4 July 2012

Love is blue

Chance led former Mopar Man John Kinton to this Pontiac LeMans Sport convertible 39 years ago, and he never let it go.

 

The Lucerne Blue 1972 LeMans looks virtually new, yet John Kinton drove it off the dealer’s lot almost 40 years ago. After owning a 1961 Lancer, a new 1965 Dart and a 1969 Super Bee, Kinton assumed there would be another Mopar in his future despite repeated problems with the Super Bee. But as Kinton recalled, “I waited too long.” Plymouth dropped the ‘Cuda convertible after 1971.

With a convertible more of a priority than another Mopar, Kinton turned to Pontiac. He already had had plenty of experience with his wife’s 1966 GTO, which she’d used to flat-tow the Super Bee whenever the choke failed.

When Kinton checked the boxes, it was for a 1972 LeMans Sport convertible with the GTO option package, including the Endura front bumper, hood scoop and fender vents. He also opted for dual exhaust, bucket seats and a four-speed transmission mounted in a center console. Although he chose the 350-cid engine to be sensible, “In hindsight I wish I’d gotten the 455.” Kinton’s only modification was to have the new car rust-proofed, which has preserved the original panels and paint.

“That first year,” he recalls, “we only drove 6,000 miles,” most of which came during a trip from Ohio to Las Vegas to visit the in-laws. The mileage stayed low because he had “a winter beater” and stored the LeMans in the winters. Constantly garaged, it was used daily in fair weather.

After it was retired from daily use, the convertible was used for family fun. “We’d all go out to the lakes and our three kids would ride in the back.” Kinton was quick to school the youngsters in keeping the car clean and never climbing in with muddy shoes. In the late 1990s, the basement — where the LeMans, the GTO, a Corvair and a ‘95 Mustang were stored — was badly flooded. Although the engine was spared, the transmission and rear axle had to be drained of water. He also had to remove the seats and replace the sodden carpet.

Over the years, the LeMans has needed remarkably little work. The Endura front bumper was repainted after it was backed into while Kinton and his wife were enjoying supper. However, he attributes the rear-axle failure in 2010 to the flooding a decade earlier, and he’s just had the radiator re-cored. His current project involves stripping off the undercoating that has protected his blue beauty so well.

After 39 years, the Pontiac shows just 31,000 miles. Consistently admired, it’s won trophies at shows all over Ohio. At events Kinton has turned down multiple offers for the unrestored beauty because he has other plans for it. “I’d like to be buried in it,” he quips. Actually, his plans are much darker. He’s leaving it to the kids and “they’ll have to fight over it.”

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To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Fall 2011 issue of Hagerty magazine

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