BACK IN BLACK

Res­cu­ing a Wrecked 2+2

Muscle Car Review - - Contents - By Steve Natale

Res­cu­ing a wrecked 2+2

“Areal he-man’s car, the 2+2 com­bines mus­cle and grace, in huge pro­por­tions.” That’s how Mo­tor Trend mag­a­zine de­scribed the Pon­tiac 2+2 in the Feb. 1965 is­sue. In­tro­duced in 1964, the first 2+2 was ba­si­cally a Catalina with bucket seats. Al­though it came stan­dard with a 389-inch, two-bar­rel en­gine, it was a per­fect plat­form on which to add mus­cle, and many buy­ers did just that. Check­ing off good­ies like a 421 en­gine, Tri-power car­bu­re­tion, a four-speed trans­mis­sion, and a tachome­ter from Pon­tiac’s long list of per­for­mance op­tions could turn a pussy­cat into a snarling tiger. Avail­able as a two-door hard­top or con­vert­ible, the 2+2 was iden­ti­fied on the out­side by just small “2+2” em­blems on the fend­ers and one on the trunk lid.

Not a lot of at­ten­tion was given to the 2+2 in 1964. Fewer than 8,000 units were sold, largely due to in­ter­nal com­pe­ti­tion from the GTO, which was in­tro­duced that same year.

For 1965 Pon­tiac got more se­ri­ous about the 2+2, mak­ing the 421 en­gine and heavy-duty sus­pen­sion stan­dard equip­ment, delet­ing the Catalina name­plates, and adding pin­strip­ing and a set of dec­o­ra­tive lou­vers to the front fend­ers. Styling was new for all 1965 full­size mod­els, with coupe ver­sions re­ceiv­ing a sleek, semi-fast­back roofline. Per­haps Jan P. Nor­bye and Jim Dunne de­scribed the styling of the 1965 Pon­ti­acs best in their 1979 book, Pon­tiac—The Post War Years:

“The 1965 Pon­ti­acs were just spec­tac­u­lar. They looked fan­tas­tic, and they looked right. In side view, the 1965 Pon­tiac had a de­cid­edly ag­gres­sive pro­file. The front fender ran straight for­ward, and gave the im­pres­sion of lean­ing for­ward on the bumpers, so the car looked poised for take­off.”

They go on to say, “A siz­able but smooth kickup in the belt­line at the start of the rear fender con­veyed the idea of power, ac­cel­er­a­tion, and speed. Ver­ti­cal lou­vers in the front fender, just aft of the wheel open­ing, evoked the rac­ing im­age Pon­tiac sought to pre­serve de­spite hav­ing pulled out of the sport two years ear­lier.”

Crit­ics loved the new 1965 Pon­ti­acs. Mo­tor Trend gave its Car of the Year award to the en­tire Pon­tiac Divi­sion.

Un­der the hood of the Pon­tiac 2+2 was a stan­dard 338hp, four­bar­rel 421. Buy­ers could step up to a Tri-power, 356hp en­gine, or opt for the top-of-the-line en­gine, the 376hp 421 H.O. (High

“The owner was into Mopars and wanted to sell it”

Out­put). The H.O. fea­tured Tri-power, a hot­ter cam and heads, plus spe­cial long-branch ex­haust man­i­folds. A three-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion was stan­dard, but most buy­ers spec­i­fied the four­speed man­ual trans­mis­sion with Hurst shifter or the Turbo Hy­dra­matic 400 three-speed au­to­matic.

A road test ar­ti­cle pub­lished by Car and Driver mag­a­zine in 1965 that pit­ted the Pon­tiac 2+2 against a Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 cre­ated shock waves when it con­cluded that the Pon­tiac was faster in the quar­ter-mile, faster from zero to 60 mph, and com­pleted the road-course test less than a half-sec­ond be­hind the Ferrari. The Pon­tiac, pre­pared by a team from Royal Pon­tiac, “came off the line like a Navy Cru­sader off a cat­a­pult, wheels spin­ning, rear end down, and no axle tramp at all.”

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, “Even with the stan­dard 3.42 axle ra­tio, the Pon­tiac’s best quar­ter-mile time was 106 mph in 13.30 sec­onds—plenty spec­tac­u­lar for us, but the cause for some head­shak­ing and ex­cuse mak­ing from the Royal me­chan­ics, who wanted us to use a 4.11 ra­tio and slick tires.”

