Sell a classic car 1964-1971 Pontiac GTO. The Pontiac GTO is an automobile that was built by Pontiac in generations from 1964 to 1974.
The first generation GTO was a muscle car of the 1960s and 1970s era.
The Pontiac GTO is considered by some to have started the trend with all four domestic automakers offering a variety of competing models.
For the 1964 and 1965 model years, the GTO was an optional package on the intermediate-sized Pontiac Tempest (VIN 237…).
The GTO became its own model from 1966 to 1971 (VIN 242…).
It became an option package again for the 1972 and 1973 intermediate Le Mans.
For 1974, the GTO option package was offered on the compact-sized Ventura.
The GTO was selected Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1968.
By the early 1960s, Pontiac’s advertising and marketing approach was heavily based on performance. With GM’s ban on factory-sponsored racing, Pontiac’s managers began to emphasize street performance.
In his autobiography Glory Days, Pontiac chief marketing manager Jim Wangers, Bill Collins and Russ Gee were responsible for the GTO’s creation.
It involved transforming the upcoming second-generation Pontiac Tempest into a “Super Tempest” with a larger 389 cu in (6.4 L) Pontiac V8 engine from the full-sized Pontiac Catalina and Bonneville in place of the standard 326 cu in (5.3 L) V8.
By promoting the big-engine Tempest as a special high-performance model, they could appeal to the speed-minded youth market.
Pontiac general manager Elliot “Pete” Estes approved the new model, although sales manager Frank Bridge, who did not believe it would find a market, insisted on limiting initial production to 5,000 cars.
The name is an Italian abbreviation for Gran Turismo Omologato, (grand tourer homologated”) which means officially certified for racing in the grand tourer class.
The first Pontiac GTO was an option package for the Pontiac Tempest, available with:
- The two-door coupe
- Convertible body styles.
The US$295 package included a 389 cu in (6 l) V8 rated at 325 bhp (242 kW) at 4800 rpm with:
- A single Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust
- Chromed valve covers and air cleaner
- Seven-blade clutch fan
- A floor-shifted three-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter
- Stiffer springs
- Larger diameter front sway bar
- Wider wheels with 7.50 × 14 redline tires
- Hood scoops
- GTO badges.
Optional equipment included:
- A four-speed manual
- Super Turbine 300 two-speed automatic transmission
- More powerful “Tri-Power” carburetion (three two-barrel Rochester 2G carburetors) rated at 348 bhp (260 kW)
- Metallic drum brake linings
- Limited-slip differential
- Heavy-duty cooling, ride and handling package,
- The usual array of power and convenience accessories
With every available option, the GTO cost about US$4,500 and weighed around 3,500 lb (1,600 kg).
A tachometer was optional and was placed in the far right dial on the dash.
1964 Pontiac GTO Hardtop
Most contemporary road tests such as Car Life criticized the slow steering, particularly without power steering, and inadequate drum brakes, which were identical to those of the normal Tempest.
Frank Bridge’s sales forecast proved inaccurate: the GTO package total sales were 32,450.
Throughout the 1960s, Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac, a Pontiac car dealer in Royal Oak, Michigan, offered a special tune-up package for Pontiac 389 engines.
Many were fitted to GTOs, and the components and instructions could be purchased by mail, as well as installed by the dealer.
Many of the Pontiacs made available for magazine testing were equipped with the Bobcat kit.
Milt Schornack helped improve the performance enhancement package.
The components of the kit varied, but generally included:
- Parts to modify the spark advance of the distributor, limiting spark advance to 34–36° at no more than 3,000 rpm
- A thinner copper head gasket to raise compression to about 11.23:1
- Special intake manifold gaskets to block the heat riser to the carburetor
- Larger carburetor jets
- Locking rocker nuts to hold the hydraulic valve lifters at their maximum point of adjustment
Properly installed, the kit could add between 30 and 50 horsepower.
It required high-octane superpremium gasoline of over 100 octanes to avoid spark knock with the higher compression and advanced timing.
Adhesive “Royal Bobcats” stickers were also included.
The Tempest line, including the GTO, was restyled for the 1965 model year
3.1 inches was added to the overall length while retaining the same wheelbase and interior dimensions.
- Pontiac’s characteristic vertically stacked quad headlights
- Overall weight increased about 100 lb (45 kg)
- The brake lining area increased nearly 15%.
