By on March 31, 2009

Take a good long look at this handsome car. This beauty was one of the best in that beautiful decade of the sixties. Are you seeing its magnetic attraction yet? Well, this rough survivor might need a little help; try squinting a bit. I sure saw it when I was seventeen; I simply couldn’t keep my eyes off a black coupe exactly like this. And as a consequence, I learned a painful and lasting lesson. OK, you’d better stop looking and keep reading.

For 1965, the mid-sized LeMans was bequeathed the distinctive stacked headlights that were such a hit with the full-sized wide-tracks. The 1963 Grand Prix was one of Bill Mitchell’s masterpieces, and this LeMans is a virtual knock-off. No other GM division could equal Pontiac’s success in transferring their halo car’s styling across its whole line. Even the cheapest Tempest looked good; they all shared the clean lines and unadorned flanks of the GP. And there’s more than a touch of Riviera here too. The LeMans was truly the favored child in the GM mid-size gene pool.

And its parents were not disappointed. The 1965 LeMans handily outsold its corporate mid-size siblings. And that’s where the competition mostly ended. Does anyone even remember the forgettable 1965 Fairlane coupe? GM utterly dominated the mid-sized sector, which helped propel GM to a 50+% market share and its largest profit to date, a handy $1.7 billion ($11.5 billion adjusted).  Yes, the mid-sixties were GM’s final golden years. Market share and profits would never again be replicated. And its cars would never again look so good, like this LeMans, glowing with self-confidence and understated elegance.

Like most non-GTO LeMans, this one sports the ubiquitous 326 cubic inch V8. A small-bore version of the Goat’s 389, either 250 or 285 horsepower were on tap, depending on whether a two-barrel or four-barrel carb was on (non-super) duty. Despite its two-speed Powerglide, the un-GTO was reasonably brisk. The LeMans was the perfect date car and a great Saturday night cruiser, as long as you resisted stoplight drags. That’s what the real GTO was for.

Pontiac moved almost 200,000 LeMans/GTOs in 1965. The following years saw even bigger numbers, but by 1970, the party was over. Just like the excitement decade of the sixties flamed out, so did Pontiac’s glorious ten-year run in the number three spot. Why? John Z. DeLorean, Pontiac’s dynamic General Manager during the sixties moved on to Chevrolet, and . . . cocaine. Pontiac styling became fat and blobby, as did the cars themselves. Performance had defined Pontiac in the sixties but that orgy crashed. By the early seventies, Americans were looking either for the (faux) trappings of luxury, or heading down that other cultural divide of imports, especially those from Japan and Germany.

Those that stayed true to GM mid-size coupes found their landau-roofed object of desire in the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham Coupe. The baton was handed off, and the over-named Olds ran right to the very top of the sales charts, for a number of years, too. Oldsmobile became the new Pontiac (at least in sales).

In image, BMW became the new Pontiac. It’s not a coincidence that just as Pontiac was diving into the horrors of its mid-seventies dark night of the bloated (Grand Am) soul, the new BMW 320i became the . . . LeMans. Handsome, cleanly styled, fun(ner) to drive, and, once again, the perfect date car. And just like the LeMans, the 98 hp 320i wasn’t really fast. But it was the thing to be seen in as the 3-Series still is today.

In high school, I had a weekend job at a small corner gas station. A kid my age who knew the owner dropped by regularly at the end of the day, sometimes to help out, but mostly to minister to his shiny black ’65 LeMans coupe. He’d change the oil and primp his beloved ride. And he always gave me a ride home or we’d go cruising. All the while, my jealous eyes were magnetically glued to the Pontiac.

In between my endless covetous leers, I vaguely noticed that he always wore a jacket, even in Baltimore’s sweltering summer heat. One day I suddenly realized he was working with one hand in his jacket pocket. With the thoughtlessness that seventeen-year olds are notorious for, I loudly berated him for his laziness in using only one hand. He gave me a hurt-puppy look but said nothing.

