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GTO Alternative: 1966 Pontiac LeMans 389 Tri-Power 4-Speed

Pontiac was the catalyst behind the muscle car movement and launched the GTO in 1964. It essentially was a LeMans that was built to go fast. Really fast. This third year LeMans from 1966 appears to have been inspired by the GTO given the substantial performance upgrades that have been done to the car. It’s going to need bodywork and paint, but it looks as though all the mechanicals are covered. It’s currently cruising around in Pasadena, California and available here on craigslist for $16,500. Thanks, rem m, for making this tip possible!

The LeMans was an upgraded Tempest when it first came out in 1962. The nameplate would be part of the Pontiac line-up for the next twenty years. Along the way, it spawned the GTO which would come close to outselling the LeMans a couple of times. This 1966 LeMans 2-door coupe is one of 16,600 built that year, while a GTO with the same body would sell 10,300 copies. While an inline-six or a small V-8 were commonly found in the LeMans, the GTO would have a 389. And that’s what’s in the seller’s car, which is not likely numbers-matching. It has a Tri-Power set-up with 3X2-barrel carburetors, which means it’s a bad mama jammer.

From the passenger side, it’s a sharp looking car. The burgundy paint with a black vinyl top looks rather good, especially with the American Racing Torque Thrust wheels. However, from the other side you see a hood and front fender that are different colors than the rest of the car. The seller doesn’t say why this is, so we have to assume it was involved in an accident. Which likely explains why it comes with a salvage title, so anyone seriously considering the car should keep that in mind.

Here’s a snapshot of the goodies on this car that weren’t with it when it left the factory:

  • Edlebrock heads, roller rockers, Comp Cam (mild)
  • Ram Air system that has been restored with oversize Ram Air 4 exhaust manifolds and Flowmaster 40s
  • Engine built by a locally recognized racing shop
  • 4-speed Hurst shifter, close ratio
  • Suspension modifications including A-arms, Hotchkis springs, Moog linkages, quick ratio steering box, new bushings, and body mounts
  • Front disc brakes and Powermaster electronics

The seller says the car runs great (who are we kidding, it probably hauls butt!) and he has some extra parts that get thrown in with the sale. While you could drive it as-is, it would probably look great with a new coat of burgundy.  There is no mention of rust anywhere. Except for the LeMans badging, the car looks like a Goat from a few feet away. And the GTO sold almost we well as the LeMans in 1966, coming within about 10,000 units. According to Hagerty, a ’66 Lemans is a $30,000 proposition at best, while the GTO is $75,000 and maybe higher. Either way, if the seller’s car needs nothing more than new paint, you might end up with a car with instant equity.


  1. Avatar photo local_sheriff

    To me this is the best of both worlds – the GTO’s power and the LeMans’ looks. I’ve always preferred the ’66 LeMans’ ass with the opposed ‘C’s/ parantheses / bananas tail lights over GTO’s – a design element found on various Pontiacs throughout the 60s, and IMO should’ve been used even more.

    Too bad about the salvage title, that will, and should, always affect value. Hoping it’ll keep being a LeMans in the future too – NOT a clone

    Like 8
  2. Avatar photo Troy s

    Hot rod LeMans, not a clone at all just a a nice looking car to begin with….taken to the next level performance wise. Kool as heck wheels and they really add character to the car. So does the paint.
    So much more interesting that an all numbers matching LeMans, really. Day two cars,,, that’s where it’s at with me. Should have stuck a 428 in there to be Really bad to the bone but I’m not complaining, just thinking out loud.

    Like 7
  3. Avatar photo Jim in FL

    Post coupe! It was the preferred car of racers according to my father in law. I would be all in on this if it was east coast. I had a 67 tempest and everyone wondered why it wasn’t a GTO clone. Car had a dang OHC-6. I prefer the subtlety of the tempest and lemans over the GTO. I even like the mismatched fender. 18 year old me would have been stoked about this.

    My FIL had a 65 post coupe goat with tripower. He said it was difficult to keep in tune and bad in traffic, but crazy fast off the line. He was newly home from Vietnam, he was forced to drive it around DC in traffic. Food for thought for the new owner. Probably a better desert runner than an LA car.

    Like 3
  4. Avatar photo 86_Vette_Convertible

    This is one of those: if you can live with a salvage title it could be a lot of fun. With the obvious salvage title, it would take a good examination to insure it’s worth the $$. If it is, it could be a lot of fun and allow you to fake out a lot of people. I have had salvage title vehicles before, they can be a good value, depending on why they have that salvage title.
    If it checks out, I like it.

    Like 5
  5. Avatar photo 1-MAC

    Guys just title it as an antique. No inspection no emissions no annual fee. Nothing. Show me a 60 year old car that hasn’t had a dent or accident. This could be driven and enjoyed Not a trailer queen where every scratch or mark costs 5,000.00

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo bone

      In some states a title isnt required ; you can submit a bill of sale and when you register the car, your new title wont be a salvage title.

      Like 0
  6. Avatar photo TMK

    In my day, back in the late 60’s we would call this a sleeper. looks slow but was a tear on the street. OH the good old days.

    Like 1
  7. Avatar photo BeCarSmart Member

    Love it but WHY would you NOT make an effort to paint the fender even within a shade of the rest of the car before installing? Rest of the paint looks pretty good, RF fender is questionable and I did not see the original photos but come on. Paint the fender and ask 20K in this declining market. Nice car, nice color combo, nice drivetrain, ?????

    Like 0

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