Tom, I’ll see your 1968 car show Le Mans, and raise you a 1968 parking lot Le Mans that looks like it drove right out of 1973…
Springtime in the Middle West always brings out a succession of classic cars parked along the “end cap” spaces in the parking lot at work. Many are resto-mods, but a good third of them are true survivors like this car.
Out of the GM brands extant in the late 1960s, I’ve always felt Pontiac did the best with their interiors. This dash reminds me a lot of the one in my 1966 Tempest—it was almost jewel-like in the detailing.
No question about what lurks under the hood of this car. Actually, it might be possible that folks are confused, as the 350 in reference here is not a SBC, but rather the 354.74 c.i.d. (5.8l) “actual displacement” engine created by mating a bored-out Pontiac 326 block with the 3.75″ crank from the 326/389/400 engine. No idea why Pontiac called it a 350 instead of a 354, though. This engine could be ordered with a 2 barrel carburetored 265 hp mill, or bumped up to 325 hp with a 4 barrel carb.
And how about those wire wheel covers and skinny tires? No “wall of rubber” on this baby!
1968 brought new styling to the Le Mans, including the distinctive Pontiac “beak” that would show up on certain Fords a year or two later.
It looks like around 8,820 convertibles were sold in 1968, making this car all the rarer for its being so original.
Looks like they ordered the automatic, too.
I love finding cars like this—well preserved and still providing enjoyment for their owners!
This also looks more like a color typically seen on these. I join you in saluting a true survivor.
As to the 354 cu. in. “350”, I have always suspected that this was the first step in the plan to transition from Division-specific engines to corporate engines. Everybody’s midsized V8 became a 350, the bigger one became a 400 and the biggest one became a 455. How Chevy kept the 454 is unclear, but within GM, Chevy seems to have gotten whatever they wanted in those years. Or, given that the engine came out in 1970 when DeLorean was running Chevy, was this his way of sticking it to the man? Maybe Craig can tell us.
I’m betting it was because the upper management had called a truce to save too much one-up-man-ship between the middle level brands. However the BOP vehicles needed to be at least a little bit better than Chevy so they called their big blocks 455s, even though they were all different displacements. The Buick actually being a 456, the Pontiac the only true 455 and the Olds a 454.
And the famous Ford FE 427 was actually a 425. What’s up with that?
Ford typically quoted the 427’s bore and stroke at their maximum tolerances, which were, as best I can determine, 4.2346 in. bore and 3.784 in. stroke. That gives you 426.3 cubic inches or 6,986 cc. Since the point of the 427 was mostly NASCAR and I assume the NASCAR limit was actually 7,000 cc, I imagine Ford wanted to leave a little breathing room for tech inspections and didn’t want anyone confusing their engine with the Mopar 426.
Chevy’s original Z-11 427 was 426.5 cu. in. or 6,989 cc, presumably for the same reasons. (The later 427 rat is 426.9 cu. in. or 6,996 cc, which would still be legal, but right on the line.)
From what I understand it was done more for ease of conformity than any nefarious plan the sneak “corporate engines” … As most know, Pontiac motors are all the same size externally, but are simply different bore of the same block with the same stroke. Corporate engines did not really get serious consideration until CAFE loomed and the decision by GM to go FWD. Considering the design and spatial constraints of FWD, let alone the cost, GM decided to split up the engineering elements of the FWD in order for each division to have something to contribute. So instead of tweaking a basic car shell (A B C, etc…), each division took control of a design element. For the X car, Oldsmobile (my division) took fuel exhaust and suspension.
Given the intense competition between the divisions, competition that really did not seriously abate until the tough years of the early 90s, a lot of things were done to keep things fair and objective. The respective GMs in those days had a lot more influence and latitude in those days often doing things behind corporate back. However once emissions, CAFE, and downsizing came, more conformity was necessary to certify the cars.
As for the 350/354, that was before my time by about 10 years so I would have to consult one of my Pontiac buddies to tell me more.
