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1960-1961 Pontiac Ventura

1960 Pontiac Ventura Mechanics

The 1960 Pontiac Ventura mechanics, including its wide range of engine offerings, were shared with other cars throughout the lineup. The chassis for 1960 Pontiacs was of the familiar X-frame design, with coil springs at all four corners. The frame design was very rigid, with its backbone-style center-rail system, though the lack of side rails did not provide optimal side-impact protection. It did, however, allow for flat floorpans that increased interior space somewhat.

1960 Pontiac Ventura
The 1960 Pontiac Ventura had engine options
ranging up to 368 horsepower -- or more.

The rear suspension was improved in 1960, benefiting from revised upper-control-arm locating points and larger bushings for a smoother ride. Addition­ally, station wagons and other heavy-duty applications received a rear stabilizer bar, which was optional in other models, including the Ventura. The 1960 model year also saw the introduction of the attractive and popular eight-lug wheel option, which used an integral aluminum wheel center/brake drum and a bolt-on steel rim.

The Ventura's powertrain options were the same as in the Catalina line and covered the gamut from economy-oriented to all-out racing, with something in between. The engine lineup was essentially a carryover from 1959, and all were based on the powerful and flexible 389.

The Pontiac V-8 engine was initially released in 1955 as a 287-cubic-inch V-8 with 180 horsepower. The horsepower wars of the Fifties resulted in yearly increases in displacement from 1956 to 1959, ultimately picking up 102 cubic inches in five model years. Though the Pontiac V-8 did not get an increase in displacement for 1960, there were some other improvements made. The most significant was the addition of a divided-chamber water-pump housing, known as the "Equa-Flow" cooling system.

The Ventura's base engine was a regular-fuel job with a two-barrel carburetor sporting an 8.6:1 compression ratio and a mild hydraulic cam. It was rated at 215 horsepower at 3,600 rpm, and 390 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 revs. This particular engine was available only with manual transmissions, though a very similar 230-horsepower version was a no-cost "economy" option for cars ordered with an auto­matic transmission. It was known as the "Tempest 425E."

For Venturas with automatic transmission, the base engine was a high-compression two-barrel 389 rated at 283 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 413 pound-feet at 2,800. Its 10.25:1 compression required premium fuel. This engine gave a good compromise between power and economy.

Those seeking more performance had several choices available to them. A four-barrel version of the base automatic engine was available with the same 10.25:1 compression ratio. It made 303 horsepower at 4,600 rpm, with 425 pound-feet of torque at 2,800 rpm. It, too, was available only with automatic transmissions.

Next up the performance ladder was the "entry-level" Tri-Power 389, which used three Rochester two-barrel carburetors and sported a 10.75:1 compression ratio. (This engine used the same mild camshaft as the others previously listed.) The end carburetors would only open when needed, so in normal operation, it was a smooth, flexible powerplant with very impressive power when called upon. The added breathing and compression upped horsepower to 318 at 4,600 revs. The torque rating swelled to 430 pound-feet at 3,200 rpm.

The next two versions of the famed 389 V-8 were true purpose-built high-performance engines known as the "Tempest 425A." They were still streetable, but they represented the outer limits of street performance and were also the basis for Pontiac's race engines.

Both of the 425A engines used heavy four-bolt-main blocks, as well as 10.75:1 compression and hotter hydraulic cams with heavy-duty valve springs. The standard exhaust manifolds were replaced with streamlined, high-flow units. These engines were serious performance mills intended only for equally serious performance enthusiasts.

The first 425A featured a single four-barrel carburetor and was good for 333 horsepower, while the 425A Tri-Power put out 348 horses. Peak power for both arrived at 4,800 rpm. These engines were available with a heavy-duty Borg-Warner T-85 three-speed manual transmission or heavy-duty four-speed Super Hydra-Matic automatic. A Borg-Warner T-10 close-ratio four speed became available as well, but in very limited supply. The majority went to well-connected racers, such as Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick.

For those looking for a competition-only powerplant for stock-car, drag-racing, or hillclimb events, Pontiac's new Super Duty parts program was there to outfit a competitive race car for classes requiring factory-supplied parts. The 389 Super Duty was at least theoretically available as an over-the-counter conversion package, though the engines were generally sent to factory-backed race teams.

Starting with the same four-bolt block used as the 425A, the 389 Super Duty was a powerhouse featuring a forged-steel crankshaft and stouter forged rods and pistons. Redesigned cylinder heads featured freer-flowing ports and larger 1.92-inch intake valves (production engines had 1.88-inchers), while the exhaust valves remained at 1.60 inches. The larger intake valves necessitated a chamfer in the cylinder bores for clearance and to maximize flow.

The valves were actuated by a special solid-lifter cam known as the McKellar #7, named for Pontiac engineer Malcolm R. "Mac" McKellar. It featured 300/304 degrees of duration and .445/.447 inches of lift with the specific 1.65:1 rocker arms.

The choice of induction systems was dependent on the intended usage. The NASCAR ban on multiple carburetion necessitated the use of a single four-barrel carb, so a special two-plane aluminum intake manifold was designed. It mounted a Carter AFB carburetor. Drag racers, who were allowed to use multiple carburetion, took advantage of Pontiac's Tri-Power system. Both aluminum and cast-iron versions of the intakes were available, though the lightweight aluminum units were very scarce.

Being rather cagey with horsepower ratings to stay competitive in NHRA drag racing, Pontiac rated the four-barrel Super Duty at 363 horsepower and the triple-carb version at 368. It was purely for show anyway, as both engines were substantially stronger than that, to the tune of more than 400 horsepower.

Though no formal road tests of a Super Duty Pontiac were featured in magazines, the May 1960 issue of Motor Trend ran a two-page drag test of a 1960 Ven­tura coupe with the 348-horse "425A" engine with Tri-Power carburetion. Coupled with a heavy-duty three-speed manual transmission (with an aftermarket floor shift) and 3.42:1 gears with the optional Safe-T-Track limited-slip differential, the Ventura ran a 0-45-mph time of 5.7 seconds, a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds, and a quarter-mile run of 14.8 seconds at 89 mph. The top speed was estimated at 138 mph, a heady rate for a nearly two-ton car with lots of frontal area.

Ventura base prices started at $205 more than comparble Catalinas, but $284 less than Bonneville hardtop coupes and sedans. Pontiac built 56,277 1960 Ven­turas: 27,577 coupes and 28,700 sedans. (Of that total, 2,381 were assembled with manual transmissions.) The Ventura outsold the three-model Star Chief line by almost 12,600 units for the model year.

Though the name Ventura returned in 1961, it was, like the rest of the full-sized Pontiac line, hung on a completely new car. Only the drivetrains bore any resemblance to their predecessors.

The 1961 Pontiacs rode on an all-new perimeter frame, which replaced the cruciform design. The new design provided more side-impact protection and allowed the use of a single-piece driveshaft, instead of the previous two-piece unit.

Perhaps the most significant change in the full-sized Pontiac line was its re- duction in size. The "short-wheelbase" Catalina and Ventura dropped three full inches, from 122 to 119 inches, and shed around 200 pounds. This strategy worked well for the Ventura, but it tended to annoy the owners of Bonnevilles, which surrendered an inch of wheelbase. It was a smaller car in a "bigger is better" market segment. The cars were slightly narrower, too, resulting in a "Wide-Track" stance that was 1.5 inches less wide than in 1960.

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