1964 Pontiac Le Mans Convertible

1964 Le Mans Convertible Project

This special project arrived at the shop with a long family history, as this car has been rescued twice.  It found its way to DCC for the restoration it deserves.  

This build came together as expected.  The family decided on modifications that leaned towards ELEGANT.  The color choice was a great call and works well with the white top and chrome spoke wheels.  Long-distance cruising was the primary focus.  This car was originally a 6-cylinder / Muncie 4-speed car, which would not be conducive to long-distance comfort.  Shake-down miles back and forth between Corcoran, Tulare, and Bakersfield showed off its talent for being sure-footed while maintaining comfortable, effortless driving qualities.


After a good cleaning, the factory-boxed convertible frame was coated with semi-gloss POR-15 black epoxy.  A new set of steel brake lines were installed and ultimately connected to an 11-inch 4-wheel disc brake conversion from THE RIGHT STUFF / GET DISC BRAKES.  Holding the rear differential and front spindles in place is a full BMR SUSPENSION Stage-II kit wearing red powder coat.  The added caster from the BMR tubular A-arms really makes these A-bodies drive effortlessly.  As in most of our builds, we stuck with stock-height spindles and simply let the 1-inch lowering springs from the kit accomplish the altitude adjustment.  We have learned that 2-inch drop spindles AND a suspension kit like this end up being too low for a “drive anywhere” end product. 

An all-inclusive PROFORGED steering kit was attached to a new CPP 14:1 power steering box.  A stock GM type-II pump circulates LUCAS synthetic steering fluid back and forth.  The brakes get their boost from an 11-inch vacuum unit which came with the brake kit.  Since there was no radical camshaft or any type of power-adder, we did not have to utilize a Hydroboost unit.  The differential was also coated in POR-15 after PERFORMANCE INDUSTRIES replaced all of the bearings and seals along with a new 3.36 ring and pinion bolted to an EATON limited-slip carrier.  The new diff pieces bathe constantly in Lucas gear lube.


In the early pictures, you can see that the LeMans was wearing a very nice solid red paint.  This had been applied around 7 years prior and looked quite good.  We couldn’t see any evidence of rust starting nor bondo cracking.  Therefore, we decided to try to utilize it and save the owners from the large expenditure of additional bodywork and paint.  Since there were some chips and scratches from moving the car around after it was painted, the plan was to simply scuff the whole car, apply a fresh coat of the red, clear it, and call it good. 

HOWEVER,….as we were prepping the car for the booth, our bodywork expert was using compressed air to blow off some water from one of the chipped areas and a large sheet of the paint flew off!  We halted production and scheduled a time for the owners to come by and have a look.  We had to assume the entire paint job had the adhesion problem, so the decision was made to strip the car down and start over.  Luckily, there were no hidden bondo issues or rust.  After lightly touching up some high and low areas, the body was once again primed, blocked and prepped for paint. 

The color change came in the form of Toyota Barcelona Red, which was chosen after the owners saw our 59 Impala.  PPG basecoat/clearcoat was utilized, then sanded and polished.  New lenses throughout sit in front of upgraded/updated LED light bulbs and also provide higher levels of safety and efficiency. Bumpers were re-chromed and all emblems were either replated or replaced with reproductions.  All new tinted glass concludes the beautification sequence.


To keep costs in check, the owners chose one of our low-mile LM7 5.3L LS engines with a fresh 4L60E overdrive transmission.  HOLLEY provided the A-body oil pan kit, motor mount plates and cast exhaust manifolds.  We also used some of their LS coil relocators in order to use BUTLER PERFORMANCE custom valve covers.  We made up a set of custom-length spark plug wires to complete the ignition system.  Although we use the factory GM serpentine accessory drive, we used an AC compressor relocation kit, also from Holley.

Before painting and installing the engine, the front oil seals and rear main seal were changed and we always insist on a new water pump.  These parts are very inexpensive and significantly easier to change while the engine is out of the car.  We contacted HOWELL EFI for the powertrain wiring harness and re-programmed GM ECU.  Our standard OPTIMA red-top battery powers the EFI/Transmission harness as well as the AMERICAN AUTOWIRE whole-car harness.  We insist on hard-wiring a CTEK battery maintainer into the vehicle which keeps the battery above 12.1 volts to stop sulphation from occurring during downtime.

A complete 2-1/2 inch PYPES exhaust system with X-pipe allows spent gasses to escape through a pair of their RacePro mufflers.  These mufflers have a very subdued tone, which was a necessity on this build.  Although the 4L60 was a low-mileage unit, we always freshen transmissions up.  Reason being – the transmission has to transfer all of the power back to the rear diff.  If it even has a minor problem due to mileage or age, you are stuck on the side of the road.  The small expense of freshening these automatics prior to bolting them into the car can easily outweigh the risk of the vast expense of a tow bill, then labor to remove the trans from the car, rebuilding, and re-installing.  Ounce of prevention and all that.  The 4L60E communicates with the rear axle via an all-new balanced steel drive shaft also provided by Performance Industries.