Nice, very nice.
If it was a 69 and a hardtop I would be in love.
Pontiac has always been a little funky with their engine designations. I suspect it was partly just how it sounded when you said it out loud.
350 comes out smoother than 354
Like in 1963 the 326 was really a 336 cu in, but they stilled called it a 326. Does 326 roll off the tongue better?
Who knows I guess…I think I need Friday to come sooner than later 🙂
According to Wiki, the 336 called a 326 existed only in 1963. The 1964 GM A body was subject to a 330 cu. in. displacement limit and the 1964 version of the engine had displacement reduced to a true 326 cu. in. I suspect that this issue was well known as it was approaching, so Pontiac probably called the 63 version a 326 to avoid having to explain to its customers why the new bigger 64 model had a smaller engine. Just a guess.
A lot of stuff was done to make it easier for customers to identify a car and ask for what they want at the time of sale as well as for others to notice. I missed the discussion of the “4 speed automatic” decal on cars, I don’t know about Ford, but at GM, the new FWD C bodies got the trunk label to accentuate that feature to the public, not for the sales staff per se. Like fuel injection labels etc during the time from late 70s to late 80s a lot of stuff was changing and it was a useful public reminder. back in those days, before we had all of the technological tricks of today, power and prestige was largely dictated by engine size. Most cars had V8s except for economy models and a few small cars. That is why there was a decree at GM until the ver late 60s about putting the largest engines in non-full size cars it was differentiation.
I suspect all of these things were because of GM’s peculiar displacement limit policies. For instance, after the GTO was a hit, GM raised the limit for the A-bodies to 400 cubic inches, but the closest Buick had to that limit was the 401. Instead of redesigning it to reduce the displacement 25 cc, they just called it a 400 in the A-body.
I can’t resist adding this to my mental inventory of jivey-named cheap whitewalls. “Solution SER.” What problem is solved by this product? Safe, comfortable forward motion?
My favorite remains the “Eldorado Golden Fury GFT.” It’s a Plymouth, it’s a Caddy, it’s bad Chinese takeout?
Ha! I’m glad I’m not the only one who scratches his head on these wacky tire names! The brand name on two of my cargo van’s tires is “Prime Well”. Prime Well? WTH does that mean?
I’ve seen some beat-up 4-cylinder mini-trucks and cars with “Mastercraft Avenger” RWL tires on them. I would say those might be kind of neat on a Dodge Avenger but I’d never own one of those cars and “Mastercraft” was the factory that made low-end mattresses in the Alabama town I used to live in.
I did think it would have been cool to have a Pontiac Grand Am with “Grand Am Radial GT” tires on it though.
I always liked the arrowhead-shaped rear side marker light Pontiac used in ’68 (as well as the rocket version on Oldsmobiles). Nice detail.
1968 was a year of experimentation with the side-light concept. Ford had reflectors on the rear…no lights. Chrysler products used round-dot lights…no reflectors in the plastic. GM mostly used clear white lenses forward…did not reflect yellow.
And of course Pontiac played with having the logo-shape for a lens. As did Buick, with a round red light with silver shading of the three shields.
Starting 1969, the government imposed standards. Reflectorized lenses; illuminated; red in the rear; amber in the front. Also, that was the year the front parking-lights had to be illuminated with the headlights. In 1968 the Mustang had continued to have the parking lights go out, although the separate side lights stayed on. Can’t imagine why they chose that solution, especially considering the extra wiring involved.
Side lights were Federal law for 1968, eventually wrap around front and rear lights obviated the need for in fender lighting plus bumper lighting which was relatively inexpensive to do.
It was 1969. Manufacturers were jumping the gun in 1968.
Fords did NOT have lights on the rear quarters – only reflectors. Kaiser Jeeps did not have side lights until 1969. International didn’t, as far as I know…they didn’t have model years until 1970.
