The History Of America’s Most Rebellious Muscle Car: The GTO

This car was the epitome of power and performance in the 1960s but what happened to the beloved GTO we all know and love?


1964 was a pivotal year in the American automotive industry as the ideal American spirit had shifted from the more conservative/stoic persona of the 1940s to the rebellious nature of the 1960s. This meant that the nation’s youth were imitating their favorite rock stars, freedom fighters, and public figures in spitting in the face of subtlety. Everything from the clothes people wore to their cars were rocking brightly colored paint, powerful presentation, and a rock n’ roll style! The first car to try out this rebellious attitude was the iconic Pontiac GTO which broke all of the rules at GM just to make the point that people want performance. These things were tiny for their time, and one man named John Delorean saw the potential for something huge under the hood.

After years of development and building, the Pontiac GTO hit the market at the perfect time, with millions of buyers jumping on the performance bandwagon. Advertisements showed the cars with viscous tigers sitting under the hood, which reflected the true power of the 389 ci V8 engine, which put out around 348 horsepower. This was an insane number for the time, which was shown very well with the production numbers, which hit a record high of 32,450 in 1964 but quickly jumped up in 1966 with the development of the A-body to a whopping 96,946. These strong production figures held firm for three years, never dropping below 80,000 models yearly, until 1969 when GTO production dropped to 72,287.

By 1970 it was clear that popularity for the GTO was waning severely, with numbers hitting just 40,000, and by the time the sunset on the GTO in 1974, only 7,058 cars. During its run, the GTO boasted some truly massive power plants, starting with the 389 in 1964 and eventually being gifted the iconic 400 ci V8. Packages such as the Ram Air IV option will forever be linked with the legendary American speed demon as they were the start of high-performance exterior options in the US as well. The GTO was so iconic that they attempted to revitalize the brand in 2003 with the new GTO that sported an LS1 and eventually an LS2 in 2006 that provided 350 horsepower from the LS1 and 400 horsepower LS2. While this was an insane leap from the classic muscle cars of old, it wasn’t enough to save the failing Pontiac brand, and the GTO faded away in 2006, two years before the end of Pontiac.

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