I saw the book of bills the seller had assembled, and the claimed $120,000 spent on restoration was well documented, if a bit outrageous

Of the more than 77,000 GTOs built in 1968, fewer than 10,000 were convertibles. The meticulously restored GTO pictured here has only 68,000 original miles and features several factory options, including Hurst shifter, power windows, power steering, power antenna and trunk release. Under the hood sits the 400 Ram Air mated to a Turbo 400 automatic transmission and 3:55 Posi-traction rear end. The engine has been completely overhauled. Rebuild work included porting and polishing the cylinder heads, refurbishing the intake and having the carburetor jetted.

The vehicle has been owned and cared for by the same owner since 1978. With over $120,000 spent to bring this muscle car to concours condition, the new owner will certainly enjoy using it to show or drive.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1968 Pontiac GTO Ram Air
Years Produced:1964-74
Number Produced:87,864 (1968); 77,704 coupe, 9,980 convertible
Original List Price:$2,996 (base)
SCM Valuation:$13,000-$19,000
Tune Up Cost:$375
Distributor Caps:$21
Chassis Number Location:Visible through windshield
Engine Number Location:Front of engine at the right-hand cylinder bank, along with an alphanumeric engine production code
Club Info:GTO Association of America, 5829 Strobel Road, Saginaw, MI 48609
Alternatives:1968-1969 Oldsmobile 442, 1968-1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS, 1968-1970 Plymouth Road Runner
Investment Grade:B

This GTO Ram Air Convertible sold for $61,601 at the RM Monterey auction held Aug. 16-17, 2003.

In 1968 this archetypical muscle machine got a newly-designed frame underneath completely fresh styling featuring the “Endura” front end-a steel-reinforced bumper with an ABS plastic covering.

I can distinctly remember teenage “life-and-death importance” discussions with friends revolving around what we considered to be this serious styling mistake made by GM’s Wide-Track division. What could they have been thinking?

Those who hated the Endura nose could pony up another $25 for the “Endura-delete” option and wind up with a Tempest face on their GTO, but few did. Squeezing the front bumper of a new GTO became the thing to do when you saw one parked on the street.

Today, few think of the Endura bumper as a revolutionary idea, but it turns out to be a look that has stood the test of time.

A less well-remembered feature first seen on the 1968 GTO was an electric testing system known as “Sercon,” co-developed by GM and the Sun Electric Company. With the Sercon system, your Pontiac mechanic could plug your car into his diagnostic machine, and by reading a panel of colored lights, diagnose any electrical system problems. At least that was the theory. Sercon was high-tech for the time-in 1968, even the marvel of Pong was years in the future. (Curious about the ultimate fate of this once-high-tech system, I did a Google search for Sercon. After wading through the links for French chalet property management and a consulting firm based in Oshiwara, Andheri, India, I did find a couple of IT references. But nothing looked related to the technology employed on our 1968 GTO.)

Although the GTO was favorably compared to the Jaguar XKE in the domestic automotive press of the time (not to mention the famous, but now well-known-to-be-fraudulent Ferrari GTO vs. Pontiac GTO comparo that Car and Driver pulled off), up until 1968 it had problems with both frame flex and rear axle hop. The redesigned frame fixed the former, and a new design to the rear end helped with the latter. Interestingly enough, although the A-body GTO shared some sheet metal and chassis parts with the Oldsmobile 442, the Pontiac had no rear stabilizer bar even though one was available on the Olds. Instead, Pontiac went the route of stiffer shocks. Adapting the 442 bar to the GTO is not a bolt-on task; it involves quite a bit of fabrication.

Pontiac offered two 400-cid V8 engines. The “economy” option gave you a two-barrel carb good for 265 hp, while the standard setup came with a four-barrel and 350 hp. The hot motor was the four-barrel version fitted with the Ram Air system for 10 extra ponies. Ram Air I and Ram Air II were both available in the 1968 GTO, depending on the production date of your vehicle. Ram Air I was discontinued mid-year when Ram Air II, featuring redesigned heads with round ports, became available.

The Ram Air Convertible here is only one of a handful of muscle cars I’ve ever seen whose four-speed manual transmission was replaced with an automatic. As you might imagine, there’s a story behind this transplant, told to me by the seller, an SCM subscriber. His wife surreptitiously purchased the GTO to replace a similar car he had always regretted selling. It was her plan to hide the car until it could be given as a gift, but during the transition from one hiding place to another, the car broke down, and she had to be rescued-by him.

Not only was he appreciative of his surprise, proving that marriage makes compromise into a fine art, he graciously swapped in the slush box when she couldn’t manage the manual shift.

The car was in immaculate condition, with nearly perfect paint and chrome. The Endura bumper showed none of the peeling or cracking that can afflict these cars. I did see the book of bills the seller had assembled for the sale, and the claimed $120,000 spent on restoration was well documented, if a bit outrageous.

Appraisers often talk of market anomalies-sometimes high, sometimes low. The price achieved here has every sign of an irregularity, as the bid was well over twice the Price Guide values. Is the GTO worth that much? On this day, in Monterey, it was.-Dave Kinney

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