- Heavy-duty shocks were standard, as was a stronger front antisway bar
- The dashboard design was changed
- An optional rally gauge cluster added a more legible tachometer and oil pressure gauge
- An additional option was a breakerless transistor ignition.
The 389 engines received revised cylinder heads with re-cored intake passages and high rise intake manifolds
Rated power increased to 335 hp (250 kW) at 5,000 rpm for the base four-barrel engine; the Tri-Power engine was now rated 360 hp (270 kW) at 5,200 rpm.
The ‘S’-cammed Tri-Power engine had slightly less peak torque rating than the base engine 424 lb·ft (575 N·m) at 3,600 rpm versus 431 lb·ft (584 N·m) at 3,200 rpm. Transmission and axle ratio choices remained the same.
The three-speed manual was standard, while two four-speed manual transmissions or two-speed automatic were optional.
The restyled GTO had a:
- New simulated hood scoop.
- Metal underhood pan and gaskets to open the scoop, making it a cold air intake.
The scoop was low enough that its effectiveness was questionable but it allowed more of the engine’s roar to escape.
Another cosmetic change was the black “egg-crate” grille.
Car Life tested a 1965 GTO with Tri-Power and what they considered the most desirable options of:
- Close-ratio four-speed manual transmission
- Power steering
- Metallic brakes
- Rally wheels
- limited-slip differential
- “Rally” gauge cluster
The total sticker price was US$3,643.79.
With two testers and equipment aboard they recorded:
- 0–60 miles per hour (0–97 km/h) in 5.8 seconds
- The standing quarter mile in 14.5 seconds
- A trap speed of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h)
- An observed top speed of 114 miles per hour (182.4 km/h)
A heavier convertible ran 0–60 mph in 7 seconds and through the quarter mile in 16.1 seconds at 89 miles per hour (142.4 km/h).
Major criticisms of the GTO continued to center on its:
- Slow steering
- Mediocre brakes
Sales of the GTO more than doubled to 75,342.
It spawned many imitators, both within other GM divisions and its competitors.
1966 Pontiac GTO convertible
The GTO became a separate Pontiac model (model number 242) in 1966
The entire GM “A” body intermediate line was restyled that year.
- More curvaceous styling with kicked-up rear fender lines for a “Coke-bottle” look
- Slightly “tunneled” backlight
The tail light featured a rare louvered cover and Overall length grew only fractionally, to 206.4 in (5,243 mm), still on a 115 in (2,921 mm) wheelbase, while width expanded to 74.4 in (1,890 mm). Rear track increased one inch (2.5 cm).
Overall weight remained about the same.
The GTO was available as a:
- Pillared coupe
- A hardtop
- A convertible.
- Plastic front grilles
- New Strato bucket seats were introduced
- Higher and thinner seat backs
- Contoured cushions for added comfort and adjustable headrests were introduced as a new option.
- The instrument panel was redesigned and more integrated
- The ignition switch moved from the far left of the dash to the right of the steering wheel
- Four pod instruments continued
- The GTO’s dash was highlighted by walnut veneer trim.
Engine and carburetor choices remained the same as the previous year
A new engine was offered that saw few takers: the XS option consisted of a factory Ram Air set up with a new 744 high lift cam. Approximately 35 factories installed Ram Air packages are believed to have been built, though 300 dealerships installed Ram Air packages are estimated to have been ordered.
Sales increased to 96,946, the highest production figure for all GTO years.
1967 Pontiac GTO Coupe
GTO Styling Changes
In 1967 the changes included:
- The louver-covered taillights were replaced with eight tail lights
- Four on each side
- Rally II wheels with colored lug nuts were also available in 1967
- The GTO emblems located on the rear part of the fenders were moved to the chrome rocker panels.
- Also, the grill was changed from a purely split grill to one that shared some chrome.
The 1967 GTO came in three body styles:
- Hardtop – 65,176 produced
- Convertible – 9,517 produced
- Sports coupe – 7,029 produced
- The Tri-Power carburetion system was replaced with a Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor
- The 389 engine received a larger cylinder bore (4.12 inches, 104.7 mm) for a total displacement of 400 CID (6.5 L) V8.
The 400 cubic inch engine was available in three models:
- High output
The economy engine used a two-barrel carburetor rather than the Rochester Quadrajet and produced 265 hp (198 kW) at 4400 rpm, and 397 lb·ft (538 N·m) at 3400 rpm.
