The original ’64 Le Mans is widely credited as the start of the muscle car era: what was originally an option package meant to skirt by GM’s internal regulations on engine displacement became a massive hit, prompting Pontiac to make the car a regular part of its lineup. The 1967 GTO was the final year for the first generation car, but it was also the best, bringing a refined look and serious performance to over 80,000 buyers.
The Most Refined Look
The styling stayed much the same since ’66, switching from six louvered taillights to eight smooth taillights on the rear end and adding chrome “chain link” grill inserts to the front end. Otherwise, the clean lines, vertically stacked headlights and Coke bottle styling remained intact. Likewise, the interior was still top end for the era, aside from a switch from real wood-to-wood appliqué accents on the dash. Buyers could opt for the cool looking albeit hard to read external tach, which sits on the hood ahead of the driver.
The Most Power
Much bigger changes took place under the hood. The 389 was bored out, bringing displacement up to 400 cubic inches. Most GTOs came with the Standard Output version of this engine. It replaced the previous year’s tri-power setup with a single four-barrel Rochester carburetor for a claimed 335 hp, equal to the most powerful ’66 model. The optional High Output engine received a higher-lift camshaft, freer flowing exhaust manifolds and an open-air filter, bringing output up to 360 hp.
A small number got the Ram Air option, which used an intake tray to make the hood scoop functional. These cars also had a claimed 360 horsepower, but real world performance was definitely improved over the standard HO engine. While it may be the GTO’s most distinctive feature, sales were low because it was impractical: the scoop setup was shipped in the trunk of the car, and dealers were advised to reinstall the standard intake if the car would be driving in rainy weather to keep water from getting into the engine.
A Shifter for the Discerning Racer
The icing on the cake was the use of Hurst shifters, now available with three transmissions: a three-speed manual, a four-speed manual and a three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic. Automatic models equipped with a center console got a Dual Gate shifter that could be used to shift the transmission manually, pairing the launch advantages of a torque converter with better engine control for improved drag strip performance straight from the factory.
Put all that together, and the result is the greatest version of the original muscle car. The ’67 had the most powerful engines, the cleanest styling, and a trick shifter that made automatic-equipped cars ready for the drag strip straight from the factory.
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