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Pontiac GTO

Published: 21st Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Pontiac GTO
Engine is reliable and the spares situation is good too Engine is reliable and the spares situation is good too
PVC clad interior is quite good and car is pretty civilised PVC clad interior is quite good and car is pretty civilised
Believe it or not but the GTO pioneered plastic bumpers… Believe it or not but the GTO pioneered plastic bumpers…
Brutal styling comes as standard and the GTO is no mean performer itself Brutal styling comes as standard and the GTO is no mean performer itself
Rag top models are sought after but check the hood for usual deterioration Rag top models are sought after but check the hood for usual deterioration

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What is a Pontiac GTO?

Introduced in 1964 as an option within the Tempest range, this intermediate bodied muscle car was powered by the largest engine Pontiac had to offer at the time a 389ci V8, which had powered many a race car to success in previous years on the NASCAR tracks. The GTO is generally credited as being the first in a long line of specialised manufacturers performance saloons heralding the start of the muscle car era. Available as a two-door hardtop coupe, Sports coupe or convertible and priced between $2751- $3500 the GTO was also the best selling muscle car of all time with 96,946 sold in 1966 alone.


The concept of the GTO, an abbreviation for Gran Turismo Omologato borrowed from Ferrari, was the brain child of Pontiac’s General Manager John Z. DeLorean (remember him?). He decided it would be an excellent idea to install a 389ci V8 into its Tempest Le Mans Sport Coupe and convertible. With uprated suspension, brakes, quick steering, floor shift, and lots of options such limited slip differential, heavy duty radiator, and metallic brake linings it was a real flyer and definitely appealed to the same young buyers that Ford targeted with the Mustang. If the Mustang had not been launched at the same time, then GTO sales would probably have gone on to reach an even higher zenith. With an excellent advertising campaign overseen by drag racing ad man Jim Wangler, the GTO was an instant hit with 32,450 cars sold in the first year which far exceeded expectations. The car seated five people in comfort and had a performance of 0-60mph of under 9.5 seconds with a top speed of 115mph.

With a steel unitary body construction, the GTO technical specification featured coil sprung suspension front and rear, drum brakes (front discs an option) and transmission options were either three or four-speed manual or three speed automatic. In 1966 the GTO became a model its own right and received a facelift with more flowing body styling. The very attractive frontal aspect incorporated the Pontiac trademark bisected full width front grille (first seen back in 1958 on the Bonneville) with twin stacked headlamps which arrived a year before in 1965. The car still sported the 389ci V8 engine though depending on carburation set-up offered 335- 360bhp, though a 400ci V8 became available in 1967 ‘economy’ rated at 255bhp or tuned to 360bhp with Ram Air package. Interiors sported vinyl covered bucket seats with wooden dashboards, power steering and air conditioning was an option and convertibles had power hoods.

In 1968 the third generation GTO was introduced on GM’s new Abody platform with an all-new bodyshell design in either two-door hardtop fastback coupe with popular period Coke bottle styling or convertible and a pronounced snout nose. The stacked twin headlamps gave way to more conventional in-line design with the ‘Hideaway’ option available. Engine options were the 400ci V8 rated at 350bhp or 360bhp with Ram Air and 455ci V8 in various states of tune.

A GTO Judge model arrived in 1969 of which the first 5000 produced all came painted in Carousel Red, which strangely enough takes on more of an orange hue! The model got its name from the popular American TV show Rowan and Martin Laugh In and the hip soul song “Heah come da Judge” by Pigmeat Markham and its base engine was a 400ci V8 Ram Air III rated at 366bhp. The rear deck spoiler was questionably aesthetically pleasing, though the new Endura front bumpers caused much interest. Colour co-ordinated with the bodywork, the bumpers were made from high density Urethane and impact resistant against minor knocks, the age of the plastic bumper had arrived!

In 1970 the GTO received a facelift, which didn’t do it any favours at all from any angle, especially the frontal aspect and by 1972 the Judge and convertible were discontinued with the GTO reverting back to an option package just as it had started in 1964. Sales were now more targeted at the extremely successful Firebird series of cars introduced in 1969, which was already flying the high performance flag for Pontiac.


These are big powerful cars and hard cornering can be a tad wallowy on the earlier models with the ride quality being on the softer side and is more akin to that of a Cadillac which is no bad thing. Later GTO’s offer more taut handling and with the disc brake option they definitely have the edge over stopping than all round drums, which from high speed you need to be extra alert! With the colloquially known “His & Hers” Hurst dual gate shifter, in manual shift the GTO then becomes a lively performer for “Him” on favourite winding B roads, but for “Her” automatic shift means that local shopping trips to the supermarket become a much more relaxed and leisurely cruise and there’s ample accommodation for the family. Convertibles offer the best of both world’s, wind in your hair motoring on sunny days and an impressive turn of speed as well.


In the USA these cars are fetching top dollars at the moment, though in the UK they may not fetch as much. A rough car needing a full restoration will be worth £2000 - £3000, while one in excellent condition will be £10,000 - £12,000. Concours cars command a higher premium upwards of £15,000.

What To Look For

  • Fortunately the GTO doesn’t suffer from many inherent problems and it was fundamentally a well built car. Places to check around the bodywork are centered around where water splashes up from the wheels, behind the front and rear wings, wheel arches and bottoms of the doors.
  • Boot floors are also susceptible to rot, as are the front and rear footwells. If you can, pull the carpets back to get a better idea of the condition of the floor pans. O The area around the fuse box can also be liable to rusting problems, and don’t forget to check the metal around the front and rear screens which can be another potential problem area
  • The air box grille just ahead of the front windscreen is where water ingress can lead to rot. A tell tale sign are flakes of rust appearing under the dashboard. It’s also worth inspecting the area on the pillars where the doors are hung for signs of rotting.
  • Generally speaking its cars that have been lying idle out in the open for long periods of time which will harbour increasing rust problems.
  • Running gear on the GTO enjoys longevity with engine and gearboxes reasonably bullet proof. However, a neglected poorly serviced car with a worn rattley smokey engine suggests camshaft or bottom end problems.
  • Fortunately engine and transmission parts are readily available from specialists both here and across the Atlantic.
  • These are large and heavy cars and while generally reliable, the suspension components can take a pounding over the years and may need a rebuild.
  • Many cars may have been raced in the past and modified, so it’s worth making sure that you know exactly what you are buying, originality is important and will reflect the car’s value. Many owners have replaced the original Rochester Quadrajet carburettor (used between 1968-1972) with a Holley or similar. When the Judge model was introduced it was very sought after by enthusiasts, and nowadays it’s not unknown for a GTO Judge to have been cloned. They came with a boot-mounted spoiler and a heavy duty gas strut, and there was a Judge emblem on the glovebox compartment.
  • Vinyl trimmed interior are pretty hard wearing, though replacement seat covers are now available, as well as other items of trim such as headlinings, steering wheels, door panels, etc, though they will be reproductions from specialist suppliers. Original body panels are becoming quite scarce nowadays, but fortunately there are many reproductions available, though the tail light panels are harder to source.


Clearly one of the great muscle cars of the era from the Pontiac stable with an avid enthusiast following. While some purists prefer the very first cars based on the Tempest 1964-1965, the more refined and appealing styling of the GTO 1966- 1967, especially in convertible form are still much sought after nowadays. The GTO and Judge 1968-1972 also have an excellent status, with preference going to ’68-’69 year models.

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