4 March 2013

’64 GTO owner loves car’s power, good looks and historical impact

Asking Larry Calmeyn to defend his affection for the 1964 Pontiac GTO is like asking a tiger to explain his attraction to red meat.

“I love the car for the same reasons the experts do: It was the first muscle car; it was a game changer,” Camelyn said. “Everybody has their opinion, but if you put it to a vote, the muscle car was born right there when (creator John) DeLorean and the gang took a ’64 Tempest Lemans and said, ‘Yeah, we can drop a 389 in there instead of the stock 326.’ The rest is history.”

In “Pontiac vs. Plymouth,” published in the Winter 2012 edition of Hagerty Classic Cars magazine, a panel of eight experts voted the 1964 GTO as the most historically significant car built by either company. Photos of Calmeyn’s beautifully restored ’64 GTO were featured in the story. The car didn’t always look that good, however.

Calmeyn, who lives in Brighton, Mich., credits his brother, Marty, for discovering his GTO in a barn in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 2008. The car had been sitting for years, and it had neither engine nor transmission.

“When I hauled it home, my wife said, ‘I hope you’re on your way to the junk yard,’ ” Calmeyn said with a laugh.

Calmeyn and his brother, along with Calmeyn’s sons, Steven and Shane, “got right after it with a total rotisserie restoration that took about 15 months.” Calmeyn said the foursome did all the body work, but they put the paint job and engine rebuild “in the hands of professionals.” The GTO is painted in its original color, Yorktown Blue Poly.

“My first restoration was a ’57 Chevy Bel Air,” Calmeyn said. “I’d been looking for something with a little more muscle, and I knew I wanted a ’64 GTO. It’s a ball to drive, and it’s an attention grabber. People want to talk about it.

“I like the look of the grill and the side-by-side headlights instead of vertical ones. Plus my wife, Donna, was born in ’64, so that was the clincher for me. Some guys are Mopar guys, but the A body is just classic. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Chevelle or a GTO, I like it.”

