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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

15 GTO facts you might not know about America's original muscle car

In the early spring of 1963, during a "what if" session at GM's Milford, Michigan, Proving Grounds, a small team of Pontiac engineers led by John Z. DeLorean realized the 389-cubic-inch V-8 from the full-size Bonneville would fit easily in the new midsize Tempest.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/lists/15-gto-facts-america-original-muscle-car/
92 REPLIES 92
Geok86
Advanced Driver

You are wring 265-455 all same block dimensions (essentially a small block).
Geok86
Advanced Driver

Wrong
MidntPurpleRain
Pit Crew

Externally the same, but I know the 428 and 455 have different journal sizing from the 400 and smaller, but not sure about the 421. Still externally the same.

MidntPurpleRain
Pit Crew

@007  My guess is because the topic of the article is about the GTO, not the tempest... Besides, the 63 Tempest and the 64 LeMans GTO are completely different cars.

Rig2race
New Driver

I once owned a 1965 GTO with a 4 speed. I loved that car. I had it from 18 years old to 21. I got married to a woman that had a child so it was instant family. That was 1969 and I still am married to her. She is the best thing to ever have happened to me. But I do miss that GTO. I traded it to my Dad for a 1966 Chevy Biscayne with a six and powerslide. Talk about culture shock that is it. 

sk8np8n
New Driver

AAH: What great memories of the favorite car I've ever owned.
1968 Gold GTO Convertible with 4 on the floor.
I lived in San Diego at the time (19720 and remember, clearly, walking out of my apartment near the beach to go to work and found the "hood" had been stolen. Just the hood holder brackets sticking up in the air. Can't remember the details on how it got replaced but have never run into a better story about how popular that car was. Loved it then, miss it now!
KYColonel
Intermediate Driver

In 1970, I bought a new GTO/auto. It was green with black interior and a black vinyl top. I was never truly satisfied with that car. I eventually traded the GTO for a used 1970 Pontiac Trans Am. The TA was my favorite muscle car of that era. Today, at the age of 70, I drive a C5 Corvette that I purchased 21 years ago. It's my all-time favorite car.
Superbee70
New Driver

I love them all. My first car was a 67 Mustang that my Dad gave me. After I passed the Mustang to my brother, I had a long love affair with Goats: Several 68s, a few 69s, a couple of 65s, 70s, and a 73. Hardtops and convertibles, stick and automatics. Now I have Mopars, but back in the early 70s, Mopars were the competition.

I have also had RA IIIs, IVs, and a V. The RA IV was the most impressive, free reving and a freight train once it got going.

I love the pics in this article. The styling--all of them--still appeals to me decades later, especially the 65. I also like the article, but there is an error. The 64 through 68 Goats had "6.5 litre" emblems, not 6.4. And they always spelled it "litre." Yes, the math was a little off, but that's the way the emblems were. They removed the 6.5 in 69.

Nice article--loved it.
70-Z28-RS-LT-1
Pit Crew

Back in the day, my buddies '67 GTO was the first car I ever rode in, where the vehicle actually broke 100 mph. Was a nice rush. Still remember the song we were rocking out to at the time. Was Led Zepp's 'Misty Mountain Hop', while doing 110mph down the highway, before he had to let off the gas because of traffic. Good times!
bjc815
New Driver

"the GTO’s impact-resistant color-matched Endura rubber front bumper stuck around through 1972. Developed by the Dayton Rubber Company in cooperation with Pontiac, it was exclusive to the GTO, but Pontiac also used the Endura bumper on the 1970–73 Firebird."
Not quite exclusive to the GTO and Firebird. The 1969 Bonneville had an Endura nose piece, and an elongated oval insert in the rear bumper as well.
K5
New Driver

The Endura bumper was also available on 69 Camaros.
Diego
Detailer

The 1969 Firebird also used Endura.
rpjasin
New Driver

I love GTOs, however, the first muscle car is was/is the 1955 Chrysler 300, period. The car that "swept the field" at Daytona. For 1955 is was "America's most powerful stock car". First time ever for a mass produced car to offer 300 HP. Lowered body, limited use of chrome, record setting speeds. powered by a dual carb 331 cubic inch hemi. The first and best!
mpzz
Detailer

Muscle cars are lightweight cars- intermediate or smaller- with big, high-performance V8 engines. The Chrysler 300 doesn't qualifiy, nor does any land barge from any manufacturer.
BigMikes
Pit Crew

