Home Car Stories Alley Finds 1968 PONTIAC LeMans- Alameda, CA
1968 PONTIAC LeMans- Alameda, CA PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 13:33

1968 PONTIAC LeMans- Alameda, CA


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

68 PONTIAC LeMans Alameda CA logo

Pontiac's Tempest was one of the General Motors cars based on the 'A body' platform released in 1961 to counteract the foreign import sales in the compact sector. Chevrolet had the Corvair, Olds had the F-85 and Buick had the Special. Pontiac quickly came up with a 2 door hardtop bucket seat version of the Tempest which they named LeMans. The LeMans nameplate became very popular. GM enlarged the A bodies to 'intermediate' size for the 1964 model year while retaining the same hierarchy of models and names with one exception. The super hot new GTO was added as an option on the Pontiac intermediate platform and instantly created the musclecar era.

68 Pontiac LeMans alameda ca 350 logo

During the 1964-67 run of the intermediate sized Tempest and LeMans stylists added fastback windows and a rear kickup leading into the rear quarter panel. When the new 1968 intermediates were released the fastback was even more exaggerated and now flowed directly into the swoopy rear fenders. The proportions reflected the very popular ponycar formula of long hood/ short deck.

68 Pontiac LeMans alameda ca pass front

The front nose on the 1968 LeMans differed quite radically from the 1968 GTO which was based on the LeMans platform. 1968 was the first year for the GTO 'Endura' front end which provided a resilient body colored front nose in place of the chrome bumper. While paint adhesion problems were being sorted out Pontiac offered a credit to any GTO buyer who opted for Endura delete and substituted the LeMans chrome bumper instead. Within a few months into the 1968 model year the Endura bumper issues were mastered. A few years later the very popular Endura front end was even offered as an option on the LeMans models.

68 PONTIAC LeMans Alameda CA driver front

This black LeMans still has the original California black license plates and most of the original trim, including the chrome rocker panel strip with identifying 350 engine call out. The driver's nose is crunched in but otherwise the body is reasonably intact. The 'Triple A' (American Automobile Association) sticker on the chrome backing of the interior 'day/ night' rear view mirror bears testament to an early period when this car was family hauling and vacationing eons ago. Note that GM still gave you front vent windows in 1968 even if you ordered a hardtop.

68 PONTIAC LeMans Alameda CA driver side

This LeMans retains some now vintage 'back in the day' changes made after its initial stint as utilitarian transportation was ended. The external mods are typical of the early 1970s trends for cruisers and in keeping with the style of the car. A lot of Pontiac LeMans cars saw a second life as cool cruisers following trade in from their prior existence as daily grindmobiles.

A set of 14 inch Cragar S/ S chrome mag wheels are mounted with raised white letter tires set off by chrome exhausts. The dual exhaust with chrome tips exiting behind the rear tires is very similar to what was used on GTOs in 1968.

68 Pontiac LeMans alameda ca cragar ss mag

The tires are pretty fat 245s. The rear tires are the ubiquitous Dunlop G/T Qualifiers, but the front passenger tire is pretty obscure in an interesting way. The front raised white letter tire is appropriately named 'LeMans SR'! We can safely assume that the coincidence in names inspired the owner to buy that particular tire. The driver front tire is the spare steelie with a regular 70 series blackwall tire mounted on it. Something must have happened to that particular mag or tire. It seems more than coincidence that it is located on the driver's front side which is where a nasty crunch caved in the front nose. Perhaps whatever hit the nose also damaged one of the Cragar S/S wheels.

The 60 series profile makes the tires look a touch 'short' but they still fill the wheelwells reasonably well. The 60 series tires didn't really take off until the beginning of the 1970s when optional 15 inch mags became widely available from the factory. 15s created a full wheel well when combined with 60 series tires. This car has 4 wheel drum brakes. Note that one of the studs is broken off the original drum wheel. Each of the mags has the same problem and is attached with 3 chrome lug nuts and one lock nut. The original steelie on the front driver's corner uses 5 normal lug nuts.

68 Pontiac LeMans alameda ca pass side

Note the dual body colored sport outside rearview mirrors. These were an option on later LeMans and GTOs and not available back in 1968 but they look great mounted on this car. Note that they are mounted fairly far back on the doors because they block the vent windows. When the dual sport mirrors were first released, Pontiac disallowed the dual sport mirror option on cars with vent windows for this reason.

68 Pontiac LeMans alameda ca driver rear

This LeMans also seems to have an aftermarket rear antenna in the driver side rear trunk quarter. It is likely that the car was ordered with a power rear antenna which was replaced with this unit when it failed. Non power antenna cars had the radio mast installed in the front passenger fender. This car also has a factory tinted windshield. Note the clear glass in the rear window. Pontiac brought out the rear defrost lines embedded in the rear window for the 1969 Grand Prix, but it is common to see original California cars without any rear defrost, including the early blower versions.

Tucked up into a holder the buckle of a shoulder belt can be spotted hanging down at the top of the passenger window. The shoulder belts were still not universally provided at this period. An adjustable belt could be plugged into the lap belt buckle to provide upper body restraint. Thankfully the majority of the column shift interior seems to be original. The heavily worn front seats have a lot of foam escaping from tears in the upholstery. The rear seats and door panels look good, though. Unfortunately the original steering wheel is gone. Instead of replacing it with one of the 'back in the day' 3 spoke wood Grant wheels which would match up with the Cragars the wheel was replaced with one of the modern aftermarket wheels which looks incongruous in this car.

68 Pontiac LeMans alameda ca rear




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