GTO Genealogy


More GTO based links below



"Mr. GTO" Jim Wangers & Me - His Website link here!


GeeTo Tiger here!


Paul Zazarine's Website


Classic Pontiac GTO's Gulf Coast GTOs


GTOAA's Illustrated ID Guide



Jim Wangers 1964 GTO Royal Bobcat

1964 GTO - image and text courtesy We Love

Herb Adams 1964 Gray Ghost racing test platform



1964 GTO Convertible

GTO is for kicking up the kind of storm that others just talk up.

1964 GTO Nose

For the man who wouldn't mind riding a tiger if someone'd only put wheels on it - Pontiac GTO



1964 GTO Hardtop


1964 1st Generation: GTO Muscle Car Number One

  • Pontiac GTO - The Greatest Muscle Car of All Time

    GTO is the monogram for the most famous muscle car in high-performance automobile history - the Pontiac GTO. Also known as "The Legend" and "The Great One," GTO is the car that started it all. Prior to 1964, performance cars were full-size hardtops and sedans with the largest displacement engines available. They were a little slow off the line, but once all that sheet metal and chrome got rolling, they pulled like a freight train. Hot rodders had known for years that you could go even faster if you put those big engines in smaller, lighter cars. Engine swaps were standard operating procedure for hot rodders, but that was backyard tinkering, not corporate engineering.

    Factory Hot Rods
    The backyard boys were blown away in October of 1963 when the $295.90 GTO option, RPO 382, quietly joined the 1964 Pontiac Tempest/LeMans option list. The heart of the GTO option package was a 325-horsepower 389-cubic-inch V8 with dual exhausts, a Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor, a mild hydraulic camshaft, and gobs of pavement-grabbing torque. Other standard features included a manual three-speed transmission with a Hurst shifter, a heavy-duty clutch, heavy-duty suspension, US Royal red-line tires, a 3.23:1 rear axle ratio, twin hood scoops, and an assortment of GTO emblems.

    Body Styles
    The GTO option was available on three LeMans bodies, the two-door coupe, hardtop, and convertible. More hardtops were produced than the combined total of the coupes and convertibles. Engines with the single four-barrel carburetor outsold the Tri-Power models by a margin of three to one.

    Herb Adams Team Associates
    Herb Adams and his friends had made a memorable debut in professional racing in the SCCA’s 1971 Trans Am season opener at Lime Rock, Conn. With a vintage, seemingly off-street ’64 GTO sedan, driver Bob Tullius proceeded to pass everything on the rain-slick track except Mark Donahue in the American Motors/Penske Javelin. A year later with a genuine ponycar (Firebird) at Mid-Ohio Raceway, the Adams aggregation gave Pontiac its first big-time competition victory since General Motors withdrew from racing nine years earlier. By season end, Pontiac was No. 2 in Trans Am points and it hadn’t cost the Division a dime.

    Long Option List
    An extensive list of LeMans options allowed the potential GTO owner to build anything from a bare-bones muscle car to a loaded high-performance cruiser. Option choices included a four-speed manual transmission, a two-speed automatic, a 348-horsepower Tri-Power engine, Safe-T-Track differential, air-conditioning, power seat, power windows, tilt steering, tachometer, metallic brake linings, an AM/FM radio and a Verbra-Phonic rear speaker. In less time than it took to change spark plugs, a young performance enthusiast could check the appropriate LeMans order form boxes for a factory-built hot rod. The Pontiac GTO launched a whole new market segment.

    Natural Swap
    Pontiac was on a sales roll, much of it due to its exciting performance image and desire not to stagnate. Pontiac's General Manager Pete Estes and Chief Engineer John DeLorean wanted the new '64 Tempest/LeMans line to stand out from the crowd. A full-size engine in the intermediate body would certainly do the trick. Since the 389 V8 used the same basic block and motor mounts as the already approved 326 V8, such a swap would be a natural. DeLorean and engineers, Bill Collins and Russ Gee, had experimented with a 389 in a prototype '64 Tempest coupe. DeLorean and his crew liked to spend Saturdays at the GM Proving Ground in Milford, Mich., experimenting with new ideas. The 389 four-speed Tempest was an immediate hit with the engineers.

    5,000 Orders
    Initial sales projections called for only 5,000 units; however, the GTO was an immense hit with the public as well. The 1964 model run produced a total of 32,450 units.

    Naming the GTO
    Pontiac already had somewhat of a European racing theme in place with the Grand Prix and LeMans, so Chief Engineer John DeLorean appropriated the Italian racing designation Gran Turismo Omologato. The name was closely associated with Ferrari. In English it means, "Grand Touring Homologated." The Pontiac GTO was a grand touring car homologated (or made) from different parts, specifically the 389 Bonneville engine. It is doubtful whether many GTO owners understood the name or could even pronounce it, but it projected an image of a powerful, exotic, high-performance car. All that really mattered was that the GTO was a great car and the name was very well received.

