The Pontiac GTO was an automobile built by Pontiac from 1964 to 1974, and by General Motors Holden in Australia from 2003 to 2006. It is often considered the first true muscle car. From 1964 until 1973.5, it was closely related to the Pontiac Tempest, but for its final year it was based on the Pontiac Ventura. The 21st century GTO is essentially a left hand drive Holden Monaro, itself a coupe variant of the Holden Commodore.
The GTO was the brainchild of Pontiac engineer Russell Gee, an engine specialist, and Pontiac chief engineer John De Lorean. Shane Wiser was the first to think of the idea of the GTO. In early 1963, General Motors management issued an edict banning divisions from involvement in auto racing. At the time, Pontiac's advertising and marketing approach was heavily based on performance, and racing was an important component of that strategy. Jim Wangers proposed a way to retain the performance image that the division had cultivated with a new focus on street performance. It involved transforming the upcoming redesigned Tempest (which was set to revert to a conventional front-engine, front transmission, rear-wheel drive configuration) into a "Super Tempest" with the larger 389 in³ (6.5 L) Pontiac V8 engine from the full-sized Pontiac Catalina and Bonneville in place of the standard 326 in³ (5.3 L) Tempest V8. By promoting the big-engine Tempest as a special high-performance model, they could appeal to the speed-minded youth market (which had also been recognized by Ford Motor Company's Lee Iacocca, who was at that time preparing the Ford Mustang).
The name, which was DeLorean's idea, was inspired by the Ferrari 250 GTO, the highly successful race car. It is an acronym for Gran Turismo Omologato, Italian for homologated for racing in the GT class. The name drew protest from purists, who considered it close to sacrilege.
The GTO was technically a violation of GM policy limiting the A-body intermediate line to a maximum engine displacement of 330 in³ (5.4 L). Since the GTO was an option package and not standard equipment, it could be considered to fall into a loophole in the policy. Pontiac General Manager Elliot "Pete" Estes approved the new model, although sales manager Frank Bridge, who did not believe it would find a market, insisted on limiting initial production to no more than 5,000 cars. Had the model been a failure, Estes likely would have been reprimanded. As it turned out, it was a great success.
First generation (1964-1967) GTO
The first Pontiac GTO was an option package for the Pontiac LeMans, available with the two-door sedan, hardtop coupe, and convertible body styles. For US$ 296, it included the 389 in³ V8 (rated at 325 hp (242 kW) at 4800 rpm) with a single Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, chromed valve covers and air cleaner, 7 blade clutch fan, a floor-shifted three-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter, stiffer springs, larger diameter front sway bar, wider wheels with 7.50 x 14 redline tires, hood scoops, and GTO badges. Optional equipment included a four-speed manual transmission, two-speed automatic transmission, a more powerful "Tri-Power" carburation rated at 348 hp (260 kW), metallic drum brake linings, limited slip differential, heavy-duty cooling, ride and handling package, and the usual array of power and convenience accessories. With every available option, the GTO cost about US$ 4,500 and weighed around 3,500 pounds (1,600 kg).
Most contemporary road tests used the more powerful Tri-Power engine and four-speed. Car Life clocked a GTO so equipped at 0-60 miles per hour (0-97 km/h) in 6.6 seconds, through the standing quarter mile in 14.8 seconds with a top speed of 99 miles per hour (158 km/h). Like most testers, they criticized the slow steering, particularly without power steering, and inadequate drum brakes, which were identical to those of the normal Tempest. Car and Driver incited controversy when it printed that a GTO that had supposedly been tuned with the "Bobcat" kit offered by Royal Pontiac of Royal Oak, Michigan, was clocked at a quarter mile time of 12.8 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph (179 km/h) on
racing slicks. Later reports strongly suggest that the Car and Driver GTOs were equipped with a 421 in³
(6.9 L) engine that was optional in full-sized Pontiacs. Since the two engines were difficult to distinguish externally,
the subterfuge was not immediately obvious. Frank Bridge's sales forecast proved inaccurate: the GTO package had sold 10,000
units before the beginning of the 1964 calendar year, and total sales were 32,450.
Throughout the 1960s, Royal Pontiac, a Pontiac car dealer in Royal Oak, Michigan, offered a special tune-up package for Pontiac 389 engines. Many were fitted to GTOs, and the components and instructions could be purchased by mail as well as installed by the dealer. The name "Bobcat" came from the improvised badges created for the modified cars, combining letters from the "Bonneville" and "Catalina" nameplates. Many of the Pontiacs made available for magazine testing were equipped with the Bobcat kit. The GTO Bobcat accelerated 0-60 in 4.6 seconds (this 0-60 time is now equalled by the factory 2005-06 GTO with automatic transmission, fuel injection, and no modifications).
