Car of the Week: 1967 Pontiac LeMans Sprint

Story and photos

by Brian Earnest

John Mingesz probably had much in common with a lot of other car shoppers when he decided to pull the trigger and buy his 1967 Pontiac LeMans Sprint. Mingesz had a GTO in mind and fully intended to bring home a “Tiger,” but when he came across his six-cylinder LeMans, he unexpectedly found a lot to like.

“I bought it in ’98, and at the time I was looking for a ’66 GTO,” said Mingesz, a resident of Cudahy, Wis. “I heard about this car and decided to go take a look at it. The body was real nice, the paint was good, but it ran really bad. It had an intake leak.

“But it just needed some freshening up. I knew it was going to need some engine work done to it, but the body was so nice. My intention was to build a high-performance engine for it, but I decided to research the car and I found out how original it was and I thought, “I can’t change it. I’ve gotta keep it original.’”

It’s not that LeManses in general were scarce in 1967 — Pontiac built nearly 76,000 of them — but ones that came equipped with the Sprint package like Mingesz’s car are certainly few and far between these days. Production figures on the Sprints are elusive — educated guesses range from a few hundred to a few thousand — but the cars are not common these days. And they are certainly rarer than GTOs of the period. “I’m still looking for the ’66 GTO, though,” Mingesz joked.

The LeMans was the upscale family member of the Tempest lineup, and it got a handsome restyling for 1966 that included a classy “Coke-bottle” profile, split grille and stacked headlights. Those touches all came at the direction of Pontiac’s chief engineer John DeLorean, who was determined to update Pontiac’s image and inject some European flair and performance into the Poncho lineup. Part of that change was the introduction of the new “IOC-6” overhead-cam straight six-cylinder engine as standard fair in the Tempest and LeMans. The base one-barrel six wasn’t bad — it offered 165 hp — but the hotter 215-cid “Sprint” was even better, rivaling many of the smaller V-8s on the scene at the time for performance and giving the midsize Pontiacs an interesting twist.

The new six-cylinders debuted in 1966 and were available again the following model year when they could be ordered for the first-year Firebird. In addition to the swifter four-barrel six-cylinder, the Sprint package included a front stabilizer bar upgrade and stiffer front shocks, a heavier-duty clutch, a three-speed floor-shifted manual transmission and Sprint decals and badging. This was all in addition to some of the LeMans goodies that dressed up the Tempest, including a choice of bucket or notchback bench seats with armrests, Morrokied upholstery, carpeting, front foam seat cushions, an ashtray lamp, a cigar lighter and a glovebox. Two-door models had vertical air slots on the rear fenders.

The six-cylinder OHC-6 was standard in the Tempest and LeMans intermediates from 1966-69, and it may have been slightly ahead of its time. At 215 hp — eventually that number grew to 230 by 1969 — the hi-po Sprint engine was nothing to sneeze at, and some observers at the time felt that the lighter Sprint Tempest and LeMans offerings were more balanced and outperformed their V-8-equipped versions. But the American buying public was all about V-8 power during the 1960s, and the GM sixes never gained a big following. Perhaps if Pontiac had not offered a 326-cid V-8 with 250 hp for less money than the four-barrel Sprint engine, the six would have been a long-range winner.

Adding to the Sprint package’s rarity today is the fact that many cars have had their engines swapped out over the years. Plenty of Pontiacs apparently started out their lives with an IOC-6, but eventually got a V-8 transplant at some point. “Part of it is they didn’t hold up for those first two years,” Mingesz said. “They had a problem with two much oil going to the cam, which would wear out the cam and tappets. Cams would wear out because there was just too much oil pressure up there.”

Mingesze was one enthusiast who was determined to keep his six-cylinder in place, but that required re-boring the cylinders and installing new pistons he said actually fit in a 327-cid Chevy engine. One thing that Mingesz caved on when it came to originality, however, was the transmission. His car’s two-speed Super Turbine 300 eventually had to go. In its place now is a Turbo-Hydramatic 350, which debuted in 1969 as a successor to the Super Turbine 300. “I enjoy it more now. It’s more fun to drive,” said Mingesz. “It was kind of a sled with that Super Turbine 300 in there. But once we put in that Turbo 350, it’s a lot better. The low end got a lot better and top end got a lot better.

