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Original Muscle Car: 1964 Pontiac GTO

The muscle car starts here. Many credit Pontiac’s 1964 GTO with igniting the classic muscle car craze, a formula defined as a sport-minded model built primarily by jamming the motor from a full-sized car into a mid-sized body. This 1964 Pontiac GTO in Reading, Pennsylvania shows its age, but it’s highly original and may well have only seen the 77,000 miles reported. The listing here on eBay has nearly as many pictures as words, enough to engage at least eight bidders, one of whom pledged over $5000 for the long-parked Pontiac. Thanks to reader Patrick S. for spotting this iconic early muscle car.

Make no mistake; Pontiacs’s 389 cid (6.4L) V8 was no wallflower before the GTO. Hot 389s and dealer-installed Super Duty 421 cars were drag-racing animals, but until 1964, the hot ticket was always a full-sized car. Many a spicy Catalina and Bonneville lit up the drag racing scene, including more than one station wagon. The new-for-’64 GTO injected that DNA into the lighter mid-sized LeMans, borrowing the heads from the Super Duty 421 to make 325 HP on the GTO base 389 with four-barrel carburetor.

Faded paint covers what looks like super-straight metal. The seller kindly shows close-ups of some rust spots and a host of undercarriage pictures that frankly look pretty good. The color may be Gulfstream Aqua, a color that seems to vary in the restoration world, but should look like this similar car. Check out Hagerty for an excellent recap of the GTO’s birth, including how John DeLorean (yes that DeLorean) and a small group of Pontiac brass hatched the idea that became the 1964 GTO. The rest is history.

The GTO made a splash in the automotive press too, including a vintage review from Motor Trend. In these days of 8+ speed automatics and 6 speed manuals, the three-speed manual may seem better suited to a tractor than a muscle car, but with the 389’s ability to ignite the ’60s-era tires just after every shift, the combination of torque and three forward gears can be plenty. Many drag-racers of the day did fine with the two-speed Powerglide automatic.

Put a high polish on that factory console and it’s pure eye candy! The T-handle shifter makes a beefy tool handle, the exact opposite of a baby-sized short shifter on your neighbor’s tuned-up Civic. Could those be original seat covers?

Reading is about an hour from Philadelphia, an area with a rich history of fast V8 Pontiacs thanks to Ronnie Evans in Gilbertsville, Boyerstown, and other classic (and mostly vanished) Pontiac dealers and drag strips in New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. It’s no surprise that this largely unmodified Poncho came to rest in Reading. Do you define this 1964 GTO as the first muscle car?


  1. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    Oy, what a mess. What, no 3 deuces? Apparently a certain song lied to us? Again, same thing, these were merely someones beater, and were trashed accordingly. Sun tach, Hurst “T” handle,,, If this car could talk, I wonder how many folks beat the crap out of this car before something puked, deeming it untrashable anymore. Seeing how the value today exceeds just about any car, naturally someone will pour the coals to this in an effort to relive those days we took oh so for granted. Muscle cars were no big deal, $500 bucks tops. This car changed the world, and I suppose that has some merit. It is a great find. Someone knew to hang on to it.

    Like 35
    • Avatar photo Geoff

      Gotta love the old timey inflatable air shocks too. helped myy buddy install some on a 70 Chevelle back in the day.

      Like 1
  2. Avatar photo Bultaco

    It looks like someone tried to start it at some point since the air cleaner housing was tossed inside the car. It would help if the seller gave more info on whether the engine turns or not and when it last ran.

    Like 5
  3. Avatar photo Alan Loncto

    This poor old girl looks like she’s been rode hard and put away wet. Needs lots of TLC and $ to reserect .

    Like 5
  4. Avatar photo Bunky

    GTOs used Super Turbine 300 trannys-not Powerglides.

    Like 8
    • Avatar photo Brian Spillane

      I can tell you for sure the 64 & 65 Auto GTO’s had the 2 speed power glide automatics. I had a 65 389 4BBL and would have been thrilled if it had the 3 speed. It shifted into 2nd at 74mph just leaving it in “D”. Of course the 4spd and Tri-power would have been better but from where I was sitting a 3spd manual was sounding pretty good.

      Like 2
      • Avatar photo Marty Parker

        GTO’s never came from the factory with Powerglide transmissions. They did have a two speed automatic from 64-66 but was entirely different than a Powerglide.

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo 3Deuces

        I’m a long-retired GM dealership service technician. Buick-Pontiac-Oldsmobile (“BOP”) had their own 2-speed automatic design called the Super Turbine 300 or “ST-300” primarily for use in their midsize A-body offerings. The GTO had the ST-300 available as an option between 1964-1966. Folks, this is NOT a Powerglide … those were only used in Chevrolet applications.

