MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of the General Motors Media Archives and Motor Trend
Published 2-12-2020

1965 Pontiac GTO ad GM Media Archives 1 RESIZED1965 Pontiac GTO ad (GM Media Archives) 

1965 was a very good year for the Pontiac Motor Division at General Motors. Pontiac introduced several great looking models that year with many exceptional styling features including vertically mounted headlamps, increased length and new colors for the consumer market.

1965 Pontiac GTO advertising illustration GM Media Archives 21965 Pontiac GTO advertising illustration (GM Media Archives)

Let’s start with the Tempest Custom series models, which added a two-door hardtop coupe, along with the Le Mans series models that offered a popular four-door sedan available in 12 different versions. E.M. Estes, General Motors vice president and general manager for the Pontiac Motor Division, said ”With the new styling design engineering advances and the big car appearance of the Tempest along with the two new models, the 1965 Tempest line represents an even greater opportunity for the Pontiac customer to find his choice of an automobile.”

A factory worker applies a stripe to a 1965 Pontiac GTO 3A factory worker applies a stripe to a 1965 Pontiac GTO

The 1965 GTO models represented great styling and power and became very popular among young consumers – generating huge sales for Pontiac. The 1965 GTO offered many new and exclusive features designed specifically for this model. A new and distinctive simulated air intake was located in the center of the hood top panel, and an eye-catching paint stripe just below the fender offered a sporty look. The GTO models were powered with the famous Pontiac 389 cubic inch engine with a four-barrel carburetor as standard or an optional engine with three two-barrel carburetion.

The 10 millionth Pontiac off the assembly line in 1965 GM Media Archives 4 RESIZEDThe 10 millionth Pontiac off the assembly line in 1965 (GM Media Archives)

The 1965 Grand Prix sports coupe was the flagship in Pontiac’s fleet of newly styled and engineered automobiles. It offered that sports car design with smooth flowing lines. The Grand Prix sports coupe was introduced to the public in dealer showrooms on September 24, 1964. The Grand Prix maintained a strong Pontiac family identity. When consumers saw the front end, the Pontiac trademarks of a divided grille and vertically positioned twin headlamps were instantly recognizable. In addition, Pontiac windshields were larger with less curved glass for improved vision for the driver.

1965 Pontiac Grand Prix advertising illustration GM Media Archives 51965 Pontiac Grand Prix advertising illustration (GM Media Archives)

Established in 1926, Pontiac celebrated a milestone in 1965 with its 10 millionth car rolling off the line. Other popular Pontiac models for 1965 were the Bonneville and Catalina series, which were completely new and offered great styling. The full-size Pontiacs used the General Motors “B” body, and some automotive historians dubbed the large Pontiacs as “the cars with the Coke bottle shape.”

1965 Pontiac Grand Prix advertising illustration GM Media Archives 61965 Pontiac Grand Prix advertising illustration (GM Media Archives)

One of the most exciting models in the 1965 Pontiac lineup was the 2 plus 2 vehicles. They were available in the Catalina sports coupe and convertible models. The 2 plus 2 models came into their own in 1965. The 2 plus 2 packages included bucket seats with a 2 plus 2 emblem and a high performance 421 cubic inch engine with four-barrel carburetion and a three-speed synchromesh transmission with floor shift. The Bonneville and Catalina models were also great designs.

1965 Pontiac Bonneville advertising illustration GM Media Archives 71965 Pontiac Bonneville advertising illustration (GM Media Archives)

The Bonneville series included the Brougham interior option, which offered the ultimate in luxury and comfort. The Bonneville models were offered in a sports coupe, a four-door hardtop, a six-passenger station wagon and a popular convertible.

Motor Trend cover featuring 1965 Pontiacs 8 RESIZEDMotor Trend cover featuring 1965 Pontiacs

In 1965, Motor Trend magazine presented the Car of the Year award to the Pontiac Motor Division for its great styling and engineering leadership in the development of personalized passenger cars. The popular Bonneville, the great looking Grand Prix and the powerful GTO were all big sellers for General Motors.

Pontiac VP and General Manager Pete Estes with Motor Trend Car of the Year award 9Pontiac VP and General Manager Pete Estes (left) with Motor Trend Car of the Year award

In conclusion, the 1965 Pontiac models will always be remembered for their excellent styling heritage.

Bibliography

Bonsall, Thomas E. “Pontiac The Complete History 1926-1986.” Bookman Publishing, 1985.

Norbye, Jan P. & Dunne, Jim. “Pontiac 1946-1978 The Classic Postwar Years.” Motorbooks International, 1993.

News from Pontiac.  Pontiac Motor Division, September 13, 1964.