Skip to comments.Pontiac GTO 50th Anniversary: Ghost of “The Goat” Still Haunts Detroit – and Stuttgart, Too
Posted on 02/16/2014 6:48:26 PM PST by Impala64ssa
Happy 50th anniversary, Pontiac GTO! Its too bad the Pontiac brand isnt still around to celebrate, but there are legions of proud GTO owners and muscle car buffs who treasure the model that launched the muscle car genre.
The GTO history has been told too many times to count, so this feature will not add to the pile. Rather, its worth looking back at the impact the GTO made, not only on car enthusiasts, but also on the auto industry. The GTOs influence continues today in ways and on cars that you might not suspect.
Lets get a key issue out of the way. When discussing the GTOs place in auto history, its safer to say, Launched the musclecar genre than It was the first muscle car. As Chevy, Ford and Mopar fans could correctly point out, several models that preceded the 1964 GTO offered performance to qualify as a muscle car. All any of those cars would prove, however, is that Detroit had already been catering to the performance enthusiast, albeit in very small numbers, and without crafting specific model identities. (The Chevy Impala Super Sport with one of the 409 V-8s could certainly be considered an exception.)
What changed in late 1963, when the GTO arrived as a performance option for the 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans? Thats the year that the 3.4 million kids born in 1946, the first wave of baby boomers, turned 17. Clever marketing would prove every bit as valuable as engineering in reaching this group.
These buyers wanted more than fast quarter-mile times. They wanted to stand out at the drive-in and the burger drive-through. They wanted a car that reflected their self-image, a car with the look and sound of performance, not just impressive acceleration figures.
(Excerpt) Read more at hagerty.com ...
I drove a friend to pick up his 66 GTO at a dealer in Crestview, Florida.
He had ordered the version with the four barrel but they got in one with the 3 two barrels and asked him if he wanted it.
The salesman took us for a test drive, he wouldn’t let the kid drive it until it was paid for. It was the hottest car I had ever been in and probably the second hottest I still have ever ridden in.
The GTO was a great car. I raced one with my dad’s Ford Galaxies. My friend had the Judge version. To bad GM screwed up both the Olds and Pontiac brands. Ford screwed up with Mercury and now they are screwing up Lincoln.
The GTO Judge, the only car in history to be named after a comedy routine. But what they’re worth today, in any condition is no joke.
Wish my first GTO had been a ‘64 Convertible. Was asleep at the switch and bought a ‘64 TR-4. Big Mistake!
A year later, I traded it in on a ‘65 4-speed GTO hardtop, and ran the wheels off of it for the next 10 years. Best 1/4 mile time, after spending a lot of money to make it faster and keep it looking like an “A” stocker, was 12.25. Got challenged (Pontiac 389s did not rev like mine did!), refused to tear it down, and lost the race on protest. No problem! Still have the time slip, some where!
Was forced to leave it in Texas in ‘75, and was without GTO wheels until 1983. Bought another ‘65 hardtop, used it for a daily driver for 10 years, semi-retired it and have recently mechanically restified it, stem to stern.
It is now a badass Sunday driver with a lot more motor than I planned on!
HST, you can never have too much motor!
Lesson learned — NEVER! NEVER! Give your hot rod buddy race car engine builder too much FReedom to perfect his craft on your street machine!
Will probably leave it to my son — maybe we’ll drive it FRom Flori-Duh to Kali-Fornia when the time comes.
These days, you're lucky if you can get a glorified golfcart for a similar (inflation-adjusted) cost today.
There's something to be said about pressing the pedal, getting a deep rumble out of the car, and paying something that wasn't a king's ransom for it. Unfortunately, environmental activists want to act against such until we're driving the 21st century version of the Trabant (while they're driving the "forbidden cars").
The hottest car I have ever ridden in was probably something like your first GTO except it was an SS 396 Chevelle.
I used to kid this guy who had a VW because my 55 Ford would eat his VW alive. Some time around 1967 or 68 he got the Chevelle. I have no idea what he did to it but it must have been running 500-600 HP.
He took me for a drive and going around 30, he floored it. It threw me back into the seat like I have never experienced. Much hotter than the stock GTO.
