The Pontiac GTO was an automobile built by Pontiac from 1964 to 1974, and by General Motors Holden in Australia from 2004 to 2006. It is often considered the first true muscle car. From 1964 until midway through 1973 it was closely related to the Pontiac Tempest and for the 1974 model year it was based on the Pontiac Ventura. The 21st century GTO is essentially a left hand drive Holden Monaro, itself a coupe variant of the Holden Commodore.
The name, which was DeLorean's idea, was inspired by the Ferrari 250 GTO, the highly successful race car. It is an acronym for Gran Turismo Omologato, Italian for homologated for racing in the GT class. The name drew protest from purists, who considered it close to sacrilege.
The GTO was technically a violation of GM policy limiting the A-body intermediate line to a maximum engine displacement of 330 CID (5.4 L). Since the GTO was an option package and not standard equipment, it could be considered to fall into a loophole in the policy. 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 no more than 5,000 cars. Had the model been a failure, Estes likely would have been reprimanded. As it turned out, it was a great success.
Most contemporary road tests used the more powerful Tri-Power engine and four-speed. Car Life clocked a GTO so equipped at 0-60 miles per hour (0-97 km/h) in 6.6 seconds, through the standing quarter mile in 14.8 seconds with a top speed of 99 miles per hour (158 km/h). Like most testers, they criticized the slow steering, particularly without power steering, and inadequate drum brakes, which were identical to those of the normal Tempest. Car and Driver incited controversy when it printed that a GTO that had supposedly been tuned with the "Bobcat" kit offered by Royal Pontiac of Royal Oak, Michigan, was clocked at a quarter mile time of 12.8 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph (179 km/h) on racing slicks. Later reports strongly suggest that the Car and Driver GTOs were equipped with a 421 CID (6.9 L) engine that was optional in full-sized Pontiacs. Since the two engines were difficult to distinguish externally, the subterfuge was not immediately obvious. Frank Bridge's sales forecast proved inaccurate: the GTO package had sold 10,000 units before the beginning of the 1964 calendar year, and total sales were 32,450.
The precise components of the kit varied but generally included pieces to modify the spark advance of the distributor, limiting spark advance to 34-36° at no more than 3,000 rpm (advancing the timing at high rpm for increased power), a thinner head gasket to raise compression to about 11.23:1, a gasket to block the heat riser of the carburetor (keeping it cooler), larger carburetor jets, high-capacity oil pump, and fiberglass shims with lock nuts to hold the hydraulic valve lifters at their maximum point of adjustment, allowing the engine to rev higher without "floating" the valves. Properly installed, the kit could add between 30 and 50 horsepower (20-40 kW), although it required high-octane superpremium gasoline of over 100 octane to avoid spark knock with the higher compression and advanced timing.
The Tempest line, including the GTO, was restyled for the 1965 model year, adding (7.9 cm) to the overall length while retaining the same wheelbase and interior dimensions. It sported Pontiac's characteristic vertically stacked quad headlights. Overall weight increased about 100 pounds (45 kg). Brake lining area increased nearly 15%. The dashboard design was improved, and an optional rally gauge cluster ($86.08) added a more legible tachometer and oil pressure gauge.
The 389 engine had revised cylinder heads with re-cored intake passages, improving breathing. Rated power increased to 335 hp (250 kW) @ 5,000 rpm for the base 4—barrel engine; the Tri-Power was rated 360 hp ((268 kW) @ 5,200 rpm. The Tri-Power engine had slightly less torque than the base engine, 424 ft·lbf (574 N·m) @ 3,600 rpm versus 431 ft·lbf (584 N·m) @ 3,200 rpm. Transmission and axle ratio choices remained the same.
The restyled GTO had a new simulated hood scoop. A rare, dealer-installed option was a metal underhood pan and gaskets that allowed the scoop to be opened, transforming a cosmetic device into a functional cold air intake. The scoop was low enough that its effectiveness was questionable (it was unlikely to pick up anything but boundary layer air), but it at least admitted cooler, denser air, and allowed more of the engine's formidable roar to escape.
