Rides from Readers: Carefully chosen options turned this LeMans into a clandestine GTO

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Shawn Baird

Hagerty readers and Hagerty Drivers Club members share their cherished collector and enthusiast vehicles with us via our contact email, tips@hagerty.com. We’re showcasing some of our favorite stories among these submissions. To have your car featured, send complete photography and your story of ownership to the above email address.

Shawn Baird has been a Pontiac fan ever since his brother’s friend visited his family’s home in a 1970 GTO. “As the blue Pontiac GTO pulled up with a rumble, my heart started to race,” baird writes. “It was love at first sight!” He was only 14 at the time, but the menacing look of the dual headlights and Ram Air scoops made Baird a convert, and he has been hooked on muscle cars ever since.

As the youngest of seven in his family, Baird was surrounded by many classic cars, including his brother’s ’65 Impala, his sister’s ’69 Charger, and his mother’s 428-powered ’67 Catalina. Baird’s own cars included some memorable muscle as well, including a pair of Plymouth Roadrunners and a Dodge Demon powered by a 340 and a four-speed. Still, those cars didn’t quite scratch the itch. “In my mid-20s I restored a ’67 Malibu with a 283, but nothing matched that Ram Air GTO!” Baird’s first Pontiac, a 1968 Firebird 400, was purchased with the proceeds from selling that Malibu, but he wasn’t done. He’s owned several Pontiacs since, including some rarities, but this 1972 LeMans holds a special place in his heart.

Shawn Baird

When Baird first came across this car—a 42,000-mile survivor with the Endura bumper option that included the same hood and fenders used on the GTO—his first impression was that someone had swapped in a GTO drivetrain into a run-of-the-mill LeMans. There was a four-barrel 400 V-8 under the hood, along with a Turbo 400 transmission. After sending the VIN to Pontiac Historic Services, Baird learned that this LeMans wasn’t a Sport or a GT, and certainly not a GTO, yet it had been optioned with the performance V-8 from the factory. But that wasn’t all. The car was also equipped with a Positraction rear differential and dual exhaust. It even had the same handling package used on the GTO that included springs and shocks. It was a GTO in virtually everything but badging.

Despite knowing that the car’s list of options made it a bit of a rarity in the world of Pontiacs, Baird had to part ways with the car. When the new owner asked his thoughts on turning it into a GTO clone and painting it a bit flashier color, Baird suggested that it was more interesting, and likely more valuable, if it remained in its original Wilderness Green metallic hue.

His advice was heeded and the results speak for themselves. The car won awards at numerous shows, and the current and former owners remained in touch during the 12 years that have passed since Baird sold the car. This winter, Baird was given the first chance to buy back the car and he jumped at the opportunity.

“I once again own another rare piece of Pontiac history!” Baird says. This understated coupe, optioned just right to keep its performance a tight-lipped secret, makes it a fantastic sleeper and a great example of the muscle car era’s vibrant history.

 

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