A TANKS INCORPORATED replacement fuel tank was used along with a new sending unit.  The external WALBRO fuel pump was mounted along the frame by the tank and a GM fuel filter / regulator all-in-one unit handles filtering and pressure control.

A GRIFFIN aluminum radiator with dual fans and built-in transmission cooler was installed to ensure adequate cooling in all conditions.  The fans are separately started and stopped thanks to a DAKOTA DIGITAL 2800BT and associated pair of relays.  Naturally, both fans come on with the air-conditioning ensuring only the coldest air comes out of the vents, whether stopped in traffic or without the fans on the freeway.  A standard 180-degree thermostat regulates the flow of the pre-diluted 50/50 anti-freeze / coolant.


Continuing with the elegant-based theme, the owner decided on chromed spoke wheels from TRU-SPOKE.  In the beginning, the clients spoke (no pun intended) of wanting to stay with 1964 Pontiac hub caps.  Since we do not compromise on safety, I was not willing to entertain installing any less braking capacity than our usual 11-inch four-corner setup.  This kit specifically needs 15-inch or larger wheels and original wheels/hub caps are only be available in 14-inch.  So, we called up Tru-Spoke and they provided the 15×7 shoes that the car wears today.  Wide-whitewall radials were specifically requested and visually work well with the white convertible top.


Once it was under its own power again, it was driven over to MARK’S UPHOLSTERY in Visalia, CA.  We usually put the vehicle owner in touch with Mark and let them deal directly with each other.  This way, we don’t have to add any additional labor charges and it eliminates any miscommunication about how the upholstery turns out.  This also allows us to be more efficient by applying our focus to additional projects at the shop while the subject vehicle gets its interior (and top) installed.

During the build process, we upgraded the non-functional cable-driven power unit for the convertible top to a current DC-over-hydraulic system.  This also gives us control over the DC power supply and larger wiring for proper articulation.  Mark’s Upholstery attached the top and made final adjustments.  This LeMans was a bench-seat vehicle and the clients wanted a GTO console with bucket seats.  The new tilt steering column received a turn-signal stalk control switch to command the DAKOTA DIGITAL cruise control.  Mere inches away is a “re-casted” GTO style steering wheel with chrome horn ring.

We had an original console in stock and added a completely new SHIFTWORKS Pontiac shifter with OD detent and indicator lens.  Power windows were requested and we completed that installation prior to the interior installation.  VINTAGE AIR supplied one of their Sure-Fit hot/cold assemblies which is fed 134A freon from a Delphi/Sanden serpentine-driven compressor. Dakota was chosen again for the gauges.  A VHX kit with silver background and red lighting was sourced and a RETROSOUND in-dash stereo head unit combines Bluetooth functions with classic appearance. 

DYNAMAT sound-barrier was installed on the floor and inside the doors for advanced temperature control and sound deadening.  A basic stereo system was installed, starting with an NVX 5-channel 4-gauge wiring kit which provides electrical and audio signals to an NVX 900-watt 5-channel amplifier.  NVX speaker wire appropriately distributes the entire spectrum of music to the front 5-1/4” INFINITY component speakers, rear 6”x 9” Infinity coaxials, ending with a 12” BAZOOKA sub in the trunk.

This is one of my “go-to” recipes for a simple, basic, yet excellent sounding audio system.  It can be made larger later, if desired, or just remain well-rounded for years to come.




09.28.2019 was the date we were able to reunite this beautiful 1964 Pontiac LeMans with its family.  The clients were extremely happy with the finished product.  Shortly thereafter, they drove it to Los Angeles from Visalia and back again.  The owners reported smooth-sailing and almost 20 mpg.  Early in 2021, it came back to the shop for a nut-and-bolt inspection, tire rotation, and standard service.  The owners advised us that the following month they would be driving it round-trip through Utah and surrounding states.  Which is exactly what it was built to do!




#GM Performance #Performance Industries #Hellwig Suspension #BMR Suspension

#Bilstein #The Right Stuff Detail / GetDiscBrakes #Dakota Digital #Vintage Air

#Tru-Spoke Wheels #Retro-Sounds #NVX Mobile Audio #Mobil-1 Oil #Lucas Oil

#K&N Filters #Hooker Headers #PYPES Exhaust #PPG Automotive Finishes #Meguiars

#American Autowire #Optima Batteries #Mark’s Upholstery #Bazooka Bass Tubes

#CTEK Smarter Chargers #DynaMat