The US muscle car craze was started by Pontiac when John DeLorean conceived the
idea of putting the largest engine that Pontiac produced, the 7.45-litre V8 used in the
large Grand Prix model, into the body of the smaller compact Tempest sedan.
A compact car with this much power was considered by DeLorean to be just the thing
to attract the young buyer in the early 1960s since Pontiac was losing market share
and their model range was perceived as most suitable for older drivers. The Pontiac
GTO is renowned as America’s first performance car and was in production from 1946
The Pontiac GTO is of recent interest to Australian drivers with the news that the
revived Holden Monaro was exported to the US, with a Pontiac GTO badge on the
GTO, or Grand Turismo Omologato, is an Italian term which originally identified grand
touring coupes such as Ferraris that qualified for road racing. Various modifications to
the Australian-built Monaro were made to enable it to meet or exceed mandatory US
legal requirements, environmental conditions and unique design characteristics for
Pontiac, such as the grille.
The original GTOs had staggering acceleration considering the huge power to weight
ratio, but as little was done to other parts of the car, braking and roadholding left a lot to
be desired when compared with the European cars with which it competed. Still, it had
an American brand name and young men were attracted to the GTO for its sheer
By 1967, disc brakes were offered as an option so buyers could now elect to stop as
well as they could accelerate. The same discs were also used on Corvettes, Firebirds
and Camaros. By 1967 most options were finally fitted as standard equipment.
Throughout the life of the GTO there were several cosmetic changes to keep pace with
other Pontiac model introductions but the massive increase in power to weight was
retained by the use of the largest engine in the Pontiac range.
For the Australian made Pontiac GTO, the 5.7-litre, Gen III, V8 engine as already used
in the Monaro and the Chevrolet Corvette is coupled to either a six-speed manual or
four-speed automatic transmission.