Car Life tested a 1965 GTO with Tri-Power and what they considered the most desirable options (close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, power steering, metallic brakes, rally wheels, 4.11 limited-slip differential, and Rally Gauge Cluster), with a total sticker price of 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 with a trap speed of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), and an observed top speed of 114 miles per hour (182.4 km/h) at the engine's 6,000 rpm redline. Even Motor Trend's four-barrel test car, a heavier convertible handicapped by the two-speed automatic transmission and the lack of a limited slip differential, 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 (ratio of 17.5:1, four turns lock-to-lock) and mediocre brakes. Car Life was satisfied with the metallic brakes on its GTO, but Motor Trend and Road Test found the standard drums with organic linings to be alarmingly inadequate in high-speed driving.
Sales of the GTO, abetted by a formidable marketing and promotional campaign that included songs and various merchandise, more than doubled to 75,342. It was already spawning many imitators, both within other GM divisions and its competitors.
Pontiac's intermediate line was restyled again for 1966, gaining more curvaceous styling with kicked-up rear fender lines for a "Coke-bottle" look, and a slightly "tunneled" backlight. The tail light featured a rare louvered cover, only seen on the GTO. Overall length grew only fractionally, to 206.4 inches (524 cm), still on a 115 inch (292 cm) wheelbase, while width expanded to 74.4 inches (189 cm). Rear track increased one inch (2.5 cm). Overall weight remained about the same. The GTO became a separate model series, rather than an optional performance package, with unique grille and tail lights, available as a pillared sports coupe, a hardtop sans pillars, or a convertible. Also an automotive industry first, plastic front grilles replaced the pot metal and aluminum versions seen on earlier years. New Strato bucket seats were introduced with higher and thinner seat backs and contoured cushions for added comfort and adjustable headrests were introduced as a new option. The instrument panel was redesigned and more integrated than in previous years with the ignition switch moved from the far left of the dash to the right of the steering wheel. Four pod instruments continued, and the GTO's dash was highlighted by walnut veneer trim.
Engine choices remained the same as the previous year. A new rare engine option was offered: the XS engine option consisted of a factory Ram Air set up with a new 744 high lift cam. Approximately 35 factory installed Ram Air packages are believed to have been built, though 300 dealership installed Ram Air packages are estimated to have been ordered. On paper, the package was said to produce the same as the non-Ram Air, Tri Power car, though these figures are believed to have been grossly underestimated in order to get past GM mandates.
Sales increased to 96,946, the highest production figure for all GTO years. Although Pontiac had strenuously promoted the GTO in advertising as the "GTO Tiger," it had become known in the youth market as the "Goat." Pontiac management attempted to make use of the new nickname in advertising but were vetoed by upper management, which was dismayed by its irreverent tone.
The GTO also saw several mechanical changes in 1967. The Tri-Power carburetion system was replaced with a Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor. The 389 engine received a wider cylinder bore (4.12 inches, 104.7 mm) for a total displacement of 400 CID (6.6 L). The 400 cubic inch engine was available in three models: economy, standard, and high output. The economy engine used a two-barrel carburetor rather than the Rochester Quadrajet and produced at 4400 rpm, and at 4400 rpm. The standard engine produced at 5000 rpm, and the highest torque of the three engines at at 3400 rpm. The high output engine produced the most power for that year at at 5100 rpm, and produced at 3600 rpm. Emission controls were fitted in GTOs sold in California.
1967 also saw the installation of significant safety equipment as required by federal law. A new energy-absorbing steering column was accompanied by an energy-absorbing steering wheel, padded instrument panel, non-protruding control knobs, and four-way emergency flashers.
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, that permitted either automatic shifting in "Drive" or manual selection through the gears. Front disc brakes were also an option in 1967.
GTO sales for 1967 remained high at 81,722.
A unique feature was the body-color Endura front bumper. It was designed to absorb impact without permanent deformation at low speeds. Pontiac touted this feature heavily in advertising, showing hammering at the bumper to no discernible effect. Though a rare option, 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. This model year further emphasized the curvacious "coke bottle" styling, as viewed from the side.
