GTO Inspired: 1971 Pontiac LeMans Sport

Times were changing in the early ’70s, the muscle car was still in vogue but insurance premium surcharges were raining on the parade. What to do? How about providing the look without the action? That was the formula at Chevrolet who started putting pedestrian level small-block engines in their otherwise muscular-looking Chevelle SS. Over at Pontiac, they tried essentially the same trick by putting the GTO’s endura nose and hood on a LeMans Sport. Standard power was a six-cylinder engine, but a prospective buyer could specify up to a 455 CI V8 too. Today’s find is of that character, it’s a ’71 Pontiac LeMans Sport decked out as something a bit more exalted. This Poncho is located in Montgomery, Texas and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $8,600 with 46 bids tendered so far.

Pontiac LeMans sales in ’71 were about 109K cars of all stripes, including two and four-door hardtops, four-door sedans, convertibles, and station wagons.  The GTO, which was in its last year as a separate model, yielded only about 10K copies, a significant drop from 1970’s 40K unit output. Were options like the GTO inspired nose, grafted onto a lesser being like the Sport LeMans, the reason for the GTO’s slide? Could be.

This LeMans is a Texas car and it looks to have spent a lot of time out in the hot, southwestern sun. The finish is burned and faded, typical for many years of outside storage. The seller states that the car has been sitting since 1996 so the guess is that it wasn’t a covered resting place. Interesting to note is the disintegrated nature of the weatherstripping, another long term, outdoor telltale. The passenger-side fender has a bit of a crunch to it and there are the usual nose-nicks that afflict a Pontiac’s proboscis. The seller mentions that the driver’s side quarter has some pinhole perforation as well as rust around the rear window, another common problem with a GM A-body. For a GM intermediate of this era, cars known for attracting rust, this subject appears to be pretty solid. The underside is showing a lot of surface corrosion, however, and a closer inspection is warranted.

For power, the original owner of this LeMans Sport chose a 250 gross HP, 350 CI V8 engine. Generally, when you see a car on a trailer, it’s a non-runner and that’s the case here. The seller states, “Engine turns over just fine. It wouldn’t take much to get this running again“. This car is listed as having 62K miles but it’s not a claim. That’s minimal mileage for a Pontiac engine but the mileage may, or may not, be accurate. Another thought is that if it “wouldn’t take much” to get the engine running, why not do it? A runner will run away from the seller a lot faster than a non-runner, and at a better price. As is usually the case, a three-speed, Turbo-Hydramatic, automatic transmission is in charge of gear changes.

Pontiac’s “Morrokide” vinyl upholstery is known for its durability and this LeMans Sport is no exception – it still presents itself well. Other than the typically faded nylon loop carpet, the entire interior checks out, though it could use a thorough cleaning. While the dash pad looks to have survived the Texas sun onslaught, the top of the rear seat backrest and the package tray are going to need some attention.

Well, it’s not a GTO but it sure throws off the vibe and if you’re not concerned with a car not being “de real ting”, this LeMans Sport could be the salve – looks without the price. After all, that’s what Pontiac was trying to accomplish a half a century ago. What do you think, did they pull it off?

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Comments

  1. Matt in L.A. Member

    OK.. Now you know a lot about what my ride looks like. Mine is a ’72, yellow (not the original Monarch yellow) with a black vinyl top. I even have the ’71 upholstery. It’s a great affordable entry into the muscle car hobby. I dropped a 4bbl on the 350 and since I have the ram air hood? That too! While it doesn’t rip or rumble quite like a 455, it is powerful enough for L.A. freeways and passing the tortoises on PCH (Driving in L.A. was amazing during the first months of the Covid shut down!) It’s also reliable as a rock (It ended up more reliable than my beloved dying Toyota Pickup!) Mine was born at the very same Fremont plant that Teslas are now made. (Apparently Tesla has the same body panel fit problem GM had at that plant! Hmmmm) I get a lot of thumbs up and attention (for an old bird!) Buy this car for your kid! (But sell those Chevy rims and get a set of Pontiac Rally IIs…Jeez! What is wrong with people?)

    Like 3
  2. Wayne

    I worked at a Pontiac dealer in 1972. We had lime green wagon with the enduro nose, rally wheels and the handling package. It sat on the lot for a long time and about the time I decided to buy it. It was sold. We had a LeMans convert that was the same color with a white top and white interior. I wanted that car too. But young marriage and house buying are sometimes not compatible with buying cars.

    Like 3
  3. EPO3

    Don’t make it a clone please. keep the wheels ad a little spunk to the motor paint it and drive it to car’s and coffee and be real proud of it

    Like 5
  4. John Oliveri

    Ah, if I could turn back time, I’d order this car w a 400, power windows ,8 track and like this one a/c

    Like 2
  5. Desert Rat

    I hate what Pontiac did to the front end of the 71s, they took the best looking front end of any muscle car (69 GTO with hidden head lights) and in two years came out with this mess. Still other than my feelings about the front end this seems to be a pretty good Pontiac which if it was mine I’d want to slap on a fiberglass 70s front end on it and really piss off the purist.

    Like 2
    • Steve Clinton

      That GTO nose was a Le Mans option.

      Like 1
  6. pete

    I would rather have this than a GTO. Same look more affordable. I would leave it as a Lemans not clone it into a GTO. People keep doing that nonsense and eventually there will be no more Tempests or Lemans.

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