Later, the owner told me that the kid had blown his hand off playing with fireworks. I felt like a total idiot. After all these months I hadn’t even noticed. Yet I was intimate with every detail, nook and cranny of his beautiful LeMans. It was a painful lesson I had to relive every Saturday after work as I trudged home—the rides had ended.

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55 Comments on “Curbside Classics: 1965 Pontiac LeMans...”


  • avatar
    bjcpdx

    As a kid, I remember one of our neighbors had this car. Light metallic green with a white vinyl top, white interior and optional wire wheel covers. Sharp, as we used to say.

  • avatar

    Paul,

    Poignant story. Reminds me of the day I came home to find both my parents in the house (they both worked, so this was unusual), my mother in bed, my father ministering to her, after she’d had an accident with the Chevy II. My first question: what happened to the car?

    I have the same sorts of feelings towards those ’60s GM cars, except that I really thought the best years were ’64 and ’65. I loved all the GM midsizers, as well as the big ones. The ’63-64 Grand Prix was Pontiac’s zenith imo (as well as full size Chevrolet’s). I don’t like that Tempest as much.

    I’m assuming you’re finding all these beauties in your neighborhood? Reminds me of Mt. Rainier MD, just over the east DC line–both the houses and the cars.

    You need to stop writing these curbside classics. Too distracting.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    David, this one I found in Springfield, Eugene’s sister city across the river. We bike there regularly.

    Too distracting for me too. I’m starting to get obsessive about capturing all the remaining old cars in the streetscape before they’re gone, especially if a clunker bill comes to pass.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Ah, the memories. Great stuff Paul, keep it coming!

  • avatar
    tced2

    I took drivers education in a 1965 LeMans – 4 door – it may have been a Tempest. I believe it had the 6-cylinder with PowerSlide (PowerGlide). The instructor sat in the passenger seat and had an auxiliary brake pedal. Two other students rode in the back seat. One of the girls I took the drivers ed with almost side-swiped a parked car while learning parallel parking. My only driving memory was that it was manual steering – and that meant a lot of turns of the wheel for turning.

  • avatar
    adonasetb

    Memories of the 60′s – remembering bias ply tires losing grip on a rain slick road – fighting the wheel and regaining control – a feeling of excitement and pride at the moment but today those memories bring the realization of how close we came to buying the farm. Can’t tell me those statues on the dashboard didn’t watch over us.

  • avatar

    Definitely a looker but I’d say a Corvair coupe of the same year trumps it.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Thank you for sharing that story.

    I remember those cars well…even as a child I thought that Pontiacs of those years were “special.” Especially the full-sizers with the eight-lugnut wheels.

    On the way to work this morning, I pulled up beside a very nice 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix coupe. The full-size Pontiacs – like their GM brethern – were on a downward trend by 1967, as their curvy contours were deteriorating into middle-age bloat. But the car still had presence and style that very few of today’s cars from ANY manufacturer can muster.

    Looking at old Pontiacs, and then comparing them to the new ones, makes me realize that shutting down the division would be an act of mercy (as it was for Oldsmobile).

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Oregon and California residents have an advantage over people from most states: It’s still possible to see cars of the 60′s that still have their original license plates from when they were new. (Actually 56 or newer in Oregon, 63 or newer in California). I believe that LeMans qualifies. If you’re looking to buy something like that and it has its original plates, and especially if they’re in good shape, that tells something about the history of the car. Of course it helps to be a license plate collector like I am….

    My state of Washington used to be that way too, but like many other states they’ve gone to a program where you’re forced to buy new plates every seven years whether they’re still in good shape or not.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I just love the Curbside Classics series!

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    Probably in my top 5 all-time favourite muscle cars, GTO version or otherwise. Perfect proportions, just square enough to perfect, just enough chrome to be perfect. The GTO grille touches and shaker hood just top it all off. Gorgeous.

  • avatar
    Monty

    http://www.ritzsite.net/Pontiac66/Pontiac_1966_10.htm

    One of the most stylish offerings out of Detroit, ever.

