This guide offers buying advice on the Pontiac GTO, the car that started the muscle-car movement. Both the resurrected 21st-century coupe and the original Goat are covered.
The Pontiac GTO may have been the first true muscle car, but that distinction has never been enough to assure it an uninterrupted production run. Already, the GTO has used up two lives. Originally produced from 1964-'74, the GTO was resurrected for the 2004 model year after a 30-year hiatus. There was no convertible body style this time, but the car was at least a proper rear-drive two-door coupe, courtesy of Holden, General Motors' Australian division. The new GTO (nÃ©e Holden Monaro) was a definite sleeper style-wise, but in keeping with its muscle car heritage, it brought some serious under-hood heat. Unloved by consumers during its production run due to interior quirks and anonymous styling, this modern GTO now constitutes something of a performance bargain on the used-car market.
Most Recent Pontiac GTO
The original Pontiac GTO was nicknamed "the Goat" as much for its defiant, stripped-to-the-basics personality as for the letters in its name. The 2004-'06 incarnation was so much more refined and upscale that to call it a Goat would almost have been an insult. Many of the old car's charms had also been lost in translation, including its affordable price tag. The new coupe started in the low $30Ks -- hardly an attainable sum for young, cash-strapped enthusiasts. Bland exterior styling was another weak point.
Power initially came from a 5.7-liter V8, but Pontiac swapped in a larger 6.0-liter V8 the following year. The bigger engine took the GTO up to a cool 400 horsepower, but between the 2+2 coupe's high price and dull styling, Pontiac simply couldn't sell enough of them. As a result, the Pontiac GTO was discontinued after the 2006 model year.
Still, when it came to acceleration, there was no denying the reborn GTO's status as a full-on muscle car. Equipped with the LS1 V8 rated for 350 hp and 365 pound-feet of torque, 2004 models could get to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and blaze through a quarter-mile in 14 seconds flat -- quicker than any of the original GTOs. More impressive were the 2005 and '06 models, which had the 6.0-liter V8. Rated for 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, these models shaved more than half a second off that quarter-mile time.
Although the Pontiac GTO was plenty comfortable for highway cruising, its soft suspension really wasn't tuned to handle this much power. With its sluggish reflexes, excessive body roll and weak brakes, its dynamics were no match for the sharper-handling competitors in this price range. Had the car been priced $5,000 or so less, these faults might have been forgivable. Depreciation has mitigated this criticism, however, as used GTOs can be found for a fraction of the MSRP when new.
Past Pontiac GTO models
Introduced in 1964, the original GTO went through six generations before dying off after the 1974 model year. Always a rear-wheel-drive car, it was sold as both a two-door hardtop and a convertible with an assortment of big V8s. Legend has it that Pontiac stole the GTO name from the equally legendary Ferrari 250 GTO, a car whose name was an acronym for "Gran Turismo Omologato."
Save for the "detuned" 1973 and '74 models, just about any Pontiac GTO from the original era is considered collectible and will bring a high price at auction, provided it's in good condition and has a matching numbers engine (meaning the car still has the original factory engine). Convertibles are rarer than hardtops. The ostentatious GTO Judge model, sold in both body styles, is also less common. Among 1960s GTOs, models with one of the Ram Air packages are most prized, while the 1970 year saw the GTO's performance peak with the availability of a massive 455-cubic-inch V8 good for 500 lb-ft of torque.