Down from a 122-inch to a...
Down from a 122-inch to a 119-inch wheelbase, the '61 Ventura was shorter overall by four inches in length, and trimmed 180 pounds (from 3,865 pounds to 3,685 pounds shipping weight) for the two-door hardtop. It also featured a new perimeter frame to replace the X-frame of 1960.
Pontiac made its mark with the first makeover of the Ventura in 1961, creating what many in the Pontiac faithful believe is one of the most beautiful designs ever to roll off an assembly line. Pontiac was hard at work recreating the brand's Wide Track image for the swinging '60s. Thanks to the design effort of Jack Humbert and his team in the Pontiac Design Studio; and the approval of GM Vice Presidents Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell, who had responsibility for the Design and Styling Department; Pontiac General Managers Bunkie Knudsen and Pete Estes; and then-Chief Engineer John DeLorean; all full-size models received new exterior styling featuring squared-off bodies, shorter wheelbases, and small tail fins.
In mid-range offerings, the Pontiac Ventura enjoyed its second year as an affordable, stylish upgrade to the base-model Catalina. Available in either a two-door hardtop, or an equally popular four-door Vista hardtop, the Ventura offered Tri-Tone Morrokide interior, custom steering wheel, electric clock, right-hand ashtray, bright metal roof drip moldings, Ventura script badges, and all the features of the Catalina.
Ted Robb, a 64-year-old engineer in Akron, Ohio, says the '61 Ventura has been his favorite Pontiac for over 45 years. "I have always had a passion for '61 Pontiacs since finishing high school in 1961. In 1962, I bought and raced my first '61 Ventura. It was optioned with a Trophy 425A 348hp engine, a four-speed, and 8-Lug wheels. It was my daily driver and I raced it in and around the Akron area-at Dragway 42, Quaker City, and Thompson Drag Strip. I retired it from racing in 1966," he said.
In 1961, Pontiac advertisements...
In 1961, Pontiac advertisements said, "Wide Track makes it a great day for driving to the tune of a Pontiac V-8." Ted's friend Paul Denert assumed the driving duties for our photo shoot.
Over the years, Ted continued to amass a collection of '61 Venturas (and Catalinas), including most of the colors available for the model year: Shelltone Ivory/Coronado Red two-tone, Coronado Red, Cherrywood Bronze, Shelltone Ivory, Jadestone Green, Bamboo Cream, Dawnfire Mist, Bristol Blue, Mayan Gold, and Regent Black. He's been featured in High Performance Pontiac three times: "Giant Slayer," Aug. '01; "The Batwing," Oct. '04; and "Mountain State Mayhem, Part III," Mar. '05. In 2005, he told HPP editor Thomas DeMauro, "Never again will I restore another '61 Pontiac."
But times changed, and Ted found himself drawn back to his youthful passion when he revisited his Coronado Red, 318hp '61 Ventura Tri-Power hardtop that had been in storage for the past 15 years.
In the interim, Ted sent away for the PHS package on the Ventura and discovered his vehicle was a "body in aisle car." According to Pontiac guru Jim Wangers, "In those days we had what was called a 'body drop.' GM manufactured the body in one plant and sent it on hangers in a large passageway to another. It was coordinated by a PEL automatic system that would guarantee the body would arrive at just the right time to drop down onto its awaiting chassis, which was coming along on the final assembly line. If a body had anything special on it, or there was a delay or shortage-that is, if there was any reason it got out of synch in the system-it would be moved over into the aisleway between the assembly lines until the properly matched chassis could be put back onto the assembly line. The procedure was not just for special-ordered cars such as Super-Dutys. The shortage of any item, even a fabric or small suspension part, could force a vehicle to be pulled from the assembly line and put in the aisle."