The standard engine produced 335 hp (250 kW) at 5000 rpm, and the highest torque of the three engines at 441 lb·ft (598 N·m) at 3400 rpm.
The high output engine produced the most power for that year at 360 hp (270 kW) at 5100 rpm and produced 438 lb·ft (594 N·m) at 3600 rpm.
New Safety Equipment
The 1967 model’s new safety equipment including:
- A new energy-absorbing steering column was accompanied by an energy-absorbing steering wheel
- Padded instrument panel
- Non-protruding control knobs
- Four-way emergency flashers
- A shoulder belt option was also featured
- The brake master cylinder was now a dual reservoir unit with a backup hydraulic circuit.
The two-speed automatic transmission was also replaced with a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic TH-400.
The TH-400 was equipped with a:
- Hurst Performance dual-gate shifter called a “his/hers” shifter
- Front disc brakes were also an option in 1967.
GTO sales for 1967 totaled 81,722.
Second Generation 1968
1968 Pontiac GTO
General Motors redesigned its A-body line for 1968
- More curvaceous with a semi-fastback styling.
- Shortened wheelbase to 112.0 in (2,845 mm) on all two-door models.
- Overall length was reduced 5.9 inches (150 mm) and height dropped half an inch (12 mm), but overall weight was up about 75 lb (34 kg).
- Pontiac abandoned the stacked headlights in favor of a horizontal layout.
- Hidden headlights were available at extra cost.
- The concealed headlights were a popular option.
- The signature hood scoop was replaced by dual scoops on either side of a prominent hood bulge extending rearward from the protruding nose.
- A unique body-color Endura front bumper.
It was also designed to absorb impact without permanent deformation at low speeds.
Pontiac touted this feature heavily in advertising
A GTO could be ordered with “Endura delete”, in which case the Endura bumper would be replaced by a chrome front bumper and grille from the Pontiac Le Mans.
Powertrain options remained substantially the same as in 1967, but the standard GTO engine’s power rating rose to 350 hp (260 kW) at 5,000 rpm.
At mid-year, a new Ram Air package, known as Ram Air II, became available
- Freer-breathing cylinder heads
- Round port exhaust
- The 041 cam.
Another carry-over from 1967 was the four-piston caliper disc brake option. While most 1968 models had drum brakes all around, this seldom ordered option provided greater stopping power. The 1968 model year was also the last year the GTOs offered separate crank operated front door vents.
The standard options on the 1968 model included:
- Concealed windshield wipers
- A hood-mounted tachometer, located in front of the windshield and lit for visibility at night
- An in-dash tachometer
- Redline bias-ply tires
A new option was:
- Radial tires for improved ride and handling
However, very few were delivered with the radial tires because of manufacturing problems encountered by supplier B.F. Goodrich
The radial tire option was discontinued after 1968
Hot Rod tested a four-speed GTO equipped with the standard engine and obtained a quarter mile reading of 14.7 seconds at 97 mph (156 km/h) in pure stock form
Motor Trend clocked a four-speed Ram Air with 4.33 rear differential at 14.45 seconds at 98.2 mph (158.0 km/h) and a standard GTO with Turbo-Hydramatic and a 3.23 rear axle ratio at 15.93 seconds at 88.3 mph (142.1 km/h).
Royal Pontiac, located in Royal Oak, Michigan, offered a 428/Royal Bobcat conversion of the 1968 GTO. For $650.00. a 390-horsepower 428 cubic inch engine was installed in place of the 400
Like all 1968 passenger vehicles sold in the United States, GTOs now featured:
- Front outboard shoulder belts (cars built after January 1, 1968)
- Side marker lights
To comply with the new 1968 federal vehicle emissions standards, the GTO was now equipped with emissions controls.
Now facing competition both within GM and from Ford, Dodge, and Plymouth—particularly the low-cost Plymouth Road Runner—the GTO won the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award.
Sales reached 87,684 units
1969 Pontiac GTO convertible
The 1969 model included:
- Front door vent windows
- A slight grille
- Taillight revision
- The ignition key was moved from the dashboard to the steering and the gauge faces changed from steel blue to black
- The rear quarter-panel mounted side marker lamps changed from a red lens shaped like the Pontiac “arrowhead” emblem to one shaped like the broad GTO badge
- Front outboard headrests were made standard equipment on all GTOs built after January 1, 1969.
