Pontiac  - GTO Concept
Pontiac GTO - The Greatest Muscle Car of All Time
DETROIT - GTO is the monogram for the most famous muscle car in high-performance automobile history - the Pontiac GTO. Also known as "The Legend" and "The Great One," GTO is the car that started it all. Prior to 1964, performance cars were full-size hardtops and sedans with the largest displacement engines available. They were a little slow off the line, but once all that sheet metal and chrome got rolling, they pulled like a freight train. Hot rodders had known for years that you could go even faster if you put those big engines in smaller, lighter cars. Engine swaps were standard operating procedure for hot rodders, but that was backyard tinkering, not corporate engineering.
Factory Hot Rods
The backyard boys were blown away in October of 1963 when the $295.90 GTO option, RPO 382, quietly joined the 1964 Pontiac Tempest/LeMans option list. The heart of the GTO option package was a 325-horsepower 389-cubic-inch V8 with dual exhausts, a Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor, a mild hydraulic camshaft, and gobs of pavement-grabbing torque. Other standard features included a manual three-speed transmission with a Hurst shifter, a heavy-duty clutch, heavy-duty suspension, US Royal red-line tires, a 3.23:1 rear axle ratio, twin hood scoops, and an assortment of GTO emblems.
The GTO option was available on three LeMans bodies, the two-door coupe, hardtop, and convertible. More hardtops were produced than the combined total of the coupes and convertibles. Engines with the single four-barrel carburetor outsold the Tri-Power models by a margin of three to one.
Long Option List
An extensive list of LeMans options allowed the potential GTO owner to build anything from a bare-bones muscle car to a loaded high-performance cruiser. Option choices included a four-speed manual transmission, a two-speed automatic, a 348-horsepower Tri-Power engine, Safe-T-Track differential, air-conditioning, power seat, power windows, tilt steering, tachometer, metallic brake linings, an AM/FM radio and a Verbra-Phonic rear speaker. In less time than it took to change spark plugs, a young performance enthusiast could check the appropriate LeMans order form boxes for a factory-built hot rod. The Pontiac GTO launched a whole new market segmen..
Pontiac was on a sales roll, much of it due to its exciting performance image and desire not to stagnate. Pontiac's General Manager Pete Estes and Chief Engineer John DeLorean wanted the new '64 Tempest/LeMans line to stand out from the crowd. A full-size engine in the intermediate body would certainly do the trick. Since the 389 V8 used the same basic block and motor mounts as the already approved 326 V8, such a swap would be a natural. DeLorean and engineers, Bill Collins and Russ Gee, had experimented with a 389 in a prototype '64 Tempest coupe. DeLorean and his crew liked to spend Saturdays at the GM Proving Ground in Milford, Mich., experimenting with new ideas. The 389 four-speed Tempest was an immediate hit with the engineers.
Initial sales projections called for only 5,000 units; however, the GTO was an immense hit with the public as well. The 1964 model run produced a total of 32,450 units.
Naming the GTO
Pontiac already had somewhat of a European racing theme in place with the Grand Prix and LeMans, so Chief Engineer John DeLorean appropriated the Italian racing designation Gran Turismo Omologato. The name was closely associated with Ferrari. In English it means, "Grand Touring Homologated." The Pontiac GTO was a grand touring car homologated (or made) from different parts, specifically the 389 Bonneville engine. It is doubtful whether many GTO owners understood the name or could even pronounce it, but it projected an image of a powerful, exotic, high-performance car. All that really mattered was that the GTO was a great car and the name was very well received.
Ferrari vs. GTO
Initial promotion of the GTO option was somewhat low key. The GTO wasn't mentioned in the 1964 Pontiac full-line catalog. A GTO brochure didn't show up until after the first of the year and by then the car was already a success. Very favorable media coverage (especially the famous Car and Driver March 1964 Pontiac versus Ferrari GTO duel) and great word-of-mouth advertising sold a lot of cars.
A tremendous amount of free advertising came about when a Top 40 song was written about the GTO. John Wilkin penned the song "GTO" and a group of Nashville session musicians recorded it under the name "Ronny and the Daytonas." The song went as high as No. 4 on the charts during its 17-week stay. Over a million singles and 500,000 albums were sold. The refrain, "three deuces and a four-speed and a 389," played repeatedly to the GTO's key customer group.