    As a young boy I delivered newspapers (London Free Press) and one of my customers had a Grande Parisienne (available only in Canada) in a maroon colour, and I used to take forever dropping off their newspaper because I spent so much time drooling over their car. Our next door neighbour bought a 1968 Parisienne 2-door hardtop, the “fastback” version, and it just didn’t have the same appeal as the ’66 Grande Parisienne did for me.

    To this day, I fondly remember that ’66 Pontiac, and once I had a license, purchased a few different versions of 60′s Pontiacs. Still love them. And to this day I still prefer the styling of 50′s and 60′s Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles to their other GM stablemates.

  • avatar
    mikey

    60s Pontiacs! My passion are the B Bodies,an American full size on a Chevy drive train. We never got the A bodies except for a few Tempest’s,
    untill the 70s.In Canada we had Beaumont’s they were a Chevelle with a Pontiac A body I.P and some weird trim.Actualy the Chevelle was better looking IMHO.

    Give me a mint 63 or 66 Parisienne drop top,with a 283 and a powerglide.

    Oh! The memories

    Monty …….Great link Thank you so much!

    Michael

    Thanks Paul

  • avatar
    chuckR

    My great aunt had a 67 LeMans. She had traded in a Cadillac convertible and, at 4 feet something tall, wanted a car that more properly fit her. The LeMans was optioned with every luxo-thing available, but had, IIRC, a V8. I still remember when my grandfather drove it through a set of S curves and said to me – Let’s see what this baby can do…..

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    One man’s treasure is another man’s scrap! Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and all that! What was it that hemmingway said (or was it Hemmingway?), ‘Opinions are like a22holes, everyone has one’ I’m really sorry guys but I cannot resist weighing in here. that ‘thing’ is an abomination! It was in the 60′s and it’s more so now. It is no surprise to me that the company that put that scrap on the road is now about to go tango-uniform. There I have said it. It is not my intent to hurt feelings or anything like that but when I hear people waxing lyrical about cars like that it creates the same reaction in me as when someone draws their fingernails across a blackboard! Please forgive me!

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    Very nicely done article and very accurate on the vehicle stats. I couldn’t agree more that GM and particularly Pontiac had things nailed during the 60′s. Of course I’m a bit biased due to being raised on this brand with my Dad being a Pontiac district manager between 64 to 69 then buying his own Pontiac dealership. Within the basement of the first dealership he had a nice little mix of hidden Pontiac treasures and mostly in primo shape with exception of two; 32 Pontiac 4dr, 48 4dr, 54 4dr, 64 Grand Prix with 8 luggers, 67 Firebird conv 326 (my sister still has this car and its a sweetheart), 68 Firebird conv 350, 69 GTO conv 400 with hideaways. He sold all of them in the early 80′s except one of the birds for my sis to help finance his next dealership and due to losing the storage space. The keeper of the bunch I wish he still had was the dark blue GTO as it was his as a new zone car in Denver that he sold to his brother and got back on a trade. Better to have had and lost than never had at all……..

    BTW….it would be a shame to not see this 65 LeMans in this article get saved.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @oboylepr…What pray tell did you like out of that era?No you haven’t hurt my feelings dude,just share with us,what floated your boat,in an earlier time?

  • avatar
    bunkie

    oboylepr-

    First of all, it was almost 50 years ago. Second, while there is some small truth in what you say, these cars were fun to drive. A friend of mine had a ’67 Impala convertible that he had bought new. He let me borrow it a few times in the late 1970s and, let me tell you, there is no finer car for a long midsummer night with a pretty girl you just met riding right next to you on the bench seat and nothing but infinity above you.

  • avatar
    63CorvairSpyder

    My first new car was a 63 LeMans Convert, bronze with white top, wire wheel covers, 326/260, 3-spd on the floor. Cost $2652.00. I loved that car. Met my wife while I owned that car. We’ll be married 42 years in July.

