1965 Pontiac GTO convertible

The Pontiac GTO was a muscle car from Pontiac manufactured from 1964 to 1974. Many consider it to be the first true muscle car, since it was the first based on a mid-size platform rather than the full-size cars that earlier performance models had been based on.

Pontiac got the name from Ferrari's GTO (Grand Turismo Omologato).

At first, the GTO was a performance option on the mid-size Pontiac Tempest,an extra $300 in 1964. The available engine was a 389 cubic inch (6.4 litre) V8, with a 4-barrel carburetor for 325 bhp (242 kW) or an optional "Tri-Power" option (three twin-barrel carburetors), for 348 bhp (260 kW). Expected sales were 5,000; 32,450 were actually sold.

Such success meant an improved GTO for 1965, restyled with stacked headlights; the fake hood scoops could be turned into a functional ram-air induction setup. Power was up (to 360 bhp (268 kW) in Tri-Power form) and so were sales, to 75,342.

1966's GTO was its own model, no longer an option on the Tempest. The car was again restyled, the rear haunches gaining that distinctive late-60s 'coke-bottle' hump while the front end stayed more or less the same. Sales were 96,946. In mid year the Tri-Power option was dropped, it is believed out of emissions concerns. To make up for the loss of the Tri-Power option, 1967 saw the engine grow to 400 cubic inches (6.6 litres); maximum power output was the same as the previous Tri-Power equipped engine. Sales were 81,722.

In 1968, the car was all-new, based on GM's new "A-body" and heavier than the previous year's models. There appeared to be no front bumper whatsoever; actually, the grille surround and front was made of a body-colored rubber compound called an Endura bumper. Hidden headlights were a popular option. Sales were 87,684.

1969 saw the launch of a new 'Judge' model of GTO, featuring a more powerful engine, bright paint colors, a rear spoiler, and decals. Optional on both regular and Judge models was a Ram Air IV engine said by the factory to deliver 370 bhp (276 kW) but in actuality significantly more powerful than that. Increased insurance premiums were beginning to hit the muscle car market hard, and manufacturers were starting to under-report horsepower. Sales that year were 72,287.

1970's GTO featured a restyled front end featuring four exposed round headlamps and a narrower grille, as well as a bodyside crease and restyled rear. A 455 cubic inch (7.5 litre) engine was added to the range. Sales were down to 40,149 as the muscle car market started to decline. This decline became terminal in 1971 - only 10,532 GTOs were built that year. Power was down, thanks to emissions regulations and the mandated use of unleaded lower-octane gasoline. From 1972, the GTO became just an option package, first on the Pontiac LeMans and in 1974, the GTO's last year, the compact Pontiac Ventura. The very muscle car concept was dying off, and these cars sold quite poorly indeed.

The Pontiac GTO has been relaunched in the United States in late 2003 using a rebadged Holden Monaro, imported from Australia. The same model is also to be sold in the United Kingdom as a Vauxhall.

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