Pontiac Historic Services build sheets are the only way to tell which cars left the factory as real GTOs


The exemplary 1965 GTO offered here is one of only 11,311 Pontiac GTOs that came as convertibles, just 15% of production in 1965. How many came with the ultimate 389-ci, 360-hp Tri-Power V8 and four-speed manual transmission is unknown, but it is certainly relatively few.
This example's other equipment includes a console, wood-grained steering wheel, and Rallye II wheels with wide oval F70-14 Firestone Super Sport Redline tires that make it even more unusual and visually distinctive.
Finished in Montero Red with black interior, this Pontiac GTO is a visual statement that backs up its appearance with performance. The owner describes it as an original, unrestored car that he has owned for the past two decades.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1965 Pontiac GTO
Years Produced:1965
Number Produced:11,311
Original List Price:$3,700
SCM Valuation:$24,000-$38,000
Tune Up Cost:$295-$450
Distributor Caps:$16
Chassis Number Location:left front door post
Engine Number Location:front of engine at right hand cylinder bank along with alphanumeric engine production codes
Club Info:Pontiac GTO Association of America, P.O. Box 455, Timnath, CO 80547-0455
Alternatives:1965 Ford Mustang Convertible K Code 289, 1966 Shelby Mustang, 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
Investment Grade:B

This 1965 Pontiac GTO was hammered sold for $44,000 at RM’s Amelia Island sale, held March 12, 2005. This deal later unwound, after the buyer found out that the car was originally a single-carb GTO with a three-speed. RM tells us it later sold the car to a new buyer for $37,985.
But first, what made the GTO such a success. The formula was simple. Take an intermediate body, pop in a big engine. Give it a simple name, one with a nod and a wink to a European sports car of great repute, but don’t bother to explain what it means. Add a few badges. Beef up the chassis. Make sure it has bucket seats, a floor-mounted shifter (preferably a four- speed) and be sure to include a tach.
Sell the dealers on the idea before the cars are even available, then tell them they’re only available in limited quantities. Give the buyers a wide choice of options, from the go-fast to creature comforts.
Promote, promote, promote-but not just through the usual channels. Spend money at the races, the drag strips, and park a few cars at nightclubs and hot spots. Get a song written about it.
Strong demand over the last couple of years has led to double-digit annual appreciation for GTOs. As 1964-65 models were actually an option package on the Pontiac Tempest, many a grocery-getter has since become a “GTO,” a convenient way for unscrupulous sellers to try and turn a quick buck. It’s not possible to tell if a GTO is “real” just by looking at a serial number, meaning anyone who buys an early car without verification from Pontiac Historic Services (www
.phs-online.com) is only asking to be ripped off.
PHS has access to the build sheets and order information for Pontiacs built between 1961 and 1999, and for just $35, it will mail an owner a copy of this information. This is the only way to accurately tell which cars left the factory as Tempests, Le Mans or real GTOs. PHS verification is so easily obtained that there’s no reason not to get it-a fax-back service even promises to respond to requests within one business day for an additional charge.
In this case, the bidder on the car pictured here checked with PHS after he “bought” the car, and found out that it had actually left the factory with a three-speed and a conventional four-barrel carb. Finding out that his new acquisition was not an original four-speed with the desirable 360-hp Tri-Power option gave the buyer a legitimate reason to walk, as the three-carb setup commands a price bump somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000-$7,500.
It is likely that this misrepresentation of how the car was originally equipped was unknown by either the vendor or the auction company simply because neither had contacted PHS. The owner had owned the car since before PHS began offering its service about 15 years ago, and it was one of many cars in his collection.
The confusion about this GTO’s originality notwithstanding, the car was no superstar. My notes taken the day before the sale indicated that it was a 4+ car, and that the work required to make this particular example into a solid #3 might prove to be “nothing short of sobering.” I counted among its sins some rust bubbles underneath the windshield, dull chrome and that all-too-familiar underwhelming look to the interior (cloudy gauges, pitted chrome pieces, etc.).
Even at the new $38k transaction price, the buyer paid retail and then some for a car in this weary condition. As it sits, I would have expected the car to trade hands at a price much closer to $30k. But if market trends continue and the new owner spiffs it up a bit, in a year I could be singing a different tune.

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