The precise components of the kit varied but generally included pieces to modify the spark advance of the distributor, limiting spark advance to 34-36° at no more than 3,000 rpm (advancing the timing at high rpm for increased power), a thinner head gasket to raise compression to about 11.23:1, a gasket to block the heat riser of the carburetor (keeping it cooler), larger carburetor jets, high-capacity oil pump, and fiberglass shims with lock nuts to hold the hydraulic valve lifters at their maximum point of adjustment, allowing the engine to rev higher without "floating" the valves. Properly installed, the kit could add between 30 and 50 horsepower (20-40 kW), although it required high-octane superpremium gasoline of over 100 octane to avoid spark knock with the higher compression and advanced timing.
The Tempest line, including the GTO, was restyled for the 1965 model year, adding 3.1 inches (7.9 cm) to the overall length while retaining the same wheelbase and interior dimensions. It sported Pontiac's characteristic vertically stacked quad headlights. Overall weight increased about 100 pounds (45 kg). Brake lining area increased nearly 15%. The dashboard design was improved, and an optional rally gauge cluster ([[United States dollar|US$]]86.08) added a more legible tachometer and oil pressure gauge.
The 389 engine had revised cylinder heads with re-cored intake passages, improving breathing. Rated power increased to 335 hp (250 kW) @ 5,000 rpm for the base 4—barrel engine; the Tri-Power was rated 360 hp ((268 kW) @ 5,200 rpm. The Tri-Power engine had slightly less torque than the base engine, 424 [[Foot-pound force|ft·lbf]] (574 N·m) @ 3,600 rpm versus 431 ft·lbf (584 N·m) @ 3,200 rpm. Transmission and axle ratio choices remained the same.
The restyled GTO had a new simulated hood scoop. A rare, dealer-installed option was a metal underhood pan and gaskets that allowed the scoop to be opened, transforming a cosmetic device into a functional cold air intake. The scoop was low enough that its effectiveness was questionable (it was unlikely to pick up anything but boundary layer air), but it at least admitted cooler, denser air, and allowed more of the engine's formidable roar to escape.
Car Life tested a 1965 GTO with Tri-Power and what they considered the most desirable options (close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, power steering, metallic brakes, rally wheels, 4.11 limited-slip differential, and Rally Gauge Cluster), with a total sticker price of US$3,643.79. With two testers and equipment aboard, they recorded 0-60 miles per hour (0-97 km/h) in 5.8 seconds, the standing quarter mile in 14.5 seconds with a trap speed of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), and an observed top speed of 114 miles per hour (182.4 km/h) at the engine's 6,000 rpm redline. Even Motor Trend's four-barrel test car, a heavier convertible handicapped by the two-speed automatic transmission and the lack of a limited slip differential, ran 0-60 mph in 7 seconds and through the quarter mile in 16.1 seconds at 89 miles per hour (142.4 km/h).
Major criticisms of the GTO continued to center on its slow steering (ratio of 17.5:1, four turns lock-to-lock) and mediocre brakes. Car Life was satisfied with the metallic brakes on its GTO, but Motor Trend and Road Test found the standard drums with organic linings to be alarmingly inadequate in high-speed driving.
Sales of the GTO, abetted by a formidable marketing and promotional campaign that included songs and various merchandise, more than doubled to 75,342. It was already spawning many imitators, both within other GM divisions and its competitors.
Pontiac's intermediate line was restyled again for 1966, gaining more curvaceous styling with kicked-up rear fender lines for a "Coke-bottle" look, and a slightly "tunneled" backlight. Overall length grew only fractionally, to 206.4 inches (524 cm), still on a 115 inch (292 cm) wheelbase, while width expanded to 74.4 inches (189 cm). Rear track increased one inch (2.5 cm). Overall weight remained about the same. The GTO became a separate model series, rather than an optional performance package, with unique grille and tail lights, available as a pillared sports coupe, a hardtop sans pillars, or a convertible. Also an automotive industry first, plastic front grilles replaced the pot metal and aluminum versions seen on earlier years. New Strato bucket seats were introduced with higher and thinner seat backs and contoured cushions for added comfort and adjustable headrests were introduced as a new option. The instrument panel was redesigned and more integrated than in previous years with the ignition switch moved from the far left of the dash to the right of the steering wheel. Four pod instruments continued, and the GTO's dash was highlighted by walnut veneer trim. The 1966 model year is viewed by many as the most iconic of all GTOs because of its independent model status and because it was the last year Pontiac offered the 389 Tri Power engine configuration.
Engine choices remained the same as the previous year. A new rare engine option was offered: the XS engine option consisted of a factory Ram Air set up with a new 744 high lift cam. Approximately 35 factory installed Ram Air packages are believed to have been built, though 300 dealership installed Ram Air packages are estimated to have been ordered. On paper, the package was said to produce the same 360 hp as the non-Ram Air, Tri Power car, though these figures are believed to have been grossly underestimated in order to get past GM mandates.