“I’d say now it’s got the power of a small V-8, for sure.”

Mingesz said beyond the engine work and new tranny, he’s done very little to his LeMans. The car originally came from New Mexico, which would help explain the great condition of its undercarriage. At some point, the car made its way north, but he isn’t sure how or when. Along the way, somebody gave it some new maroon paint — “whoever painted it did a great job,” Mingesz noted. Mingesz supplied the car with a new headliner and carpet, but the seats and the rest of the interior are original. “I fixed up some of the trim. A lot of it was pitted and in poor condition,” he said. “I had the tail light bezels re-plated. I bought a few pieces here and there. I try to find original stuff if I can.

“As far as I know, none of the underside has ever been touched… The [black and white] parchment interior is original. The car came with the Sprint package and had bucket seats, but pretty much nothing else. No power steering or power brakes. It was a pretty straightforward car. It’s pretty much just the way it came, other than the Rally II wheels. It had hubcaps [originally].”

All things considered, Mingesz admits he’s gotten a lot more car, and a lot more fun, from his LeMans Sprint than he ever bargained for. He says having a six-cylinder under the hood makes his LeMans much more of a conversation piece, “and now that gas is over $4 dollars a gallon, that six-cylinder is looking real good! I just put 200 miles on it, and burned probably half a tank, so it seems like it’s doing pretty good.”

“I bought it with about 85,000 miles on it, and now it has 100,300 miles, but I don’t worry about it all. I worry about not putting enough miles on it! I’ve got a ’72 Corvette at home and I hardly drive that anymore. I drive this car much more.”

When he takes his LeMans out to car shows and other hobby gatherings, Mingesz finds no shortage of people who fondly remember the Sprint-optioned Pontiacs, but he’s still waiting to run into somebody who has one today. “Myself, I haven’t seen another Sprint Tempest or LeMans,” he said. “I think I saw a Tempest on eBay once, but that was quite some time ago.

“But everybody wants to talk about it. A lot of guys in my age bracket, or 10 years either way, they had friends or parents or somebody that had a similar car. It gets a lot of reaction.”


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10 thoughts on “Car of the Week: 1967 Pontiac LeMans Sprint

  1. Dustin McGuire

    Great Article, I not only have 1 but 2 sprint cars. One is a 67 Tempest Custom Sprint all original and the other is a 66 Lemans Sprint Convertible. I’ve never seen another 66 Lemans Convertible Sprint. Your car looks great and your right they definitely get more attention at shows than a Gto. Because there’s so many of them. To see a Sprint car…..it’s rare and it’s a treat. Guaranteed my Lemans sprint will keep up with any small block V8!!! If you’d like to join the Overheadcammers Club it’s located in Nebraska. We have our own facebook page as well. Call if you have any questions
    Dustin McGuire
    620-437 7561

    1. sharon

      I have been trying to find a 67 pontiac lemans sprint convertible for a gift for my husband. When we got married I had his 67 pontiac lemans sprint repainted and the top was also redone for a wedding gift to him. Unfortunately we fell on hard times after the birth of our son and he had to sell it. It was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do. We have now been married for over 32 years and I have started on a hunt to get his car back. I am hoping since you have 2 that you might know of where there is another one of if you could keep you ears and eyes out for one I would appreciate it. sharon from minnesota 320-363-4714

      1. John Moore

        Sharon, one thing you could do is contact car flippers like Richard Rawlins (Fast and Loud/Gas Monkey Garage, has a show on Discovery channel, I know one of the guys through my daughter, K. C., and he’s a good kid.

        They keep their eyes out when people enquire about a car, and they are always on the hunt. I’m sure there are many otyher guys out there who do the same. And much of the time they just make sure a car is running and flip it for a small profit, or they rebuild and sell.

        But if there is one out there, which I have seen some on ebay, usually wrecks, they can find it. And if you aren’t particular about original matching parts any ’67 will do, with mimor mods like louvers, hood and tail-lights if it’s a GTO. The hardest find might be the motor, altho they put it in firebirds too, The Sprint 6 was a little dif than the stock Tempest/Le Mans 6 too.

        just thought I would suggest a few things that might work depending on whether hubby wants to restore it himself (like I would like to), or buy one that doesn’t need much, etc.