    It was great cruising the drag in Hackensack, NJ, summer night, top down, radio blaring and the girls just aching to get in for a ride…..and yes I was in more than my share of stoplight drag races and fared very well overall.

    @oboylpr….. why bother wasting your time reading and posting in “Curbside Classics” if the cars and the comments bother you? Why not just play with your Xbox?

  • avatar

    “My state of Washington used to be that way too, but like many other states they’ve gone to a program where you’re forced to buy new plates every seven years whether they’re still in good shape or not.”

    Another Washingtonian here, and I have to say that this situation ticks me off. I love to see the old green/white & green/yellow WA plates. I was forced to swap my original ’73 plates on an old VW of mine to the new “Mt. Rainier” plate in 1990. It just looked fugly on a car of that vintage.

    For years I bought a “vanity” plate to match the front British style number plate of my dad’s old Jaguar, even though the car qualified for collector plates. I finally gave up and got the latter last year. damn they look so ugly.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    oboylepr- no hurt feelings; ultimately, all cars are compromised, and have strengths and weaknesses. But I will say, that in its time, cars like the LeMans were really quite good cars, given their intended mission. European car magazines held the better American cars in quite high esteem too. What they offered in terms of refinement, power, reliability (yes! especially compared to European cars), comfort, features, and styling were in an absolute sense quite high, especially at their price point.

    What was a working/middle class European driving in 1965 (if anything at all)? A 16hp Fiat 500, a 30hp VW, a 18hp 2CV? All interesting and economical cars, that served their intended purpose. But I can tell you that their drivers would have loved to swap their cars for this LeMans, which was a very affordable car in its day.

    If you’re trying to compare American cars of this time with a nice Mercedes; well, no comparison. But the Benz cost at least twice as much. American cars offered an unmatched value in their time, and for their (cheap gas) environment.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Oh yeah! Summer of 1971 driving across the prairie’s,with a 62 Strato Chief, three on the tree.Pretty girls,a party that night,maybe a doobie or two.
    Nothing will erase those memories.

    @ 63 Covair Spyder….Her dads,may he rest in peace, first words to me “park that oil leaking piece of NSFW on the street,if you think my daughter get’n in that bucket of bolts,ya gott’a another think com’in boy.

    36 years in April.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Thanks for the article, I had the Chevrolet variant, a ’65 Malibu SS with a 4 speed when I lived in Baltimore and there was nothing quite like it though I agree the Pontiac was a better looking car. I later owned a SS396 version from ’67 and it was so much the better.

    Gotta’ agree with bunkie’s post too, I had a ’66 and ’68 Impala convertible; unless you had the opportunity to own or drive one of these mid sixties GM cruisers, top down on a warm evening, you’ll never know what it was like.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Funny enough there is a guy in my neighbourhood who still commutes daily in one of these (well, not quite, the taillights are slightly different). It’s a white convertible with blue top and interior. He uses it all through the winter even. From what I remember of the heaters on these, he must really love it.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    We had the Olds variant. The first new car I remember my parents buying was a dark, dark green 64 Cutlass. Not the garden variety F-85, but the hardtop with the bucket seats, console and floor shift for the miserable 2-speed transmission. Though I was never the biggest GM fan, I remember that car fondly – it was one of the best we ever had. The 330 V8 with the 4 barrel carb would really scoot.
    My Pontiac fix was supplied by my next door neighbors. My best friend’s mom had a series of GTOs – a 66, 68 and 71. His dad had the 67 Lemans with the OHC six and later a couple of Firebirds. Another neighbor had a midnight blue 65 GTO that was one of the most beautiful cars I had ever seen at age 6. (MoPar man that I am, or was, I liked his 68 Plymouth GTX better).
    Great article.

  • avatar

    Chuckgoolsbee,

    I have the ’57 Washington plate that probably came off of our ’57 Chevy after we finally went back to Washington in 1960, following 3 years in Massachusetts, although it may have only come off after we moved back to Massachusetts permanently the following year, and got Mass plates. It’s in immaculate shape. Unfortunately the ’57 Chevy is no longer attached to it.

