The first true muscle car with attitude–this was how the Pontiac GTO rolled during its arrival in the 1960s. Sporting a V8 engine and a racy trim like a boss, the GTO was built for what it stands for: Gran Turismo Omologato, an Italian term for an official Grand Tourer class car. However, this world-famous muscle car was in hiatus for three decades until its comeback in 2004–with more power and stylish features than ever.
1964-1967: The Pontiac Tempest option
Envisioned to emphasize street performance despite General Motors’ factory-sponsored auto racing ban in 1963, the Pontiac GTO braved the rules and shone as GM’s A-Body platform, leveling with the Ferraris of its time. It served first as an option package for the Pontiac Tempest, either as a hardtop or a convertible. During its early years, the GTO underwent several styling and mechanical changes and gained high sales for the GM.
1968-1973: Indestructible GTO
A more curvaceous, semi-fastback GTO with a shorter wheelbase debuted in 1967. It boasted of its clean, minimalist, and tough redesign features, concealed headlights and wipers, and the body-color Endura front bumper, which made the GTO almost indestructible. However, towards the end of this gen, the sales dipped due to the energy crisis, leaving consumers disheartened in buying high-maintenance muscle cars.
1974: The new Pontiac Ventura
Along came the Pontiac Ventura, which replaced the Tempest as the GTO package’s base. The package included a three-speed manual transmission, powered by 5.7 L V8 engine at 200 hp at 4,400 rpm. This option could be for a two-door sedan or hatchback coupe with impressive interiors. Ride and handling were improved drastically with the radial tuned suspension and tuning options.
1975-1998: The planned revival
GM decided to discontinue the GTO option, replacing it with the Buick V8 engine for the Pontiac Ventura. However, Pontiac planned to revive the GTO; its prototype was applied to several models, but these cars did not gain popularity during this time. Thus, GTO was temporarily out of the scene.
2004: The powerful comeback
The revival of the GTO happened six years after, as a rebadge of the Holden Monaro, a two-door coupe in Australia. There, the new breed of GTOs were assembled,but did not become a hit when they arrived in the United States. Critics said that the body was too conservative for a race car with such class. Muscle cars from competitors also stole the scene from the pioneering model. Massive restyling and engine overhaul was then done to achieve the GTO trademark. Its new LS2 engine with increased power and torque gave it the edge it needs; it also became more sporty and stylish.
2006: The GTO had to go
Interior and exterior upgrades were done this year: from blacked-out tail lamps to more efficient power seats. However, GM decided to make the 2006 model year as the last for the GTO. Although it has something to do with the new airbag deployment guidelines, the sales also dipped. Still, the GTO model left a legacy that GM could collaborate with other divisions to create superb, top-of-the-line automobiles.