Pontiac GTO

From Academic Kids

1965 Pontiac GTO convertible
1965 Pontiac GTO convertible

The Pontiac GTO was a muscle car from Pontiac manufactured from 1964 to 1974. Many consider it to be the first true muscle car, since it was the first based on a mid-size platform rather than the full-size cars that earlier performance models had been based on. The nameplate was revived in 2004.

Pontiac got the name from Ferrari's GTO (Grand Turismo Omologato). Actually omologato (or homologated in English) means that the model is truly a production car, there having been at least a hundred made — certainly the case with the Pontiac GTO. Unusually for such a Detroit marketing ploy, a conscientious Pontiac employee actually went through the proper steps to have the car homologated by the FIA, so that it was possible for the occasional GTO to compete in a European sports car race, where they made a fairly good impression for themselves considering their size and weight. The car was nicknamed "The Great One" by Pontiac, and "the Goat" by fans.


Early models


At first, the GTO was a performance option on the mid-size Tempest Le Mans, an extra $300 in 1964. The standard engine was Pontiac's 389 in³ (6.4 L) V8, with a 4-barrel carburetor for 325 bhp (242 kW) or an optional Tri-Power version (three two-barrel carburetors), for 348 hp (260 kW). Expected sales were 5,000; 32,450 were actually sold.


Such success meant an improved GTO for 1965, restyled with stacked headlights; the fake hood scoops could be turned into a functional ram-air induction setup. Power was up (to 360 hp (269 kW) in Tri-Power form) and so were sales, to 75,342.


1966's GTO was its own model series, no longer an option on the Tempest. The car was again restyled, the rear haunches gaining that distinctive late-60s 'coke-bottle' hump while the front end continued the evolution of Pontiac's signature stacked headlight styling. Sales were 96,946. In mid-year the Tri-Power option was dropped due to a corporate-wide edict against multiple carburetion in all GM vehicles (Corvette excepted). To make up for the loss of the Tri-Power option, 1967 saw the engine grow to 400 in³ (6.6 L) and an HO version which matched the previous Tri-Power equipped engine's rating. Sales were 81,722.


Missing image
1969 GTO Judge

In 1968, the car was all-new, based on GM's new "A-body" and heavier than the previous year's models. There appeared to be no front bumper whatsoever; actually, the grille surround and front was made of a body-colored rubber compound called an Endura bumper. Hidden headlights were a popular option. It won the Motor Trend magazine Car of the Year award, and sales were 87,684.


1969 saw the launch of a new 'Judge' model of GTO (inspired by the catch phrase "Here come da judge" from the American television show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and advertised in commercials emphasizing the tie-in), featuring a more powerful engine, bright paint colors, a rear spoiler, and decals. Optional on both regular and Judge models was a Ram Air IV engine said by the factory to deliver 370 hp (276 kW) but in actuality significantly more powerful than that. Increased insurance premiums were beginning to hit the muscle car market hard, and manufacturers were starting to under-report power. Sales that year were 72,287. As a matter of fact, the 400 could really produce 415 horsepower (309 kW).


Missing image
1974 Pontiac Ventura with GTO option and V8 engine.

1970's GTO featured a restyled front end featuring four exposed round headlamps and a narrower grille, as well as a bodyside crease and restyled rear. A 455 cubic inch (7.5 litre) engine was added to the range. The 455 in 1970 could produce up to 420 horsepower (313 kW), even though the manufacturer underrated it at 360 horsepower (268 kW). Sales were down to 40,149 as the muscle car market started to decline. This decline became terminal in 1971 - only 10,532 GTOs were built that year. Power was down, thanks to emissions regulations and the mandated use of unleaded lower-octane gasoline. From 1972, the GTO became just an option package on the Pontiac LeMans.

In 1974, the GTO's last year, it was based on the compact Pontiac Ventura. Some would suggest that the downsized GTO was one of a few musclecar survivors which later became a decal package much like Plymouth's Road Runner (first based on the 2-door Plymouth Fury in 1975, and before its demise, on the Plymouth Volare). The very muscle car concept was dying off, and these cars sold quite poorly indeed - this was the only GTO deemed as a Chevrolet Nova in drag.

Since Pontiac engines were not available in Canada, but were replaced with Chevrolet engines of similar size and power, Canadian GTOs came in such interesting and unusual (to American car fanciers) models as the 396 GTO.

Pontiac wanted to revive the GTO nameplate during the next 30 years - it never came to fruition. Back in 1988, plans were to rebadge the compact Grand Am with a GTO badge - this only showed up on a prototype Grand Am with a Quad 4 engine; Oldsmobile made a fatal mistake badging their compact Calais as the 442 - this was a total sacrilege to musclecar purists.

1999 concept car

During the 1999 Detroit Auto Show, about 25 years after the final GTO rolled off the assembly line, a GTO concept car with a heritage-inspired Coke bottle shape, grille, and hood scoop, was introduced to the world. Unfortunately, it was only a design experiment and had no engine. This concept never made it into production.

Newer model

Staying true to the original concept—a muscle car developed off a family sedan platform—the Pontiac GTO nameplate was revived for the 2004 model year on a version of the Australian-built Holden Monaro.


Five years after the GTO concept car was unveiled, and in the wake of the Pontiac Trans Am's demise after the 2002 model year, the Pontiac GTO was relaunched in the United States in late 2003 based on the Holden Monaro's V platform. GTOs are imported from Australia and equipped with the C5 Chevrolet Corvette's LS1 V8 engine. The same model is sold in the United Kingdom as a Vauxhall, and in Europe as an Opel.

Sales of the 2004 GTO were below expectations, forcing the brand to cut production and downgrade sales estimates from 15-18,000 per year to just 12,000 per year. The optional hood scoops slated for the 2005 model year were rushed into production in an effort to give the car a visual excitement some said it lacked. A redesigned GTO on a new platform (Zeta) will appear in 2006 or 2007.


Missing image
2005 GTO.

The 2005 model year brought significant changes to the GTO, which had underwhelming success in the previous year. Optional hood scoops, which many enthusiasts regard as a defining feature of the car, were new in 2005.

The 2004 goat used the Corvette engine; however, for the 2005 a completely new Corvette generation was introduced with a larger engine. Both the Corvette and the GTO share the LS2. This increases power and torque in the GTO to 400 hp (298 kW) and 400 ft.lbf (542 Nm). A special version of this vehicle is used for drift racing.

These improvements translated into more than 75% greater sales for the 2005 model.

The car remains on the GM V platform, which is still imported from Australia via General Motors Holden.

General Motors also produced a concept based on the GTO: the GTO Ram Air 6.

External link

Television & Film

Some GTOs were seen movies such as xXx starring Vin Diesel. And, the made-for-television-movie The Last Ride shown on the USA Network in which it shows two generations. The 1969 The Judge and the all new 2004 model.


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