1966 Pontiac Tempest GTO Monkeemobile Barris Kustom

Monkeemobile number two, sold by Barrett-Jackson in 2008. Photo courtesy Barrett-Jackson.

As rock and roll began continued to explode in popularity in the mid-1960s, Hollywood decided it wanted in on the action. Launched in 1966, the television series The Monkees followed the adventures of an at-first-fictional rock band struggling for stardom. Central to the show (and as recognizable as the actors themselves) was the band’s vehicle, a customized 1966 Pontiac GTO built by the legendary Dean Jeffries. Next June, one of two cars originally constructed for the series will make an appearance at the GM Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Linking the Pontiac GTO to a television series about struggling rock stars was the brainchild of Pontiac’s promotion guru, Jim Wangers. Wangers convinced Pontiac that exposure on the show would lead to increased sales among the all-important youth market, and Wangers assured Pontiac executives that modifications to the cars would be tasteful. Pontiac’s management agreed to the idea, and a pair of 1966 Pontiac Tempest GTO convertibles (each fitted with the Super Hydra-Matic automatic transmission) were delivered to customizer Dean Jeffries.

As Tom Cotter relates in his book, Dean Jeffries: 50 Fabulous Years in Hot Rods, Racing and Film, Jeffries was given a near-impossible deadline to produce the cars. Working with two assistants, Jeffries stretched the front end of the car by 21 inches, restyling the nose but retaining the critical GTO grille and logo. The rear was extended by 18 inches, and reconfigured with custom taillamps and a parachute; inside, Jeffries and crew cut out the trunk to build a wraparound bench seat, then covered the interior with a non-functional, Model T-style tan canvas top. Though the wheelbase looks longer than a stock 1966 GTO, it’s not; this is an optical illusion caused by the car’s extended front and rear.

Next came the engine work, and the two cars were originally fitted with GMC 6-71 superchargers and custom fender-exit exhausts to produce more thrust. The bolt-ons worked a bit too well, as the car designated for the television series proved all but undriveable; in compromise, Jeffries left the blower on car number two, which would be used for promotional appearances (along with the occasional exhibition wheelie or burnout). Car number one would retain the blower shell, hollowed out to cover up the four-barrel carburetor feeding the 389-cu.in. V-8 below. In just 10 days, Jeffries and his crew completed car number one; four days later, car number two was done as well.

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