The Pontiac GTO was an automobile built by Pontiac
Division of General Motors in the United States from 1964 to 1974,
and by GM subsidiary Holden in Australia from 2004 to 2006. It is
considered an innovative, and now classic muscle car of the 1960s
and 1970s. From 1964 until midway through 1973 it was closely
related to the Pontiac Tempest/LeMans and for the 1974 model 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.
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The GTO was the brainchild of Pontiac engineer Russell Gee, an
engine specialist; Bill Collins, a chassis engineer; and Pontiac
chief engineer John De Lorean. 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. With GM's ban on
factory-sponsored racing, Pontiac's young, visionary management
turned its attention to emphasizing street performance.
In his autobiography “Glory Days,” Pontiac chief marketing
manager Jim Wangers, who worked for the division’s contract
advertising and public relations agency, states that John DeLorean,
Bill Collins and Russ Gee were indeed responsible for the GTO's
creation. 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 CID (6.4 L) Pontiac V8 engine from the
full-sized Pontiac Catalina and Bonneville in place of the standard
326CID (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
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 Grand tourer class. The name drew protest from
purists, who considered it close to sacrilege.
The GTO was basically a violation of GM policy limiting the
A-body intermediate line to a maximum engine displacement of
330 cu in (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
The first Pontiac GTO was an option package for the Pontiac
LeMans, available with the two-door coupe, hardtop coupe, and
convertible body styles. Despite rumours, Pontiac never built a GTO
station wagon on its assembly lines.
The US$ 296, package included a 389 cu in (6.4 L) V8 (rated at 325 bhp
(242 kW) at 4800 rpm) with a single Carter AFB four-barrel
carburettor 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" carburetion rated at 348 bhp (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 lb (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 4.6 seconds, through the standing
quarter mile in 14.8 seconds with a quarter mile trap speed of
99 mph (159 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
Ace Wilson's Royal Pontiac of Royal Oak, Michigan, was clocked at a
quarter mile time of 12.8 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph
(180 km/h) on racing slicks. Later reports strongly suggest that the
Car and Driver GTOs were equipped with a 421 cu in (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, Ace Wilson's 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 mph 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 carburettor (keeping it cooler), larger carburetor jets,
high-capacity oil pump, and fibreglass 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 super premium 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 (79 mm) (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 ($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) at 5,000 rpm for the base 4—barrel engine; the Tri-Power
was rated 360 hp (270 kW) at 5,200 rpm. The Tri-Power engine had
slightly less torque than the base engine, 424 lb·ft (575 N·m) at
3,600 rpm versus 431 lb·ft (584 N·m) at 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 under hood 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 centre 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
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 "tunnelled" backlight. The tail
light featured a rare louvered cover, only seen on the GTO. 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 aluminium 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.
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 (270 kW) 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 irreverent tone.
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The GTO underwent a few styling changes in 1967. The
louver-covered tail lights were replaced with eight tail lights,
four on each side. Rally II wheels with colored lug nuts were also
available in 1967. The GTO emblems located on the rear part of the
fenders were moved to the chrome rocker panels. Also the grill was
changed from a purely split grill, to one that shared some chrome.
The 1967 GTO came in three body styles:
Hard Top - 65,176 Produced Convertible - 9,517 Produced Sport
Coupe - 7,029 Produced
The GTO also saw several mechanical changes in 1967. The
Tri-Power carburetion system was replaced with a Rochester Quadrajet
four-barrel carburetor. The 389 engine received a wider cylinder
bore (4.12 inches, 104.7 mm) for a total displacement of 400 CID
(6.6 L) V8. The 400 cubic inch engine was available in three models:
economy, standard, and high output. The economy engine used a
two-barrel carburettor rather than the Rochester Quadrajet and
produced 255 bhp (190 kW) at 4400 rpm, and 397 ft·lbf (538 N·m) at
4400 rpm. The standard engine produced 335 bhp (250 kW) at 5000 rpm,
and the highest torque of the three engines at 441 ft·lbf (598 N·m)
at 3400 rpm. The high output engine produced the most power for that
year at 360 bhp (270 kW) at 5100 rpm, and produced 438 ft·lbf (594 N·m)
at 3600 rpm. Emission controls were fitted in GTOs sold in
1967 also saw the installation of significant safety equipment as
required by federal law. A new energy-absorbing steering column was
accompanied by an energy-absorbing steering wheel, padded instrument
panel, non-protruding control knobs, and four-way emergency
The two-speed automatic transmission was also replaced with a
three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic TH-400. The TH-400 was equipped with a
Hurst Performance Dual-Gate shifter, called a "his/hers" shifter,
that permitted either automatic shifting in "Drive" or manual
selection through the gears. Front disc brakes were also an option
GTO sales for 1967 remained high at 81,722.
