|| The Pontiac GTO may have been the first true muscle car,
but that distinction has never been enough to assure it an uninterrupted
production run. Already, the GTO has used up two lives. Introduced in
1964, the original went through six generations before dying off after
the 1974 model year. Always a rear-wheel-drive car, it was sold as both
a two-door hardtop and a convertible with an assortment of big V8s.
Then, after a 30-year hiatus, Pontiac resurrected the GTO for the 2004
model year. There was no convertible body style this time, but the car
was at least a proper rear-drive, two-door coupe. Power initially came
from the 5.7-liter LS1 V8, but Pontiac swapped in the larger 6.0-liter
LS2 V8 the following year.
The LS2 took the GTO up to a cool 400 horsepower, but between the 2+2
coupe's high price and dull styling, Pontiac simply couldn't sell enough
of them. As a result, the Pontiac GTO was discontinued after the 2006
model year, though we doubt this will be the last you'll see of this
original Pontiac GTO was nicknamed "the
Goat" as much
for the letters in its name as for its defiant, stripped-to-the-basics
personality, the 2004-2006 incarnation was so much more refined
and upscale that to call it a Goat would almost have been an insult.
Many of the old car's charms were also lost in the translation,
not the least of which was its affordable price tag: The new coupe
started in the low $30Ks -- hardly an attainable sum for young,
cash-strapped enthusiasts. Exterior design was another weak point,
as this GTO shared nearly all of its body panels with the conservatively
styled, Australian-market Holden Monaro coupe on which it was based.
Still, when it came to acceleration, there was no denying the reborn
GTO's status as a full-on muscle car. Equipped with the LS1 V8 rated
for 350 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, 2004 models could get to 60 mph
in 5.5 seconds and blaze through the quarter-mile in 14 seconds flat
-- quicker than any of the original GTOs. More impressive are the 2005
and 2006 models, which have the LS2 V8 rated for 400 hp and 400 lb-ft
of torque, shaving over half a second off the quarter-mile time.
Although the Pontiac GTO was plenty comfortable for highway cruising,
its soft suspension really wasn't tuned to handle this much power.
With its sluggish reflexes, excessive body roll and weak brakes, its
dynamics were no match for the sharper-handling competitors in this
price range. Had the car been priced $5,000 or so less, these faults
might have been forgivable.
Legend has it that Pontiac stole the GTO name from the equally legendary
Ferrari 250 GTO, a car whose name was an acronym for "Gran Turismo
Omologato." Save for the "detuned" 1973 and 1974 models,
just about any Pontiac GTO from the original era is considered collectible
and will bring a high price at auction, provided it's in good condition
and has a matching numbers engine (meaning the car still has the original
factory engine). Convertibles are rarer than hardtops. The ostentatious
GTO Judge model, sold in both body styles, is also less common. Among
1960s' GTOs, models with one of the Ram Air packages are most prized,
while the 1970 year saw the GTO's performance peak with the availability
of a massive 455-cubic-inch V8 good for 500 lb-ft of torque.