26 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Matt Simek Newberg, OR March 6, 2013 at 13:09
    Beautiful job, Larry! I bought my first GTO in1967 after graduating from office training school in San Antonio. It was my entry into the world of the adult male. I loved that car, with its 400 cubic inches of power feeding a three speed floor-shifting transmission and high ratio rear end. In 1969, I bought a second GTO ... an automatic with disappearing headlights and bench seats. It was more luxurious, but seemed to be a lie to the original muscle car concept. So, in 1972, I built my third and last GTO from the ground up, with that same great engine, 4 bbl carb, three-speed Hurst shifter, and no hidden headlights. It was all Forest Green with white bucket seats. Gorgeous! I kept that fine machine through my move to Portland, Oregon, in 1977, and sold it nearly for what I spent on it new. Now, of course, I'm sorry, as I would certainly love to have that last great muscle car back in my stable, in addition to the two antique fire engines that I am currently restoring. Thanks for a GREAT trip down Memory Lane! MS
  • 2
    Ron Wahl Michigan March 6, 2013 at 15:25
    Good to find a classic in our "back yard" -- they are out there! Nice car, a true classic that started the muscle car wars. The 60's was a great decade for car lovers! Enjoy your ride!
  • 3
    Bob Cupery Calif/ L.A. area March 6, 2013 at 17:34
    Like the story. I have a 64 also only black on black on black convertable with tripwr. You folks have it insured to see pictures look in Pontiacs great one table top book. Six pictures in there. Yes turns heads and the tires very well.
  • 4
    Tom New jersey March 6, 2013 at 17:38
    The GTO may be the most historically significant, but there are lots of Muscle Cars valued much higher, including the Plymouth Hemi Cuda that came in second.
  • 5
    bob schroeder howell mi 48843 March 6, 2013 at 18:55
    I LIKE THE THE 1966 BEST !!!!
  • 6
    Spider Dittus West Hurley, NY March 6, 2013 at 10:46
    My first 3 cars were all Pontiacs, including a 66 GTO. Pontiac made fantastic vehicles in the 60's. Wish I still had that GTO. Traded it in for a 69 LeMans. Now I have 4 Caddies. Two 63's, a 70 Eldo, and a 07 DTS. Enjoyed your story on the 64 GTO, although I think the 66 and 67 Goats were the best looking!
  • 7
    Chris Campbell Traverse City, MI March 6, 2013 at 23:16
    My uncle, an architect in Alabama, had a '64 LeMans coupe, the 326 V-8 with a 4-speed. I remember that car with unusual affection--extraordinarily good-looking, highly functional. It handled the hills and curves of his region so nicely. Just thinking about it made me nostalgic for the days when gas was cheap and we didn't know what effects that stuff coming out of the tailpipe had. General Motors had everything right then--the engineering, the styling.
  • 8
    Jim Jarvis United States March 6, 2013 at 11:47
    I bought a '64 GTO back in '84 from a local newspaper ad. It was a blue on blue post model, good running original 389/4 with a 4 speed. Had a nice original interior and new tires but needed a clutch and a couple of dents repaired. Cost me all of $450! Repaired the clutch and dents that weekend and my wife and I drove that car everywhere! Sure wish I still had her...
  • 9
    Art Pompei Toms River nj March 6, 2013 at 12:14
    The 1964 GTO was to the car industry what Lawrance Taylor was to the NFL.. I had a 1968 400 ho Red with black interior,should have never sold it.
  • 10
    Jerry Georgia March 6, 2013 at 12:32
    Wow, this GTO was built all for go, no show; not even a radio! Neat!
  • 11
    Randy Cleavenger Waynesburg, Pennsylvania March 7, 2013 at 14:21
    I have a '64 GTO that I bought in January of 1964. It was an amazing car to drive, almost frightening at times. After 15 years of beating the crap out of it (as an 18 YO kid will do), I put it away. 25 years later, I had it restored to better than new condition with performance upgrades. It's a big hit at car shows and out on the streets.
  • 12
    Jonathan Morrow Cameron,NC March 7, 2013 at 17:44
    Beautiful GTO
  • 13
    Ed Restivo Spencerport, N.Y. 14559 March 7, 2013 at 23:28
    Your 64' is sweet! I also have a Love the 64' GTO's, I bought a hard top with the Tri-Power and four speed in May of 64' at the age of 21. I Kept it for 5 years and then swaped my pistion rings for a wedding ring. Nine years ago I found another 64' GTO in Texas. This one has a 400CI engine which I had a pro shop rebuild with 30 thousands over with a cam upgrade and added a Tri-Power. Running with 3:73 gears with a 12 bold rear end. Some of my mods include disc brakes , new paint, (Toyota Medium Garnet), aluminum wheels, some engine components, ie.polished aluminum intake, radiator, timing chain cover and master cylinder. Black Interior has been replaced and is all original with original wood steering wheel. I think i will keep this one, can't live without that Flow Master sound!!!!!