Sales increased to 96,946, the highest production figure for all GTO years. Although Pontiac had strenuously promoted
the GTO in advertising as the "GTO Tiger," it had become known in the youth market as the "Goat." Pontiac management
attempted to make use of the new nickname in advertising but were vetoed by upper management, which was dismayed by its
Styling remained essentially unchanged for 1967, but the GTO saw several significant mechanical changes.
A corporate policy decision banned multiple carburetors for all cars except the [Chevrolet Corvette], so the Tri-Power engine was cancelled and replaced with new quadrajet four-barrel carburetor. [Chevrolet] was able to keep the tri-power set up to help with their image; the GTO was really becoming a serious competition problem for them. To compensate, the 389 engine received a slightly wider cylinder bore (4.12 inches, 104.7 mm) for a total displacement of 400 in³ (6.6 L). Torque increased slightly, from 431 to 441 ft-lbf (584 to 598 N·m) for the base engine, from 424 to 438 ft-lbf (575 to 594 N·m) for the optional engine but power remained the same. Testers found little performance difference, although the distinctive sound and fury of the Tri-Power was missed.
Two new engines were offered. The first was an economy engine, also 400 in³ but with a two-barrel carburetor, 8.6:1 compression, and a rating of 265 hp (198 kW) and 397 ft-lbf (538 N·m) of torque. Offered only with an automatic, it was not well received by GTO buyers. As well as other engines the biggest one was the 400ci. There we two models in this 6.5 liter engine the regular one which had 335hp and the HO(high output) which had 360hp. The HO replaced the tripower that the GTO had the year before (268 kW) GTO. It was available only with 3.90:1 or 4.33:1 differential gearing, and its "hotter" camshaft left it with a notably lumpier idle and less cooperative part-throttle response.
Emission controls, including an air injector system, were fitted in GTOs sold in California only.
The two-speed automatic was replaced with the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic TH400, which was available with any engine. When the Strato bucket seats and console were ordered, the TH was further enhanced by the use of Hurst's Dual-Gate shifter, which permitted automatic shifting in "Drive' or manual selection through the gears. It was generally considered an equal match for the four-speed in most performance aspects. Meanwhile, the Tempest's inadequate drum brakes could be replaced by optional disc brakes on the front wheels (for US$104.79, including power boost), a vast improvement in both braking performance and fade resistance.
Hot Rod Magazine tested a 1967 Ram Air GTO with Turbo-Hydramatic and 3.90 gearing, and obtained a quarter-mile performance of 14.51 seconds @ 98.79 miles per hour (158.99 km/h) in pure-stock form, rising to 14.11 @ 101.23 miles per hour (162.91 km/h) with accessory drive belts removed, new spark plugs, and a slight modification to the carburetor. Car Life's similar car ran 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 6.1 seconds and the quarter in 14.5 seconds @ 102 mph (163 km/h) with 4.33 rear differential. They were critical, however, of the Ram Air's behavior and tendency to overheat in traffic, as well as the ease with which a careless driver could exceed the 5,600 rpm redline in top gear (which limited the car to a maximum speed of 107 mph (171 km/h) with a 4.33 axle ratio). Nor was it cheap: for performance and appointments very similar to their 1965 Tri-Power, the price was US$4,422, a 20% increase.
Nevertheless, GTO sales remained high at 81,722.
Second generation (1968-1972) GTO
GM redesigned its A-body line for 1968, with more curvaceous, "fastback" styling. The previous 115 inch (292 cm) wheelbase was shortened to 112 inches (284 cm) for all two-door models. Overall length was reduced 5.9 inches (150 mm) and height dropped half an inch (12 mm), but overall weight was up about 75 pounds (34 kg). Pontiac abandoned the familiar stacked headlights for hidden headlights behind the split grille (actually a US$52.66 option, but seen on many GTOs). The signature hood scoop was replaced by dual scoops on either side of a prominent hood bulge extending rearward from the protruding nose.
A unique feature was the body-color Endura front bumper. It was designed to absorb impact without permanent deformation at low speeds. Pontiac touted this feature heavily in advertising, showing hammering at the bumper to no discernable effect. Though a rare option, a GTO could be ordered with "Endura Delete", in which case the Endura bumper would be replaced by a chrome front bumper and grille from the Pontiac Le Mans. This model year further emphasized the curvacious "coke bottle" styling, as viewed from the side.
Powertrain options remained substantially the same as in 1967, but the standard GTO engine's horsepower rating rose to 350 hp (261 kW) @ 5,000 rpm. At mid-year, a new Ram Air package, known as Ram Air II, became available. It included freer-breathing cylinder heads, round port exhaust and the 744 cam. Horsepower rating was not changed, although actual output was likely somewhat higher. Another carry-over from 1967 was the 4-piston caliper disc brake option. While most 1968 models had drum brakes all around, this rare option provided greater stopping power and could be found on other GM A-Body vehicles of the same period. 1968 was also the last year the GTOs offered separate vent, or "wing", windows—and the only year for crank-operated vent windows.