Powertrain options remained substantially the same as in 1967, but the standard GTO engine's power rating rose to 350 hp (261 kW) @ 5,000 rpm. At mid-year, a new Ram Air package, known as Ram Air II, became available. It included freer-breathing cylinder heads, round port exhaust and the 041 cam. 'Official' power rating was not changed, although actual output was likely much higher. Another carry-over from 1967 was the 4-piston caliper disc brake option. While most 1968 models had drum brakes all around, this rare option provided greater stopping power and could be found on other GM A-Body vehicles of the same period. 1968 was also the last year the GTOs offered separate vent, or "wing", windows—and the only year for crank-operated vent windows.
Another feature was concealed windshield wipers, hidden below the rear edge of the hood. They presented a cleaner appearance and were a North American first, following British Leyland's earlier debut on Austin and Triumph models. Another popular option, actually introduced during the 1967 model year, was a hood-mounted tachometer, located in front of the windshield and lighted for visibility at night. An in-dash tachometer was also available, but the hood tachometer became something of a status symbol.
Redline bias-ply tires continued as standard equipment on the 1968 GTO, though they could be replaced by whitewall tires at no extra cost. 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. Pontiac did not offer radial tires as a factory option on the GTO again until the 1974 model.
Hot Rod tested a four-speed standard GTO 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 @ (158.0 km/h) and a standard GTO with Turbo-Hydramatic and 3.23 gears at 15.93 seconds @ 88.3 mph (142.1 km/h). Testers were split about handling, with Hot Rod calling it "the best-balanced car [Pontiac] ever built," but Car Life chiding its excessive nose heaviness, understeer, and inadequate damping.
Like all 1968 passenger vehicles sold in the United States, GTOs now featured front outboard should belts (cars built after January 1, 1968) and side marker lights.
Now facing serious competition both within GM and from Ford, Dodge, and Plymouth—particularly the low-cost Plymouth Road Runner—the GTO won Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, and sales remained strong at 87,684 (which would ultimately prove to be the second-best sales year for the GTO).
The 1969 model did not have the vent windows, had a slight grille and taillight revision, moved the ignition key from the dashboard to the steering column (which locked the steering wheel when the key was removed, a Federal requirement installed one year ahead of schedule), and the gauge faces changed from steel blue to black. In addition, the rear quarter-panel mounted side marker lamps changed from a red lens shaped like the Pontiac "V" crest 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, while the engine was in its last year. The 400 CID Ram Air III was rated at 366 hp (273 kW) @ 5,100 rpm, while the top option was the 370 hp (276 kW) Ram Air IV, which 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, plus various internal components capable of withstanding higher engine speeds and power output. Unlike the big-block Chevy and Hemi motors, the Ram Air IV utilized hydraulic lifters. As a result, it did not overheat in traffic, nor did it foul spark plugs, which set it apart from the large-displacement performance engines seen in other muscle cars.
By this time, the gross power ratings of both Ram Air engines were highly suspect, bearing less relationship to developed power and more to an internal GM policy limiting all cars except the Corvette to no more than one advertised horsepower per of curb weight. 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.
The Ram Air V was introduced in 1969. It was a special 400 block with newly designed high compression tunnel port heads and a special high rise intake manifold. A prototype GTO so equipped could go 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, and the quarter-mile time was 11.5 seconds at 123 mph (198 km/h). Ram Air Vs were not installed in GTOs at the factory; it was available only as an "over-the-counter" product, and most went to Pontiac racers of the time.
The significant event of 1969 was the launch of a new model called 'The Judge'. The Judge name came from a comedy routine, "Here Comes the 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." As originally conceived, the Judge was to be a low-cost GTO, stripped of some gimmicks to make it competitive with the Plymouth Road Runner. During its development, however, it was decided to make it the ultimate in street performance and image. The resulting package ended up being US$337.02 more expensive than a standard GTO, and included the Ram Air III engine, styled wheels, Hurst shifter (with a unique T-shaped handle), wider tires, various decals, and a rear spoiler. Pontiac claimed that the spoiler had some functional effect at higher speeds, producing a small but measurable down force, but it was of little value at legal speeds except for style. The Judge was initially offered only in "Carousel Red," but late in the model year a variety of other colors became available.
