A scheme was devised
to work around the corporate roadblock and shortly after the
introduction of the 1964 models a LeMans with a special G.T.O. (Gran
Turismo Ologatto) package was released. While the GM brass
had forbade a super model, DeLorean and Wangers noted that there was
no such limitation on an option package! Within days of
its release the press wrote reports that seemed like they came from
Pontiac's own PR department. Early fans gave the GTO the nickname of
“goat”, a true term of endearment from those who appreciated the risks
taken by those within the Division.
Under the hood was a
base 389cid V8 with 325hp, a four-barrel intake and dual-exhausts.
Optionally available was a tri-power set-up that upped the horsepower
to 348. A three-speed transmission was standard, with either an
optional automatic or four-speed available at extra cost. All
transmissions came up through the floor for a sporty appearance.
Automatics got a 2.93:1 rear axle ratio, with the manual shift
transmissions coming with a 3.08:1 rear end. Later in the model year,
optional gears up to 4.11:1 were available for dealer installation.
weighed in with a 24:1 ratio, but a quicker 20:1 was available for
more responsive handling. Power steering was also available but
only a 17.5:1 ratio was offered with this convenience. Other
suspension modifications included strong shocks and springs, and the
wheels were shod with 7.50" x 14" redline tires.
Adding to the GTO
aura were exclusive all-vinyl interiors with front bucket seats and
full bench rear, instrument panel decor appliques, and at a slight
additional cost, a center-shift console. The GTO package could
only be ordered for three LeMans body styles: the two-door sedan,
hardtop and convertible. A new type of American automobile was
born, the Muscle Car.
The response from
the public was strong and performance-minded Pontiac fans flocked to
the showrooms to get their dream car. A big engine in a small
car body and chassis was a formula that other carmakers would soon be
copying. While the head honchos in the GM headquarters building
were not all that happy with the end-run played out by Wangers and
DeLorean, they quietly acquiesced when the sales started pouring in.
What this meant was
that the 1965 edition could be that much bolder. From the
outside there was no mistaking a GTO from the base Le Mans. Even
though both shared the all new body sheet metal and basic styling
traits, identifying the GTO was a little easier than in the first year
A new hood with
simulated hood scoops, special blacked out front grille, unique pin
striping, strong series identification, and 7.75" x 14" red-line tires
graced all GTOs. Under the hood the base GTO engine gained 10hp to
335, while the tri-power set-up was still rated at 348hp. In addition
to the extra horsepower, a dress-up kit was included in the package
which included chrome valve covers, oil filler cap and the air cleaner
Other GTO touches
included a grab-handle, deluxe steering wheel, interior identification
and a Hurst shifter for manual transmission units. The result
was an increase in production.
Motors realized the influence that the GTO had on other models of the
Pontiac division, as well as the muscle cars now being marketed by
other GM Divisions, and allowed the car that started the craze to have
its own identity. For 1966, GTO was no longer an option package
for LeMans, but was considered a model in its own right. It was
still offered in three body styles, pillared coupe, hardtop coupe and
convertible. While styling was basically an update from 1965,
it's flowing lines suggested a bit more luxury and sophistication.
The most important feature was the performance, and the best just got
better. While the base 389 with a four-barrel intake was still listed
at 335 horses, the tri-power saw a compression boost to 10.75:1, which
resulted in the horsepower moving to 360 with either manual or
word of mouth and even a popular song by the
Beach Boys ("Little
GTO"), sales continued to climb as performance minded buyers were
flocking to dealerships. Even if they couldn’t afford a GTO, the Le
Mans and other Pontiac models benefited from the increased traffic.
Not only was the brand winning in the showroom, a number of GTO’s were
campaigned in special NHRA competition classes, and, of course, on
nearly every local back street in America.
Although the GTO was
considered an independent model, its basis was still the
Tempest/LeMans package. A mild facelift greeted buyers in 1967,
but the big news wasn’t sheet metal or chrome trim, but rather a new,
larger V8. The new 400 cubic inch mill was still rated at the
same 335hp as the 389, and the performance version also maintained the
previous rating at 360hp.
continued to grow on the street and on the strip, and increased sales
at Pontiac were attributed to the "halo" of the GTO. Some of the
thunder of GTO started to fade a little this year as a major amount of
promotion went into Pontiac’s newest performance entry, the Firebird.
Built (along with its sister the Camaro) to grab some of the strong
sales of the smash-hit Ford Mustang, it would be Firebird’s time to
shine, but true performance enthusiasts still had their love affair
with the “Goat”.
GTO continued to be
a major player in the performance muscle car scene for several more
years. After 1971, Federal restrictions and major insurance increases
relegated all muscle cars to becoming more appearance than
performance, and the last of the "real" GTOs was seen in 1974.
Because the 1964 GTO
was a performance option package on the LeMans series, there is no way
to distinguish a real GTO just from the vehicle identification number,
or VIN. However, due to the exclusive interior trim used by GTO,
consulting the build plate attached to the firewall/cowl assembly
under the hood can help sort out a car’s authenticity. Six
exclusive all-vinyl trims were used, which were coded 214, 215, 216,
217, 218 and 219. These represented black, dark blue, saddle,
dark aqua, medium red and parchment respectively. A similar
situation also exists for the 1965 GTOs with exclusive soft trim codes
running from 213 to 218.
When the GTO became a
separate model in 1966, both the VIN and the body tag reflected this
status. A typical VIN for a 1966 GTO wold be 242176P123456. The
first “2" represented the Pontiac line, while the most important
digits were the “42" that followed indicating a GTO. The following two
digits, “17" in this case, indicated the body style (two-door
hardtop), while the “6" showed the model year, and the “P: the
assembly plant, followed by the unit sequence. On the body tag under
the hood, the “Style” code would also indicate the GTO model, starting
with a “66" for the model year, followed by 24217, the two again
representing the Pontiac, the “42" for GTO, and the “17" the two-door
hardtop. This same coding system was used for 1967 also, with a “7" or
“67" replacing the “6" or “66" as the model year indicator.
Engine block numbers
can also be referenced to ensure authenticity. ELABORATE The
body tags also include information about the original soft trim and
exterior paint colors, as well as the week and the month the car was
The GTO was very
popular when new and a good number of these cars were built.
Survivors, though, are becoming harder to find. First owners
usually bought the cars to drive and enjoy them, not to cherish them
as collector’s items. When a new and more powerful version was
introduced, the first editions were sold off and often fell into the
hands of less experienced--and less caring--drivers, which resulted in
the loss of many through neglect, abuse and plain old age. By
the end of the 1970s, when these cars were just 15-16 years old, the
importance of the GTO started to come to light and those that were
still around were soon being cared for and preserved for their
heritage. By the time the first GTOs celebrated their 25th
Anniversary in 1989, several organizations had been formed to serve as
a home base for GTO fans.
it’s been nearly forty years since the first Pontiac GTOs arrived on
the scene, and today authentic versions are among the hottest trading
muscle cars on the market. First year convertibles in premium
condition can easily fetch well over the $30,000 mark, even more with
with the 3x2bbl setup. Comparable hardtops and
coupes command $20,000 plus.
The 1965 model year
also enjoys a strong following. One might thin that with the later
models, prices might falter a bit, however, these are among the most
popular of the breed, and when properly equipped can often fetch
prices higher than the earlier models.
As a whole, muscle
car prices peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s, followed by a
general decline that affected the entire collector car market. During
the latter part of the 1990s, these American powerhouses led a
resurgence in collector car values, but the last several months have
seen a general leveling off of GTO values, and indeed all muscle cars
appear to be taking a breather after the increases of the late
nineties through 2002.