GTO competitors, both outside and inside GM, were caught off guard by the car's tremendous success. While everyone else scrambled to market GTO clones, the mildly restyled '65 GTO was an even bigger hit than the '64 model. Even though there was a UAW strike at the start of the model year, 75,352 GTOs were sold in 1965. The headlights were now vertical (like the full-size Pontiacs) and a single hood scoop replaced the dual '64 scoops. Improved camshafts and intake manifolds boosted horsepower ratings to 335 for the four-barrel-equipped 389 and 360 for the Tri-Power-topped engine. The handsome Rally I wheels were introduced as an option.
Ram Air Package
A big boost to the rapidly growing GTO legend was the August 1965 release of an over-the-counter dealer- or customer-installed cold air induction kit for Tri-Power cars. The kit made the hood scoop functional and gave birth to Ram Air. The Ram Air package continued as a dealer-installed option in 1966. A few factory built Ram Air GTOs were built and known as the XS package after the engine block code.
Several strong competitors had joined the GTO by 1966, but that didn't stop the GTO from selling almost a 100,000 cars. The final tally was an astonishing 96,946 units. Pretty impressive for a car that insiders doubted would sell 5,000 two years earlier. The GTO was by now so highly regarded inside GM that it was made a separate model line in 1966. The A-body intermediate platform was redesigned and Pontiac's Coke bottle shape was born.
Even though the body was restyled, the '66 lineup included the same three body styles as before. The engine choices were again the 335-horsepower four-barrel version and the potent 360-horsepower Tri-Power-equipped 389 V8. Over 19,000 Tri-Power '66 GTOs were sold, but they were to be the last multi-carbed Pontiacs.
400 Cubic Inches
Appearance-wise the 1967 GTO was very similar to the 1966 model. The cars were on a two-year styling cycle. Mechanically there was a lot to talk about. Engine displacement was increased to 400 cubic inches. The front fender emblem retained the original 6.5-liter designation. The GTO was the first American car to denote engine displacement in liters. There were four 400-cubic-inch engines.
The standard engine was the 335-horsepower Rochester Quadra-Jet four-barrel. A not-very-popular, no-cost option was the low compression 255-horsepower two-barrel for customers who wanted the GTO image with better fuel economy. Only 2,967 lower-performance engines were sold in '67. The first optional engine was the 360-horsepower HO which added a hotter camshaft, open element air filter, and improved exhaust manifolds. The top engine was also rated at 360 horsepower, but it included the Ram Air package which was shipped in the trunk for dealer or owner installation.
Dual Gate Shifter
A new three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic transmission replaced the two-speed automatic from previous years. The Hurst Dual Gate shifter made the automatic transmission quite attractive. Depending on which gate was selected, the transmission could be shifted manually or automatically. The base transmission was still the three-speed manual with a Hurst shifter. The two optional four-speeds were the wide-ratio M20 and the close-ratio M21. Power front disc brakes were another new '67 option. Sales were slightly lower than the record 1966 numbers, but still very strong at 81,722 units.
Car of the Year
An extensive restyling distinguished the 1968 GTO from the previous models. Most notable was the new Endura color-keyed front bumper. The GTO was the first GM car to use the new flexible polyurethane covering that allowed minor dents to pop out without any permanent damage. Optional hidden headlights combined with the Endura nose made for a very handsome car. The stunning styling, powerful performance, solid engineering, and excellent market timing were all factors that helped the GTO garner the coveted Motor Trend Car of the Year award.
More horsepower was on tap for the exciting new '68 body. All engines displaced 400 cubic inches. The standard engine rose to 350 horsepower from 335 horsepower; the no-cost economy two-barrel engine gained 10 horsepower for a 265-horsepower rating; the optional HO engine stayed at 360 horsepower; and the optional Ram Air engine also remained at 360 horsepower until March of '68 when the Ram Air II option was introduced with a 366-horsepower rating. That rating was probably conservative considering the high-performance equipment which included 10.75:1 forged pistons, forged steel crankshaft, new cylinder heads with round exhaust ports, free-flowing exhaust manifolds, a high lift camshaft with the corresponding high-performance valvetrain components, and a revised distributor curve. The Ram Air II put 445 lb-ft of stump-pulling torque to the pavement via the mandatory limited-slip Safe-T-Track rear end with 4.33:1 gears.
Hood Mounted Tachometers
The coupe body style was dropped for '68. Sales were predominantly for hardtops which sold 77,704 units compared to the 9,980 convertibles. Optional hood-mounted tachometers were continued from 1967. The Ram Air cars had 5500-rpm redlines compared to the standard 5200-rpm limit. The external tachs helped the GTO project a powerful performance car image.