I remember reading about the Chrysler side markers that the head stylist (I believe) didn’t like them because they looked like “whale eyes”. I always kind of liked what Chevrolet did with the side markers for ’70-72, stylizing them into the panels or bumpers with louvers.
At some point the front side markers must’ve been mandated to flash with the turn signals, not sure when that was though.
It’s not required, even now.
It’s a matter of wiring. GM cars do it; some Chryslers. No Fords that I recall; and most Japanese have wraparound turn signals now, so it’s a moot issue.
The way it’s wired…is to ground the side light to the HOT lead on the turn signal. So…when the turn signal circuit flashes, lights off…current jumps through the side light to the headlight circuit. Since the side light is 4W, it’s just the side light that glows…it’s in series with all the other lighting circuits. Like having a 200-watt bulb and a 15-watt bulb in series; and plugging it in; the 15 watt bulb will glow almost normal brightness and the 200-watt bulb barely.
When the headlights are ON…the side lamp feeds current to the turn circuits. Same principle…the side light glows and the turn signals don’t. When you put on a signal, though, the side light goes OFF when the turn indicator flashes bright.
If you doubt me, try wiring your favorite car that way; or if it’s a GM, just test the circuits with a lamp.
Buick and Cadillac did it as well, though theirs was a round emblem with either the tri-shield in it or a round wreath on the 68 Eldorado wtih a crest in the lens, it was cool detailing, Pontiac did it again for 69, with an arrowhead on the LeMans, a GTO shield on the GTO and little birds on the Firebirds.
The Birds were the coolest.
+1 one of my favorite ’68 features
Nicely preserved,not a trailer queen you’d not dare take on the road.
Reminds me of being a teen walking around looking at cars…and also why today’s cars are so unsatisfying…just look at how much style is in this car, and it was a regular everyday ride. Today you have to drop north of 30k to even approach such coolness. Today’s cars may work better but they have no soul.
Someone uses a 68 Firebird as a DD nearby but wet weather has sent it indoors lately, that looks completely factory stock Great find.
I’d rather have the air-conditioned example in the earlier post. But yes, I do want one, and if I had a house with a garage (or even a carport) I might already be looking for one, idly at least. For many years I drove a ’66 Bonneville convertible, sold more than 20 years ago, and the next convertible doesn’t have to be 18.5 feet long. Does need a/c, though. And I like the vent windows and prefer the ’68 dash to the plasticky, bland ’69 dash. Nor would I want a ’67 intermediate; no glass rear window until ’68.
Extreme Sarcasm intended:
To Car Fans not old enough to have seen brand new GTO’s.
This here is a Pontiac LeMans, one of many versions of the ‘classic’ 1964-72 GM A body. The GTO was the sporty trim level of the Pontiac A body and included performance enhancing features. It’s not a ‘Pony’ car as the Mustang, with unique sheet metal. Was called ‘super car’ in its day, and ‘muscle car’ now.
So, if you see a 64-72 Tempest, LeMans, Custom S, Luxury LeMans or T-37, don’t call it “some kind of weird GTO”, as some so called ‘car experts’ did once.* And by the way, the spring ’64 intro of the Mustang was not “Ford’s answer to the GTO”.
As one who devoured every car magazine my allowance could afford in those days, I do recall the term Supercar used on the big block intermediate cars of the day. I suppose sometime after OPEC I and II, when these beloved cars disappeared in a sea of tape jobs did the term muscle car start to gain traction, taking hold during the Reagan era.
What a great find by Ed. Just a beautiful, non-molested car. Is it safe to say the owner has been asked XXX times if he/she would like to sell? I can imagine a lot of dreamers have looked at this car and thoughts of GTO clones danced in their heads…..
What a nice car Ed! Now I remember your showing me a pic of this LeMans at the CC Gathering in Coralville. Love the whitewalls, white interior and medium blue paint!
Thanks for prompting my memory with your earlier post! Le Mans Day Forever!
