BETHLEHEM, CT – When Rick Robert was youngster his mother would take him to visit his “Aunt Betty” in Southington, CT and it was always a treat.
“Every time, once a week, she used to buy me a Matchbox car. And I’d go, ‘Mom, let’s go back.’ We went back for about two years and I got two years worth of Matchbox cars,” he recalled recently in explaining the origin of his love of classic cars.
Later on, his father bought him AMT model car kits. They built them together. Sometime after that he received a subscription to “Hot Rod” magazine and he devoured each issue. He was so hooked on hot cars by then that when he made first automotive purchase at 18, it was a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS muscle car.
The Bethlehem resident still owns what can be classified as a muscle car – a rare 1974 Pontiac LeMans GT in Honduras red.
Robert has owned the LeMans GT since 2014 having spotted it on a Mecum Auction telecast. The owner had set a reserve of $26,800 but the bidding topped out at $19,500. “After the auction was ended, I called the owner and I struck a deal with that person,” Robert said, revealing that they “met in the middle” on a price.
“I had to do a lot of work to it,” he continued. About a month after its arrival, it “developed a rod knock noise. Knock, knock, knock, knock, and I was so disappointed. I have a funny feeling, I’m not quite sure, but I think somebody might have put Motor Honey in it to quiet the motor down before I bought it, but I can’t prove that.”
The 350-cubic-inch Pontiac V8 engine with four-barrel carburetor got pulled and rebuilt. “I told the person doing the machine work, “Please do not ruin the stamping; the original numbers on the block’ and he didn’t.”
The deep-throated LeMans GT is now a “very comfortable car, believe it or not. It’s a full frame, nice four corner springs, coiled springs. It has a lot of power and the four-speed shifts like glass. The car runs beautiful after a lot of work and a lot of money,” Robert said.
The 1974 LeMans GT is a rare model for a few reasons. While Pontiac built the LeMans GT as an entry-level muscle car for five model years (1972-75 and 1977), the 1974 model year was the year Pontiac shifted its legendary GTO from an “A” body style to an “X” body.
The compact-sized X body was used for Chevrolet’s Nova and Pontiac’s Ventura. The downsized GTO, which only lasted one year, left the A-bodied LeMans GT as the intermediate option for performance enthusiasts.
Only 285 examples were built, though, for 1974 and Robert’s LeMans GT is among the rarest because of its options. “It’s only one of 16 made that year for the entire year that has a factory four-speed and a bench seat,” he said, adding that it is one of only 12 that has a 3.23 axle ratio with Positraction.
Among the other distinguishing features of the LeMans GT are GT emblems, special striping on the sides, chrome wheel well molding and Rally II wheels as well as the 350-cubic-inch motor. It also has non-functional air intakes in the hood.
Robert kept his original Chevelle SS for eight years before replacing it with a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air. He kept that for eight years as well. All through adulthood he has carried another memory from his youth of a car driven by a friend’s mom. It was a 1974 LeMans, and he used to sit in it and dream of owning one. So it’s no surprise really that he owns a 1974 LeMans GT. “It just fits me perfect. It’s the era I grew up with,“ Robert said.
The LeMans GT is destined to stick around much longer than eight years. Indeed, Robert has big plans for his spacious back yard, which is not far from the Bethlehem Fairgrounds where My Ride first spied the LeMans GT at the Bethlehem Firefighters Association Car Show in 2022.
“When I retire in the near future I’m going to have built a beautiful, hopefully, three-car garage. That’s my ultimate goal. I know it’s going to be very expensive, but I’ve been saving,” Robert said.
Maybe then he’ll move his Matchbox collection out of the house and park his toy cars near the LeMans GT.
See the 1974 Pontiac LeMans GT in action in this RIDE-CT video…
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Great website. The current generation haven’t a clue what it was like to be growing up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s when we were able to work on your own cars and all cars were all distantly different in styling. Today, you couldn’t tell a 2023 Mercedes from a 2023 Toyota if it passed by you at 50 MPH. Nor would they get a 2nd look. Just hum, hum styling. Not so if a 1956 Buick (laden with chrome that separated a 2-tone finish) rumbled by. Portholes in its fender would give it away. Funny how a 1952 Chevrolet Bel Air was just a blah car when it was manufactured. Now you would pay mega-times the original sale price to have one. Ah, yes…..those were the days.