The previous economy engine and standard 350 hp 400 CID V8 remained. The 360 hp (270 kW) 400HO was upgraded to the Ram Air III, rated at 366 hp (273 kW) at 5,100 rpm.
The top option was the 370 hp (280 kW) Ram Air IV.
This engine featured:
- Special header-like high-flow exhaust manifolds
- High-flow cylinder heads
- A specific high-rise aluminum intake manifold
- Larger Rochester QuadraJet four-barrel carburetor
- High-lift/long-duration camshaft
- Various internal components capable of withstanding higher engine speeds and power output.
The Ram Air IV utilized hydraulic lifters.
The higher-revving Ram Air IV’s advertised power peak was actually listed at 5,000 rpm—100 rpm lower than the less-powerful Ram Air III.
A new model called “The Judge” was introduced. The name came from a comedy routine, “Here Come de Judge”, used repeatedly on the Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In TV show.
Advertisements used slogans like “All rise for the Judge” and “The Judge can be bought”.
The Judge was to be a low-cost GTO, stripped of features to make it competitive with the Plymouth Road Runner. The package was US$332
More expensive than a standard GTO, it included:
- The Ram Air III engine
- Rally II wheels without trim rings
- Hurst shifter (with a unique T-shaped handle)
- Wider Tires
- Various decals
- A rear spoiler
Pontiac claimed that the spoiler had some functional effect at higher speeds.
The Judge was initially offered only in Carousel Red, but midway into the model year a variety of other colors became available.
The GTO was surpassed in sales both by the Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 and the Plymouth Road Runner
72,287 were sold during the 1969 model year, with 6,833 of them getting the Judge package.
1970 Pontiac GTO “Judge”
The Tempest line received another facelift for the 1970 model year.
- Hidden headlights were deleted in favor of four exposed round headlamps outboard of narrower grille openings.
- The nose retained the protruding vertical prow theme
- The GTO retained the Endura urethane cover around the headlamps and grille.
- The suspension was upgraded with the addition of a rear anti-roll bar
- The front anti-roll bar was slightly stiffer
- The result was a useful reduction in body lean in turns and a modest reduction of understeer.
The base engine was unchanged for 1970, but the low-compression economy engine was deleted and the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV remained available, although the latter was now a special-order option.
A new option was Pontiac’s 455 HO engine (different from the round-port offerings of the 1971–72 cars), available now that GM had rescinded its earlier ban on intermediates with engines larger than 400.
The 455, a long-stroke engine also available in the full-size Pontiac line as well as the Grand Prix, was dubiously rated by Pontiac as only moderately stronger than the base 350 HP 400 CID and less powerful than the 366 hp (273 kW) Ram Air III.
The Pontiac brochure indicated the same 455 installed in the Grand Prix model was rated at 370 horsepower (280 kW). The camshafts used in the Ram Air III and the GTO 455 HO were the same.
For example, the manual transmission 455 HO’s used the same 288/302 duration cam as the Ram Air III. The 455 was rated at 360 hp (270 kW) at 4,300 rpm. Its advantage was torque: 500 lb·ft (678 N·m) at 2,700 rpm. A functional Ram Air scoop was available.
Car and Driver tested a heavily optioned 455, with a four-speed transmission and 3.31 axle and recorded a quarter mile time of 15.0 seconds with a trap speed of 96.5 mph (155.3 km/h). The car Life test car had the Turbo-Hydramatic 455 with a 3.55 rear differential, clocked 14.76 seconds at 95.94 mph (154.40 km/h), with identical 6.6 seconds 0–60 mph acceleration.
A new and short-lived option for 1970 was the vacuum operated exhaust (VOE), which was vacuum actuated via an underdash lever marked “exhaust”.
The VOE was designed to:
- Reduce exhaust backpressure
- Increase power and performance
It also substantially increased exhaust noise.
The VOE option was offered from November 1969 to January 1970.
Pontiac management was ordered to cancel the VOE option by GM’s upper management following a TV commercial for the GTO that aired during Super Bowl IV on CBS January 11, 1970.
In that commercial, entitled the “Humbler”, which was broadcast only that one time, a young man pulled up in a new GTO to a drive-in restaurant with dramatic music and exhaust noise in the background, pulling the “exhaust” knob to activate the VOE and then left the drive-in after failing to find a street racing opponent.