  • avatar

    oboylepr,

    were you even alive yet in the ’60s?

    I think a lot of us love those cars partly because we were coming of age at that point, and as Mikey and others have said so eloquently, those cars are tied to wonderful (and often funny) memories.

    But those cars were also marvelous pieces of commercial art that speak of fast and carefree times in a country on its way to the moon. I was 12 in ’65, 17 in 1970, and looking at those cars even 44 years later rouses some otherwise sleepy node in my limbic system, where I can tap into the feelings engendered by the scent of a girl at a Cape Cod beach party.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    oboylepr.
    All I can say is you don’t know what you missed.
    I will chime in too. I bought a 64 LeMans in 69(in between all expense paid SE Asian vacations). dark Turquoise 6 cyl 3 on the column. I drove it on leave up the west coast from the Mexican border to the Canadian border and back. As others have said, they were as good as you could get for mass market affordable cars. A friend had a 64 Dodge Polara convertible so I can relate to that experience as well. I sold it to buy a new 71 Nova. Small block 3 on the floor upgrade bucket seat interior. Had that car 12 yrs. Just clutches (my bad) and brakes. But that was the last new GM I bought. By the late 70s they weren’t the same.

  • avatar
    50merc

    My thanks too, Paul, for a terrific article.

    “Yes, the mid-sixties were GM’s final golden years. Market share and profits would never again be replicated. And its cars would never again look so good, like this LeMans, glowing with self-confidence and understated elegance.” So true!

    Jeez, GM, you blew it all! How could you do that!

  • avatar
    happy-cynic

    Paul, that is a really good article. To stories for the price of one.
    (“more to the picture then meets the eye”)

    As a kid, I remember drooling over this and other GM mid-size cars. My 6th grade teacher had a GTO (forgot if it was a 65/66)
    it was a dark red with white top convertible. Very sharp. Then when I was about 18, my friend got his hands on a 64 GTO, in primer gray. It had a monster engine, equiped with huge 4-bbl carb.
    The fuel lines where about the size of a garden hose. Real fast, real thirsty.

    Granted today’s cars are safer, cleaner, (blah,blah) but they real boring. Too bad GM was overrun by the bean counters, whom are clueless when it came to building something that people actually want to buy.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Great article, Paul. I grew up in the 70s, which by comparison gave us pretty frumpy cars…yet I have similar fond memories. Thanks for the reminder of how things were!

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I, too, grew up in the 70′s and I remember my neighbors Pontiacs. My father went for much frumpier metal, but I recall those cars fondly. Hard to believe that GM went from this to the dowdy, slowpoke cars of the mid to late 70′s. Nadir, indeed.

    oboylepr: Please tell me what cars from this era you hold in such high esteem? This is even before BMW was known as “Bring Me a Wrecker”

    Love this series…keep it coming…and always keep a variety of makes!!

  • avatar
    old-peevish-armed

    My second car, but the first one I truly lusted for, was a 1960 black over red interior, Bonneville convertible, that I bought in 1963. A 389 with 2-4 barrel carbs. Factory was one 4 barrel, but mine had belonged to a guy who was a local race car owner/driver and he modified it. The “thing to do” in those days was to drive them without the air filters in, so when you dropped into passing gear and floored it, all the butterfly valves opened and it sounded like a full on tornado sucking wind. WWWHHHHoooommmmmmmm.

    I got my first speeding ticket that way. The “hidden cop” I did it in front of said I pegged his radar. My license was suspended on the spot for 2 weeks. That’s how it was done locally in Penna. in those days

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Well lads I grew up on the other side of the pond for starters so the cars that I remember were none of these fine examples of Detroit Iron. The ‘turn on’ cars in my memory are mostly from the 70′s and some from the 60′s. Cars like the original Cooper S, Alfa Romeo Alfasud (unreliable as hell but what a handler), Jensen Interceptor, RS1800 rally-spec Escorts (yes really!), GT6, TR6 etc. My favourite car of all time is Inspector Morse’s beautiful MkII Jagaur 248 RPA (UK licence plate). Oh yes, and who could forget the original VW Golf GTI. Different kinds of cars for sure but all great for the sheer blast of flinging them around Irish country roads!

