The original idea for the GTO came from a Pontiac engineer named John DeLorean. DeLorean would go on to become the head of Chrysler and then later on build his own car company and the infamous stainless steel DeLorean DMC-12 automobile.
The first generation GTO was sold from 1964 to 1967. It started out as a trim option on the Pontiac LeMans, but quickly became its own model. By packaging a big V8 engine into a 2 door coupe, convertible, or hardtop, the GTO became the first muscle car, which most define as a relatively light car that has a big and powerful engine.
With the top Tri-Power engine and the 4 speed transmission, there were few cars on the street that could match the performance of a GTO. Zero to 60 times were impressive, around 6 and a half seconds, and it could do the quarter mile in under 15 seconds. The power steering was a must-have option considering the lackluster standard steering. There was no option for disc brakes, and the drum brakes that were initially made for the Pontiac Tempest - the car the GTO is based on - were not good enough to stop this beast.
A Pontiac dealer in Michigan started to sell modified versions of the GTO in the 1960's and even gave them a name. The GTO Bobcat could best its standard version in the zero to 60 test by over a second. These originals are rare and highly sought after today.
The 1965 Pontiac GTO was even better than the 1964, with a rare hood scoop option that could be made functional with a dealer-installed option that is quite rare to find today. Performance on these cars was becoming legendary.
The GTO got a major facelift for the 1968 model year. With the Ram Air II package, the performance on the new GTO was better than just about any other domestic car.
In 1969, Pontiac introduced the Pontiac GTO Judge. The Judge was a high performance model. It came standard with the Ram Air II engine and a Hurst shifter, along with wider tires. It may have been one of the first cars designed to be raced in the street. About 7,000 of The Judges sold in the first year.
Although The Judge was available in all standard GTO colors in 1970, the default color was now an eye-catching Orbit Orange. It was a car with this color and The Judge package that was featured in the iconic movie "Two-Lane Blacktop" starring James Taylor and Dennis Wilson. The performance on these cars may have been too great, as insurance companies increased premiums to levels often higher than the payments on the car.
In 1972 the GTO was dropped as its own model and changed back to a trim package on the LeMans. 1974 would see the end of the GTO, and the end of an era.
The GTO name was given new life in 2004, as an American version of the Holden Monaro was sold as the all new Pontiac GTO. With the Corvette LS1 or LS2 engine, these cars had stellar performance figures but were overshadowed by other sports cars hitting the market at the same time and greedy dealers putting huge markups on them. They failed to sell very well, and the GTO name was retired once again after 2006.
The GTO is considered a classic, whether it was made from 1964 to 1974 or 2004 to 2006. If you would like to buy a classic or used newer GTO, try looking on eBay first to see what the market prices are and get a general idea of what you should be paying. Heck, you might even want to just buy the car on eBay, it's not nearly as hard as you might think and most sellers will know how to deal with things like titles and registration and shipping better than any private seller in your local area. There are also lots of GTO parts on eBay if you're interested in restoring one or just fixing some minor problems in the GTO you may already own.
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