The 1965 Pontiac GTO Chief Camino is a one-off vehicle that should almost certainly have been built and offered for sale by Pontiac in the mid-1960s.
It never was, but this is probably due to the fact that there’s no indication Pontiac even considered building it.
The car you see here wasn’t built by them, it was built as a prototype by a man named Ron in his garage over a period of 10 years – using an original Pontiac GTO as the starting point.
Though it’s the subject of much debate in the car world, the Pontiac GTO is considered by many to be the first “official” muscle car. It first appeared in 1964 but not as it’s now model, but rather as a performance option package for the second-generation Pontiac Tempest.
Depending on who you ask you’ll be told that “GTO” either stood for “Grand Tempest Option” or that it was a straight copy of the Ferrari of the same name in order to pick up a little of that European racing flair.
What automotive historians generally agree on is that the Pontiac GTO started an arms race among the three major US car manufacturers, and left an indelible mark on the motoring world.
The Chevrolet El Camino is perhaps less famous than the GTO, but its fans are no less devoted. The first generation of the model appeared in 1959 as an answer to the Ford Ranchero, but it would be the second generation that would really establish the Chevrolet “coupé utility” as an icon in its own right.
El Caminos are now popular classic cars with owners clubs stretching from coast to coast. Early models tent to be the most popular but you’ll find proud owners of El Caminos dating from 1959 right through to 1987 when production ceased.
The 1965 Pontiac GTO Chief Camino Prototype
Every now and then a proof-of-concept prototype is built not by the automaker themselves, but by enterprising amateurs in their own home garages. Though it’s rare to see one as well constructed as the Pontiac GTO Chief Camino.
The car is the brainchild of Ron Lindemann, a man who loves the original GTO and the El Camino, and who always wished that General Motors had found a way of combining the two into what would doubtless have been the ultimate coupe utility, or “ute” as the Australians would say.
The project started with an original 1965 Pontiac GTO which would donate its frame and front end to the project, including its engine and transmission.
Lindemann wanted to remain completely true to the prototype’s concept, so he almost exclusively used Pontiac body panels for the car, sourced from various models. The only Chevrolet El Camino parts are the roof and door frames – a remarkable achievement that’ll be deeply impressive to those who’ve spent any time doing panel work on classic cars.
In order to stick as close as possible to what a genuine production Pontiac GTO Chief Camino would have actually been in 1965, the 389 cubic inch V8 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor was kept, as was the Muncie 4-speed transmission, and Positraction rear end.
The interior is 100% Pontiac, with a classic dashboard, GTO carpeting, and the addition of a Hurst shifter, and a wood-rimmed steering wheel.
Looking at the completed car it’s hard to argue that Pontiac shouldn’t have built it back in the mid-1960s. It would doubtless have sold in at least reasonable numbers, and the handsomeness of the car is undeniable by all but the most devoted contrarians.
If you’d like to buy yourself a one-of-a-kind Pontiac this one will be coming up for sale with RM Sotheby’s on the 30th of August. It’s hard to know what it might fetch at open auction but early estimates were $40,000 to $50,000 – though it could surprise, at the end of the day this is a car that’ll drop jaws from Anchorage to Austin, with double helix GTO and El Camino DNA.
You can click here if you’d like to read more about the car or register to bid.
Images: Theodore W. Pieper ©2018 Courtesy of RM Auctions
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.