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I like GM cars mid 30s to 70. Mostly as objects d’art. Keep up the good work , Paul.

  • avatar
    skor

    The 60′s Pontiacs were, with a few exceptions, beautiful cars, but this 1960′s GM product gives me wood every time I see it.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/66Toronado.jpg

    It really is sickening what happened to GM. They deserve to die now.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Cars like the original Cooper S, Alfa Romeo Alfasud (unreliable as hell but what a handler), ….

    In high school(late 70′s) one of the kids had a Alfa, and another had a Lancia. Never was in the Lancia, but I went for a ride in the Alfa. I don’t recall what model, but holy crap did that thing corner. We lived in a hilly area, and some of the streets (Snake Hill Road in Lloyd Harbor NY) were serious narrow winders that were tree lined. The Alfa carved through that road like it was on rails. It did break all the time, but I can see why you would hold Alfas of that era in such high regard.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    oboylepr – I started out across the pond too:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/autobiography-pt-1/
    And I struggled with the yanktank vs. eurocar dilemma in my youth:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/auto-biography-7-loves-labours-lost/
    But I eventually learned to love them all. Every car has something of interest for me.
    I am always on the lookout for old foreign cars for this series. They will get equal time. Getting harder to find, though I did stumble across some Fiat 850′s recently. Stay tuned, and hopefully, we’ll float your boat too.

  • avatar
    wgmleslie

    In between my endless covetous leers, I vaguely noticed that he always wore a jacket, even in Baltimore’s sweltering summer heat. One day I suddenly realized he was working with one hand in his jacket pocket. With the thoughtlessness that seventeen-year olds are notorious for, I loudly berated him for his laziness in using only one hand. He gave me a hurt-puppy look but said nothing.

    Just out of high school (1982), I went over to a friend’s house to play some cards. Someone had arrived in a brand new Delorean.

    I went inside and as the game started, I asked about it. One of the guys at the table said that he had just purchased it. We began to talk about the car and all was going well until he mentioned that it was an automatic.

    I rolled my eyes and said that I would never buy a car like that without a manual transmission. The guy didn’t say anything but he gave me that “hurt-puppy look”.

    Later that night, after the game finished, we all got up from the table. The Delorean guy disappeared under the table for a moment and then walked out the room on his hands, the lower half his torso not being there.

    It turns out that a year earlier he had been riding his 10-speed and was squeegeed by a truck on a narrow bridge and the car was from some of the settlement money.

    So Paul, I know how you feel.

  • avatar
    the duke

    Paul, next time I come to Portland I’ll be sure to leave my 62 Studebaker GT Hawk (factory T-10 four speed!) on the street (after I pull it out of Grandma’s garage) so you can be distracted by it…and snap a few photos. Not as rough as this Poncho, but not pristine either. Waiting for me to finish grad school to get restored properly.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    the duke: I’ll take you up on that. Love Hawks. Son Edward lives there, so I’m up from time to time. Lot’s of interesting cars on the streets.

    Send Farago an e-mail (go to “contact” at the top toolbar) with your contact info and ask him to forward it to me.

  • avatar
    A is A

    Despite its two-speed Powerglide…

    My G*d. Two speed.

    My dad´s humble 1965 Renault 10 had four speeds.

    There is something very, very wrong with inefficiency.

    Nice review and nice car, anyway.

  • avatar
    nikita

    I was also 12 in 1965 and a car nut. GM was styling king in those days for sure. One uncle had a ’64 Buick Skylark Sportwagon, the one with the glass roof over the backseat area, probably the most interesting of all A bodies. Another uncle had a ’65 Wildcat, a clean looking huge coupe with no portholes. I took my driving test in a ’65 Impala and we also had a ’66 Tornado. They were all giant pieces of mechanical artwork. Pontiacs were the cleanest styled of all. I especially like the ’66-7 Tempest/GTO coupes.