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 vertically stacked headlights, but
made horizontal hidden headlights available at extra cost. The
concealed headlights were a popular option. 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-colour 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 discernible 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 power rating rose to 350 hp (260 kW)
at 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 041 cam. 'Official' power rating was not
changed, although actual output was likely much higher. Another
carry-over from 1967 was the 4-piston calliper 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
a North American first, following British Leyland's earlier debut on
Austin and Triumph models. 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.
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 GTO equipped with the standard
engine 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 at
98.2 mph (158.0 km/h) and a standard GTO with Turbo-Hydramatic and a
3.23 rear axle ratio at 15.93 seconds at 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, under steer, and inadequate
Like all 1968 passenger vehicles sold in the United States, GTOs
now featured front outboard shoulder belts (cars built after January
1, 1968) and side marker lights.
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 ultimately prove to 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 (which locked the steering wheel when the key
was removed, a Federal requirement installed one year ahead of
schedule), 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. Front outboard headrests were made standard
equipment on all GTOs built after January 1, 1969.
The previous economy engine and standard 350 hp 400 CID V8
remained, while the 360 hp (270 kW) 400HO was upgraded to the Ram
Air III, rated at 366 hp (273 kW) at 5,100 rpm. The top option was
the 370 hp (280 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.
By this time, the gross power ratings of both Ram Air engines
were highly suspect, bearing less relationship to developed power
and more to an internal GM policy limiting all cars except the
Corvette to no more than one advertised horsepower per 10 lb
(4.5 kg) 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 "over-the-counter" product, and
most went to Pontiac racers of the time.
The most significant event of 1969 for the GTO 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. The Judge routine, made popular by
legendary showman Sammy Davis, Jr. was borrowed from the act of
long-time Burlesque entertainer Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham.
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, Rally II wheels
without trim rings, 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 Plymouth Road Runner, but 72,287 were sold during the
1969 model year, with 6,833 of them being The Judge. The rarest GTO
was the Ram Air IV Judge convertible - only five were built.
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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
A new option was Pontiac's 455 HO engine (different from the
round-port offerings of the 1971-72 cars), available now that GM had
rescinded its earlier ban on intermediates with engines larger than
400. The 455, a long-stroke engine also available in the full-size
Pontiac line as well as the Grand Prix, was dubiously rated by
Pontiac as only moderately stronger than the base 350 HP 400 cu. in.
and less powerful than the 366 HP Ram Air III. Curiously, per the
Pontiac brochure of the time, the same spec 455 installed in the
Grand Prix model was rated at 370 horsepower. The camshafts used in
the Ram Air III and the GTO 455 HO were the same. For example the
manual transmission 455 HO's used the same 288/302 duration cam as
the Ram air III. The 455 was rated at 360 hp (270 kW) at 4,300 rpm.
Its advantage was torque: 500 lb·ft (678 N·m) at 2,700 rpm. A
functional Ram Air scoop was available. 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 (4.8 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 mpg-US
(26 L/100 km; 11 mpg-imp) of gasoline,
compared to 10 mpg-US (24 L/100 km; 12 mpg-imp)-11 mpg-US
(21 L/100 km; 13 mpg-imp) 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 power 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" knob 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 233 1970 GTOs were factory built with this rare option
including 212 hardtop coupes and 21 convertbiles, all were "YS"
400ci 350 hp/with either four-speed manual or Turbo Hydra-matic
transmissions. This particular GTO in the commercial was Palladium
Silver with a Black bucket interior. It was unusual in several
respects as it also had the under-dash "RAM AIR" knob just to the
right of the VOE knob, and it sported '69 JUDGE stripes, as a few
very-early '70 GTOs could be ordered with. It also had a Turbo
Hydra-matic transmission, remote mirror, Rally II wheels, A/C, Hood
Tach, and a new-for-1970 Formula steering wheel. A few 'VOE'
mufflers were "Hand-made" for the remaining cars; this occurred in
2006 and 2007, and they are now available from Waldron Antique
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 CID 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
colour for the '70 Judge, but any GTO color was available on The
Judge. Striping was relocated to the upper wheel well brows.
An Orbit Orange 1970 GTO 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 car, owned by the studio, was
not depicted as a Judge; however, in reality it WAS a RAIV powered
Judge. They mentioned the 455 engine as it projected a more powerful
offering to the public.