You mean like the Rambler Rebel?
Diego
Detailer

What cars did the Rebel influence?
Diego
Detailer

17-second quarters does not a muscle car make.
Dan-S
Pit Crew

People may not know or remember, but, when the GTO was introduced for the 1964 model year, all the cars sent out to the magazines for testing and evaluation were specially modified to make them perform better. At the time only available with the 389 V8, the 'test' cars had Pontiac 421 V8's installed. The Pontiac V8's were indistinguishable from other displacements visually, so they were able to pull it off.
Another fact, with America in love with automatic transmissions by 1964, another Tempest carryover into the GTO was the only available automatic, a 2-speed! In fact, if you wanted an automatic in your GTO, you could only get a 2-speed through the 1966 model year. This basically limited the GTO's with automatics to straight-line drag racing. As far as the other non-GM automakers were concerned after the middle of 1964, GM was the only automaker offering a 2-speed automatic! In 1964, about the only other make that still offered a 2-speed automatic was Ford in the 260 V8 equipped Comet, Falcon and Mustangs.
I found it particularly amusing that the "Monkeemobile" was built on the same 1966 GTO that Major Nelson drove in the "I Dream Of Jeannie" series. Even in it's restored and further modified form, it still had that same S.T. 300 2-speed automatic! Oh, and that supercharger popping out of the hood, it was merely a shell sitting on top of the standard Rochester 4-barrel!
As a side note, in 1966, you could get the 3-speed T.H. 400 automatic in the Chevelle SS 396, leaving about the only Chevys where you couldn't get a 3-speed automatic, the C-2 Corvette and the Nova.
mpzz
Detailer

Of course, back then, few guys were prissy enough to want an automatic in a muscle car.
BMD4800
Instructor

GM didn’t want to pay licensing fee for using the 3-speed gearset design.  I forget the name, but they had to lay to use it and didn’t want to.  

BMD4800
Instructor

The switch-pitch 300 was pretty good and very reliable, but the lack of a compound 1st and 2nd made it sluggish.  The non-SP versions were worse.  

I’ve had a 283 ‘glide combo and a 300 Buick ST300 combo in 64/65 A-bodies.  I liked the 300/ST300 much more.  

Diego
Detailer

You're conflating two stories.
There was great demand of GTOs by the press, but not enough cars. One magazine borrowed one from the wife of someone, and they were unimpressed. Car was a 4bbl. automatic ragtop, so it stands to reason. Jim Wangers got mad at not being able to control the publicity so he arranged to have a press fleet under his control that would be tuned by Royal Pontiac.

The 421 GTO thing was a stunt, and in no way was typical of the cars in the press fleet.

Lastly, the TH400 was not available for the Chevelle till 1967, like all mid-size GM cars. Chevy did carry on Powerglide for a few more years, and I know it was available for the SS 396 through 1968 (maybe 1969?).
gtokdx1
Intermediate Driver

The 421 wasn't a "stunt thing". Two GTO's were purposely built with 421's, by Royal, to hand to the key performance writers/magazines to test and over-impress so amazing performance times would be written about. It worked! Reference the famous Car and Driver article. It launched "The Original Muscle Car" (the 64 Goat) and exceeded sales expectations! Wangers was a genius!
Bob66GTO
Pit Crew

I have a 66 GTO that I purchased in 1968.
It has a ST-300 2sp on the column and came with a Carter AFB 4 bbl
Rob1
Instructor

A close bud had a 66 great car we had tons of fun with that car he kept it pristine and it was his pride and joy a unfortunate accident took his life and the car was put up for sale i didnt have the cash at the time so it was lost no idea where it ended up but I always liked the Poncho,s great story gas,tires,oil LOL i thought it was get turned on.Cheers R
Dudster
Pit Crew

I bought a new burgundy red 66 GTO in Oklahoma. It came equipped with a stuffed tiger. It was a beautiful car and was very fast in a straight line. I had to get the automatic since my 100 lb wife was not strong enough to depress the clutch. In 1967 I moved to Colorado and had the dealer adjust the carbs for the higher altitude. It never really ran well in Colorado even though I had all the local experts work on it. I also bought a 1967 MGB convertible that would badly outperform the GTO in the mountains. The higher the elevation the worse the GTO ran, and it handled like a pig. The four wheel drum brakes were a joke - better start braking a block ahead of where you want to stop. The MGB always ran strong in the mountains and handled very well for its time. I still have the MGB but the GTO is long gone. I do wish I had the GTO now so I could sell it at an inflated price.

