The 1965 Pontiac GTO Emerges from 15-Year Rest, Revealing ’73 Racing Secrets

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The Pontiac GTO is widely regarded as the vehicle that kickstarted the muscle car craze. Some say that’s not entirely true. While I agree that Pontiac wasn’t the first muscle car, I also think that it doesn’t really matter. The GTO is one of the coolest American classics out there.

 

Come 2023, the high-performance Poncho is not as rare as other intermediates from the golden muscle car era. However, it’s not very common either. Solid survivors are becoming increasingly harder to find, and restored examples tend to cost a small fortune. But some GTOs are still rotting away in barns and junkyards while waiting for a second chance.

The bright red 1965 version you see here is one of them. Granted, it’s not parked in a barn, and it’s not rusty, but this “Goat” has been off the road since 2008. That’s a whopping 15 years as of 2023. But it spent all that time on a trailer and under a tarp, both of which kept it safe from the elements.

This GTO is not an average example, either. While it may look stock from a distance, this Poncho is actually loaded with drag racing equipment. It has Mickey Thompson rubber at all four corners, including skinnies in the front and fatties in the rear.

There’s more evidence of its racing past in the cabin. The dash has been modified to accommodate new gear, while the production front seats were replaced with modern buckets. There’s a roll cage, too, but interestingly enough, whoever raced this GTO chose not to remove the back seat.

 

The trunk hides a race-spec fuel cell, while the front hood covers a mysterious engine. It does look like it’s an authentic Pontiac mill, but I say “mysterious” because our host doesn’t have info on what has been upgraded and what’s still stock.

Based on the way it looks, it must be a modified version of the car’s original V8. If that’s true, then we are looking at a 389-cubic-inch (6.4-liter) lump. The standard four-barrel version came with 335 horsepower on tap, while the Tri-Power unit, fitted with a trio of two-barrel carbs, generated 360 horses.

This engine has one carburetor, so this GTO was born with an entry-level mill. And it’s probably more potent now. Or at least it was when the Pontiac was still racing.

Even though it looks like an old-school racer except for the modern seats, this Poncho hit the drag strip until it was retired from public roads in 2008. And according to the photos found in the owner’s house, it won quite a few trophies, too.

 

It’s a shame it’s been sitting for so long, but it looks like it could be revived with just a bit of work. It’s also the kind of drag racer that can be reverted back to factory specs. Apart from the cutouts in the front wheel wells and the cut-off switch on the left-side front fender, this GTO is clean as far as sheet metal goes. Check it out in the video below.

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