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. Of those 3,797 Judges built, only 168 were ordered in the
Convertible form: RA III, RA IV and 455HO. The general consensus is
that six of the 168 built were ordered with the 1970-only D-Port
455HO 360 hp (270 kW) engine, a no-cost option, which explains the
conflicting production figures over the years as to how many were
built; 162 vs. 168. The '69/'70 'Round-Port' RA IV engine, a
derivative of the '68 1/2 'Round-Port' RA II engine, was the most
exotic high-performance engine ever offered by PMD and
factory-installed in a GTO or Firebird. The 1969 version had a
slight advantage as the compression ratio was at 10:75:1 as opposed
to 10.5:1 in 1970. It is widely-known that PMD was losing $1,000 on
every RA IV GTO and Firebird built, and the RA IV engine was highly
under-rated at 370 hp (280 kW). Overall, only a precious 37 RA IV
GTO Convertibles were built in 1970: (24) 4-Speeds and only (13)
automatics. Of the (13) '70 GTO RA IV/Auto Convertibles built only a
precious six (6) received the Judge option. One of those, a
#'s-Matching Atoll Blue/Blue/White top example was bid to $240K @
the May 2009 Mecum Auctions in Marengo, Illinois, and did NOT sell.
Th low bid was attributed to the stagnant economy, and that
particular car is documented back to the original owner in Pewaukee,
Wisconsin. The three-speed manual, nor A/C, was not available with
the RA IV engine, and the standard axle ratio was 3.90, with the
4.33 being a low-cost option. The GTO remained the third
best-selling intermediate muscle car, out-sold only 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).
Here comes the Judge 1971
A new corporate edict, aimed at preparing GM for no-lead
gasoline, forced an across-the-board reduction in compression
ratios. The Ram Air engines did not return for 1971. The standard
GTO engine was still the 400 CID V8, but now with 8.2:1 compression.
Power was rated at 300 hp (220 kW) at 4,800 rpm and torque at 400 lb·ft
(542 N·m) at 3,600 rpm. An engine option was the 455 CID V8 with
four-barrel carburettor, 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 (250 kW) at 4,800 rpm and 480 lb·ft (651 N·m) at
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.
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1971 GTO. Notice elongated front end , or "nose". The bumper was Endura and
the hood stretched with scoops relocated to the leading edge of the hood for
better airflow. This picture taken at Rock Falls Raceway, Eau Claire, Wisconsin,
July 2001 as part of the GTOAA Nationals held in Red Wing, MN.
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, the mold used to produce the
spoiler broke, and 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).
Power, now rated in SAE net hp terms, was down further, to 250 hp
(190 kW) at 4,400 rpm and 325 lb·ft (441 N·m) at 3,200 rpm torque
for the base 400 engine. The optional 455 had the same rated power
(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 (220 kW) at
4,000 rpm and 415 lb·ft (563 N·m) at 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."
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 triangular
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
The standard 400 CID 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 CID 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. Also, eight (8) 455SD Grand Ams
were also built for testing, and eventually all were destroyed as
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 CID (5.7 L) V8
with 7.6:1 compression and a single four-barrel carburetor. It was
rated at 200 hp (150 kW) at 4,400 rpm and 295 lb·ft (400 N·m) at
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 at 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
Pontiac had planned to offer a 1975 GTO, again based on the
compact Ventura and powered by a Pontiac-built 350 CID 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 CID 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 CID 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
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
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.
The Pontiac GTO was relaunched in the United States in 2004,
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. It
was also Pontiac's first American import since the 1993 Pontiac
The GTO was produced by GM's Holden subsidiary in the suburb of
Elizabeth, South Australia. It was 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 was 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 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. The 18,000
units was the production limit for the model at the Australian
Initially in 2004, the car was offered in several colors. These
being Barbados Blue Metallic, Cosmos Purple Metallic, Quicksilver
Metallic, Phantom Black Metallic, Impulse Blue Metallic, Torrid Red,
and Yellow Jacket.
40 years of GTOs. 1965 Pontiac GTO and 2005 Pontiac GTO
GM had high expectations to sell 18,000 units, but the Monaro-based
GTO received a lukewarm reception in the U.S. The styling was
frequently derided by critics as being too "conservative" and
"anonymous" to befit either the GTO heritage or the current car's
performance. In addition, the GTO faithful felt 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, Dodge Magnum and the new Ford
Mustang, which all featured more traditional "muscle" aesthetics.
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.
To help squelch comments about the car's appearance, the hood
scoops that originally were slated for production in 2004, were
pushed into production as part of an over-the-counter Sport
Appearance Package. The 2004 Sport Appearance Package also included
a taller and more angular rear spoiler as well as deeper inset
Closing out the 2004 model year was the W40 package. Rumored to
be a stillborn 40th anniversary package,
it gave the buyer an exclusive paint color called Pulse Red, red GTO
embroidery on the seats, and a grey colored gauge cluster. The last
794 2004 GTOs were built with the W40 package.