I'm pretty sure the decal on the side said 6.5 liters, not 6.4 as indicated in the article. However, the Gas, Tires and Oil moniker was very accurate.
Geok86
Advanced Driver

It’s funny that the author says they realized the 389 would fit, as all Pontiac V8s used the same size block.
Dsping62
New Driver

In 1969, I was a very lucky individual at the ripe, old age of 15. Why? I worked at a Shell gas station that predominantly worked on muscle cars & I worked the night shift. When the boss wasn't around my buddy & I test drove some of the greatest high performance cars of the day such as GTOs, Mustangs & Dodge/Plymouth. I'd like to set the record straight. One of the first cars I drove (around 1970) was a 421 Pontiac with triple deuce carbs taken to warp speed!! In 1971 I enlisted in the Navy. Right after boot camp I purchased a 1967 GTO 400 4 speed. It wasn't long before I was deployed overseas. I entrusted my GTO to my dad. He loaned the car to one of the idiots that he worked with. This guy blew the engine and put the cam through the oil pan & safety pan ( I've never seen or heard of this happening even now). My father gave me $500 to cover the cost of a new Pontiac engine. A good friend who owned a garage made the purchase & installed the engine for me. After finally setting the timing this car ran like nothing I'd ever driven before. Lo & behold it was a special motor from Pontiac. I raced it at Lebanon Valley NY making 11+ sec. I'll always consider the GTO as my favorite car. Or so I thought until I bought a 1969 Camaro SS for my wife for Christmas. It's got a 383 stroker with Demon triple deuces, QA1 suspension and loads of goodies. I feel like the old days. I'm a disabled veteran so I can't do as much as I used to but I'll always love turning wrenches.
Luisraziel
New Driver

GM should revive the Pontiac brand and make it Full Electric and hydrogen and any other new clean energy car that could work.
golfnut53083
Intermediate Driver

This article brought many good memories back as one of my buddies had a "wannabe" GTO Pontiac Tempest and another had a '70 GTO with a 400/4 speed that we had a lot of fun in! Super 8mm cameras were the latest thing and I would lay on the ground behind the GTO filming as he would do hellacious bleach burn-outs spewing clouds of white much to the delight of all our neighbors!
Mousemotor302
New Driver

If you can find one please “drive” a 1970 W31 olds! Most people don’t even know!

GL70
New Driver

442's were first made in 1965, not 1967
cammerjeff
New Driver

I don't have an issue with the editorial comments of the article, but there were no 455 4-speed GTO's Built for the 1973 Model year. It is true that 544 73 GTO's were made with the 455 ci V8, all had TH400's attached to them. In 1973 the only 455 4-speed models made were various Firebird Models.

There were 3 & 4 speed manuals available in GTO's that year. But all had the 230hp 400 4bbl engines.
Eric
Hagerty Employee

you're correct --- we regret the error and have adjusted the story accordingly!
Goes2fast
Pit Crew

Something I never see in stories about the GTO is the reason the Judge was discontinued. The Judge was a registered trade mark owned by the King Speed Shop on their drag car and they sued Pontiac for the unauthorized use. Why this trivia isn't more widely known I have no idea.
Gary_Bechtold
Technician

The 60's were the best for the GTO. They just didn't keep up and by '73 the GTO moniker was really a joke. Gas, Tires, and Oil, I love that!
GoFast
Detailer

I suggest the '55 Chrysler C-300 was the first muscle car.
Clark3419
New Driver

Why would the 6.5 L Pontiac GTO have ever worn a 6.4 L badge? Seriously......I thought Hagerty was supposed to know a thing or two about American muscle cars???
Bob66GTO
Pit Crew

Ya! They spelled Litre different too.
DUB6
Technician

worth a thousand wordsworth a thousand words

Bob66GTO
Pit Crew

Comment on #5, and #11. #5 says , GTOs with open hood scoops were available from the factory beginning with the 1967 model with the Ram Air 400 option. I belive the 1966 GTO was the first year with the open hood scoop, it could be ordered from the factory mid year. cold air induction or Ram Air One.
#11 , the GTO’s engine displaced 389 cubic inches, or 6.4 liters, as it said on fender badges.
Fender badge said 6.5 Litre.
gtokdx1
Intermediate Driver

Still amazed at those that try to make a case that the 64 GTO isn't the first muscle car. It's all about meeting the criteria: Intermediate size car, full size car motor. The youth market wanted to be seen in a GTO. Not a Studebaker, Hudson, Chrysler 300 or Chevy Biscayne. Sorry!
Also, YES, the GTO name was stolen by DeLorean. That was the idea. To create controversy and gain attention (and sell a pile of cars!). Brilliant!
carguyjim
Detailer

I was a teenager in the early 70's in Washington state and I had a '67 GTO convertible to spin around in. The 400 ci and the Hurst shifter brought lots of spinning of the "bias ply" tires and drifting before it became a "THING"
I remember paring a bit north of 2 grand for that fun machine!!!