Another feature was concealed windshield wipers, hidden below the rear edge of the hood. They presented a cleaner appearance and were another Pontiac first for the industry. Another popular option, actually introduced during the 1967 model year, was a hood-mounted tachometer, located in front of the windshield and lighted for visibility at night. An in-dash tachometer was also available, but the hood tachometer became something of a status symbol.
Redline bias-ply tires continued as standard equipment on the 1968 GTO, though they could be replaced by whitewall tires at no extra cost. A new option was radial tires for improved ride and handling. However, very few were delivered with the radial tires because of manufacturing problems encountered by supplier B.F. Goodrich. The radial tire option was discontinued after 1968. Pontiac did not offer radial tires as a factory option on the GTO again until the 1974 model.
Hot Rod tested a four-speed standard GTO and obtained a quarter mile reading of 14.7 seconds at 97 mph (156 km/h) in pure stock form. Motor Trend clocked a four-speed Ram Air with 4.33 rear differential at 14.45 seconds @ 98.2 mph (158.0 km/h) and a standard GTO with Turbo-Hydramatic and 3.23 gears at 15.93 seconds @ 88.3 mph (142.1 km/h). Testers were split about handling, with Hot Rod calling it "the best-balanced car [Pontiac] ever built," but Car Life chiding its excessive nose heaviness, understeer, and inadequate damping.
Now facing serious competition both within GM and from Ford, Dodge, and Plymouth —particularly the low-cost Plymouth Road Runner—the GTO won Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, and sales remained strong at 87,684 (which would be the second-best sales year for the GTO).
The 1969 model did not have the vent windows, had a slight grille and taillight revision, moved the ignition key from the dashboard to the steering column, and the gauge faces changed from steel blue to black. In addition, the rear quarter-panel mounted side marker lamps changed from a red lens shaped like the Pontiac "V" crest to one shaped like the broad GTO badge.
The previous economy engine and standard 350 hp 400 in³ V8 remained, while the 360 hp engine was in its last year. The 400 in³ Ram Air III was rated at 366 hp (273 kW) @ 5,100 rpm, while the top option was the 370 hp (276 kW) Ram Air IV, which featured special header-like high-flow exhaust manifolds, high-flow cylinder heads, a specific high-rise aluminum intake manifold, larger Rochester QuadraJet four-barrel carburetor, high-lift/long-duration camshaft, plus various internal components capable of withstanding higher engine speeds and power output. Unlike the big-block Chevy and Hemi motors, the Ram Air IV utilized hydraulic lifters. As a result, it did not overheat in traffic, nor did it foul spark plugs, which set it apart from the large-displacement performance engines seen in other muscle cars.
By this time, the gross power ratings of both Ram Air engines were highly suspect, bearing less relationship to developed horsepower and more to an internal GM policy limiting all cars except the Corvette to no more than one advertised horsepower per ten pounds of curb weight. The higher-revving Ram Air IV's advertised power peak was actually listed at 5,000 rpm—100 rpm lower than the less-powerful Ram Air III.
The Ram Air V was introduced in 1969. It was a special 400 block with newly designed high compression tunnel port heads and a special high rise intake manifold. A prototype GTO so equipped could go 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, and the quarter-mile time was 11.5 seconds at 123 mph (198 km/h). Ram Air Vs were not installed in GTOs at the factory; it was available only as an aftermarket product.
The significant event of 1969 was the launch of a new model called 'The Judge'. The Judge name came from a comedy routine, "Here Comes the Judge", used repeatedly on the "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In TV" show. Advertisements used slogans like "All rise for The Judge" and "The Judge can be bought." As originally conceived, the Judge was to be a low-cost GTO, stripped of some gimmicks to make it competitive with the Plymouth Road Runner. During its development, however, it was decided to make it the ultimate in street performance and image. The resulting package ended up being US$337.02 more expensive than a standard GTO, and included the Ram Air III engine, styled wheels, Hurst shifter (with a unique T-shaped handle), wider tires, various decals, and a rear spoiler. Pontiac claimed that the spoiler had some functional effect at higher speeds, producing a small but measurable down force, but it was of little value at legal speeds except for style. The Judge was initially offered only in "Carousel Red," but late in the model year a variety of other colors became available.
The GTO was surpassed in sales both by the Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 and the Road Runner,
but 72,287 were sold during the 1969 model year, with 6,833 of them being The Judge.
The Tempest line received another facelift for the 1970 model year. Hidden headlights were deleted in favor of four exposed round headlamps outboard of narrower grille openings. The nose retained the protruding vertical prow theme, although it was less prominent. While the standard Tempest and LeMans had chrome grilles, the GTO retained the Endura urethane cover around the headlamps and grille.
The suspension was upgraded with the addition of a rear anti-roll bar, essentially the same bar as used on the Oldsmobile 442 and Buick Gran Sport. The front anti-roll bar was slightly stiffer. The result was a useful reduction in body lean in turns and a modest reduction of understeer.
