviously much lower than that.
Drove a 68 firebird with the 400 and I am not a fan. Lots of grunt but couldn’t pass a gas station. 10mpg town or highway although in Panama sometimes not much difference. The 326 was an economical engine that served well but my pick of the litter was the OHC 6.
Too many engines but they dumped the best IMO. The firebird worked well with it and I can only imagine a slightly longer fiero with that engine. Probably have to be too long but I’ve had crazier ideas.
Very nice car. I too like that it’s not a GTO clone and has been kept period corrrect looking right down to the rally (rallye?) wheels.
Profile pic makes this look like it has too much rear overhang.
Blasphemy. Any less overhang and I’d call it stubby.
The hood is from a GTO with the scoop. People bitch about the Power Glide, but the damn things were unbreakable (I know, I tried my best), and for the past 20 years or so, has been the auto tranny of choice of drag racers.
Pontiac (as well as Buick and Olds) never used the Powerglide. They had their own two-speed automatic, built by Buick.
But you’re right, the PG was as tough as an automatic as there was.
A fellow I knew used to get up to speed in reverse (on a Chevy dealer loaner) then subject the powerglide to a “7000 rpm neutral drop” It would produce an impressive J shaped rubber strip on the road until the trans blew.
nice looking car. I had forgotten that even the “smaller” GM cars in the 1960’s and 1970’s had their own zip codes between the front and back bumpers
While nice and the owner deserves kudos for not turning this Le Mans into a lame GTO tribute car, that 389 emblem looks out of place, either because it’s red or the font is wrong (not canted).
With that said, tunnel back roofs are one of the coolest styling touches to ever come out of Detroit. They really made the ’66-’67 GM intermediates and ’68-’70 Charger some of the most memorable and best styled Detroit iron. Even Ford gave the tunnel back roof a shot with the ’69-’70 Galaxie 2-door hardtop, but with less success.
Unfortunately, because a tunnel back roof design wreaks havoc with a car’s aerodynamics, it’s unlikely to ever see the light of day, again. It’s a real pity because a modern Charger 2-door with a tunnel back roof would have me at the dealer’s door.
Speaking of the Charger, it should’ve been a two door still when Chrysler reincarnated it for Dodge, but that’s just me as I loved the 68-69 especially chargers of them all.
Not to mention visibility to the right rear, especially since most cars didn’t have right-hand mirrors in those days.
There’s the BMW 650i with its tunnel back convertible roof. And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen another modern car recently with that kind of design, although I can’t recall what it was.
Nice Le Mans there, and glad too it wasn’t made into a GTO tribute/clone car.
Even if a few minor details were incorrect, ti’s largely period correct, and not a tribute car is what counts, GTO hood, notwithstanding.
Nice car, but pet peeve, why did he cut speaker holes in those nice door panels?
He may regret that one day. Sure, Just Dashes or Year One can get you some new ones, but at a price.
Beautiful car, tasteful mods… I do like that tunnelback…
This car represents Pontiac, and GM, near the top of their game. Gorgeous, especially in blue! Long rear overhangs were very typical for the times.
One of my favorite designs ever. Too bad they joined the bustleback trend in 1968. The beginning of the end…
Ha Ha That’s my car!
Still got Her, Everyday driver in Corvallis