        Like 5
    • Avatar photo Martin Bowen


      Like 0
  5. Avatar photo FLEET BUTTERFIELD

    The “many” who thought this car was the beginning are of the populous thinking, and don’t know or remember what Studebaker started in 1955 with the Speedster, and late 50’s hawks with superchargers on them. This a handful of Studebaker guys racing and blowing the socks off the so called muscle cars with Studebaker engines and superchargers. The Studebaker V8 is a much stronger engine than any SBC ever thought of. Check out the specs.

    Like 9
    • Avatar photo John Torzillo

      Fleet…as a Studebaker fan, the wonderful speedster came out in 1953,by 55 they’d changed the grill from the 53-54.
      As the owner of 2 Avantis, I replaced the blown up R-2 paxton supercharged 289 in my 63 with a 375 hp Rochester FI 327 and to say it was vastly superior is understatement.

      Like 1
  6. Avatar photo Ken Bouressa

    I would say that the 1961 Chevy Impala would be considered one of the first. You could get the SS package with the 409 cu.in. 425 hp setup as an option.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo Ray Bader

      The 61 Impala SS 409 was rated at 360 HP. 62 boosted it to 409 HP 63-65 Made it up to 425 Hp .

      Like 1
  7. Avatar photo OhU8one2

    Everyone likes the person who lives by no rules. They do what they want and would rather ask for forgiveness than to ask permission. This was amd still is the GTO. This car broke all the corporate rules. Then found it’s place in the public eye. People everywhere wanted to own a Goat. That is why Pontiac got the credit of building the first muscle car.

    Like 7
  8. Avatar photo Johnmloghry

    You can just keep turning the clock back on what might be considered the first muscle car. Perhaps before the 32 Ford V8 or the 42 Buick model with the light body and big Roadmaster engine or big packard, Lincoln and Cadillac V12, V16 engines. You can probably go all the way back to the brass car era, but really who cares. Cars of the 60’s were fast with light bodies and powerful V8’s whether it be Pontiac, Chevy, Ford or Mopar. I like this GTO and have fond memories of these cars. Sure they make cars that are faster and safer than those monsters these days, but for like me there’s just nothing like a nice car from the 60’s.
    God bless America

    Like 13
  9. Avatar photo 1-MAC

    Sad that someone would let it sit outside and deteriorate. Hope it gets saved. No matter what it takes to restore, it will be far different that some 4 cylinder turbo mini-car. Some of the new junk may be faster but it does not feel the same as a big inch engine coming on the cam with the 4 barrel opening up.

    Like 4
  10. Avatar photo Jon B

    I guess a 426W 62 Belvedere wasn’t a midsized car with a big engine.
    This may have potential.

    Like 2
  11. Avatar photo Troy s

    I’d like to know who came up with the label “musclecar” and exactly when. They weren’t calling cars like this goat here a muscle car in 1964. And that’s the problem some people have with it.
    What it was….a mass produced hot rod that made no attempt at hiding its youthful intentions and despite a boatload of options they all came with big powerful V8’s plain and simple. Even the slowest of GTO’s could still win plenty of moving violations! Marketing was spot on, which led to a wave of tiger tamers from all brands, it was full on by ’66….chasin’ the successful GTO!

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo JOHN Member

    I’ve had a few 64’s, this one appears to be fairly original as the seller states, 99% The shifter and console must be the non-original 1%. The seats likely would clean up well, the Morrokide vinyl held up extremely well over time. Tinted glass, rear window defogger, and either a rear-seat speaker or reverb are nice options. I’m digging the two piece Sun Super tach also! This could be a pretty good car to restore, but needs an in-person inspection. Why people sell a GTO without PHS always makes me wonder

    Like 1
  13. Avatar photo K Gun Offense

    It’s up to $7600.00 now and the reserve is not met. Judging from the underside, I believe the floor plans and trunk pans need to be replaced. It just appears there is a lot more rust and rot that the pictures are not showing. Obviously the motor is not running at this time. Would have helped in the description to know when it last ran and if it even turns over. Either way, there is a lot of work to be done on this car and a lot of money to be spent. I like the car and with my own personal inspection might consider if it stays in this price range. But definitely do7ng it for the live of cars and the history. No money to be made fixing this one up right.

    Like 1
  14. Avatar photo Ken

    In 1963, Pontiac put a 326 ci 4 bbl in the Tempest “Lemans” and attached it to a 3 speed manual transmission and a bit wider of a tire. The difference trim wise was they blacked out the grill and added the Lemans badge instead of Tempest. On the front fenders closer to the headlight was the 326 badge. Even though I was 12 at the time, my cousin bought a Grenadier Red one that was a seriously fast car. Not sure of the horse power but I loved that car and was seriously upset when it was totaled. Great memories.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Troy s

      Hey Ken , research it, I stumbled across some info on a performance ’63 Tempest that had the 326. For that year only the 326 actually displaced 336 cubes and was called a 326 for corporate policy. Quite a runner, and that car was a pre runner to the GTO. In ’64 the 336 was reconfigured and actually did measure 326 inches. It was an interesting read but I can’t remember where that info was.

      Like 0

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