  2. Peter Heidgerd

    COOOL. I purchased a burgundy ’67 GTO (with the parchment interior) in October, 1978 thinking, “well, it looks like the Sprint!” (as I was in love with the 1967 Le Mans Sprint as pictured on the 2nd page of the March, 1967 National Geographic magazine)….. Once I floored it, I was hooked. To this day though, I am still a lover of the OHC-6 Sprints… They have to be 1966 or 1967 though for sure!! That is a body style that certainly looks like it is moving when it is standing still!! I am glad you made the decisions you made on this… (1) to keep it original, but ultimately (2) to change out the ST-300…. I’d tend to agree with you… Interesting to hear the outcome… I’ll have to remember that!! Thanks!
    Peter, Atlanta, GA

  3. Peter Heidgerd

    …One thing I forgot to mention in my comment… Being that your car is a Le Mans, I thought all of the Le Mans’ models had the vinyl woodgrain dash insert. I know the Tempest/Tempest Custom dash would have looked like yours… Was yours just removed due to it being damaged perhaps, and just not replaced? I would check in to that as I truly believe that ALL Le Mans models had the woodgrain. It certainly would look a lot nicer inside. Again though, NICE car! Glad it is in Good Hands!! I once had a 250 L6 ’67 Chevelle Malibu… I had it for 12 years as a daily driver, took her to Germany and back while in the military, and then, in 1993 bought my first new car and sold it. The man who purchased it who lived in Lawrenceville, Ga promised me he would keep it original… This car was clean as a whistle!… Nope… A year later in went a 327 and then “Super Sport” badging. GM never even offered a 327 in a ’67 SS… So the guy really screwed it up!!
    Had I known that, I would have never sold the car to him.

  4. laurel

    Well, I am a 32 yr old female. And I had always been interested in older cars. My ex boy friend was a car collector. He was into more the earilyer model coupes. Example :1941 ford coupe. Etc. He also gto, trans ams. Etc. 11 cars total now. But I was informed of afriend of a friend whom was getting divorsed and wanted to sell his awsome Pontiac lemans 1967. So I had inherited a good amount from a deceased Fam. Member. So I withdrw. 10 grand. And bought this sweet car. Pontiac lemans 67 excel. Body. No rust. No bondo. Perfect. Plus it was recently given a 66 Gto motor.389 bordout 40 over. Lots of extras. Turbo. Shift kit. Hydrolic rearend now sits up kindo high. In back. With dual exhausts. His/ her shifter. And more. But only I am a mom of 3 boys and don’t ha e time for her as I would like to. I am gonna put a few pic here of her. Because I am not sure if it is a tempest or sprint or? Lemans.please someone tell me the differance and anything you can to help me better know my car. I do injoy the looks I had always gotten whenever I had drove her about. Lol. Happy feeling. If offered the right pricei may sell. Car is mint inside and out. Email me please. Mslt1979@Yahoo.com. thanks Pontiac fans.

  5. Mike

    Coffee mornings we bring the cars together, my 1966 Lemans Sprint with a buddies 1967 Shelby 500, he keeps telling me that everyone would value my car with an LT1 or better motor and its value would be better plus I would enjoy the car more. Lets keep this our little secret, but I have always liked things that are a bit rarer and hard to find, plus way mess this concept or history up?

    1. John Moore

      Good decision, IMO. Lotsa cubes seems like all a lot of guys from the muscle gen thought about, but the ingenuity of the OHC-6 with 215 HP is worth the lack of HP as is, IMO. makes a good talking point anyway…

  6. John Moore

    My First Car! It was my brothers and I inherited it, and cursed him at the time (he traded a ’58 vette in on it cuz the Vette messed up his Girl friends Hair.

    I wish I knew then what I know now. Mine was red on red tho at one point I repainted it (lost the sprint stripe in the process) – almost the identical maroon on this car, put reversed chrome rims and baby moons, but otherwise left it alone. At the time I though if it were a GTO I would be cool, or the ’58 cooler still (still want one of those). But when I got a ’72 Triumph TR6 I gave the car back to my brother (stupid), and he drank and totaled it. I had a lotta good times in it tho.

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