Ram Air IV
GTO engines got even more exciting in 1969 with the introduction of the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV. Considerably under-rated at 370 horsepower, the Ram Air IV was the epitome of GTO engines. The RA IV used many of the high-performance parts introduced on the '68 Ram Air II along with the cold air induction system that came with the Ram Air III. Both RA III and RA IV used driver-controlled flapper doors on the twin hood scoops. As powerful as the Ram Air IV was, it still used hydraulic lifters and was far more tractable in traffic than competitors' solid lifter engines. The RA IV didn't overheat or foul spark plugs. It was only available with either a 3.90:1 or 4.33:1 limited-slip differential.
A late addition to the 1969 lineup was the GTO Judge. The original intent of The Judge (although it's commonly referred to as the GTO Judge or simply Judge; the fender decals said "The Judge") was to combat the upstart low-price muscle cars like the Plymouth Road Runner.
Pontiac's answer to the Road Runner was called "ET" or "E/T" which stood for the drag racing term "elapsed time." The car was to be based on a stripped-down, bench seat, LeMans coupe with a flat hood and Rally II wheels without the trim rings. The engine was a Pontiac 350 with cylinder heads from the 400 HO engine. Tests of the prototype E/T against 383-powered Road Runners proved that the budget GTO could outrun the Plymouths.
Most Expensive GTO
As strong as the 350 was, it wasn't a 400, and DeLorean was adamant about GTOs being powered by 400-cubic-inch engines. He quickly killed the 350 E/T project and requested a car that was up to GTO standards. Ironically, the resulting car turned out to be the most expensive GTO, not the least expensive. The Judge option was available on hardtop and convertible bodies. There weren't any GTO coupes. About the only E/T parts that remained were the Rally II wheels without trim rings.
DeLorean is credited with naming The Judge. His inspiration was the hit NBC-TV show "Laugh-In" which had a recurring bit with the tag line "Here come de Judge, Here come de Judge." In retrospect, it may seem odd to name a car after a bit on a comedy show, but "Laugh-In" was very hip with a huge audience of young viewers - the exact people DeLorean wanted to reach. This was an era where car companies named models after cartoon characters, came up with names like Boss, Eliminator, Grabber, Rebel, Demon, and Swinger, and painted them outrageous colors such as Panther Pink, Go Mango, Sublime, Banana Yellow, and Plum Crazy. In that light, The Judge wasn't out of place.
The initial Judge color was eye-catchingly wild. Called Carousel Red, it was actually more of an orange. The shade was exclusive to the Judge for the GTO line, but the same color was available on Camaros as Hugger Orange. About the first 2,000 Judges were painted Carousel Red. After February, Judges could be ordered in any GTO color, but approximately 80 percent of the cars were Carousel Red. Besides the wild color, stripes, pop-art graphics, and hood scoops, Judges came with a massive 60-inch-wide rear spoiler or wing.
Judge Sales Success
Judge engine choices were limited to the standard Ram Air III or the optional Ram Air IV. Four-speeds and the Turbo Hydra-matic transmission were available. The Judge was most frequently ordered in hardtop form although it could be had as a convertible. Despite a late start, The Judge accounted for 6,833 sales out of the '69 GTO total of 72,287 cars. Judge convertibles are very rare since only 108 were produced in 1969.
More Inches, More Torque
The Judge was designed to help boost 1969 GTO sales, and since it proved so popular, it was continued in 1970. Sales figures slid to 3,635 Judge hardtops and 162 convertibles. Total 1970 GTO sales of 40,149 units were down from '69. The '70 GTO was mildly facelifted, and mechanically, they were as strong as ever. The economy two-barrel 400 engine was dropped, but a 360-horsepower 455-cubic-inch with an amazing 500 lb-ft of torque was added. Extra beefy 12-bolt rear ends were mandatory when the 455 was ordered. The 455 wasn't offered on The Judge until late in the model year so only 14 hardtops and three convertible Judges were built with the 455.
Increased competition, insurance surcharges, and tougher emissions standards hit the muscle car market hard in 1971. The GTO suffered along with all the other muscle cars. Adding to the lackluster sales was the corporate decision to drop compression ratios so all GM engines would be compatible with the new low-lead fuel. The standard GTO 400-cubic-inch V8 compression ratio was dropped to 8.2:1 from 1970's 10.25:1 which itself was down from 10.75:1 in 1969.
The Last Judge
The Judge option barely made it into 1971. Production was halted in January after 357 hardtops and 17 convertibles were built. All '71 Judges were 455-powered and today they're some of the rarest, most desirable GTOs as far as collectors are concerned. 1971 was also the last year for any GTO convertibles. Including the 17 Judges, a mere 678 GTO convertibles were produced. Poor sales in '71 have translated to high collector interest today.
