The history of the Pontiac GTO, a muscle car classic, is a narrative of one man’s battle against the corporate system. John Z. DeLorean was Pontiac’s principal engineer at the time. He intended to build a nice mid-sized sedan with a large V-8.
The GTO design came up in early 1963 while DeLorean and his technical team were experimenting with the Tempest, a budget Pontiac debuted the year before. A naturally harsh and vibration-prone four-cylinder engine. It was proposed that since the Tempest’s four-cylinder shared engine mounts with the V8, the huge motor could be easily installed into the little car.
A Tempest Lemans coupe served as a testbed for the prototype. It had a 389 cubic inch V8, a four-barrel carburetor, and a heavy-duty four-speed manual transmission. The outcome was a car that was not just speedy but also fun to drive.
DeLorean also named the automobile. GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato. To be eligible for production-class competition, a race car must be homologated by the International Automobile Federation.
According to rumors, the Pontiac GTO was called after the Pontiac Tempest since the original GTO was a glorified Tempest. The Tempest upgrade is GTO (Grand Tempest Option).
A limited-edition Ferrari already used the GTO name. Pontiac may use the initials because they were not protected by copyright. GM had a regulation in the 1960s that no model could have more than 10 pounds of total weight per cubic inch. The GTO weighed around 3,500 pounds; thus the 389 motor was nearly 40CI too big. Instead of a separate model, DeLorean made the GTO a Lemans option. So long as no one looked too closely, the beefed-up Pontiac slipped by senior management.
A cautious sales department committed only 5,000 GTO option packages for 1964. However, dealer demand ate them up within days of the official announcement. The 1964 GTO was a smash hit before it even touched Pontiac dealerships. For a long time, Pontiac’s sales brochure made no mention of the GTO’s existence. Its presence was only reported in a few car enthusiast periodicals.
It had a 325hp 389 V8, dual exhausts, floor-mounted Hurst three-speed manual transmission, heavy-duty suspension, front bucket seats, chromed air cleaner, valve covers and oil filter cap. Options included a Hurst four-speed or GM-built two-speed automatic, limited-slip differential, extra heavy duty shocks, and a quicker steering ratio.
By year’s end, GM had approved sales of 32,450 Tempest Lemans hardtops, coupes, and convertibles with GTO options. For 1965, the GTO (or Goat, as it was now known) remained an option, but with revised front and rear styling, engine and suspension upgrades, and rally-style wheels. Sales topped 75,000 GTOs that year.
The GTO wouldn’t be sold as a separate model until 1966, with the second-generation Tempest. Other manufacturers rushed to produce their own GTOs to cash in on Pontiac’s success. But nothing could replace the original. With a little forethought, ingenuity, and luck, the GTO ignited a generation’s passion for muscle vehicles.
What’s in a Name?
The Pontiac GTO’s existence was not, nor was its name. The GTO name was “borrowed” from Ferrari, which produced 40 GTO-style sports racing vehicles starting in 1962. GTO stands for “Gran Turismo Omologato”, which means “Grand Touring Homologated”, and means it was allowed for specific classes of international sportscar racing. The debate over the brand theft rages on, with many claiming the Pontiac owners deserved better. The announcer explained G-T-O didn’t signify “Girls Take Over” in commercials for the 1965 GTO. The Pontiac and Ferrari both utilized a lot of gas, tires, and oil, hence GTO stood for “Gas, Tires, Oil”. Owners and enthusiasts of the Pontiac GTO proudly refer to their events as “Goat Gatherings”.
But, according to Jim Wangers, at the 2008 GTOAA National Convention, the name GOAT came from adding the letter “A” to the letters G-T-O to construct a word from the GTO acronym. The GM brass disliked the GTO moniker being associated to an animal. Regardless, the term GOAT remained. The official story of how the name GOAT came about is Jim Wangers.
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The Legend Returns!
In 2004, the Pontiac GTO was rebadged as a third-generation Holden Monaro in the US. Pontiac’s first captive import since the 1988-1993 Pontiac LeMans. The V2/VZ Monaro was a two-door coupe based on the VT/VX Holden Commodore. The Commodore was created by enlarging the 1994 Opel Omega B, which was sold in the US from 1997 to 2001 as the Cadillac Catera. The Monaro was also sold as the Vauxhall Monaro in the UK and the Chevrolet Lumina SS in the Middle East.
