If you have ever wanted a Pontiac that was just out of your reach, yet you couldn't get it out of your mind, this is a story for you. Steve Kovacs a Michigan-based restoration specialist and owner of Classic Car Restoration, loves '74 GTOs.
"I've always been a car guy, and I've owned and restored many GTOs and some Novas, among others," he tells HPP. "A few years ago, I decided that I had to have a '74 GTO. Taking the Nova shape and adding the Shaker scoop, Pontiac styling, and a Pontiac engine just excited me! I also had fond memories of skipping high school in my buddy's '74 Buccaneer Red, four-speed GTO that he got for an early graduation gift."
An extended search for his Goat turned up plenty of orphaned projects, outright junk, and one rarity-a special-ordered, black four-speed, matching-numbers example. Having been stored for several years, it was solid but needed a complete restoration. Given his profession and recent experience searching for a '74 GTO, Steve began to appreciate how special low-mileage, well-maintained vintage Venturas are.
Just 4,657 Sprints were built...
Just 4,657 Sprints were built in 1974; while we couldn't find any further breakdown, there were probably very few as well equipped as this one.
When he came across this Buccaneer Red '74 Ventura Sprint on eBay three years ago, it had what he was looking for. "It was very clean, basically needed nothing, and it provided instant gratification because I could drive it immediately," he says.
This seldom-seen combo with the Sprint option had a great red-on-red color combination, a Pontiac 350, and just 18,000 miles on it. Steve took the plunge and ended up with the high bid, so he and the sprightly Sprint rode off into the sunset, right? Well, no. His bid didn't reach the reserve.
Like most of us who get our hopes up only to be frustrated by a near miss, Steve wasn't about to give up there. "I pursued the car immediately after the auction ended, but Leonard Perry, the 70-year-old seller, would not move a cent on the price," he laments. Leonard purchased the low-mile Sprint in 1998 from his neighbor Mary Brown, who had received it as a graduation gift in 1974. "I knew the family and how well they took care of their cars, so I bought it," Leonard tells HPP. "I appreciated its low mileage, and I enjoyed driving it a bit and showing it."
Owner Steve Kovacs says the...
Owner Steve Kovacs says the code-75 Buccaneer Red paint on his '74 Ventura Sprint is original. With just over 18,000 miles on the odometer, you can see how well the previous owners cared for it, and Steve plans to uphold that tradition. The B90 bright window molding and B83 rocker-panel molding were extra-cost options not included in the Sprint package.
"We talked every few months after the auction." Steve recalls. "Then last fall I went to look at the car in Franklin, Pennsylvania. I took cash to show him I was serious, and he still would not budge on the price. Finally, after about 21/2 years of talking, he called me and was ready to meet in the middle-his math was a little skewed to his side, but the Ventura was well worth it, so I picked it up in July 2010."
What did Steve get for his tenacity? He was the proud owner of a '74 Sprint, replete with the original Pontiac L30 350 two-barrel engine, Turbo 350 trans, and 2.73 rear. The W53 Sprint option added $162 to the original tally and provided a custom carpet, dual sport mirrors with the left-hand one remote controlled, accent stripes, blacked-out grille, "Sprint" decals, custom cushion steering wheel, and Rally II wheels sans trim rings.
To sweeten the pot, this X-body was also fitted with U17 Rally gauges, N41 variable-ratio power steering, U63 AM radio, A51 bucket seats, U37 cigar lighter, D55 console, and a few other trim items, making it somewhat of a GTO junior for '74. The total sticker price was $3,784. That's $1,033 more than the $2,751 base price for the Ventura two-door coupe. T.E. McCarthy Buick Pontiac in Franklin was the selling dealer.
When Steve picked up his prize 36 years after it was built, its smooth 350 still purred like any Pontiac V-8 that was barely broken in. The code-YB engine was a $132 option and features a two-barrel carb, iron intake, No. 46 heads fitted with 1.96/1.66 valves, and a "555" cam with 269/277 degrees duration and 0.376/0.406-inch lift using 1.50:1 rockers. A cast crank and rods work in the two-bolt block; compression is 7.6:1; and exhaust exits via log manifolds, a Y-pipe to a single pipe, and a transverse-mounted muffler.