Photos by Jerry Heasley
Many enthusiasts incorrectly assume that Pontiac high performance began in 1964 with the GTOâ€™s introduction. That was indeed a watershed year for muscle cars in general, but Pontiac had been tearing up drag strips, oval tracks, and the nationâ€™s highways and byways for the better part of ten years.
Pontiac joined the V-8 revolution in 1955 along with Chevrolet, but it was virtually unnoticed in the huge shadow cast by the small-block Chevy. Pontiac got a Rochester fuel injection unit in 1957, along with Chevrolet. The limited edition Bonneville convertibles (630 produced) were fuel injected and now command six-figure prices. Pontiacs had their share of dual-quad and tri-power engines long before 1964. The 389 that gained so much positive attention in the new GTO first appeared in 1959 Pontiacs. David Fischerâ€™s 1961 Pontiac Ventura, seen here, was one of the lightest fullsize models, weighing 200 pounds less the 1960 models and riding on a three-inch shorter wheelbase. The Ventura two-door hardtop has a unique roofline that gives it a very open feeling. This style roof (also used on other GM products) was commonly referred to a â€œbubble topâ€ or â€œbubble window.â€
Adding to the distinctive styling of the 1961 Ventura are the optional 8-lug aluminum wheels. These Pontiac-only wheels are unlike any others. The Kelsey-Hayes wheels first appeared on 1960 Pontiacs. These wheels werenâ€™t just for looks. They were cast integrally with the brake drum for improved braking. All manufacturers were big on acceleration, but Pontiac also provided superior braking.
The 1961 389 V-8 was available in several horsepower and induction system variants. The top-of-the-line setups were the 333hp single four-barrel engine and the tri-power version, which was rated at 348 horsepower. Both of those engines had compression ratios of 10.75:1 and put out 425 lb-ft and 430 lb-ft of torque, respectively.
If either of those engines wasnâ€™t powerful enough, an owner could get added boost with over-the-counter speed equipment from Pontiac. Thatâ€™s the case with the 1961 Ventura featured here. The famous Super Duty Pontiacs werenâ€™t officially offered by the factory yet, so savvy 1961 owners relied on their local Pontiac parts departments. Davidâ€™s engine sports an aluminum intake manifold with dual Carter four-barrel carbs and factory cast iron headers. The factory 4-speed manual transmission was upgraded with a Hurst shifter.
The 1961 Pontiac Ventura is a unique muscle car that predicted much of the Pontiac excitement that was to come in the next few years.
Dare to Be Different! - Introduction
The Wide, Wide World of Muscle Cars
Dare to Be Different! - 1961 Ford Starliner
An excellent muscle car for any Ford fan looking for something different.
Dare to Be Different - 1961 Pontiac Ventura
A little known and often overlooked precursor to the Pontiac performance timeline.
Dare to Be Different - 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix
Different enough to be unique, but so handsome as to be universally admired.
Dare to Be Different - 1966 Dodge Polara 500
A competitor to the Ford Galaxy 500 and the Chevy Impala that demands a second look.
Dare to Be Different - 1968 Chevy Impala SS 427
A viable alternative thatâ€™s still daring and different.
Dare to Be Different - 1969 Chevrolet El Camino SS 396
A different way to enjoy muscle car ownership at bargain prices.
Dare to Be Different - 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator
An excellent way to enjoy some of the finest engines Ford Motor Company ever produced.
Dare to Be Different - 1970 Dodge Swinger
Power-to-weight ratio makes this A-body a great choice.
Dare to Be Different - 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360
This a one-year wonder was a daring exercise for AMC.
Dare to Be Different - 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport
Thanks to Clint Eastwood this overlooked muscle car is back in the spotlight.
Dare to Be Different - 1972 Buick GS 455 Stage 1
Is this one of the most underrated muscle cars ever?
Published Dec 7th, 2015