Pontiac GTO

Even though it wasn't the first muscle car model in United States, Pontiac GTO started competition between American carmakers for the entire muscle car market. Pontiac Division of General Motors built the classic GTO from 1964 to 1974, in a production run that marked the 1960s and 1970s era.

This beautiful model was a combined effort from three leading engineers in the company - Russell Gee, Bill Collins and John DeLorean. At the time, it seemed racing cars were relicts of history in General Motors concept. The top management issued banned all divisions from designing models with auto racing performances.

Up to this point, Pontiac created vehicles based on performance and confirmed on a racing track. When the ban took place, a new strategy was to put emphasis on overall street performance thus attracting younger people.

Pontiac GTO fundamental concept started as a redesigned more powerful Tempest model. Believing in the judgment of his best engineers, Pontiac General Manager Elliot Pete Estes supported the project despite the clear General Motors internal policy violations.

It was a huge gamble on his reputation, since he was now responsible for the results. Many in the company didn't believe the market for such cars exists, so the initial production was limited to 5,000 vehicles. John DeLorean came up with the name after seeing Ferrari 250 GTO in action. GTO actually stood for Gran Turismo Omologato or in English, Grand Tour Homologated. It represents officially certified vehicles for racing in one of the most famous class.

Pontiac GTO began as an option package for the Pontiac Tempest, with the most expensive price around $4,500. It was offered in the two door coupe, hardtop coupe and convertible option. The power performance was based on 389 cu in V8 engine capable of generating 325 horsepower. Equipped with a single Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust, chromed valve covers, chromed air cleaner, seven blade declutching fan and floor shifted three speed manual transmission Pontiac GTO provided excellent road handling experience.

In order to further enhance the impression designers added wider wheels with redline tires, hood scoops and special GTO badges. Optional equipment included the standard power and convenience parts, ranging from Super Turbine 300 automatic transmission, Tri-Power carburetion engine, metallic drum brake linings, limited-slip differential, stronger cooling system to complete handling package.

Pontiac GTO weighed around 3,500 and still managed to produce excellent results in official testing. Car Life review proved a great quarter mile time of 14.8 seconds with a top speed of 99 mph. But some minor flaws popped out as well during the tests.

Driver remarks indicated relatively slow steering and inadequate drum brakes. It didn't bother average buyers which loved the new GTO model design. Car sales more than doubled the original estimates by the end of first year, making total sales at 32,450 units. Pontiac GTO still carries the reputation of a first true muscle car in the collector community.

During the early muscle car era full size vehicles dominated the market. Pontiac management understood the potential of upgrading a big block engine into an intermediate frame vehicle at a reasonable price. This strong performance machine ignited the rivalry between General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The muscle car industry soon began and became unavoidable part of American automotive history.

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