  • 14
    tonycalima California March 8, 2013 at 13:13
    I like to have GTO. I already have 68 Chevelle SS with rebuild 396 with super 40's Flomaster. It sounds good.
  • 15
    James Morristown,Tn. March 8, 2013 at 10:05
    Bought the exact same car,color and all, off our used car lot when I was working at a Pontiac dealer in 1971. One of the biggest regrets I ever had was cutting that car up to make an oval track semilate model out of it,I built a 469 c.i. engine that had RA V heads,ran real well.It still never wiped away the feeling of stupidity that haunted me years later!!
  • 16
    Isaac Del Rio Orlando, FL March 10, 2013 at 18:39
    Thank you for sharing your story on your '64. All GTO owners appreciate those who take care of restoring any forgotten GTO's. Owning a '67 GTO peps up my life & it's still driving true to it's muscle aura. I continue to care for my gem & will soon have it professionally painted. Best wishes Larry Calmeyn for a long enjoyment of your '64 GTO.
  • 17
    Jose Gonzalez Bronx, New York March 12, 2013 at 22:57
    Nice GTO! You have the first, I have the last (1974)!!! I've owned mine for over 33 years. When I first saw it, I fell in love with it because of the body. It looked like a 72 Nova my father used to own. So I really liked it and spent my life savings on it in 1979. I've had it since, and I just gor to totally restoring it, inside & out in it's original color, Fernmist Green. I love my Baby! Take care of yours! Enjoy! ...Jose (NY)
  • 18
    cyberpapou hoffman estates,il March 13, 2013 at 17:31
    Had a 65 triple black GT O Convert. Loved that car. Bought it right when they came out had it for a summer and like a dummy traded it fr a 1966 Rivera. Liked that car also. Mss the Gto more Loved both cars wish I hadBOTH now. i woud take them both. over anything on the street now.
  • 19
    Jeff Brackett Traverse City MI March 16, 2013 at 09:36
    Apx 25 years ago seen in the local paper classifieds a add for a 1964 GTO Convertible, Red, Black top & interior, 4-speed. $5,000.00. I didnt have 5K however I had a credit card with a 5k cash advance limit on it & as it turns out I was young & smart, I still own the car today & just recently began a frame off resto on the car.
  • 20
    terreplane Carefree, AZ March 17, 2013 at 00:12
    I loved the '64 GTO at first sight ...when it was new and I was 15. I bought one two weeks ago and every time I get in it, it becomes a time machine. What a wonderful car and icon of my youth. Donn
  • 21
    Jim Patton Texas March 19, 2013 at 19:48
    I have a Matador red 68 with a hopped up, not original, 400 and an absolutely bone stock 68,000 original miles original running gear Carousel red 69. Love them both, It was a sad day when GM pulled the plug and the era the red hot Ponchos came to a halt.Jim Patton
  • 22
    Terry Hubenschmidt Howell,MI March 23, 2013 at 08:35
    Bought my '64 LeMans 326 4bbl. when I was 15 from my brother who was headed to Vietnam. Sold it to a H.S. buddy who dropped a 389 into her in front of the Powerglide. Smoked those rear tires! Now have in the garage a '65 2+2 ragtop that I bought off my H.S. buddy. Rode around in that car in H.S.1972. Loved/love them both! Sad to see the Tin Indians go!!
  • 23
    Ken Green Clarkston, MI. April 2, 2013 at 19:12
    I have a 64 GTO convertible in my barn that is awaiting restoration. Please send parts....
  • 24
    Curtis Kurth Wisconsin April 4, 2013 at 19:02
    I had a new 1965 GTO. Single 4bbl., 4 speed and the gauge package. It had the standard 3.23 ratio. It would do 24mph per 1000 rpm. Five thousand on the tach ran out of speedometer. I never opened up when it wouldn't turn 5600 It would have pulled more, but I was afraid of blowing the engine.
  • 25
    Timothy M Nusbaum South Florida May 29, 2014 at 11:23
    I first learned to drive in my Dad's new 64 GTO. It was an automatic because Mom couldn't drive a stick. Having an automatic was perfect for a new driver like me, as I could concentrate on driving and not the clutch. I was admired whenever I could cruise the local car spots and it started me on a path of hobby mechanics and car racing as an adult.
  • 26
    M.Keith Griffin Eastpointe, Mi June 3, 2014 at 17:26
    My came down from Lansing in a 1964 convertible red with white top,4 speed and put behind the wheel, just could see over the dash shifter in my right hand, that was it, my first car was a1962 Grand Prix, red with white leather 421 4 speed 9 lug wheels next 1967 GTO red with black roof & int. 4 speed 400, next 1969 Grand Prix SJ 428 automatic transmission yes it was red with black leather and roof Now to close my story May 2014 bought a 1969 GTO Judge no engine or trans. Got lucky again ram air intake and heads was in the trunk, 4 speed transmission building a 400 with original top of engine, I almost forgot the color is Matador Red, 4 Pontiac's and all Red PHS certification in hand

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