    Just for comparison, the guy next door, a Ford guy, bought one of those ugly Fairlane coupes in ’65 and grandpa bought a ’65 Belvedere, which was a ’64 Fury with two headlights, hideous.

    None of those cars had much in the way of driving dynamics, especially brakes, which is why I went for less reliable German cars myself.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Paul: I agree completely that the mid-60s Pontiacs with the stacked quad headlights were some of the nicest looking Pontiacs ever.

    A is A: V8-powered cars having a long, flat torque curve don’t need to spend all their time shifting gears to stay in their powerband. According to google, your Renault R10 had a 67cid inline-4 putting out 50hp.

    Having said that, a 2-speed was still behind the times in the mid 60′s though. I think most American cars with an automatic got a 3-speed by that time.

  • avatar
    mistercss

    Mike66Chryslers :
    April 1st, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Having said that, a 2-speed was still behind the times in the mid 60’s though. I think most American cars with an automatic got a 3-speed by that time.

    Not really…My Dad’s ’66 Impala had a 327+Powerglide…My buddy had a ’68 Chevelle with 307+PowerGlide.

    I think the first full size Chevy with a 3-speed auto (TurboHydramatic) was in 1970.

  • avatar
    nikita

    A Chevy version of the TH400 arrived with the 396, mid 1965. Yes, Chrysler, Ford and AMC had all three speed automatics by then.

    That Powerglide, with no intermediate gear, plus the weak brakes, made driving that ’65 Impala in the mountains quite a thrill.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    The two-speed Powerglide lived on into the seventies. The Vega had it until 1973 (all-time deadly slow combination), and it was still being put in full-size fleet-model Chevies for some years.

  • avatar
    phargophil

    This one brings back memories. My mom & dad felt that their dream car would be a ’63 Grand Prix. They were delighted when they bought a 2 year old ’64 Bonneville. 389 with a 4 barrel and automatic. 18 MPG on the highway, room for a sofa in the trunk, room for a bunk bed in the back seat. Dad was a garage mechanic, then an engine rebuilding instructor. In ’77 he offered me the Bonneville for $150 but said, “I wouldn’t recommend you buy it. It’s going to start nickel and diming you to death.”

    It’s the only thing I wish I had ignored his recommendations about.

  • avatar
    50merc

    My ’68 Impala had the optional three-speed Turbo Hydramatic (with a 327), but I think dealers ordered most cars with the two-speed Powerglide.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    fincar1 :
    March 31st, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Oregon and California residents have an advantage over people from most states: It’s still possible to see cars of the 60’s that still have their original license plates from when they were new. (Actually 56 or newer in Oregon, 63 or newer in California). I believe that LeMans qualifies. If you’re looking to buy something like that and it has its original plates, and especially if they’re in good shape, that tells something about the history of the car. Of course it helps to be a license plate collector like I am…

    My state of Washington used to be that way too, but like many other states they’ve gone to a program where you’re forced to buy new plates every seven years whether they’re still in good shape or not.

    I was just about to post that that wasn’t an original California plate, because it’s blue and yellow and those from the 1960′s are black and yellow-but then I looked again, and it’s an Oregon plate in the same color scheme that California plates had in the 1970′s and 1980′s.

    I had no idea that other states forced you to switch out plates every so many years. In fact, in California, if you pay extra for a personalized license plate, you can transfer it from car to car forever. So you sometimes see brand new cars with said blue and yellow personalized plates from the 1980′s. Occasionally you will even see ones on new cars bearing special Olympic plates, which were only issued in 1984.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Geez, I didn’t realize that GM inflicted 2-speed automatics on people for so long. Chrysler discontinued their PowerFlite 2-speed auto after 1961. They had light-duty (A904) and heavy-duty (A727) “Torqueflite” 3-speed automatics. AMC used Chrysler Torqueflites in a number of their vehicles as well.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Yup, these were good-looking cars. I personally found the full-size ’65 Chevs and Pontiacs better looking, particularly the Pontiac, which was good looking enough from certain angles to take my breath away.