    Ferrari vs. GTO
    Initial promotion of the GTO option was somewhat low key. The GTO wasn't mentioned in the 1964 Pontiac full-line catalog. A GTO brochure didn't show up until after the first of the year and by then the car was already a success. Very favorable media coverage (especially the famous Car and Driver March 1964 Pontiac versus Ferrari GTO duel) and great word-of-mouth advertising sold a lot of cars.

    GTO vs. GTO: Car and Driver, March 1964
    The March 1964 issue of Car and Driver featured a very promising cover. Artist Tom Quinn's watercolor featured a Ferrari GTO leading a Pontiac GTO and both appeared to be on a road course, driven all out. Anyone expecting a direct head-to-head performance comparison between the two cars was disappointed. Inside was an extensive article on the Pontiac Tempest GTO and an apology. They tried mightily to arrange for a Ferrari, contacting "all the GTO owners in this country and simply could not get one of those lucky gentlemen and the weather to cooperate simultaneously. As a result, we drove two Ferrari GTO's, but we were never able actually to run the Tempest against one of them".They did feel free to offer an opinion: "the Pontiac will beat the Ferrari in a drag race, and the Ferrari will go around any American road circuit faster than the stock GTO". They also said that "our test car, with stock suspension, metallic brakes and as-tested 348 bhp engine will lap any U.S. road course faster than any Ferrari street machine, including the 400 Superamerica". The subtitle contained a small dig: "Ferrari never built enough GTOs to earn the name anyway-just to be on the safe side though, Pontiac built a faster one". They did warn their readers however, that only a carefully optioned Pontiac GTO qualified for the praise. The article was overwhealming in its praise for the Pontiac, and contained the tough in-yer-face writing style that car enthusiasts love and which has made Car and Driver the great magazine that it is. Keep in mind that the Pontiac GTO was the start of a long list of affordable performance cars; in 1964 if you wanted to go fast on a low budget you did not have a vast array of options. The handling was lauded, as was the Hurst shifter, styling and value; they pointed out that the best optioned GTO was available for under $3,800. Today, just the taxes for a performance car can easily be more. Criticized items include the tachometer and seats. The handling praise was reserved for GTOs equipped with the $26.82 heavy duty suspension option; those without were total slushboxes, not unlike most other American cars of the time. The Car and Driver staff may not have succeeded in their quest to match up the two legendary cars, but they did manage to put the magazine on the map. The issue was controversial and sales skyrocketed. The April 1984 "GTO vs. GTO" article paid homage to it's 20 year old predecessor, calling it "The hook on which we hung a magazine".

    GTO vs. GTO: Car and Driver, March 1964 GTO vs. GTO: Car and Driver, April 1984

    GTO vs. GTO: Car and Driver, April 1984
    Anyone disappointed that these two fine cars were not directly compared needed only a bit of patience. Twenty years later, the April 1984 issue again featured both cars on the cover and this time the Car and Driver staff pulled off the dream comparison. They were able to arrange use of both a Ferrari and a Pontiac GTO on a test track on the same day. The supporting cast included American driving icon Dan Gurney and the Laguna Seca racetrack; both names dear to the hearts of car enthusists. The Ferrari involved was s/n 5575 GT, the last 250 GTO built. The Pontiac was optioned for competition, lacking power brakes and steering, but including the tri-power engine and four speed transmission.



1965 GTO - image and text courtesy We Love










Jim Wangers with his 1965 GTO coupe.



1965 GTO on cover of Paul Zazarine's GTO Collector Guide




  • Most Expensive Taillight System Manufactured by General Motors
    During a Jim Wangers Seminar at the former Pontiac Southern Nationals held in the north Dallas TX area of Addison, Jim went into great detail describing the engineering, manufacturing and delivery hurdles of the one-year-only 1965 GTO Taillight assembly. Tailight view of this Irish Mist painted 1965 GTO

    According to Jim, this was the most expensive Taillight Assembly Manufactured by General Motors. At first glance it doesn't seem to be that exotic, but upon closer inspection, the sections are manufactured from cast/chromed/painted pieces that wrap the complete rear of the 1965 GTO. HURST Wheel Equipped 1965 GTO Convertible

    Hit Record
    A tremendous amount of free advertising came about when a Top 40 song was written about the GTO. John Wilkin penned the song "GTO" and a group of Nashville session musicians recorded it under the name "Ronny and the Daytona's." The song went as high as No. 4 on the charts during its 17-week stay. Over a million singles and 500,000 albums were sold. The refrain, "three deuces and a four-speed and a 389," played repeatedly to the GTO's key customer group.

