Not becoming a stand-along model until the following year, in 1960 the Ventura trim package debuted on the Pontiac Catalina four-door Vista sedan two-door hardtop. The Ventura package included exterior identification, a sport steering wheel, deluxe wheel covers and unique tri-tone seats that were done in Morrokide.
Though still based on the Catalina, the Ventura was measured out at 209.7 inches and had a wheelbase of 119.0 inches. Weighing between 3680 and 4005 lbs, the Ventura featured the 389 in³ (6.4 L) engines as standard and the 421 in³ (6.9 L) as a special order option. The Ventura offered only two doors and was smaller and lighter, but was similar in price to the four door sedans and hardtops of the Star Chief middle-of-the-line model on the longer wheelbase that was shared with the Bonneville. This was the inspiration for the Pontiac Grand Prix introduced during mid-1962.
From 1963 until 1960 the Pontiac Ventura reverted back to its trim package status on the Pontiac Catalina though often using interior trim similar to that of the larger Pontiac Star Chief/Executive. The larger model was built on the longer-wheelbase chassis of the Pontiac Bonneville. The Ventura was replaced by the Catalina Brougham for the '71 and '72 model years before the name was resurrected a month later and applied to the Pontiac version of Chevy's compact Nova.
Introduced as the Ventura II, the ‘Ventura' name was moved by Pontiac in 1971 to their new X-body Nova clone. Produced from 1971 until 1977 the name was shortened to just ‘Ventura' after 1972. The name was once again replaced, this time by the Phoenix name in 1978. The abbreviated 1971 model year featured a 250 cubic-inch six cylinder or the 307 cubic-inch V8. Both of these engine choices were Chevy powerplants. The following year Pontiac produced a 350 cubic-inch V8 with two-barrel carburetor that was added to the option list. The 350 became the base V8 for 1973 and 1974. Available transmissions were available in either a standard column-shift 3-speed manual with options that included a four-speed manual, two-speed automatic or three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic.
The final Pontiac model to feature the two-speed automatic, the 1973 six-cylinder Ventura was a badge-engineered Chevy Powerglide. This was dropped entirely from all GM cars and trucks following this model year in favor of the Turbo Hydra-Matic.
From 1972 until 1975 a Ventura Sprint option package was featured on two-door models that included three-speed transmission with floor shift, custom carpeting, body color mirrors, all-vinyl upholstery with either the bench as standard of Strato bucket seats as optional and much more.
Moving from the intermediate LeMans line, the Pontiac GTO name moved to the Ventura in 1974. Upgrading the basic Ventura to a 350in³ (5.7L) engine with a four-barrel carburetor of around 200 hp, the GTO package came with many features. These included a functional ‘shaker' hood scoop, Rally II Wheels, tri-color GTO decals, and special grill-mounted driving lights. The package could be ordered on the hatchback Ventura along with on the base and Custom coupes.
In 1975, rumor had it that the Ventura GTO was to be continued, but project ended up being dropped when GM chose to discontinue the Pontiac 350 in the Ventura for that year. The Buick 350 was instead used and eventually the project was ended due to lack of interest from consumers that wanted a 1975 GTO with a Buick engine.
A natural result of evolution in muscle cars, the 1971 Pontiac Ventura debuted. Featuring Pontiac's enlarged 370-cid V8 in 1959 the newest engine became the signature engine for the 1960's. From the beginning, a 345-bhp tri-power option was available, and over the next few years, dealer-installed ‘Super Duty' factory models pushed it to 363 bhp.
In 1961 Pontiac downsized its midrange Ventura and Catalina. The wheel-base was dropped from 122 inches to 119 and the bodies were reduced by four inches. The vehicles were now 200 lbs lighter.
Now offering a wide array of serious performance equipment more than any other manufacturer, Pontiac now included aluminum front bumpers, body parts and radiators to its lineup. The Super Duty 389 hardware was applied to around a dozen 421-cid V8's that were intended for pro drag racing late in the model year.
Available in small numbers at a time, other race-ready big-blocks were featured. Few vehicles blended both style and speed like the 389 Ventura or Catalina. While hardtops featured GM's ‘bubble-top' shapes, Pontiac Ventura's showcased ‘Jeweltone Morrokide' upholstery along with a variety of accessories available to buyers. Originally a special-order factory option, a Borg-Warner four-speed manual was now a $30 production item. Genuine Hurst shifters for the three-speed manual were now installed due to Pontiac's authorization.By Jessica Donaldson