10 Reasons The Pontiac GTO Was Even Better Than Everyone Remembers

The Pontiac GTO is the first American muscle car; everything that came after it, including the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, were clones. While most American muscle cars were unique and spectacular in their own right, nothing compares to the GTO’s appearance and strong engine. This is also true because the Goat headed the all-American muscle vehicle brat pack.



The GTO was a hugely popular car that ran from 1964 until 1974. When the oil embargo hit hard, the nameplate was removed, only to be reintroduced, although unsuccessfully, in 2004 before being discontinued again in 2006. Is there a chance that this automobile may be revived in the next years? Let’s check whether we know these ten interesting facts about the Pontiac GTO.

10 DeLorean’s Brainchild

Do you remember John DeLorean? Who constructed the DeLorean DMC, which was a failure at the time but is now considered a cult classic? And then he was caught for possessing forbidden and illicit narcotics, resulting in the loss of his company, job, and life?

This was, after all, the man behind the goat. Of course, he worked with another major thinker, Jim Wangers, who wasn’t even working for Pontiac at the time but was an executive for the McManus advertising firm.

In 1964, the Tempest was due for a revamp, and Pontiac was all about racing-related advertising. As a result, they included a large engine in the revised Tempest to appeal to the young obsessed with speed and all things fast.

9 Ferrari inspiration

DeLorean provided the GTO moniker, which he derived from the Ferrari GTO. GTO stood for Gran Turismo Omologato, “homologated for racing in the GT class” in Italian. Ferrari was naturally enraged, but there was no legal infringement because they had not applied for the name’s rights.

Ferrari fans were also dissatisfied since, no matter how quick the Pontiac GTO was, it couldn’t compare to the Ferrari GTO on or off the track. While there were no copyright breaches, everyone knew that Pontiac had stolen the moniker from Ferrari, and few thought it was cool. Later on, though, Goat supporters coined the moniker GTO – Pontiac Grand Tempest Option – for the car.

Related: Here’s Why The Pontiac GTO Is A Muscle Car For The Masses

Isn’t it more probable that a GTO Judge in your mind is sporting this particular shade of orange-red paint? There’s a reason for this, though: not only does the automobile look best in it, but it was originally only available in “Carousel Red” paint. Despite its cool name, Carousel Red was more of a deep orange than a red, and it fits in with the other bright, almost psychedelic paint schemes popular on muscle vehicles at the time (like MOPAR’s Sublime Green).

Carousel Red was introduced with the GTO Judge to distinguish the muscle vehicle from the competition, giving it a distinctive and unabashed in-your-face personality. Carousel Red was the sole color option; later in the GTO Judge’s existence, other color options were available, but Carousel Red remained the most badass and iconic color choice.

7 $337 judge option

The newest generation of the GTO entered the muscle car market full force in 1968, with (perhaps) some of the most aggressive and badass looks it would ever see, regaining some of the sales it had been losing. However, in a market flooded with fantastic muscle cars at the time, the GTO would need something genuinely unique to stand out.

After witnessing the success of the Plymouth Road Runner’s basic strategy of providing the best performance without the use of pricey and superfluous “luxury” accessories, a Pontiac committee decided that the GTO might benefit from a similar package and created The Judge accordingly. However, John DeLorean preferred a more upmarket and attention-getting GTO, believing that this would result in the needed sales. Ordering The Judge was a $337 charge on top of the GTO’s introductory price when released in 1969, and it was neither a pricey luxury package nor a stripped-down machine.


6 Used A Hurst T-Handle Shifter

Hurst developed a lot of unique shifters for Detroit muscle cars, and their T-Handle design is one of the most recognizable in their repertoire. The judge, which came standard with a three-speed manual gearbox, brought plenty of flare to the GTO both inside and out, but the Hurst T-Handle shifter was by far the trendiest and most emblematic of muscle vehicles of the period.

The Hurst shifter is one of the most amazing innovations in aggressively grasping and rowing gears. It doesn’t add any actual performance to the car, but it does make it more exciting to drive and release all that V8 power.

Related: A Detailed Look Back At Hurst

5 Standard 366HP Ram

Of course, the GTO wouldn’t be a muscle car legend if it didn’t have its share of huge V8s, and The Judge delivered on that front. The second-generation GTO was already a beast in the ordinary form. Still, it came from the factory with a ground-breaking 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 producing 350 horsepower, placing it among the greatest muscle cars of the time.

Things got even better on The Judge, with the 400 cu in V8 was modified into the Ram-Air III, which boosts power to 366 hp due to cold air induction. For an extra $390 on top of The Judge, you could have the massive Ram Air IV, which is rated at 370 horsepower (but it’s rumored to produce significantly more in reality).


4 Born by Chance

Since GM had severe limitations concerning engine and vehicle sizes, the GTO was technically a cheat car. The Tempest, on which the GTO was based, was an A-body vehicle with a small footprint. Pontiac broke GM’s restrictions by placing a full-sized 6.3-liter V8 engine plant in the GTO.

GM let it slip since the GTO was “launched” as a trim of the Tempest, and the Pontiac GTO frenzy came to be. Frank Bridge, a sales manager, didn’t think the GTO would sell and insisted on a 5,000-unit limited run. Thankfully, GM’s Elliot Estes was all for it, and the GTO set sales records right away.


3 The OG Muscle Car

When it comes to huge engines in tiny automobiles, the 1949 Oldsmobile with its Rocket V8 power plant was the first to hit the market. The next car would most likely be a 1955 Chrysler with a 300-horsepower Hemi V8 engine.

On the other hand, the Pontiac GTO is credited with starting the muscle car era and the Mopar wars in America. No one wanted a regular automobile after the Pontiac GTO came. Even though it was first advertised as a Tempest Le Man’s variant, the Pontiac GTO has the undisputed distinction of the first muscle car.

Related: Coolest ’80s Car Design Features We Still Miss


2 Hatchback GTO

The public had never seen an A-body GTO hatchback, but the X-cars got one in 1973. As a result, the 1974 GTO was also available in that form. The vehicle is capable of carrying such a large cargo that would not fit in a traditional coupe. When open, the hatch was made up of an integrated decklid that was kept up by hydraulic struts, which set it apart from Venturas with a typical deck lid and trunk.

A completely trimmed luggage space and fold-down rear seat were located beneath the hatch. The advent of the hatchback made camping in a GTO easier in 1974, but Pontiac went a step further by selling an extra-cost fabric tent that fitted to the car’s open hatch area. It claimed to be tear-, flame-, water-, and mildew-resistant.

Related: 5 Cars That Made Pontiac Great (5 That Ruined It)

1 Ultra Rare ’69 Convertible

The GTO Judge’s famous ’69 body was available as a convertible, and it’s one of the most distinctive shapes the package took. In 1969, the Judge’s first and most successful year in sales, about 6,800 hardtop units were manufactured, while just 108 convertible Judges were sold.

The convertible judge came with a power-operated top and all of the other amenities of the package, but with the added benefit of a top-down driving experience. Regardless, the convertible is one of the most sought after judges.

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