Classic Cars A to Z

Pontiac GTO History (1965)

Article by Mark Trotta

The Pontiac Tempest line, which included the LeMans and GTO, was restyled for the 1965 model year. A new split grille had vertical headlights similar to the larger Pontiacs, with revised taillights that wrapped around the sides of the car.

Pontiac GTO history

Like the 1964 GTO models, standard features included dual exhaust, seven-blade clutch-fan, stiffer springs, and larger diameter front sway bar. The exterior was set off by 14"x6" wheels, 7.50"×14" redline tires, non-functional hood scoops, and GTO badges.

Performance options included a 389ci Tri-Power Engine, quick-ratio steering, metallic brake linings, and limited-slip differential in several choices of gear ratios.



Beginning with the 1965 model year, cylinder heads were revised and no longer had stud oiling passages. Intake manifolds were also different, and do not interchange with earlier motors.

Horsepower increased to 335 for the standard 4-barrel engine, Tri-power motor output jumped to 360 horsepower. Because of the longer duration cam profile, the Tri-power engine had slightly less torque (424 lb/ft at 3,600 rpm) than the base engine (431 lb/ft at 3,200 rpm).

GTO Tri-Power

Topping off the option list again was the 389ci Tri-Power Engine, which boosted engine output to 348 horsepower. This gave the 3,500 pound car a power-to-weight ratio of nearly ten-to-one. At the time, no car in it's price range could match it's performance.

Pontiac GTO history

1965 GTO Grille

Lemans front grilles were different than Tempest front grilles, and buyers who selected the GTO option got the Lemans grille with it's center bars painted matte black. Lower grille panel and fender extensions were painted to match the exterior body color. A white-lettered GTO nameplate was mounted in the left-side grille.

1965 Pontiac GTO grille

GTO Headlamp Doors

In 1965, Lemans models with the GTO option had headlamp doors with blacked-out ribs. Both 1964 and 1965 GTO models came from the factory with Guide T3 headlamps.

The "6.5 Litre" fender emblems are the same for 1964-1968 GTO's. They mount on the lower back of each front fender.

Pontiac GTO fender emblems

Although the new hood's simulated scoop was non-functional, an optional dealer-installed ram-air kit included a metal underhood pan, scoop, and gasket, allowing cooler, denser air to enter the motor.

Pontiac GTO history


Pontiac GTO sales more than doubled in it's second year, with 8,319 sport coupes, 55,722 hardtop coupes, and 11,311 convertibles sold, a combined total of 75,342.


GTO VIN Information

First and second-year GTO models were an only an option on the Pontiac Tempest model, so they can be easily forged. Check the VIN of the car with PHS (Pontiac Historical Services) before buying one! You can contact them at



Early model GTO's (1964-1967) had the VIN number stamped on a metal plate on the driver's-side door pillar. For 1964 models, it is an eight-digit number. From 1965-1971, the VIN number was 13 characters. Pontiac also stamped the last eight digits of the VIN on a metal pad on the right-hand front of the engine block.

Unfortunately, it is fairly easy to re-stamp this number, making original engine blocks hard to authenticate.

When talking about muscle cars, few can argue that the GTO was daddy of 'em all


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1964 Pontiac GTO History