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, although it was less prominent. While the standard Tempest and LeMans had chrome grilles, 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, essentially the same bar as used on the Oldsmobile 442 and Buick Gran Sport. 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.
Another handling-related improvement was optional variable-ratio power steering. Rather than a fixed ratio of 17.5:1, requiring four turns lock-to-lock, the new system varied its ratio from 14.6:1 to 18.9:1, needing 3.5 turns lock-to-lock. Turning diameter was reduced from 40.9 feet (12.5 m) to 37.4 feet (11.4 m).
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 engine, available now that GM had rescinded its earlier ban on intermediates with engines larger than 400. The 455, a long-stroke engine taken from the full-size Pontiac Bonneville line, was only moderately stronger than the base 400 and actually less powerful than the Ram Air III. The 455 was rated at 360 hp (268 kW) @ 4,300 rpm. Its advantage was torque: 500 ft·lbf (677 N-m) @ 2,700 rpm. A functional Ram Air scoop was available, but even so equipped, a stock 455 was less powerful than the Ram Air III. 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). Car Life's Turbo-Hydramatic 455, with a 3.35 rear differential, clocked 14.76 seconds at 95.94 mph (154.40 km/h), with identical 6.6 second 0-60 mph acceleration. Both were about 3 mph (5 km/h) slower than a Ram Air III 400 four-speed, although considerably less temperamental: the Ram Air engine idled roughly and was difficult to drive at low speeds. The smaller displacement engine recorded less than 9 miles per gallon of gasoline (26.1 L/100 km), compared to 10 to 11 miles per gallon (23.5 to 21.4 L/100 km) for the 455.
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 to increase power and performance, but 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 to do some street racing. That particular commercial was also cancelled by order of GM management. Approximately (134) 1970 GTOs were factory built with this rare option, all were "YS" 400ci 350hp/Automatics. 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 remote mirror, Rally II wheels, A/C, Hood Tach, and a new-for-1970 Formula steering wheel. A few 'VOE' mufflers were "Hand-made" for the remaining cars; this occurred in 2006 and 2007, and they are now available from Waldron Antique Exhaust.
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" became the new standard color for the '70 Judge, but any GTO color was available on The Judge. Striping was relocated to the upper wheelwell brows.
An Orbit Orange 1970 GTO Judge with the 455 engine and Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was one of the featured cars in the movie Two-Lane Blacktop, which depicted a cross-country race between the new GTO and a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air.
The new styling did little to help declining sales, which were now being hit by sagging buyer interest in all musclecars and 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 and 455HO. The general consensus is that six of the 168 built were ordered with the 1970-only D-Port 455HO 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 '68 1/2 '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 @ 10:75:1 as opposed to 10.5:1 in 1970. It is widely-known that PMD was losing $1,000 on every RA IV GTO and Firebird built, and the RA IV engine was highly under-rated @ . Overall, only a precious 37 RA IV GTO Convertibles were built in 1970: (24) 4-Speeds and only (13) automatics. The three-speed manual, nor A/C, was not available with the RA IV engine. The standard axle ratio was 3.90, with the 4.33 being a low-cost option. Of the (13) '70 GTO RA IV/Auto Convertibles built, only a precious eight received the Judge option. The GTO remained the third best-selling intermediate musclecar, outsold only by the Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396/454 and Plymouth Road Runner.
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, and a new hood with the dual scoops relocated to the leading edge, not far above the grille. Overall length grew slightly to 203.3 inches (516 cm).
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. Power was rated at 300 hp (223 kW) @ 4,800 rpm and torque at 400 ft·lbf (542 N-m) @ 3,600 rpm. An engine option was the 455 CID V8 with four-barrel carburetor, 8.4 to 1 compression ratio and 325 hp (242 kW), only available with the automatic transmission. The top GTO engine for 1971 was the new 455 HO with 8.4 compression, rated at @ 4,800 rpm and 480 ft·lbf (650 N-m) @ 3,600 rpm.
