In 1961, Pontiac wanted to offer a full line of family cars that were as successful and reputable as its Bonneville. When the Pontiac Bonneville was expanded from a specialty car into a full line of vehicles, a series of events culminated in the creation of the Grand Prix in 1962. As development of the Grand Prix progressed, a car was created that blended luxury and performance with hardtop style. That car was the Pontiac Ventura. The name was derived from the city of Ventura, California.
The Bonneville had a very successful release. As it ascended the hierarchy of the Pontiac products, it left a void behind. The division needed a product that was a mix of sports car, trim, high performance, and upscale features. Pontiac leadership believed they found the solution with the introduction of the Ventura.
It was offered as a higher priced model that was based on the 122-inch wheelbase of the Catalina platform. The Ventura was only offered in two and four-door hardtop body styles. Pontiac did not offer a station wagon, convertible or pillared sedan for its latest model. This was to keep the line of Venturas a bit more exclusive, which would have been diluted if various body styles were released.
Aesthetics of the Pontiac Ventura
Looking at the Ventura, a person would see it shared many of the same characteristics of other cars in Pontiac’s line. The lower sheet metal was new, but everything above the beltline remained the same. A conservative full-width horizontal bar grille was placed up front. This replaced the split-grille theme of 1959 models. The result was a center section that seemed to thrust forward with the prominent V shape in the center of the grille.
The design of the hood was also new and complemented the grille’s V shape. The crease that was formed at the leading edge of the hood was carried back to the middle of the front doors. The Ventura had deluxe wheel covers, one of a kind exterior identifiers, a sport steering wheel, and unique tri-tone seats covered in Pontiac’s leather like upholstery, Morrokide.
The Ventura looked like it had rocket boosters built into its tail because the tail lamps themselves were two round compartments that were ferried into tubes on the deck panel. The attractive lower rear panel was expertly sculpted and housed the optional back-up lamps at the far ends.
Because of the updates below the beltline combined with the backlight and wraparound windshield, the Ventura was able to effectively bridge the gap between the spherical designs of the 50s and the more angular designs that were on their way.
The Ventura hardtop coupe showcased a roof with an arc. The hardtop sedan displayed a flat-top design with a slight ledge that hung over the edge. Both roofs presented slender rear pillars and sprawling rear windows that gave an open feel to the interior.
Through the 1961 model year, the Ventura continued as a series. But from 1962 to 1970, it was a custom trim option on the popular Catalina. The Ventura was ultimately replaced by the Catalina Brougham series in 1971.