Another handling-related improvement was optional variable-ratio power steering. Rather than a fixed ratio of 17.5:1, requiring four turns lock-to-lock, the new system varied its ratio from 14.6:1 to 18.9:1, needing 3.5 turns lock-to-lock. Turning diameter was reduced from 40.9 feet (12.5 m) to 37.4 feet (11.4 m).
The base engine was unchanged for 1970, but the low-compression economy engine was deleted and the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV remained available, although the latter was now a special-order option.
A new option was Pontiac's 455 engine, available now that GM had rescinded its earlier ban on intermediates with engines larger than 400. The 455, a long-stroke engine taken from the full-size Pontiac Bonneville line, was only moderately stronger than the base 400 and actually less powerful than the Ram Air III. The 455 was rated at 360 hp (268 kW) @ 4,300 rpm. Its advantage was torque: 500 ft-lbf (677 N-m) @ 2,700 rpm. A functional Ram Air scoop was available, but even so equipped, a stock 455 was less powerful than the Ram Air III. Car and Driver tested a heavily optioned 455, with a four-speed transmission and 3.31 axle and recorded a quarter mile time of 15.0 seconds with a trap speed of 96.5 mph (155.3 km/h). Car Life's Turbo-Hydramatic 455, with a 3.35 rear differential, clocked 14.76 seconds at 95.94 mph (154.40 km/h), with identical 6.6 second 0-60 mph acceleration. Both were about 3 mph (5 km/h) slower than a Ram Air III 400 four-speed, although considerably less temperamental: the Ram Air engine idled roughly and was difficult to drive at low speeds. The smaller displacement engine recorded less than 9 miles per gallon of gasoline (26.1 L/100 km), compared to 10 to 11 miles per gallon (23.5 to 21.4 L/100 km) for the 455.
A new and short-lived option for 1970 was the Vacuum Operated Exhaust (VOE), which was vacuum actuated via an underdash lever marked "EXHAUST." The VOE was designed to reduce exhaust backpressure to increase horsepower and performance, but it also substantially increased exhaust noise. The VOE option was offered from November 1969 to January 1970. Pontiac management was ordered to cancel the VOE option by GM's upper management following a TV commercial for the GTO that aired during Super Bowl IV on CBS January 11, 1970. In that commercial, entitled "The Humbler," which was broadcast only that one time, a young man pulled up in a new GTO to a drive-in restaurant with dramatic music and exhaust noise in the background, pulling the "EXHAUST" button to activate the VOE and then left the drive-in to do some street racing. That particular commercial was also cancelled by order of GM management. Approximately 230 1970 GTOs were factory built with this rare option. A few mufflers have been "Hand-made" for the remaining cars; this occured in 2006 and 2007.
The Judge remained available as an option on GTOs. The Judge came standard with the Ram Air III, while the Ram Air IV was optional. Though the 455 in³ was available as an option on the standard GTO throughout the entire model year, the 455 was not offered on The Judge until late in the year. "Orbit Orange" became the new standard color for the '70 Judge, but any GTO color was available on The Judge. Striping was relocated to the upper wheelwell brows.
An Orbit Orange 1970 GTO Judge with the 455 engine and Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was one of the featured cars in the movie "Two-Lane Blacktop", which depicted a cross-country race between the new GTO and a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air.
The new styling did little to help declining sales, which were now being hit by sagging buyer interest in all
musclecars and by the punitive surcharges levied by automobile insurance companies, which sometimes resulted in
insurance payments higher than car payments for some drivers. Sales were down to 40,149, of which 3,797 were The Judge.
The GTO remained the third best-selling intermediate musclecar, outsold by the Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396/454 and
Plymouth Road Runner.
The 1971 GTO had another modest facelift, this time with wire-mesh grilles, horizontal bumper bars on either side of the grille opening, more closely spaced headlamps, and a new hood with the dual scoops relocated to the leading edge, not far above the grille. Overall length grew slightly to 203.3 inches (516 cm).
A new corporate edict, aimed at preparing GM for no-lead gasoline, forced a cross-the-board reduction in compression ratios. The Ram Air engines did not return for 1971. The standard GTO engine was still the 400 in³ V8, but now with 8.2:1 compression. Power was rated at 300 hp (223 kW) @ 4,800 rpm and torque at 400 ft-lbf (542 N-m) @ 3,600 rpm. An engine option was the 455 in³ V8 with four-barrel carburetor, 8.4 to 1 compression ratio and 325 hp (242 kW), only available with the automatic transmission. The top GTO engine for 1971 was the new 455 HO with 8.4 compression, rated at 335 hp @ 4,800 rpm and 480 ft-lbf (650 N-m) @ 3,600 rpm.