    But then I drove one. Let’s face it — crap. The thing wobbled down the highway and swished around curves with zero grace. After a 150 mile trip, I was stuck to the seat with sweat just from the effort of trying to keep it on the road. Our ’65 Volvo 544 had far better tracking, did not wobble and shared only fear-inducing drum brakes, at least from 90 mph downhill. Argh…. And it was ugly.

    The Canadian Parisienne had a 327 and powerglide, because it was a Chev underneath. Put a lot of miles in on a ’65 Chev wagon with 283 and powerglide. That was one slow donkey. But smooth.

    Up till those experiences, I had a sneaking feeling that these big cars were better than the European stuff my Dad had bought (as an immigrant to Canada). The power and smoothness were nice. The rest was not, IMO. A Ford Consul was a much better, if slower drive. The Ford Zodiac was twice the car a Falcon was, being far more rugged.

    But those GM cars had style galore, no doubt about it. My favourite is, like another poster’s, the ’66 Olds Toronado. Had several model kits of that classic.

    Have to say though that back in Blighty in ’65, cars were a bit more advanced than a Fiat 500. The Cortina GT had a great engine. Put many miles on one in the summer of ’66 out on Vancouver Island. That car was better than any US car I drove in the ’60s. Handled, would hold 5500rpm in 3rd (75mph) for 15 minutes at a time going up mountains, and never whimpered with four aboard. And it had disc brakes up front.

    That car alone prevented me from ever buying Detroit. I knew there was better out there. But not in waftability and styling, I’ll grant you.

    Best driving Detroit car I kept out of a ditch in the 60s was a 1969 Fairlane wagon with 3 on the tree. It didn’t actually wobble, and was quite surprisingly quick. Brakes, however….

    Great memories, Paul.

  • avatar
    mcs

    @Paul Niedermeyer :

    the duke: I’ll take you up on that. Love Hawks. Son Edward lives there, so I’m up from time to time. Lot’s of interesting cars on the streets.

    I live in the Boston area in a place that seems to be a hot spot for various older classics. I’ve seen everything from an X19 and Lancia Scorpion to a neighbors stunning restored 72 911. With the weather getting warmer, they’ll be coming out to play soon and I’ll keep an eye open for them and introduce myself to the owners.

    I can also hook you guys up with a classic Mini right now (choice of either Rhode Island, Massachusetts or CT) and even some micro cars like Messerschmitts. Another neighbor has a Spitfire and I’ve seen a Lotus 7 running around that I’ve heard is actually the real thing. There’s a longer list, but those cars are in various stages of restoration and I lose track of where everyone is in terms of progress – these projects go on for years.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The good ‘ol days. cars had real style back then and were a piece of cake to work on and tweak. You could actually tell them apart too. I remember as a kid being able to tell most every make model and year apart, even at night. Today thats nearly impossible. There are only 3 cars made now that even stir my soul the way these old 60′s and early 70′s machines did: the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger. With a few notable exceptions, most everything else is a forgettable appliance to get from point A to point B.

  • avatar
    Reo Durant

    A well rounded and diverse manufacturing base is critical to America and its ability to defend itself. The giant Trojan horse (it is golden and beautiful) is at the gate, perhaps in our midst already! Do we bow down and worship at the alter of greed? My fellow countrymen we can, we must, and we will build the better mousetrap! Henry Ford warmed our hearts and homes with the common mans V8 in 1932. Studebaker was ahead of its time with the bullet nose (Tucker saw it and stole it)post WW2. Cadillacs looked like they could fly in 1959. Fords, Dodges and Pontiacs COULD fly in 1969. Then somehow we lost our way. Is it the kef? Is our faith no more?

    I propose to you my fellow Americans, a million mile platform, or how about a lithium ion hybrid that “plugs into” and lights the home?. Something must be done, can we agree upon this one small thing?


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