That particular commercial was also canceled by order of GM management.
Approximately 233 1970 GTOs were factory built with this rare option including:
- 212 hardtop coupes
- 21 convertibles
- All were “YS” 400ci 350 hp with either four-speed manual or Turbo Hydra-Matic transmissions
This particular GTO in the commercial was “Palladium” silver with a black bucket interior
It was unusual in several respects as it also had the under-dash “Ram Air” knob just to the right of the VOE knob, and it sported “’69 Judge” stripes, as a few very-early ’70 GTOs could be ordered with.
It also had:
- A Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission
- Remote mirror
- Rally II wheels
- A/C, hood tach
- A new-for-1970 Formula steering wheel.
The Judge remained available as an option on GTOs.
The Judge came standard with the Ram Air III, while the Ram Air IV was optional.
Though the 455 CID was available as an option on the standard GTO throughout the entire model year, the 455 was not offered on the Judge until late in the year.
Orbit Orange (actually a bright canary yellow) became the new feature color for the 1970 Judge, but any GTO color was available.
Striping was relocated to the upper wheel well brows.
The new styling did little to help declining sales, which were now being hit by sagging buyer interest in all muscle cars, fueled by the punitive surcharges levied by automobile insurance companies, which sometimes resulted in insurance payments higher than car payments for some drivers.
Sales were down to 40,149, of which 3,797 were the Judge.
Of those 3,797 Judges built, only 168 were ordered in the convertible form:
- RA III
- RA IV
The general consensus is that six of the 168 built were ordered with the 1970-only D-Port 455HO 360 hp (270 kW) engine, a no-cost option, which explains the conflicting production figures over the years as to how many were built; 162 vs. 168.
The ’69/’70 “round-port” RA IV engine, a derivative of the ’68½ “round-port” RA II engine, was the most exotic high-performance engine ever offered by PMD and factory-installed in a GTO or Firebird
The 1969 version had a slight advantage as the compression ratio was still at 10:75:1 as opposed to 10.5:1 in 1970.
Overall, only 37 RA IV GTO convertibles were built in 1970: 24 four-speeds and 13 automatics.
Of the 13 1970 GTO, RA IV/auto convertibles built only six received the Judge option.
The GTO remained the third best-selling intermediate muscle car, outsold only by the Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396/454 and Plymouth Road Runner.
1971 Pontiac GTO rear
The 1971 GTO had another modest facelift, this time with:
- Wire-mesh grilles
- Horizontal bumper bars on either side of the grille opening
- More closely spaced headlamps
- A new hood with the dual scoops relocated to the leading edge, not far above the grille.
- Overall length grew slightly to 203.3 in (5,164 mm).
A new corporate edict, aimed at preparing GM for no-lead gasoline, forced an across-the-board reduction in compression ratios. The Ram Air engines did not return for 1971. The standard GTO engine was still the 400 CID V8, but now with 8.2:1 compression.
An engine option was the 455 CID V8 with:
- Four-barrel carburetor, 8.4 to 1 compression ratio and 325 hp (242 kW) at 4,400 rpm.
- It had 260 hp (190 kW) SAE net at 4,000 rpm in the GTO and 255 hp (190 kW) SAE net in the Firebird.
This engine was not available with air induction.
The top GTO engine for 1971 was the new 455 HO with 8.4 compressions, rated at 335 hp (250 kW) at 4,800 rpm and 480 lb·ft (651 N·m) at 3,600 rpm.
This engine produced more NET horsepower than any other engine in its history. That would imply the 400 CID V8 Ram Air engines had less than 310 hp net.
For 1971, the standard rear-end was an open 10 bolt. Positraction 10 bolt rear ends were available as an option on 400 CI engine equipped GTO’s, while all 455 CI GTO’s were available with a 12 bolt open or optional 12 bolt Positraction rear-end.
Motor Trend tested a 1971 GTO with the 455, four-speed transmission, and 3.90 axles, and obtained a 0–60 mph time of 6.1 seconds and a quarter mile acceleration of 13.4 seconds at 102 mph (164 km/h).
The Judge returned for a final year
Standard equipment being the Mountain Performance package was the 455 HO.
Only 357 were sold
- 17 convertibles
Only 10,532 GTOs were sold in 1971
661 of which were non-Judge equipped convertibles.
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