1966 Pontiac GTO

The G.T.O.

Another of the proto-type vehicles that for ever changed the North American auto market was the 1964 Pontiac GTO. And the fact that this car ever got to market is just another proof that begging for forgiveness is often times better than asking for permission.

As we have seen with the Corvette, General Motors management had a policy not to support racing in any way. One of the facets of this policy was the rule that no model based on the GM A Body (Pontiac Tempest, Oldsmobile Cutlass, et al) could have an engine larger that the venerable 330 cid V8. The story goes that Pontiac Div chief John DeLoren was out at the GM proving grounds in Milford MI with engineers Bill Collins and Russ Gee when they decided to see if the new 389 cid V8 and its transmission could fit in the new front engine, rear drive Tempest. It did and the car was a beast!

So, Pontiac proposed to install the 389 V8 in the Tempest body and support it with heavy duty suspension and appropriate transmission and sell it not as a MODEL but as an OPTION. Strictly speaking Pontiac was not violating the policy. GM approved the sale of this “option.” GM marketing felt that sales of this “GTO” would max out 5,000 units. But it was going to be built.

GM management in this case was told the “GTO” stood for Grand Tempest Option. The outside market was, of course, told it was inspired by the Ferrari 250 Gran Turismo Omologato. But what’s in a name? The sale of this “option” was approved and the

North American car scene as never been the same. By the way, marketing predictions were slightly inaccurate. Pontiac sold 32,450 GTO’s that first model year.

The entire package for 1964 cost $295.00 US and included the 389 cid (6 L) V8 rated at 325 bhp with a single carter AFB four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, chromed wheel covers and air cleaner, seven blade clutch fan, a floor mounted three speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter, stiffer springs, large diameter front sway bar, wider wheels with 7.50 x 14 redline tires, hood scoops, and GTOP Badges. Additional upgrades were available that could push the price of the convertible to cost about $4500 (US) and it weighed in at about 3500 lbs (1600 kg).

In 1966 the GTO became a separate Pontiac model rather than being just an option. The body was redesigned showing a more curvaceous rear quarter and is generally regards as the cleanest GTO model. It featured a slightly tunneled backlight. The tail light featured a rare louvered cover seen only on the GTO. Although it was a little bigger and a little wider, the `66 still rode on a 115 in wheelbase. An industry first featured plastic front grill replacing the pot metal of previous years. The instrument cluster was built around four pods and the dash featured walnut veneer trim.

Pontiac heavily advertised the `66 as the GTO Tiger but on the street in was known as the “goat.” The “goat” sold 96, 946 units in 1966 the highest of any GTO model year.