69 Pontiac GTO Judge Commercial
The 2005 model year continued with the addition of standard hood
scoops, split rear exhaust, and late in the year, optional 18 inch
(45.7 cm) wheels. The major change for 2005 was the replacement of
the LS1 engine with the LS2 engine. This 5,967 cc (364.1 cu in)
motor increased power and torque in the GTO to 400 hp (300 kW) with
400 lb·ft (542 N·m) torque. With this improved powerplant, Pontiac
claimed the car capable of 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.7 seconds and
a 13.0 second quarter mile at 105 mph (169 km/h) (automatic transmission). Car and
Driver magazine tested the car at 4.6 seconds 0-60 mph and
13.0 seconds at 106 mph (171 km/h) for the quarter mile,
so the claims seem justified. Dashboard gauge graphics were also
revised. The optional dealer installed Sport Appearance Package
became available and differed visually by having a different lower
rear fascia that sported quad chrome exhaust tips, louder aggressive
sounding mufflers, a modified spoiler, a modified front lower fascia
extension, recessed SAP Grilles, and modified rocker panels. This
package was available from GM as an accessory in red, silver, black,
or primer for other color cars. Nonetheless, production was scaled
back to 11,069, 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. Customers had the option
to order their GTO without hood scoops, though only 24 were produced
For 2006, two additional colors were added to the line up, Spice
Red Metallic and Brazen Orange Metallic, while Midnight Blue
Metallic and Yellow Jacket were dropped. Changes for 2006 included
revised blacked-out tail lamps, illuminated steering wheel radio
controls and an interior power door lock switch. The climate control
button for the A/C also had the word "Defrost" added to it for the
2006 model year. Along with the 2005 model, the 2006 GTO was
equipped with the 400 hp (300 kW), 6.0L engine.
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. This should have come as
no surprise since this generation GTO was only intended to be
produced for those 3 years from the beginning of the program.
The final production numbers of the 2006 Pontiac GTO are 13,948
cars, an increase from 11,069 from the previous model year.
The last Pontiac GTO, which was also the very last Monaro-based
coupe produced, came off the assembly line in Australia on June 14,
production for all three years was 40,808 vehicles.
The Racer's Group Pontiac GTO in 2006
- Joey Scarallo currently drives a Pontiac GTO for Group A
Racing in the Speed World Challenge GT Series.
- Battery Tender/MCM Racing currently uses a GTO in the Rolex
Sports Car Series GT class.
- David Pearson drove a 1971 GTO in the Winston Cup Series.
More Images of the
1973 Pontiac GTO sport coupe
Another Pontiac GTO Coupe
Have Your Say
Pictures of your car
Send a picture of your car attached to this
tell us a little about it and we'll show it here.
How is it that I am researching Maverick Graber and I find GTO?
I am selling this Maverick for a friend and I am a Pontiac freek. I have three
64 full size cars and a 66 GTO and many more. My whole family drives Pontiacs.
Very nice to meet more Pontiac people that are into just having fun and are open
to other cars. Thanks for all the good energy. Rick
what an amazing car rmmmm rmmm
the new gto is gangsta !!!!!!!!
hello iv built a few models, now a 1970 funny car soon but i just like looking at
it the only difference is the bump
I love G.T.Os they are awesome and so does my boyfriend!!!
1969 best year to get a gto truly the best car i have ever
seen love the history!
i love this car!
My dad has a 1966 GTO
have a 2006 GTO and I'm currently adding to it's
modifications. I do hope they don't discontinue the make, I am wanting them to
do either a hardtop convertible or soft-top.....either way at least give me one
more make and model!!!!!!
I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF SOMEONE KNOWS REALLY INTERESTING FACTS
ABOUT THE 006 BECAUSE I AM DOING A PROJECT ON IT FOR SCHOOL.? BY.JOSH
the best pontiac GTO is the 1966 pontiac GTO because it looks
nice from all angles, it gives off a nice sound and it can go fast.
this is cool site but i would put more pics on it
I looking for 1966
to 1974 Pontiac GTO coupe that is in running order
Andrew.l. @ sendit.nodak.edu
i love gtos...im buying a 65 for me and a 2005 for my
Hi, your information on the 1967 GTO is a little off.
It had three engines is correct, The two optional were HO 360 hps and Ram Air at
360 hps the latter had functional air scoop different exhaust system plus the
internal differences. It only came with a 4:33 gear.and was a $1100.00 option. I
bought one in Holeyoke Mass in May of 1967 from Cartalli Pontiac Cadillac.
IF ANYBODY KNOWS THE INTERIOR DIMENSIONS OF THE 1967 GTO,
SPECIFICALLY THE TRUNK SPACE, I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW THEM. I AM WRITING A NOVEL
THAT CONTAINS A CAR LIKE THIS, AND I NEED TO KNOW THESE FACTS. MY E-MAIL ADDRESS
IS LUVGIRAFFES @ JUNO.COM. THANKS FOR THE HELP