Motor Trend tested a 1971 GTO with the 455, four-speed transmission, and 3.90 axle, and obtained a 0-60 mph time of 6.1 seconds and a quarter mile acceleration of 13.4 seconds at 102 mph (164 km/h).
The Judge returned for a final year, now with the 455 HO as standard equipment. Only 374 were sold before The Judge was discontinued in February 1971, including 17 convertibles—today the rarest of all GTOs.
Only 10,532 GTOs were sold in 1971.
In 1972, the GTO reverted from a separate model line to a US$353.88 option package for the LeMans and LeMans Sport coupes. On the base LeMans line, the GTO package could be had with either the low-priced pillared coupe or hardtop coupe. Both models came standard with cloth and vinyl or all-vinyl bench seats and rubber floor mats on the pillared coupe and carpeting on the hardtop, creating a lower-priced GTO. The LeMans Sport, offered only as a hardtop coupe, came with Strato bucket seats upholstered in vinyl, along with carpeting on floor and lower door panels, vinyl door-pull straps, custom pedal trim and cushioned steering wheel, much like GTOs of previous years. Other optional equipment was similar to 1971 and earlier models. Planned for 1972 as a GTO option was the ducktail rear spoiler from the Pontiac Firebird, but after a few cars were built with that option, it was cancelled. Rally II and honeycomb wheels were optional on all GTOs, with the honeycombs now featuring red Pontiac arrowhead emblems on the center caps, while the Rally IIs continued with the same caps as before, with the letters "PMD" (for Pontiac Motor Division).
Horsepower, now rated in SAE net terms, was down further, to 250 hp (186 kW) @ 4,400 rpm and 325 ft-lbf (440 N-m) @ 3,200 rpm torque for the base 400 engine. The optional 455 had the same rated horsepower (although at a peak of 3,600 rpm), but substantially more torque. Most of the drop was attributable to the new rating system (which now reflected an engine in as-installed condition with mufflers, accessories, and standard intake). The engines were relatively little changed from 1971.
A very rare option was the 455 HO engine, essentially similar to that used in the Trans Am. It was rated at 300 hp (224 kW) @ 4,000 rpm and 415 ft-lbf (562 N-m) @ 3,200 rpm, also in the new SAE net figures. Despite its modest 8.4:1 compression, it was as strong as many earlier engines with higher gross power ratings; yet like all other 1972-model engines, it could perform on low-octane regular leaded, low-lead or unleaded gasolines. Only 646 cars with this engine were sold.
Sales plummeted by 45%, to 5,811. (Some sources discount the single convertible and the three anomalous
wagons, listing the total as 5,807.) Although Pontiac did not offer a production GTO convertible in 1972,
a buyer could order a LeMans Sport convertible with either of the three GTO engines and other sporty/performance
options to create a GTO in all but name. Even the GTO's Endura bumper was offered as an option on LeMans/Sport
models, with "PONTIAC" spelled out on the driver's side grille rather than "GTO."
The final GTO models
Once again an option package for the LeMans, the 1973 GTO shared the reskinned A-body with its "Colonnade" hardtop styling, which eliminated true hardtop design because of the addition of a roof pillar but retention of frameless doorwork. Rear side windows were now of a fixed design that could not be opened and in a trianglar shape. New federal laws for 1973 demanded front bumpers capable of withstanding 5 mile per hour (8 km/h) impacts with no damage to the body (5 mph rear bumpers became standard in 1974). The result was the use of prominent and heavy chrome bumpers front and rear. The overall styling of the 1973 Pontiac A-body intermediates (LeMans, Luxury LeMans, GTO and Grand Am) was generally not well received by the car buying public.
In contrast, the Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which were also derived from the intermediate A-body, were much better received because of their squared-off styling and formal rooflines with vertical windows. Pontiac's sister division, Oldsmobile, received better reviews from the automotive press and the car-buying public with the similar-bodied Cutlass.
Again, the 1973 GTO option was offered on two models including the base LeMans coupe or the LeMans Sport Coupe. The base LeMans coupe featured a cloth-and-vinyl or all-vinyl bench seat while the more lavish LeMans Sport Coupe had all-vinyl interiors with Strato bucket seats or a notchback bench seat with folding armrest. The LeMans Sport Coupe also had louvered rear side windows from the Grand Am in place of the standard triangular windows of the base LeMans.
The standard 400 in³ V8 in the 1973 GTO was further reduced in compression to 8.0:1, dropping it to 230 hp (170 kW). The 400 engine was available with any of the three transmissions including the standard three-speed manual, or optional four-speed or Turbo Hydra-Matic. The 455 in³ V8 remained optional but was dropped to 250 hp (186 kW) and available only with the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. The 455 HO engine did not reappear, but GM initially announced the availability of a Super Duty 455 engine (shared with the contemporary Pontiac Trans Am SD455), and several such cars were made available for testing, impressing reviewers with their power and flexibility. Nevertheless, the Super Duty was never actually offered for public sale in the GTO.