Option Status Again
A new LeMans/GTO body was supposed to have been ready for 1972, but a strike put it back a year. So, the previous body was mildly restyled and used again. Since the GTO had been relegated to option status on the LeMans, it was available as both a hardtop and a two-door, pillared coupe. The GTO coupe production was very limited accounting for only 134 cars out of the year's 5,807 total. The 455 HO engine was still available and ten coupes received it. Five more coupes were fitted with the standard 455 V8. A Ram Air system was available with the 455 HO engine which was rated at 300 net horsepower. Customers could still get a big-block, Ram Air, four-speed GTO.
Last True GTO?
Many enthusiasts feel that 1972 was the last of the true GTOs. It came back in 1973 as a LeMans option. The LeMans received a new body for 1973. The styling, especially the rear quarter panels and rear quarter windows, was noticeably different from the direction of previous Pontiac A-bodies. The GTO option was offered on the LeMans coupe and sport coupe. The sport coupe had louvers instead of rear quarter windows.
Big Engines Remain
The two GTO engines remained the 400 and 455 V8s, but horsepower was down to 230 and 250, respectively. Compression had been dropped again to 8.1:1. The automatic transmission was the only one allowed with the 455, but the 400 could be ordered with a three- or four-speed manual transmission plus the automatic. All LeMans options were available on the GTO. The two-door coupe accounted for 494 sales and the sport coupe attracted 4,312 customers for a total of 4,806 1973 GTOs.
Another body style change marked the 1974 GTO. The GTO option was shifted to the Pontiac Ventura platform for what turned out to be the GTO's final year. The sole engine for the '74 GTO was a 350 V8 with a 7.6:1 compression ratio and 200 horsepower. A four-speed manual transmission was still optional. A rearward facing "shaker" hood scoop like the Trans Am scoop allowed cold air into the Quadra Jet four-barrel carburetor under full acceleration.
The Final GTO
Given the tough insurance and government restrictions, the '74 GTO made a valiant effort to keep the muscle car alive. The smaller displacement engine avoided the insurance surcharges on big displacement engines. Other makes were doing reasonably well with smaller performance cars so Pontiac thought it was worth a try. The 1974 GTO sold considerably better than the '73 model. The unique-for-a-GTO hatchback accounted for 1,723 sales and the coupe with its traditional trunk sold 5,335 units. The total of 7,058 was encouraging but not enough to continue the GTO option.
The Legend Lives On
The GTO ceased production, but its legend remained as strong as ever. After many beautiful muscle cars were quickly cast aside during the seventies energy crisis, those same cars soon became very desirable collector cars. The GTO was at the forefront of the muscle car restoration hobby. In 1982, the GTO Association of America was established to preserve and promote the original muscle car. An aftermarket industry evolved to serve needs of GTO restorers. Many of the same people who owned or wanted a GTO in the sixties proudly drive them today. It takes a great car to fuel that kind of desire for 35 years. The GTO helped to establish Pontiac as the performance and "excitement" division of General Motors. Pontiac continues to be at the forefront in terms of creating driving excitement which takes on a new dimension for the next century.
Over half a million GTOs were produced during an eleven year run. Totals ranged from a high of 96,946 in 1966 to a low of 4,806 in 1973.
1964 GTO UNITS
1965 GTO UNITS
1966 GTO UNITS
1967 GTO UNITS
1968 GTO UNITS
1969 GTO UNITS
Judge Hardtops 6,725
Judge Convertibles 108
1970 GTO UNITS
Judge Hardtops 3,615
Judge Convertibles 168
1971 GTO UNITS
Judge Hardtops 357
Judge Convertibles 17
1972 GTO UNITS
1973 GTO UNITS
1974 GTO UNITS
TOTAL GTO PRODUCTION
Pontiac Bridges Past and Future Excitement With Concept GTO
DETROIT - Concept GTO pays homage to the world's original and greatest muscle car - the Pontiac GTO. It reinforces Pontiac's legendary performance and shows a possible future dimension of Pontiac Driving Excitement.
Future Driving Excitement
Concept GTO is a design study, an exploration of future possibilities. Students of automotive history will experience a sense of familiarity. If GTO production had not ceased in 1974, it's highly conceivable future GTO models might have evolved to resemble Concept GTO.