An article in Car and Driver in 2000 inspired former GM North America Chairman Bob Lutz to import a Holden Commodore-based vehicle. The V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive Holden Commodore SS was acclaimed by Car & Driver, but was unavailable in the United States. As GM North America’s performance offering, a rear-wheel-drive Holden evolved into the Monaro. When Lutz and other GM officials visited Australia on business, they discovered the Holden Monaro and decided to import it.
Lutz had to persuade GM’s top brass to import the automobile, despite a company culture that favored regional autonomy between GM North America and This led to a “unnecessarily extended gestation period” and substantially greater costs than expected. The Monaro design debuted in 2001 but was deemed “dated” when sold in the US in 2004. While the car was originally intended to retail for around $25,000, by the time it hit the United States market, the Australian dollar had risen to over $34,000. Both of these factors contributed to the car’s lackluster popular reception. GM’s Holden division built the GTO in Elizabeth. For 2004, it came with a 5.7 liter LS1 V8 engine, shared with the Chevrolet Corvette, and a 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The Australian-built Monaro got a “corporate Pontiac” front fascia, new badging, “GTO” stitching on the front seats, and a redesigned exhaust system. The exhaust system was tuned using a 1964 GTO from Pontiac’s history collection as well as other LS1-powered vehicles. The new GTO was designed to sound like the original while yet fulfilling state noise requirements. The 2004 GTO exhaust was a real dual system, with both tailpipes exiting on the driver’s side. Chevrolet claimed 5.3 seconds to 60 and 13.8 seconds quarter mile, all of which were closely validated by magazine tests.
To begin with, in 2004, the automobile was available in the following hues: Barbados Blue and Yellow Jacket.
Initial manufacture of the hood scoops was put back to 2005 as part of an over-the-counter Sport Appearance Package. Derriere spoiler was likewise larger and angular in 2004, with deeper inset grilles.
The W40 package ended the 2004 model year with an exclusive paint color dubbed Pulse Red, red GTO embroidery on the seats, and a grey gauge cluster. The W40 package was only available on 794 2004 GTOs.
The 2005 model year added standard hood scoops, split back exhaust, and late-year 18 inch (45.7 cm) wheels. The LS2 engine replaced the LS1 in 2005. This 5,967 cc engine upped the GTO’s power and torque to 400 horsepower (300 kW) and 400 lbft (542 Nm). The drivetrain was strengthened with a driveshaft with larger “giubo’s” and a larger differential flange, as well as updated half-shafts. Dashboard gauges were updated. The Sport Appearance Package included a modified lower rear fascia, aftermarket mufflers with quad chrome exhaust tips, a reworked spoiler, recessed grilles, and revised rocker panels. GM offered this package as an option in red, silver, black, or primer for other colors. Due to the shorter model year, 11,069 were produced. This year, Cyclone Grey and Midnight Blue Metallic replaced Barbados Blue and Cosmos Purple. Customers could also purchase a GTO without hood scoops (RPO code BZJ), albeit only 24 were built. An option for 17-inch chrome wheels The chrome wheel option was not available until May 2005, and the 2005 production run concluded in June. Another factor was the high cost, resulting in poor demand. With this new engine, GM claims 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.7 seconds and a quarter mile in 13.0 seconds at 105 mph (169 km/h) (automatic transmission). BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDWS, 245/45ZR-17 95W M+S front and rear tires, but manual transmission. The timings were 11.7 and 19.6 for 0-100.
Spice Red Metallic and Brazen Orange Metallic were added in 2006, while Midnight Blue Metallic and Yellow Jacket were deleted. Power seat motors moved faster, and an internal power door lock switch was included. The 2006 model year adds the word “Defog” to the temperature control A/C button. The 2006 GTO used the same 400 horsepower (300 kW) 6.0 L engine as the 2005 model. According to Buick-Pontiac-GMC General Manager John Larson, GM will cease imports of the GTO in September, making 2006 the final model year for the new GTO. The reason was unable to fulfill 2007 airbag deployment regulations. The 2006 Pontiac GTO was built in 13,948 units, up from 11,069 in 2005.
The last Pontiac GTO, and hence the last Monaro-based coupe, rolled off the Australian manufacturing line on June 14, 2006. The total for all three years was 40,808 cars. This generation GTO was only meant for 3 years from the start of the program.
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