And now the current generations of Obunga voters put fart pipes and decals on Honda 4-door economy sedans and think they are fast. Buzzzzzz........
Perhaps a fit epitaph for gen-x/y/z and their cars: all cheezy sound and phony image, no performance.
When I was 16, my boss gave me the keys to his GTO with tri power, told me to drive out into the country and find this missing driver. Country roads, no cars, no cops.
I read an article years ago that quoted a GM exec as saying that “owning a GTO” was like adding 2” to your...”
Too bad GM screwed up both the Olds and Pontiac brands.
Agreed, and to a greater extent that they've turned Buick into an Opel rebrand, instead of merging Oldsmobile into it.
My first GTO was never bored and stroked, but the heads were extensively reworked, an Iskendarian cam and anti-pump up lifters were installed, the 4-barrel Carter carb and the stock ignition were tweaked, and a pair of Doug’s headers were installed.
I had a close ratio 4-speed with a Hurst Quick Shifter and a Hayes lightened flywheel and clutch. The 12.25 time slip was a result of a FRiend loaning me a 4.11 Posi-traction rear end and some 8” slicks. Street gears slowed me down by about a second.
The only suspension mods were Air-Lift airbags in the rear coil springs. Rest was stock stuff. The car hooked up really well!
It looked like a street legal “A” stocker, but it was not, strictly speaking, stock. OTOH, none of the competition in South Texas (Corpus Christi) was either!
As an aside, if you remember the old days, I saw Don Gay’s ‘66 GTO Funny Car “Infinity” race a number of times. I’d like to say I was able to meet him, but I never did.
PS My first ‘65 was a babe magnet!
My current wife will not let me use my second ‘65 to attract babes!
We are now in the geezer zone.
How many these days have a clue what you just wrote, and what they are?
Had a Friend with the low salt version 396 Chevelle, and man, did it pump up fast. What a buzzkill.
My first car was a used 55 Ford with a 272. It had a 3 speed on the column and overdrive. Because of the overdrive it had a 4:11 rear end.
It was obviously not a muscle car but was surprisingly fast. I had 3 different friends who had full sized Fords. Every one of them had a 352 with a four barrel. I had a drag with my best friend’s 63. I was frankly surprised when the old 272 beat him fairly easily.
I did the same with the other two 352s except with one, I mistakenly used a place as finish line which was a way farther than I had thought. I beat him off the line and was still pulling away when I realized I had nearly a mile to go.
As we were approaching the finish, he finally passed me.
I restored a 68 Lemans Convertible in the late 90s and a 69 Lemans Coupe in 2005. Best. Cars. Ever.
Please. The Volkswagen GTI and Honda Civic Si are not legacy cars of the GTO.
I have no problem with being in the Geezer Zone! I am a Geezer!
To clarify, anti-pump up lifters were hydraulic lifters that had bleed holes in them and allowed a higher RPM before encountering valve float.
I shifted my first ‘65 GTO at 6500 RPM. Stock GTO engines of that era encountered valve float at roughly 5500 RPM.
My current engine is good for 7000 RPM, but I have a 5500 RPM “pill” in the MSD 6AL. It is a “street” engine with too much cam and compression, but since I do not race it, there is no need to spin it to 7000, so I don’t.
It is, with the 3” Pypes exhaust, a badass, fun “Sunday Driver.”
No Ford ever outran me! Not in my dad’s ‘57 Star Chief hardtop nor either of my GTOs!
HST, the ‘55 TBird one of my buddies had back in the day was a sweet ride!
Now, you know that FORD stand for “Fix Or Repair Daily” don’t you?
And, I saw a plaque at Carlise some years ago that ended with this phrase: “Thanks for buying a Ford, it keeps my tools FRom getting rusty!” I sure wish I had bought that plaque!
HST, if I ever buy a new car, I will buy a Ford product, because FMC did not bend over and lube up for the Ophonybama screwing that GM and Chrysler did!
And, God, I would love to own a 2014 Corvette convertible! I am having a hard time conflating my political beliefs with my absolute love affair with the new Corvette!