Taut New Shapes
New shapes that are taut and well-defined in a muscular way embody the concept of a modern GTO - features common to a chiseled bodybuilder or professional boxer. All the shapes and lines of Concept GTO have a specific purpose which convey a sense of power, motion, and muscularity. The prominent prow, peaked hood, and narrow headlights could be imagined in human terms as an iron-jawed, steely-eyed, don't-mess-with-me, Clint Eastwood-type character. The way the lower body panels taper toward the back of the door and suddenly flare out to the massive wheels and tires leaves no doubt that power is flowing toward the rear wheels. Concept GTO has an aggressive attitude that's readily apparent.
GTO Styling Cues
Concept GTO is a unique car, but careful examination of its handsome lines suggests connections to past GTOs and current Pontiac styling cues. The side profile hints at the famous "Coke bottle" look introduced on '66/'67 GTOs and refined with '68/'69 models. The shape of the rear quarter windows is reminiscent of the '68/'69 GTOs. A hood-mounted tachometer pod first appeared in 1967. Split grilles were a GTO mainstay, as well as a signature shape on many other Pontiacs. The two hood scoops are a Firebird/Trans Am cue and a logical extension of the '71/'72 GTO twin hood scoops. The tapered, taillight/rear decklid treatment distinguished the 1966 GTO. Honeycomb wheels were optional on '71 and '72 GTOs, plus they were a long-time Firebird favorite. Large driving lights, bold body ribs, and Wide Track stance are seen on many 1999 Pontiacs like the Grand Prix and Grand Am. The sum of all these styling cues is a thoroughly futuristic performance car that could only be a Pontiac.
Past and present combined to produce the stunning orange hue on Concept GTO. The inspiration was the wild '69 GTO Judge color, Carousel Red (which was actually more of an orange with a red component). A newer version of Carousel Red was the goal, so a color-generating computer program was used to explore possibilities. Then in-house paint specialists matched the color. They succeeded in producing a brilliant, translucent orange with bright gold highlights.
Even though Concept GTO has expanded on traditional Pontiac characteristics, it is very much a new car, one that would be at home in the 21st century. Large, 19-inch diameter front wheels, 20-inch rear wheels, and ultra-low profile, 40-series tires are a world apart from the 14-inch bias ply US Royal red line tires included in the original GTO option package. The low stance, radically raked windshield, long wheelbase in relation to the body overhang, and almost vertical rear panel are futuristic touches. The use of massive disc brake rotors as both a safety and styling feature was unheard of thirty years ago.
A computer-generated interior view suggests a 21st century cockpit. The intent was to make the interior as powerful looking as the exterior. High-tech materials like billet aluminum emphasize the performance nature of Concept GTO. The center section of the dashboard is an extension of the hood and painted to match. Large analog gauges befit the precision engineering image as does the console-mounted manual shifter. The use of a state-of-the-art Hurst six-speed shifter would optimize smoothness while honoring Hurst's contribution to the GTO image. Aluminum pedals reinforce the high-performance look. Aluminum interior ribs echo the exterior and add a feeling of motion.
Concept GTO is a design model generated to create more excitement about Pontiac and to solicit consumer input on the content that a modern-day GTO needs to offer.
As quick as the original GTOs were, they were still quite practical. Four or five passengers fit comfortably and the cavernous trunk had ample room for a pair of drag slicks, a floor jack, and the tools needed for a trip to "Drag City." Modern, high-performance street tires have superior traction capabilities, but Concept GTO still has a roomy trunk for whatever gear active people will want to carry in the next century.
A Young Designer
The original GTO was a proven success before Jay Bernard, lead Concept GTO designer, was even born. Bernard isn't a misty-eyed traditionalist longing for "the good old days." He is a vibrant young designer who realizes that "the great new days" are right around the corner. He is respectful of Pontiac's proud heritage.
The designers asked, "What would a contemporary GTO look like?" It was felt that a historical perspective would give a feeling for the elements that make classic GTOs muscle car icons. The design was not based on specific year GTOs. The challenge was to create a vehicle with the GTO look, but also to capture the GTO essence.
The design of Concept GTO was achieved by using Alias software. The ability to transform computer-generated designs into a foam model gives designers a realistic feel for the car quickly and affordably. A full-scale model puts the design in perspective. The process is similar to a three-dimensional sketch. Viewers can add their own perceptions to more accurately assess their reaction to the car. Obviously, the consensus of the GM Design Center is that Concept GTO is a great design study with outstanding potential.
21st Century Driving Excitement
Pontiac fully intends to take Driving Excitement firmly into the 21st century. The 1999 product lineup supports this goal, as do cars still on the drawing boards. The original GTOs made impressive contributions to Pontiac's performance heritage, and Concept GTO gives a glimpse of what future Pontiac Excitement might look like.