Sales dropped to 4,806, thanks in part to competition from the new Grand Am and the lack of promotion for the GTO. By the end of the model year an emerging energy crisis quashed consumer interest in muscle cars.
Wanting to avoid internal competition with the "Euro-styled" Pontiac Grand Am, and looking for an entry into the
compact muscle market populated by the Plymouth Duster 360, Ford Maverick Grabber and AMC Hornet X, Pontiac moved the
1974 GTO option to the compact Pontiac Ventura, which shared its basic body shell and sheetmetal with the Chevrolet Nova.
Critics dubbed it "a Chevy Nova in drag."
The US$195 GTO package included a three-speed manual transmission with Hurst floor shifter, heavy-duty suspension with front and rear anti-roll bars, a shaker hood, special grille, mirrors, and wheels, and various GTO emblems. The only engine was the 350 in³ (5.7 L) V8 with 7.6:1 compression and a single four-barrel carburetor. It was rated at 200 hp (149 kW) @ 4,400 rpm and 295 ft-lbf (400 N·m) @ 2,800 rpm. Optional transmissions included a wide-ratio four-speed with Hurst shifter or the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic.
The GTO option was available in both the base Ventura and Ventura Custom lines as either a two-door sedan or hatchback coupe. The base Ventura interior consisted of bench seats and rubber floor mats, while the Ventura Custom had upgraded bench seats or optional Strato bucket seats along with carpeting, cushioned steering wheel, and custom pedal trim.
Bias-belted tires were standard equipment, but a radial tuned suspension option added radial tires along with upgraded suspension tuning for improved ride and handling.
Cars Magazine tested a 1974 GTO with the optional four-speed and obtained a 0-60 mph time of 7.7 seconds and a quarter mile reading of 15.72 seconds @ 88 mph (142 km/h).
Sales were an improvement over 1973, at 7,058, but not enough to justify continuing the model.
1975 to 1999 GTO
Pontiac had planned to offer a 1975 GTO, again based on the compact Ventura and powered by a Pontiac-built 350 in³ V8. The Ventura and other GM compacts underwent substantial styling and engineering changes, the latter including front and rear suspensions similar to the sporty Firebird. In the end, however, the GTO was discontinued following a corporate decision to switch to Buick V8 engines on the 1975 Ventura line, though Pontiac V8s were continued in all other division models.
In 1975, an enterprising Pontiac dealer in the Eastern United States reportedly decided to "create" a new GTO. Sensing that the 1974 GTO should have continued on the intermediate LeMans platform rather than downsized to the Ventura line, this dealer advertised and sold an undetermined number of 1975 Pontiac GTOs. These cars were factory-ordered by the dealer as LeMans Sport Coupes equipped with the 400 or 455 in³ V8s with four-barrel carburetors, Turbo Hydra-Matic transmissions, Strato bucket seats and console, power steering, power disc brakes, Rally II or Honeycomb wheels, and Radial Tuned Suspension with whitewall or white-lettered radial tires. The dealer replaced the Pontiac and LeMans nameplates with "GTO" badges inside and out. This dealer-made 1975 GTO could be ordered with any LeMans exterior/interior combination along with any other extra-cost options available on the regular LeMans.
In 1976, Jim Wangers reportedly presented a LeMans Sport Coupe as a new GTO Judge prototype with a 400 in³ V8 that was painted Carousel Red to Pontiac division officials as a possible GTO revival to supplement dramatic sales increases for the Firebird Trans Am (now accounting for 50% of Firebird sales) for those buyers who wanted a sporty performance car but needed a roomier back seat and larger trunk. However, division officials turned down the idea of an intermediate-sized GTO, but the concept was considered and approved for production; not as a GTO revival, but as the 1977 Pontiac Can Am.
During the subsequent 30 years, Pontiac considered several plans to revive the GTO nameplate, but none came to fruition. In 1988, when Oldsmobile planned to create a 442 based on the Cutlass Calais, Pontiac built a prototype GTO based on the Grand Am, equipped with a Quad 4 engine. The revived 442, introduced for the 1990 model year, proved to be a low seller, leading Pontiac to quietly cancel the GTO revival.
Japanese automaker Mitsubishi marketed a GTO coupe, although it was sold in U.S. and Canada as the Mitsubishi 3000GT
to avoid legal conflicts with Pontiac. Fans of the original GTO considered the appropriation of a famous muscle car by
a Japanese automaker to be sacrilegious, much as sports car fans of the 1960s had been infuriated by Pontiac borrowing
the name of the Ferrari racer.
1999 GTO concept car
During the 1999 Detroit Auto Show, a GTO concept car with a heritage-inspired Coke-bottle shape, grille, and hood scoop, was introduced to the world. It was only a design experiment and had no engine. The concept never made it into production.