“I read an article years ago that quoted a GM exec as saying that owning a GTO was like adding 2 to your...
He was right!
I always thought it stood for “Found on Roadside Dead”.
I still remember learning to set the valve clearance on the solid lifters of my '67 427/435 HP Corvette. Some clown told me to do it while running. What a smoky, useless mess that was.
Many decades later, I know much better. Too bad the Corvette is long gone. Motorcycle engines are excellent training tools.
I always preferred Rhodes lifters to solid lifters.
Don’t ask about the ‘67 Vette 427 ‘Vette that got away FRom me!
Chevy started putting the 348 truck block into 1958 models which later became the famous 409.
Ford also was also building the 390 long before the GTO came along.
Nothing against GTOs...I love them, but they were not the first muscle cars.
The Judge was the first car I ever drove. A real nice one. The owner was too loaded to drive, so he threw me the keys. Kind of like getting thrown in the deep end of the pool, you might say. Took my first road trip to the Rockies in that car. Something I’ll never forget.
My brother owned a ‘64. At one time it was known as the fastest car in South Omaha. That’s what I heard anyway. :-)
Feels like it anyways, reading articles like this one.
To be honest I let my passenger out and bozo in the GTO had two passengers, I got him off the line and he never caught up.
Was going to ping you darling....but you’re already here! ;)
living in CT, I had 1967 goat, stock, except the rear-end was ordered with the high speed gear.
Working nights in Hartford and living in Colchester, I would make the run on RT2 in I don’t remember how many minutes.
During this period CTSP were driving some Ford product which was “sold” as fast, because it had solid lifters.
Twice I out ran the CTSPs. They had just started using K band radar, with horn hanging off the left rear window. The first time I saw him he had his reds on and was behind me.
I dumped the Goat into third, nailed the accelerator, dropped, into 4th. His reds were no longer in sight. The second time was similar.
I enjoyed reading what others shared about their experiences with the GTO. However, I was surprised that I didn't find direct references to the Royal Oak, Michigan Pontiac dealer.
Royal Oaks sold an aftermarket performance upgrade for Lemans with the GTO option. They called it the Bobcat Kit.
The Bobcat Kit for my 1965 GTO coat around $100. For $100 and my labor the horsepower increased by 64 Horses and the RPM increased by 1200. A bargain for $100.
GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato.
Back in the day, we called it Gas, Tires and Oil.
The gas and tires part was probably true. I don’t think they used oil tho.
Thanks for the thought, sweetie. Tellem how nice my GTO is!
Royal Pontiac was a VERY successful Pontiac mod shop — I think they even sold a factory 428 ci upgrade engine. I know they had a sterling reputation with their drag cars.
If one were to be able to find an original Royal Bobcat today, one would certainly have a sweet ride!
PS It is even nicer, now. And, a hellofalot noisier and much faster!
More fun, too!
Is it that your wonderful goat is terrifically uber-fast......or is it b/c it is being guided by a former jet fighter pilot?
No matter .....flying through the cornfields of Manassas was a blast ..... are the indentations of my tightly gripping fingers still in the edge of the dashboard?
I don’t remember if you even have seatbelts in that goat.....just ejection seats.
It’s fun to know someone else who has a *need for speed.*
One night I was riding with my cousin and we spotted the GTO on the side of the country road since it had obviously had broken down. So what does my cousin do? He pops the hood of the GTO and steals the chrome cover off the air filter.......LOL!
That was a fun ride, wasn’t it? And, yes, there are seat belts!
Do you miss DC? Life must seem to be more quiet and peaceful.
Why, yes I do. HST, it is best for me to not be there, for the moment! I need to be some distance FRom the scene of the crime lest I get too involved in solving it!
The “Goat” has always been the Dodge, in all of American automotive history.
In NASCAR, and USAC racing, a Goat is a Dodge.
We spent a week at my crazy-cousin Lisse's last April, taking in the DC sights.
Not only are you the life of the party but part of life!
Why isn't the Pontiac Brand still around? I heard that the Feds demanded that the brand be retired in exchange for the GM Bailout, does anyone know what really happened?