The 1960s brought a few radical changes to the American auto industry, especially in the high-performance department. The Pontiac GTO, launched in 1963, helped popularize muscle cars. The Plymouth Barracuda and Ford Mustang, introduced in 1964, created a new pony car segment. And both expanded dramatically toward the end of the decade, spawning a long list of iconic performance cars.
But it wasn’t just midsize and compact vehicles that were becoming increasingly more powerful. The big rigs were also sporting big-block V8 mills that often came with more than 350 horsepower on tap. This trend was heavily influenced by the drag-racing wars of the early 1960s, which saw the “Big Three” create lightweight factory dragsters based on full-size cars. Notable examples included the Pontiac Catalina Super Duty, the Chevrolet Impala Z11, and the Ford Galaxie 500 Lightweight.
But as the “Big Three” dropped out of factory-backed racing, the full-size horsepower war moved on public roads. And by the mid-1960s, land yachts like the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Galaxie were available with big-block V8s generating over 400 horsepower. Pontiac’s answer to this trend arrived in 1964 as the 2+2.
An optional package for the Catalina, it was marketed as the “big brother” to the already famous GTO. Extra features include unique door panels, bucket seats, a center console, and heavy-duty suspension. Originally fitted with the 389-cubic-inch (6.4-liter) V8, it gained the bigger 421-cubic-inch (6.9-liter) mill as standard for the 1965 model year.
The powerplant wasn’t quite as potent as the beefed-up Super Duty, but it came with 375 horsepower on tap in the range-topping version. And that was enough to turn it into a larger, roomier, and slightly more luxurious GTO. It was also a worthy competitor for the Chevy Impala SS.
But unlike its bowtie-badged rival and smaller GTO sibling, the 2+2 wasn’t very popular then. In four years on the market, the nameplate moved only 27,668 units. For reference, the Pontiac GTO moved more than 75,000 units in 1965 alone.
Come 2023, and the 2+2 isn’t the most desirable Pontiac out there. To many enthusiasts, however, it’s a diamond in the rough and a much more stylish alternative to the relatively common Chevrolet Impala SS. And this 1965 example in Mayfair Maize proves that the 2+2 deserves much more attention than it’s getting.
Featured by “Muscle Car Campy,” this Poncho is a finely-restored gem still carrying most of its original features. And yes, the long front hood hides a numbers-matching 421, which sends its oomph to the rear wheels through a three-speed manual. It’s one of more than 11,000 units built in 1965, the 2+2’s best year, but the gearbox narrows it down to only 4,008 units. Granted, it’s not exactly rare by production number, but 2+2 are pretty hard to find nowadays, especially in this condition. Check it out in the video below.