1964 Pontiac LeMans GTO
8-cyl. 389cid/325hp 4bbl
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Just as Ford was developing its Mustang for the famous “64½” April launch, the folks at GM were already delivering the car often credited with starting the muscle car craze. Launched in October 1963, the GTO would evolve into one of the definitive American performance cars of the decade. The 1964 Pontiac GTO was based on the Tempest Le Mans, and featured a 326 cid V-8. GM had pulled out of racing in 1963 and Pontiac was stuck with an institutional limit of 330 cid on mid-sized cars, but an option package for the Le Mans would change all that.
The $295 GTO package offered a 325 bhp 389 cid V-8 with four-barrel carburetor, high-lift camshaft and 421-style cylinder heads. Also included were hood scoops, stiffer springs and shocks, anti-roll bar, dual exhausts, wider wheels, red line tires, engine-turned dash, bucket seats, and 2-speed Super-Turbine automatic transmission. A 3-speed manual gearbox was offered with Hurst shifter and the option of either the Muncie wide-ratio M20 or close ratio M21 4-speeds. The dash featured four large gauges with speedometer, fuel temp, oil pressure and charging lamps and either a rally clock or a 7,000 rpm tachometer.
The GTO package was available on the two-door Coupe, two-door Hardtop and Convertible, and was immediately popular with 32,450 sold. Most buyers (24,205) stepped up for the four-barrel package, but 8,245 bought the desirable Tri-Power carburetor option, good for 348 bhp at 4,900 rpm. The Coupe started at $2,491, the Hardtop at $2,556 and the Convertible at $2,796.
Performance was impressive for the time and Motor Trend magazine recorded the 325 bhp model at 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds, quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds and a top speed of 115 mph. The Tri-Power car was even faster, with 0-60 in 6.6 seconds and a quarter mile at 14.8 seconds.
Fifteen colors were offered and here are their codes: Starlight Black (A), Cameo Ivory (C), Silvermist Grey (D), Yorktown Blue (F), Skyline Blue (H), Pinehurst Green (J), Marimba Red (L), Sunfire Red (N), Aquamarine (P), Gulfstream Aqua (Q), Alamo Beige (R), Saddle Bronze (S), Singapore Gold (T), Grenadier Red (V), and Nocturne Blue (W). Six interior colors were offered: Black, Blue, Saddle, Aqua, Red and Parchment. Convertible tops could be Black, White or Ivory.
The GTO package gave the Le Mans line a huge boost. Sales jumped from 61,659 in 1963 to 112,636 for 1964, of which 43,313 were manual shift cars. The average age of GTO buyers was 25.7 years and 43 percent were unmarried as Pontiac captured 9.1 percent of the U.S. market and maintained third place in the industry. Clearly, DeLorean and Wangers had hit a nerve, and their success was just the beginning.