With an aggressive nose like this one, everyone knew that Pontiac meant business for '61.
As I approached this '61 Ventura, I knew it wasn't Bamboo Cream, my wife's favorite color. Possibly Mayan Gold? Eh, it doesn't really look like it. "It's Fernando Beige," said Wayne Beran a retired 30-year police officer and the owner. But I soon found out that it was gold too-the first Pontiac to earn five-time returning POCI Gold Champion status, which of course, speaks volumes for its quality.
When Wayne bought his Ventura 23 years ago, there were no scratches or dents to speak of, and it had only two rust spots, which were repaired later in 1987 by local body man and friend Marty Seputis. The sleek Pontiac had originally been delivered new to Wheeling, West Virginia. Wayne said, "Although I had no way to be sure, I always imagined that it belonged to a coal miner."
Upon hearing this, I thought of my favorite John Denver song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads." I imagined how it must have felt to shift gears with this taut machine as it hustled up and down those twisty, scenic mountain roads. With all the windows down, the open canopy of the two-door hardtop with its huge rear window would have provided an almost convertible-like experience-a panoramic view of the countryside with the scent of mountain pines wafting through the bubbletop ..."country roads, take me home ..."
Wayne later learned that the Ventura was given as a gift to the original owner's nephew, but then the trail goes cold. It was eventually sold to an Illinois dealership and finally found its way to him. "I purchased it on June 13, 1987, with 29,282 miles on the odometer, for $4,900," he recalls. "In the summer of 2007 it was appraised for $53,000-$54,000." It's value to Wayne? Priceless.
He says, "I had always wanted a '61 Ventura. I love the body design, especially the rear window." And then, of course, there's the performance. This one doesn't disappoint with its unique powertrain combo-a 318hp 389 Tri-Power engine, a column-shifted HD three-speed manual transmission, and a 3.23 rear.
What's also fascinating about this Ventura is how much of it is original-not restored! Having purchased a similar '62 Grand Prix a few years ago, I appreciate the effort made by the previous owners, who maintained the Pontiac for so many decades, and Wayne, who recognized a gem in the rough and had the resolve to preserve its attributes and correct its weaknesses, despite ever-changing and often harsh Chicagoland weather. This Ventura is one of those rare finds-driven, but maintained thoughtfully
How original is this Ventura? It retains the factory-installed sheetmetal, steering system, front and rear suspension components (including the shocks), trans, rearend, carpet, and Tri-Tone Morrokide upholstery.
In 1993, hardened valve seats were installed, a valve job was performed, and a stock replacement TRW camshaft was slid in. Aside from maintenance items like the AC45S plugs, A/C wires, and belts and hoses, the remainder of the original engine is as Pontiac built it. Factory exhaust manifolds flow into newer 2.25-inch stainless-steel pipes and an aluminized turbo-style muffler system.
The HD factory three-speed manual retains its original flywheel, but the clutch was swapped for a heavy-duty one in 1993. Wayne also added a rear sway bar to reduce body lean and keep the reproduction 8x14 bias-ply wide whites squarely planted on the asphalt on curvy roads.
When Wayne purchased this '61 Ventura in 1987, it had just 29,282 miles on it and he's car
In 1989 the 8-Lug wheels were added by Wayne, who says, "What '61 Venturas don't have them
Amazingly enough, the code C4 318-horse 389 Tri-Power engine has never been rebuilt. It fe