1961 Pontiac Ventura Hardtop - $69,900
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Wearing 2018 AACA Grand National Senior awards, cars simply don’t get much nicer than this.

The flamboyant ‘50s were over and GM responded to the more sensible ‘60s with some of the most beautifully designed cars of the post-war era. For reasons that are hard to understand, the 1961 Buick-Olds-Pontiac hardtops were a one-year-only phenomenon despite being drop-dead gorgeous. The graceful C-pillar and rounded contours gave them the nickname “bubbletop” and they have been on collectors’ wish lists almost since they were new. If you’re a Pontiac fan, the Ventura is the bubbletop to own—the Bonneville hardtop was longer, which changes the proportions of the hardtop (and not for the better), and even though the Catalina is the same size, the upscale Ventura is rarer. Popular with drag racers, survival numbers are quite low, making any 1961 Ventura a special find. And when they’re as pretty as this well-optioned Dawnfire Mist Ventura hardtop, it’s easy to understand why they remain as popular as ever.

Wearing 2018 AACA Grand National Senior awards, cars simply don’t get much nicer than this. The lights in our studio just don’t do the Dawnfire Mist paint justice, but out in the sunlight it glows like copper and the name becomes a lot easier to understand. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Given the laser-straight bodywork and absence of patches or obvious bodywork, it seems this car lived a good life away from harsh winters that could hurt the metal. The paint is two-stage urethane and the shine is probably a lot deeper than it was in 1961, but you simply can’t argue with the results. There’s nobody who walks into our shop and doesn’t stop and stare at this stunning Poncho. There are long hours invested in getting the quarter panels arrow-straight, panel gaps are factory-correct, and even the hood is properly aligned. Someone put in the hours on this one. Minimalist chrome seems to be a flat-out rejection of the over-styled ‘50s, with a simple split grille, straight two-level bumpers, and not so much as a hood ornament on top (although there are two small fender ornaments up front). Vestigial tail fins wrap neatly into the rear bumper and frame the unique Ventura taillights. Details that make this car a show-winner include T3 headlights up front, correct ‘Ventura’ emblems with painted ivory centers, and all-new correctly coded glass. They were definitely sweating the details on this one.

Just before this car won its Grand National title, that pretty two-tone steering wheel was restored—a $1600 job. Unfortunately, as often happens with restoration work, the new part suddenly made the older stuff look sub-standard. So NOS upholstery materials were sourced and all-new seat covers were created to match the original patterns. Pontiac’s Tri-Tone interiors were some of the most stylish of the period, and as long as they were upgrading the upholstery they sourced a set of factory bucket seat frames (power on the driver’s side), restored them, and installed them in place of the original bench. The power adjustment works correctly and the overall look is as stunning as the exterior. Gauges cover the basics and you know this Ventura is serious about performance because there’s a radio block-off plate in the center of the dash (don’t worry, there’s a Panasonic AM/FM/CD head unit hidden in the dash). New carpets, a bright headliner, and restored door hardware all make this Pontiac look crisp and well-tailored. In the trunk you’ll find a correct mat set, a correct 8-lug spare wheel and tire assembly, and zero signs of unhappiness hiding underneath.

Pontiac offered a variety of big horsepower engines in 1961, which pretty much kicked off the muscle car era, with this Ventura carrying a familiar 389 cubic inch V8 with Tri-Power induction on top. Originally equipped with a 4-barrel, an original Tri-Power setup was sourced and fully rebuilt so the car runs and drives like it should. The heavy-duty air cleaner is correct even though many enthusiasts prefer to show off their Tri-Power with three little air cleaners, and that piece alone is probably worth a few thousand dollars. The engine was rebuilt to stock specs and refinished with Pontiac Turquoise engine enamel, and then all the factory markings were accurately reproduced. Look closely and you’ll find all the right clips, fasteners, decals, and finishes throughout, right down to a new wiring harness and reproduction battery. Power steering and power brakes make the Ventura exceptionally easy to handle and it has shockingly good manners—the idle is smooth, it sits in traffic without complaint, and has no bad habits at all. Believe it or not, that’s pretty rare in a show car like this.

The 389 is backed by a 4-speed manual, and that’s what makes this full-sized Pontiac so joyous to drive. Clutch action is light and aside from a little balkiness in the 3-2 downshift, it’s amazing to drive in traffic. It’s quick, agile, and incredibly user-friendly. The suspension has been rebuilt and carries fresh shocks at both ends and the 8-lug brakes are freshly rebuilt, including the drums, which have been relined and restored. 3.23 gears on a Safe-T-Track limited slip make it a comfortable cruiser and the burly 389 has plenty of grunt to get it off the line. The floors wear a coat of textured undercoating that provides a clean background for the new exhaust system and gas tank and of course all the lines and hoses are new, too. Gorgeous 8-lug wheels are really the only choice on a car like this, and they carry brand new 8.50-14 BFGoodrich Silvertown wide whitewall tires.

This car includes its original owner’s manual.

Look at the quality, the awards, the specifications, and the price. This is one of the most desirable cars of the ‘60s, fully outfitted with all the right performance options. The color combination is absolutely stunning and I drives every bit as great as it looks. When talking about old cars, we rarely get cars that could qualify as “trailer queens” that are also fully sorted like this Ventura. Add in the fact that only 13,297 were built and this is a car that will draw a crowd anywhere it goes. How can you not fall in love? Call today!

Harwood Motors always recommends and welcomes personal or professional inspections of any vehicle in our inventory prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1961 Pontiac Ventura Hardtop
Price: $69,900
Stock Number: 117132
Mileage: 16,741
VIN: 561D1367
Engine: 389 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.23
Wheelbase: 119 inches
Wheels: 14-inch 8-lug wheels
Tires: 8.50-14 BFGoodrich whitewall
Exterior Color: Dawnfire Mist
Interior Color: Maroon and White vinyl
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