Relatives bought a 68 Olds Delta 88 in this very color. I believe this was a 1968-only color, as I never saw it on any other year of GM car. I always thought it was quite attractive, but it must not have caught the right late 60s vibe.
Really a beautiful car, this is the kind of car I’d love to find on craigslist for a nominal price and just fall in love with the second I saw it in person. A real time capsule.
GM really hit it’s stride in the late 60’s with styling. Must be original paint as well. My problem would be not being able to control myself and trying to rub the paint out and damaging the look somehow.
Driving something like this daily would make me resentful that I’m not in the era it came from, surrounded by characterless appliances on the road and people who don’t really care about cars. I felt that way when I bought my Olds and began to use it for errands.
Our next door neighbor was a Pontiac salesman. He brought a ’68 LeMans to the house one evening in early spring of ’68 (so it was still dark outside). At 12 years old, I was in the back seat during that test drive, praying Dad would buy it. He did. The car was picked up in daylight and Dad was shocked to find he’d bought a convertible.
It had these same wheel covers and was Mayfair Maize (that pale yellow -with a lot of green in that yellow), black top, black interior, console w/ a 2-speed auto.
In ’76, he gave me that LeMans as my first car, which I drove and loved until ’80 (yah, a wreck claimed her). …and I still own a Pontiac convertible today.
I’d forgotten that as late as ’68 the lesser engines offered only the two-speed if you wanted an automatic. My mother’s ’67 GTO with factory air and positraction (sadly lost in a hydroplaning highway crash in Sept. 1974; radials and disc brakes might have helped) had the 400-4 bbl. and a proper THM tranny – with a column shift; there were bucket seats but no console. I don’t believe you could get a GTO with a bench seat, but I don’t mind them.
It was replaced by a 1974 Grand LeMans coupe with standard opera windows and fender skirts. Which, I have to admit, handled a heck of a lot better with its Radial Tuned Suspension and bigger wheels, but was unpleasant to look at, inside and out. So we missed out on the 1968-72 generation entirely.
My mother had a 74 Luxury LeMans sedan, but I don’t remember a Grand LeMans that year. Are you sure it was a Grand LeMans?
True, the top LeMans was ‘Luxury LM’ 1972-74, and then ‘Grand LM’ from 1975 to 81.
Sorry, right, Luxury LeMans. Both generations (1972 and ’73-’74) had the fender skirts.
That’s one Purty Pontiac! I’m crazy about ’71-’76 Pontiacs and any GM car with white interior.
I don’t recall seeing any of these smaller Pontiacs until maybe the Ventura in the early 70’s. Is it possible that in Canada, because we had the Beaumont, we did not get these? I do remember the big models Parisienne and Laurentian very well, though I believe they were more Chevrolet than Pontiac.
I guessing yes, since I have seen 1968-69 Beaumonts, looking like dressed up Chevelles. Would make a good CC story!
EDIT: Yes, here is story
So I’m late to this thread but am thrilled to see an owner who did not go down the “tribute” CLONE/FAKE GTO route or even cut up the dash for an aftermarket stereo. This is such a beautiful car: the soft blue paint suits the LeMans perfectly and the white top/interior are always my favorites.
This one wears the seldom-seen wire wheelcovers: this is one of the few wire wheelcover designs I very much like, especially when their “domed” lucite centers still maintain their deep red hue.
Thank you Owner-person for such good taste and care & thanks Ed for sharing it here.
I’m now the proud owner of this ’68 Lemans convertible. Yes, it has the Pontiac ‘350, but not the original. Started and idled rough when I bought it, but sorted that out. It had a ’70 block (with high-lift cam), ’68 intake manifold, and ’74 heads. The low compression heads and high-lift cam were a mismatch. I had the orginal ’68 heads rebuilt and put a stock cam in. Runs like a top now. I also acquired and restored a set of Rally wheels for it (forgive me). The paint is not original, and is cracking badly. I will probably have it repainted this year to match this color and install a new top, which is tired and has a tear.