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The Pontiac GTO: Then & Now

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Then & Now Pontiac GTO History
(click to enlarge)


The Ferrari 250 GTO was the source of inspiration behind the name of the Pontiac GTO, America’s first true muscle car. GTO is an acronym for Gran Turismo Omologato. This Italian phrase means "homologated for racing in the GT class". Pontiac chief engineer John De Lorean and  McManus advertising agency executive Jim Wangers, an automotive enthusiast, were the creators of the GTO.

Following is a tribute to the classic Pontiac GTO:
1964: The Beginning

The Pontiac GTO, nicknamed “The Goat”, was a bold creation. It violated the GM policy that prohibited any intermediate size car from having engines greater than 330 cid. The GTO was made using a 389 cid engine and was sold as an option package on the midsize Tempest. Because the Pontiac GTO was just an option in the Tempest series, GM overlooked the policy violation, and the GTO was approved.

While a maximum of 5000 sales were expected, total sales of the 1964 Pontiac GTO reached 32,450 units. The car was a success beyond imagination and expectations.
Features of this car included:
Option of sport coupe, hardtop coupe and convertible
Tremendous power of 325 bhp, or 348 bhp with an optional tri-power setup
Hood scoops
Chrome dual exhaust outlets


Pontiac Improved the GTO for 1965.  Front and rear styling were changed with the GTO getting stacked headlights like Pontiac’s full size models. Pontiac also released an over the counter kit that would turn the decorative hood scoops into the first functional ram air setup. These improvements were obviously popular as sales increased to 75,342 units in 1965.


The model year 1966 was of great significance for the Pontiac GTO. After two successful years as a performance option for the Pontiac Tempest, the GTO was finally released as a separate model series. Also, A total of 96,946 Pontiac GTO units were sold in 1966. This is the highest ever recorded for any ‘true’ muscle car.

Features of the 1966 GTO included:
Stacked dumps
Recessed grille
Tail-lights with a louvered cover


The tri-power engine was withdrawn from this model, and an all new 400 cid engine was unveiled. A Better transmission and braking system were also applied to the car. The 1967 Pontiac GTO marked the end of the first generation for the GTO.


1968 would be the last year for the "6.5 Litre" front fender emblem used since the GTO's introduction in 1964.

The 1968 Pontiac GTO underwent major restyling that featured:
A Split wheelbase A-body
An Endura bumper – A rubber bumper that gave the car a bumper-less appearance.  Furthermore, it was virtually indestructable, as demonstrated in a famous commercial with John DeLorean bashing a GTO’s bumper with a sledgehammer, to no effect.
Hidden headlights


Many consider 1969 as the last golden year for the muscle car era. The ‘Judge’, a new option for the Pontiac GTO, was launched in 1969.

The ‘Judge’ featured:
Bold body paint and decals
A 400 cid V8 engine that gave power of 366 bhp
A Big rear spoiler and restyled taillights.


The Pontiac GTO had evolved from a muscle car to a luxo-cruiser. A radical restyling was done to the car. The changes included:
A New rear end and body creases
Four exposed headlamps in the Endura bumper
A new Vacuum Operated Exhaust (VOE) option given for a limited period of three months. Only 233 cars were made available with this option.


The Pontiac GTO saw a reduction in its power with the GM announcement that all cars must adhere to new Government regulations, and run on unleaded gas.  Sales began to decline as people abandoned the car. These were people who had adored the vehicle because of its tremendous power.

1972-1974: The last three years of the GTO

1972, 1973 and 1974 were tough years for the once great Pontiac GTO. New government regulations eliminated the Endura bumper and added a heavy, odd-looking steel one, engine power ratings dropped dramatically, and the Judge was discontinued along with all GTO convertible models.  For 1972 and 1973, The GTO reverted back to an option on the LeMans and LeMans Sport. For 1974, its last year, the once proud GTO was reduced to an option on the compact Ventura.

1974 was the last year the GTO was available until Pontiac brought the brand back in 2004.

2004:  Return of the Pontiac GTO

The new Pontiac GTO was based on the Holden Monaro, a car made by an Australian subsidiary of General Motors.  Only one option was available for the car in 2004, a six-speed manual transmission as opposed to the the standard four-speed automatic. Because of the lack of options, the GTO was only available in one model in 2004. The car would continue the trend until it was discontinued following the 2006 model year.

The 2004 reintroduction of the GTO nameplate was used for the first time since the original GTO was discontinued in 1974.
GTO had a 2004 production run of 15,740 units.
The base price of the GTO was $33,000, and the manual transmission added an additional $695 to this price.


The 2005 Pontiac GTO was nearly an identical copy of the 2004 model. In fact, Pontiac made very few changes to the car at all over its short three-year lifespan after it was reintroduced in 2004.

The 2005 changes included:
A new, more powerful engine that produced up to 400 horsepower.
The addition of a new split dual-exhaust system.
The addition of hood scoops to the car.

In 2005, only 11,069 GTOs were produced.  A slight price drop brought the 2005 GTO cost down to $32,295 from $33,000 the year before. The six-speed manual transmission added $695 to this price.

2006: The final year

The 2006 GTO was nearly a carbon copy of the 2005 model. In fact the car changed hardly at all throughout its three-year lifespan. The only noticeable difference to the exterior of the 2006 GTO was blacked-out taillights. The 2006 Pontiac GTO was priced at $31,290, and production of the 2006 GTO increased over the 2005 model year, up to 13,948 from 11,069. However, this improvement was not enough to save the car from its demise.

The discontinuation of the Pontiac GTO was announced in February 2006, and the last model was produced in September of that year. New airbag deployment standards, introduced in 2007, were given as the reason for the cancellation of the GTO.

No matter which GTO model you have, Classic Auto is here to help you protect it. We know how important these muscle cars are to their owners, and we also know how important it is to keep them in top notch condition. Securing the future of these cars and preserving them for future generations to enjoy is only possible when we protect them from inevitable damage and wear and tear. Classic Auto Insurance can help you do just that. We offer affordable classic car insurance options with the best coverage available for your classic GTO. Give us a call today for a free quote!

About the Author

is Vice President of Classic Automobile Insurance Agency, Inc. Classic Automobile Insurance Agency has been protecting collector, classic and exotics since 1992.

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