    Closeup of optional HURST Wheels & Redline Tires

    1965 Improvements
    GTO competitors, both outside and inside GM, were caught off guard by the car's tremendous success. While everyone else scrambled to market GTO clones, the mildly restyled '65 GTO was an even bigger hit than the '64 model. Even though there was a UAW strike at the start of the model year, 75,352 GTO's were sold in 1965. The headlights were now vertical (like the full-size Pontiacs) and a single hood scoop replaced the dual '64 scoops. Improved camshafts and intake manifolds boosted horsepower ratings to 335 for the four-barrel-equipped 389 and 360 for the Tri-Power-topped engine. The handsome Rally I wheels were introduced as an option.


1966 GTO - image and text courtesy We Love










Jim Wangers and his 1966 GeeTO TIGER Drag Racer


Susan and Harry Farley in front of their 1966 GTO Pontiac driven to the Pontiac show in Dallas


1966 GTO rear


Glory Days by Jim Wangers
Read the complete GTO story in Jim Wangers book "Glory Days".



1966 Susan and Harry Farley's 389 Auto with A/C 1966 GTO

  • Ram Air Package
    A big boost to the rapidly growing GTO legend was the August 1965 release of an over-the-counter dealer- or customer-installed cold air induction kit for Tri-Power cars. The kit made the hood scoop functional and gave birth to Ram Air. The Ram Air package continued as a dealer-installed option in 1966. A few factory built Ram Air GTO's were built and known as the XS package after the engine block code. (Image above: Susan and Harry Farley's 389 Auto with A/C 1966 GTO.)

    Sales Record
    Several strong competitors had joined the GTO by 1966, but that didn't stop the GTO from selling almost a 100,000 cars. The final tally was an astonishing 96,946 units. Pretty impressive for a car that insiders doubted would sell 5,000 two years earlier. The GTO was by now so highly regarded inside GM that it was made a separate model line in 1966. The A-body intermediate platform was redesigned and Pontiac's Coke bottle shape was born. (Image left: Susan and Harry Farley in front of their 1966 GTO Pontiac driven to the Pontiac show in Dallas.)

    Last Tri-Power
    Even though the body was restyled, the '66 lineup included the same three body styles as before. The engine choices were again the 335-horsepower four-barrel version and the potent 360-horsepower Tri-Power-equipped 389 V8. Over 19,000 Tri-Power '66 GTO's were sold, but they were to be the last multi-carbed Pontiacs. (Image below: Susan and Harry Farley's beautiful 1966 GTO 389 Pontiac.)

    Susan and Harry Farley's 389 Auto with A/C 1966 GTO


1967 GTO - image and text courtesy We Love









1967 GTO convertible rear


  • 400 Cubic Inches
    Appearance-wise the 1967 GTO was very similar to the 1966 model. The cars were on a two-year styling cycle. Mechanically there was a lot to talk about. Engine displacement was increased to 400 cubic inches. The front fender emblem retained the original 6.5-liter designation. The GTO was the first American car to denote engine displacement in liters. There were four 400-cubic-inch engines.

    The standard engine was the 335-horsepower Rochester Quadra-Jet four-barrel. A not-very-popular, no-cost option was the low compression 255-horsepower two-barrel for customers who wanted the GTO image with better fuel economy. Only 2,967 lower-performance engines were sold in '67. The first optional engine was the 360-horsepower HO which added a hotter camshaft, open element air filter, and improved exhaust manifolds. The top engine was also rated at 360 horsepower, but it included the Ram Air package which was shipped in the trunk for dealer or owner installation.

    (Image above: First and Last Regular Production Pontiac 400's - 1967 GTO 400 4-speed and 1978 Trans Am 400 W72 4-speed WS6 Pontiacs.)

    Dual Gate Shifter
    A new three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic transmission replaced the two-speed automatic from previous years. The Hurst Dual Gate shifter made the automatic transmission quite attractive. Depending on which gate was selected, the transmission could be shifted manually or automatically. The base transmission was still the three-speed manual with a Hurst shifter. The two optional four-speeds were the wide-ratio M20 and the close-ratio M21. Power front disc brakes were another new '67 option. Sales were slightly lower than the record 1966 numbers, but still very strong at 81,722 units.

    (Image below: 400 4-speed with A/C 1967 GTO.)



GTO Main 1st Gen 2nd Gen 3rd Gen 4th Gen

Some image and text content courtesy We Love


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