The ancestor of all “muscle cars” – this is how many dubbed the legendary Pontiac GTO. Whether this is true or not is very controversial, however, it’s hard to imagine a list of 10 American muscle cars where the GTO would not be, if not in the first place, then in the top three for sure.
Source: Mecum Auctions
Back in 1964, a car was born which was destined to become the progenitor of an entire era and go down in the history of the automotive industry. This model was a slightly upgraded version of a conventional coupe, which was equipped with a powerful engine. At Pontiac, people expected that the machine would sell a maximum of five thousand copies, but the reality turned out to be different. Just think – the idea of fine customization of the automobile by installing a more powerful engine was the beginning of an entire era! It was the start of the muscle car triumphal march.
A whole team of outstanding specialists, including John DeLorean, worked on the model. The power unit was designed by Bill Collins, the design was done by Russ Gee, and the suspension went to DeLorean, who was then the chief engineer of the entire division. The name was also picked by DeLorean. GTO stood for Gran Turismo Omologato. Actually, this model should not have been born at all. At General Motors, Pontiac was considered a brand for established, mature buyers, and there was no question of sports models. In addition, in 1963, GM decided that their vehicles would no longer race. To realize the project, the team of creators had to cheat. Rather than create a new model, they added a 389cc engine to the lineup as an option for the already-produced Tempest LeMans model. The option, or rather the whole package, was called the GTO and was quickly put on sale in 1964. For only an additional $295, in addition to a powerful engine, the buyer received a stiffer suspension, a powerful front anti-roll bar, a new exhaust system, and wide 7.5″ tires. The GM management was furious, of course, but then the Pontiac team cheated again and sent brand new automobiles to key dealerships, immediately gaining 5 thousand pre-orders for the model, asking for only $2850. Then, GM did not dare to cancel the release of the vehicle and gave the green light to production. For the first incomplete year, 32,450 machines were sold.
After another update, the body shapes had become more rounded and streamlined. The rear lights had also changed. Recognizing the growing popularity of the model, Pontiac moved it from a Tempest version to a full-fledged model for ’66. The company’s sales rose at that point to 96,946 units, by far the highest single-year figure ever achieved by a true muscle car. Other divisions of GM also began copying the machine with hotter versions of their intermediates. And while all of GM’s midsize vehicles were restyled for ’66, none got the beauty of the voluptuous contours of the GTO’s Coca-Cola bottle-style model.
The wheelbase of 66’s release remained intact, while the overall length and curb weight changed only slightly. But styling highlights included a sleek new roofline and cool fluted tail lights. The unique grille featured plastic mesh inserts, an industry first. The standard hood shape of the 1966 model remained not particularly functional, but Tri-Power engines could once again get an OTC fresh air kit, and some were equipped with Ram Goat’s first factory air. A small number of GTOs were ordered with a new boss option: weight-reducing red plastic inner fender liners. Inside, the new instrument volume was made of real wood.
Like all legendary cars, the Pontiac GTO also had a nickname. The youth called the muscle car “goat”. There are several versions of this: according to one of them, the word was formed as a result of a simple rearrangement of letters, and according to another, it is an abbreviation for the words Gas Oil and Tire or Great One of All Times.
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