The Car and Driver team also recorded a scorch­ing 3.9-sec­ond zero-to-60 time for the 2+2. The story was con­tro­ver­sial then and still is to­day, but that type of press cov­er­age was good for Pon­tiac and for sales of the 2+2, which sold more than 11,500 units in 1965.

The big, black 1965 2+2 fea­tured here was dis­cov­ered in 1992 by its cur­rent own­ers, Ron Ber­glund and son John. It had been lan­guish­ing in the back of Jay’s Diesel Re­pair in Fresno, Cal­i­for­nia.

“The owner was into Mopars and wanted to sell it,” re­mem­bers Ron. “The car had been used as a drag car by its orig­i­nal owner, who wrecked it in 1969.”

The car had the orig­i­nal li­cense plate frames from the lo­cal Fresno deal­er­ship, Her­man Theroff Pon­tiac, and the 1969 reg­is­tra-

tion stick­ers were still on the plates. It was in rough shape and badly dam­aged from the ac­ci­dent. The frame was bent, as was the steer­ing wheel. The en­gine was out, and the four-speed’s in­put shaft was bro­ken off in­side the fly­wheel. The 3.42 posi rearend was there, but vul­tures had picked at the car over the years. The seats, con­sole, and tach were missing, as were the fac­tory eight-lug wheels.

The most im­por­tant com­po­nent, the orig­i­nal en­gine, was not in the car but close by. Ron ex­plains, “Jay knew it was around the shop some­where, and af­ter a short search we found it in a dark cor­ner. It was all orig­i­nal and com­plete from car­bu­re­tor to oil pan, in­clud­ing the brack­ets and ac­ces­sories. The car sat for years be­fore Jay pur­chased it from the orig­i­nal fam­ily.”

De­spite the se­vere crash dam­age, decades of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion, and missing parts, Ron de­cided the car was im­por­tant and needed to be saved. He bought it and took it home to his house across town. Def­i­nitely a rainy day project, it sat in stor­age for another 20 years be­fore the restora­tion be­gan. In the mean­time, Ron re­stored a 1973 Pon­tiac Grand Am with a 455 and a 1970 Bon­neville con­vert­ible into show win­ners. He kept think­ing about the mas­sive restora­tion project wait­ing for him with the 1965 2+2 and slowly gath­ered parts for the car

he and his son John would tackle some­day.

That day came in 2013, begin­ning with some re­search gath­ered by PHS Au­to­mo­tive Ser­vices. With a copy of the orig­i­nal build sheet pro­vided by PHS, it was con­firmed that the 2+2 was orig­i­nally built with a four-speed trans­mis­sion, a con­sole, a tachome­ter, a 3.42 lim­ited-slip Safe-TTrack dif­fer­en­tial, and eight-lug wheels with finned alu­minum brake drums. It also showed the car was or­dered with a black in­te­rior and Starlight Black paint with red pin­stripe. The orig­i­nal owner likely wanted to race the car from day one, as this Pon­tiac was de­liv­ered new with­out power steer­ing or power brakes.

Since the col­li­sion dam­age to the body was so ex­ten­sive and the frame so bent, the Ber­glunds de­cided a donor car was nec­es­sary. A straight, rust-free 1965 Catalina two-door hard­top body shell and frame were pur­chased to re­place the dam­aged orig­i­nal. The orig­i­nal right fender, right door, and trunk lid were us- able and put back on the car.

The Ber­glunds wanted to make this car a show win­ner, so as many parts as pos­si­ble were sand­blasted and pow­der­coated, in­clud­ing the frame, sus­pen­sion parts, brack­ets, and even the seat springs. The body shell and re­lated parts were blasted as well and a new show-qual­ity coat of Starlight Black paint ap­plied. No de­tail was over­looked, from date codes to the fac­tory chalk marks on the firewall and frame. All the bolts used for the restora­tion are GM orig­i­nals with the proper mark­ings. At­ten­tion to de­tail is ev­i­dent through­out the car, in­clud­ing care­ful se­lec­tion of the cor­rect paint gloss used on parts un­der the hood and in the in­te­rior.