Motor Trend tested a 1971 GTO with the 455, four-speed transmission, and 3.90 axle, 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, now with the 455 HO as standard equipment. Only 374 were sold before The Judge was discontinued in February 1971, including 17 convertibles—today the rarest of all GTOs.
Only 10,532 GTOs were sold in 1971.
Power, now rated in SAE net hp terms, was down further, to 250 hp (186 kW) @ 4,400 rpm and 325 ft·lbf (440 N-m) @ 3,200 rpm torque for the base 400 engine. The optional 455 had the same rated power (although at a peak of 3,600 rpm), but substantially more torque. Most of the drop was attributable to the new rating system (which now reflected an engine in as-installed condition with mufflers, accessories, and standard intake). The engines were relatively little changed from 1971.
A very rare option was the 455 HO engine, essentially similar to that used in the Trans Am. It was rated at 300 hp (224 kW) @ 4,000 rpm and 415 ft·lbf (562 N-m) @ 3,200 rpm, also in the new SAE net figures. Despite its modest 8.4:1 compression, it was as strong as many earlier engines with higher gross power ratings; yet like all other 1972-model engines, it could perform on low-octane regular leaded, low-lead or unleaded gasolines. Only 646 cars with this engine were sold.
Sales plummeted by 45%, to 5,811. (Some sources discount the single convertible and the three anomalous wagons, listing the total as 5,807.) Although Pontiac did not offer a production GTO convertible in 1972, a buyer could order a LeMans Sport convertible with either of the three GTO engines and other sporty/performance options to create a GTO in all but name. Even the GTO's Endura bumper was offered as an option on LeMans/Sport models, with "PONTIAC" spelled out on the driver's side grille rather than "GTO."
Once again an option package for the LeMans, the 1973 GTO shared the reskinned A-body with its "Colonnade" hardtop styling, which eliminated true hardtop design because of the addition of a roof pillar but retention of frameless doorwork. Rear side windows were now of a fixed design that could not be opened and in a trianglar shape. New federal laws for 1973 demanded front bumpers capable of withstanding 5 mile per hour (8 km/h) impacts with no damage to the body (5 mph rear bumpers became standard in 1974). The result was the use of prominent and heavy chrome bumpers front and rear. The overall styling of the 1973 Pontiac A-body intermediates (LeMans, Luxury LeMans, GTO and Grand Am) was generally not well received by the car buying public.
In contrast, the Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which were also derived from the intermediate A-body, were much better received because of their squared-off styling and formal rooflines with vertical windows. Pontiac's sister division, Oldsmobile, received better reviews from the automotive press and the car-buying public with the similar-bodied Cutlass.
Again, the 1973 GTO option was offered on two models including the base LeMans coupe or the LeMans Sport Coupe. The base LeMans coupe featured a cloth-and-vinyl or all-vinyl bench seat while the more lavish LeMans Sport Coupe had all-vinyl interiors with Strato bucket seats or a notchback bench seat with folding armrest. The LeMans Sport Coupe also had louvered rear side windows from the Grand Am in place of the standard triangular windows of the base LeMans.
The standard 400 CID V8 in the 1973 GTO was further reduced in compression to 8.0:1, dropping it to 230 hp (170 kW). The 400 engine was available with any of the three transmissions including the standard three-speed manual, or optional four-speed or Turbo Hydra-Matic. The 455 CID V8 remained optional but was dropped to 250 hp (186 kW) and available only with the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. The 455 HO engine did not reappear, but GM initially announced the availability of a Super Duty 455 engine (shared with the contemporary Pontiac Trans Am SD455), and several such cars were made available for testing, impressing reviewers with their power and flexibility. Nevertheless, the Super Duty was never actually offered for public sale in the GTO. Also, eight (8) 455SD Grand Ams were also built for testing, and eventually all were destroyed as well.
Sales dropped to 4,806, thanks in part to competition from the new Grand Am and the lack of promotion for the GTO. By the end of the model year an emerging energy crisis quashed consumer interest in muscle cars.
