The Ventura debuted in 1960 as a separate model and later became a trim package on the ’62
Growing up in Detroit in the late ’50s, the coming of the new decade meant more than watching a new model year for Pontiac unfold upon its home playing field. It also meant the birth of a new era of looks and performance targeted to America’s youth and youthful-thinking, on-the-go population.
“Undoubtedly, 1960 was a special year for me,” says Bill Graham, a 67-year-old retired businessman in West Bloomfield, Michigan. “I got my driver’s license, Bobby Johns took runner-up in the Daytona 500 in a Catalina, and Jim Wangers drove one to the Super Stock win at the NHRA Nationals at Detroit Dragway.”
“I can remember my favorite Pontiac drivers and dealerships as if it was just yesterday,” he continues. Smiling George DeLorean, Fast Eddy Cantor, Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick, Packer Pontiac, Anderson Pontiac, and Royal Pontiac—frankly, I can’t remember any other Super Stock cars from 1960 other than Pontiacs.”
Graham fell in love with the new ’60 full-size models and their wider, lower, and longer design, as they were advertised. “They looked nothing like the Pontiacs of the late-’50s that preceded them, nor the full-sized ones that followed them. Before I knew it, however, I graduated high school and began technical school, and then came a career, a wife, and kids. The ’60 Ventura was all but forgotten,” he says.
The (code-243) interior features the restored dash pad by Just Dashes of Van Nuys, Califor
In 1995, Graham decided to find a Pontiac that would reignite the emotions he had when he was a young man, and located a ’60 Ventura Sport Coupe in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “The interior was a mess, but since it was an Arizona car, the body was very clean,” he says.
It also had all the signs of an old racer, including a 389 Tri-Power engine, headers, T-10 four-speed, steering-column-mounted tach, rear-spring airbags, and a homemade heater delete.
In 2008, he contacted Rick Vanlerberghe of Chesterfield, Michigan, and inquired about a frame-off restoration. “I received photos from Bill showing the condition of his Ventura and a letter explaining his desire to have it restored to factory condition,” Vanlerberghe says.
Soon the men came to terms, and Vanlerberghe began a two-year restoration on the venerable Ventura.
A total of 27,577 Ventura Sport Coupes rolled off the production lines of Pontiac’s eight
“I restored the frame first,” he says. “After lightly power-washing it, I looked for original paint markings and found A. O. Smith Frame Co. stenciled upside down on the driver-side framerail. It was one of many original markings that I photographed and later duplicated during the restoration.” He disassembled the chassis; restored or replaced its suspension components; replated approximately 1,500 bolts, nuts, and fasteners; media-blasted the frame; prepped it with PPG DP90 epoxy primer; painted it with DDL9423 lacquer; and reassembled it “like a jigsaw puzzle,” he says.
Rick then turned his attention to the body. “I mounted it on a rotisserie and patched the fender bottoms, rockers, and passenger-compartment footwells,” he says. “Though the roof was fine, the hood presented more of a challenge. It needed patches in the front edge, and had surface rust between the inner frame and outer skin. I felt the best way to get rid of the rust was to drill out the spot welds and separate the hood skin from the frame, complete the repairs as needed, clean up the rust, epoxy primer the metal, and weld it back together.” The decklid was much easier; he found an NOS piece and installed it.
The interior brightwork was polished to like-new condition. That’s a radio-delete plate on
Many body-off–restored Pontiacs are made to wait until they’re fully completed, running, and driving before competing for awards, but Graham’s Ventura was on its way to its first major victory before the body was even painted and returned to the chassis. “The 2009 Detroit Autorama was coming up, and I typically have a six-car display there,” Vanlerberghe says. “The Ventura’s rolling chassis was complete, so I took it to the show to display our detail work.”