With the car com­pletely dis­as­sem­bled, it was the per­fect time to add a few more fac­tory op­tions. Ron had been col­lect­ing parts for years and was fi­nally able to use them. A fac­tory wood­grain sport wheel re­placed the bent orig­i­nal, along with a tilt steer­ing col­umn, a Rally gauge pack­age, a rear speaker, a rear-mounted power an­tenna, a rear de­froster, a reel-out trunk light, and ac­ces­sory in­te­rior lamps.

When the Ber­glunds tore down the orig­i­nal 421 en­gine for the re­build, they dis­cov­ered it had 0.040-over pis­tons in it. Ron had no doubt that the orig­i­nal owner had driven this old Pon­tiac hard in its first four years. A set of fac­tory long-branch, high­out­put ex­haust man­i­folds was lo­cated, as was a cor­rect 1965 Tri-power in­take and

3x2 car­bu­re­tor sys­tem. These items, plus an H.O.-spec camshaft and fac­tory four­core ra­di­a­tor, helped en­sure that this big Pon­tiac would run as good as it looked.

Four years later the restora­tion was com­plete. “This project has been a plea­sure from start to fin­ish, and we feel it is some of the nicest work we have done so far as a fa­ther-and-son team,” says John Ber­glund. “The 2+2 turned out start-tofin­ish far bet­ter than ei­ther of us ex­pected. The big Pon­tiac looks and runs great. My dad and I have al­ways worked well to­gether, each of us play­ing off the other’s strengths and hav­ing a sim­i­lar vi­sion. It’s not so much the thing you’re work­ing on but the re­la­tion­ships made along the way.”

When the restora­tion was com­pleted, the Ber­glunds started bring­ing the 2+2 to car shows, fill­ing up the large trunk with tro­phies in the process. The 2+2 has been a hit with the pub­lic and the judges, cap­tur­ing seven Best of Show awards, in­clud­ing a win at the Alameda (Cal­i­for­nia) Con­cours d’El­e­gance. It has also gar­nered nine Con­cours d’El­e­gance First in Class awards from Carmel, Ari­zona, Danville, and oth­ers, plus a First in Class at the Pon­tiac Na­tion­als in Fort Worth, Texas.

Af­ter such a chal­leng­ing, costly, and lengthy restora­tion, one would think the Ber­glund restora­tion team would need a rest, but fa­ther and son al­ready have another Pon­tiac un­der restora­tion now.

The orig­i­nal 421 en­gine was out of the 2+2 when the Ber­glunds first saw the Pon­tiac, but they found it in a dark cor­ner of the diesel shop. For­tu­nately, “it was com­plete from car­bu­re­tor to oil pan,” says Ron.

n Ac­ci­dent dam­age to the 2+2 was so ex­ten­sive the Ber­glunds bought a donor frame and Catalina body shell to re­place what could not be fixed. The shell was blasted to bare metal as part of the restora­tion.

Dur­ing the car’s restora­tion, the Ber­glunds added a fac­tory-cor­rect H.O. in­take and Tri-power car­bu­re­tor setup. In­side the mo­tor is a H.O.-spec camshaft, and long-branch ex­haust man­i­folds help the 421 breathe.

n It’s hard to be­lieve Ron and John Ber­glund found their now-show-winning 1965 2+2 as a wrecked for­mer drag race car hi­ber­nat­ing in a diesel re­pair shop.

Though many parts had been scav­enged from the wrecked Pon­tiac over the years, the orig­i­nal-selling dealer’s li­cense plate frames were still on the car.

PHS doc­u­men­ta­tion showed the 2+2 was orig­i­nally equipped with the de­sir­able eight-lug wheels, al­though they were long gone when the Ber­glunds bought the car. A re­place­ment set was sourced, wrapped by re­pro­duc­tion BFG Sil­ver­towns by Coker.

n The power an­tenna was another ac­ces­sory Ron was able to add to the Pon­tiac thanks to years of parts col­lect­ing.

Ron Ber­glund had been col­lect­ing parts for the 2+2’s restora­tion for years, so when the time came he was ready with some in­te­rior up­grades, in­clud­ing the wood­grain steer­ing wheel (to re­place the bent orig­i­nal), tilt col­umn, Rally gauges, and rear...

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