Wanting to avoid internal competition with the "Euro-styled" Pontiac Grand Am, and looking for an entry into the compact muscle market populated by the Plymouth Duster 360, Ford Maverick Grabber and AMC Hornet X, Pontiac moved the 1974 GTO option to the compact Pontiac Ventura, which shared its basic body shell and sheetmetal with the Chevrolet Nova. Critics dubbed it "a Chevy Nova in drag."
The US$195 GTO package included a three-speed manual transmission with Hurst floor shifter, heavy-duty suspension with front and rear anti-roll bars, a shaker hood, special grille, mirrors, and wheels, and various GTO emblems. The only engine was the 350 CID (5.7 L) V8 with 7.6:1 compression and a single four-barrel carburetor. It was rated at 200 hp (149 kW) @ 4,400 rpm and 295 ft·lbf (400 N·m) @ 2,800 rpm. Optional transmissions included a wide-ratio four-speed with Hurst shifter or the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic.
The GTO option was available in both the base Ventura and Ventura Custom lines as either a two-door sedan or hatchback coupe. The base Ventura interior consisted of bench seats and rubber floor mats, while the Ventura Custom had upgraded bench seats or optional Strato bucket seats along with carpeting, cushioned steering wheel, and custom pedal trim.
Bias-belted tires were standard equipment, but a radial tuned suspension option added radial tires along with upgraded suspension tuning for improved ride and handling.
Cars Magazine tested a 1974 GTO with the optional four-speed and obtained a 0-60 mph time of 7.7 seconds and a quarter mile reading of 15.72 seconds @ 88 mph (142 km/h).
Sales were an improvement over 1973, at 7,058, but not enough to justify continuing the model.
In 1975, an enterprising Pontiac dealer in the Eastern United States reportedly decided to "create" a new GTO. Sensing that the 1974 GTO should have continued on the intermediate LeMans platform rather than downsized to the Ventura line, this dealer advertised and sold an undetermined number of 1975 Pontiac GTOs. These cars were factory-ordered by the dealer as LeMans Sport Coupes equipped with the 400 or 455 CID V8s with four-barrel carburetors, Turbo Hydra-Matic transmissions, Strato bucket seats and console, power steering, power disc brakes, Rally II or Honeycomb wheels, and Radial Tuned Suspension with whitewall or white-lettered radial tires. The dealer replaced the Pontiac and LeMans nameplates with "GTO" badges inside and out. This dealer-made 1975 GTO could be ordered with any LeMans exterior/interior combination along with any other extra-cost options available on the regular LeMans.
In 1976, Jim Wangers reportedly presented a LeMans Sport Coupe as a new GTO Judge prototype with a 400 CID V8 that was painted Carousel Red to Pontiac division officials as a possible GTO revival to supplement dramatic sales increases for the Firebird Trans Am (now accounting for 50% of Firebird sales) for those buyers who wanted a sporty performance car but needed a roomier back seat and larger trunk. However, division officials turned down the idea of an intermediate-sized GTO, but the concept was considered and approved for production; not as a GTO revival, but as the 1977 Pontiac Can Am.
During the subsequent 30 years, Pontiac considered several plans to revive the GTO nameplate, but none came to fruition. In 1988, when Oldsmobile planned to create a 442 based on the Cutlass Calais, Pontiac built a prototype GTO based on the Grand Am, equipped with a Quad 4 engine. The revived 442, introduced for the 1990 model year, proved to be a low seller, leading Pontiac to quietly cancel the GTO revival.
Japanese automaker Mitsubishi marketed a GTO coupe, although it was sold in U.S. and Canada as the Mitsubishi 3000GT to avoid legal conflicts with Pontiac. Fans of the original GTO considered the appropriation of a famous muscle car by a Japanese automaker to be sacrilegious, much as sports car fans of the 1960s had been infuriated by Pontiac borrowing the name of the Ferrari racer.
During the 1999 Detroit Auto Show, a GTO concept car with a heritage-inspired Coke-bottle shape, grille, and hood scoop, was introduced to the world. It was only a design experiment and had no engine. The concept never made it into production.