2004 GTO Revival
The Pontiac GTO was relaunched in the United States in late 2003, based on the Holden Monaro's V platform. The Monaro is a 2 door coupe variant of the Australian developed VT/VX Holden Commodore. The Commodore was in turn developed by enlarging the European designed 1994 Opel Omega B, which was marketed in its original form in the U.S. from 1997 to 2001 as the Cadillac Catera.
The revival was prompted by former GM chairman Bob Lutz, who drove a Holden Monaro while on a business trip in Australia.
The GTO was produced in the suburb of Elizabeth, South Australia, and is equipped with the Corvette's LS1 ('04) and LS2 ('05-'06) V8 engine with a choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. The same model is sold in the United Kingdom as the Vauxhall Monaro and in the Middle East as a Chevrolet Lumina SS. GM North America made a deal with Holden for them to produce a maximum of 18,000 vehicles per year starting in late 2003 and going through to the end of the 2006 model year. 18,000 was the production limit for the model at the Australian assembly plant.
Despite high expectations by GM to sell 18,000 units, the Monaro-based GTO received a lukewarm reception in the U.S. It was frequently derided for its conservative styling, which many critics felt was too anonymous to befit either the GTO heritage or the current car's performance. Aside from the styling, the GTO faithful were further insulted by GM's failure to present a U.S.-built car that incorporated any design lineage from the muscular icons of the 1960s and 1970s. Given the newly revived muscle car climate, it was also overshadowed by the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Charger, and the new Ford Mustang. Sales were also limited because of dealer tactics, such as initially charging large markups and denying requests for test drives of the vehicle. By the end of the year, the 2004 vehicles were selling with significant discounts. Sales were 13,569 of 15,728 cars for 2004. The optional hood scoops slated for the 2005 model year were rushed into production in an effort to increase the sportiness of the car's image. There was a Pulse Red package, available only in 2004. It gave the buyer Pulse Red paint and exclusive red embroidery on the seats. Only 800 of these were made.
The 2005 model year continued with the addition of hood scoops, split rear exhaust, and optional 18 inch (45.7 cm) wheels. The major change for 2005 was the replacement of the LS1 engine with the LS2 engine. This increased power and torque in the GTO to 400 hp (298 kW) with 400 ft-lbf (542 N·m) torque. With this engine package, Pontiac claimed the car capable of 0 to 60 in 4.6 sec. and 13.0 sec. at 109 in the quarter-mile. Dashboard gauge graphics were also revised. The optional dealer installed Sport Appearance Package became available and differed visually by having a deeper-set grille, different lower rear fascia that sported quad chrome exhaust tips, a modified spoiler, and modified rocker panels. This package was available from GM as an accessory in red, silver, black, or primer for other color cars. Nonetheless, sales dropped to 11,590, primarily because of a shortened model year. Barbados Blue and Cosmos Purple were dropped this year, but Cyclone Grey and Midnight Blue Metallic were added, along with Torrid Red mid year.
For 2006, two additional colors were added to the line up, Spice Red Metallic and Brazen Orange Metallic, while Midnight Blue Metallic and Yellowjacket were dropped. Revised blacked-out tail lamps, illuminated steering wheel radio controls and an interior power door lock switch,faster power seats were also added.
On February 21, 2006, General Motors reportedly told dealers that it would halt imports of the GTO in September, making 2006 the last model year for the current GTO generation. According to Drive.com.au the last of the VZ-based Pontiac GTOs came off the assembly line in Australia on July 7, 2006.
Production of the GTO ended on June 7, 2006, as the manufacturer, Holden, ceased production of the associated
Commodore models in preparation for their new VE Commodore platform. At this time there is no 2-door coupe variant
of the new Commodore. A new GTO, based on the Zeta platform, shared with the VE Commodore and the 2009 Camaro, is
expected in 2009 and may change its name to the classic Firebird.
Appearances in pop culture
- The song "Little GTO" was the biggest hit for surf rock group Ronny and the Daytonas,
reaching #4 on the Billboard pop charts in 1964.
- The Monkeemobile, featured on the television show The Monkees (1966-1968) in promotional materials, appearances and commercials related to that band, was a customized Pontiac GTO. Various toy versions of the Monkeemobile were marketed.
- Paul Revere and the Raiders appeared in a TV commercial that introduced The Judge.
- A blue GTO is driven by Vin Diesel in the 2002 action movie XXX and later modified to a
Bond car like vehicle. An even more over modified version appears in its sequel XXX: State of the
- A 1967 GTO is the ride of Randy Emmers, a henchman of the backstage manipulator in the movie Charlie's
Angels: Full Throttle, and later becomes a contribution to a Catholic orphanage.
- A 1969 dark purple GTO is driven by Thomas Jane as the Punisher in the 2004 movie The Punisher.
- Dennis Hopper drove a 1969 GTO Judge in the TV movie The Last Ride.There is also a red
2004 GTO, which was customized.
- Warren Oates drove a 1970 GTO in the movie Two-Lane Blacktop.