The GTO was produced by GM's Holden subsidiary in the suburb of Elizabeth, South Australia. It was equipped with the Corvette's LS1 ('04) and LS2 ('05-'06) V8 engine with a choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. The same model was sold in the United Kingdom as the Vauxhall Monaro and in the Middle East as a Chevrolet Lumina SS. GM North America made a deal with Holden to produce a maximum of 18,000 vehicles per year starting in late 2003 and going through to the end of the 2006 model year. The 18,000 units was the production limit for the model at the Australian assembly plant.
GM had high expectations to sell 18,000 units, but the Monaro-based GTO received a lukewarm reception in the U.S. In a perplexing contrast to its more modern, sportier design, the styling was frequently derided by critics as being too "conservative" and "anonymous" to befit either the GTO heritage or the current car's performance. In addition, the GTO faithful felt further insulted by GM's failure to present a U.S.-built car that incorporated any design lineage from the muscular icons of the 1960s and 1970s. Given the newly revived muscle car climate, it was also overshadowed by the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Charger, Dodge Magnum and the new Ford Mustang, which all featured more traditional "muscle" aesthetics. Sales were also limited because of dealer tactics, such as initially charging large markups and denying requests for test drives of the vehicle. By the end of the year, the 2004 vehicles were selling with significant discounts. Sales were 13,569 of 15,728 cars for 2004.
To help squelch comments about the car's appearance, the hood scoops that originally were slated for production in 2004, were pushed into production as part of an over-the-counter Sport Appearance Package. The 2004 Sport Appearance Package also included a taller and more angular rear spoiler as well as deeper inset grilles.
Closing out the 2004 model year was the W40 package. Rumored to be a stillborn 40th anniversary package, it gave the buyer an exclusive paint color called Pulse Red, red GTO embroidery on the seats, and a grey colored gauge cluster. The last 800 2004 GTOs were built with the W40 package.
The 2005 model year continued with the addition of standard hood scoops, split rear exhaust, and late in the year, optional 18 inch (45.7 cm) wheels. The major change for 2005 was the replacement of the LS1 engine with the LS2 engine. This motor increased power and torque in the GTO to 400 hp (298 kW) with 400 ft·lbf (542 N·m) torque. With this improved powerplant, Pontiac claimed the car capable of 0 to in 4.6 seconds and a 13.0 second quarter mile at (automatic transmission). Car and Driver magazine tested the car at 4.8 seconds 0-60 mph and 13.3 seconds at for the quarter mile, so the claims seem justified. Dashboard gauge graphics were also revised. The optional dealer installed Sport Appearance Package became available and differed visually by having a different lower rear fascia that sported quad chrome exhaust tips, louder aggressive sounding mufflers, a modified spoiler, a modified front lower fascia extension, recessed SAP Grilles, and modified rocker panels. This package was available from GM as an accessory in red, silver, black, or primer for other color cars. Nonetheless, production was scaled back to 11,069, primarily because of a shortened model year. Barbados Blue and Cosmos Purple were dropped this year, but Cyclone Grey and Midnight Blue Metallic were added. On a side note, customers had the option to order their GTO without hood scoops, though only 24 were produced this way.
On February 21, 2006, General Motors reportedly told dealers that it would halt imports of the GTO in September, making 2006 the last model year for the current GTO generation. This should have come as no surprise since this generation GTO was only intended to be produced for those 3 years from the beginning of the program.
The final production numbers of the 2006 Pontiac GTO are 13,948 cars, an increase from 11,069 from the previous model year.
In 2007, the GTO.R was replaced by the Pontiac G6 GXP.R.
In the Transformers live-action film, a Monaro-based GTO was retrofitted with Camaro Concept-style body parts for the role of Bumblebee. In addition, a yellow GTO was destroyed in the film by Decepticon Blackout.
In the animated television show Ben 10: Alien Force, character Kevin Levin drives a green car similar to an old GTO.
In the video game Need For Speed Underground 2, the final boss, Caleb, drives a Pontiac GTO.
The '69 GTO Judge is in the 2008 movie "Sex Drive".