Within the pantheon of automotive icons, the Pontiac GTO has attained high-ranking status since first appearing as an option package on the 1964 Tempest/LeMans. Graced with the title of being the first musclecar, even a thirty-year absence from production could not dislodge Pontiac’s “Great One” from its royal status. Built from 1964-1974, the original GTO’s run was nothing short of legendary, launching a class of car that would drive the wheels of American automotive prowess through to this day.
Continuing our series of guides on late-model GM performance cars, the staff at GM-EFI chose to document the return of Pontiac’s GTO from ’04-’06. We will give a brief back-story; covering the models offered, standard/optional features, colors, special editions, performance and production numbers, racing history and some common problems afflicting these great GT (Grand Touring) cars.
We will speak with none other than Bob Lutz himself, the de facto father of the new age GTO, whose vision of a modern iteration of Pontiac’s “Goat” came to life and American roads forty years after it’s iconic automotive ancestor. In addition, we will interview Joey Scarallo of Scarallo Motorsport/ROH Wheels, who has extensive experience racing his World Challenge ’06 GTO racecar, as well as his Torrid Red street-going Goat.
[RE]INTRODUCTION: IT COMES FROM A LAND DOWN UNDER
As the rear-wheel drive Pontiac faithful was licking their wounds in mourning the passing of their beloved Firebird, a waft hope was in the air.
Just as the original GTO owes its existence to legendary car men such as, John Zachary DeLorean, Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen, Elliot M. “Pete” Estes, engineers Bill Collins and Russell Gee, and the advertising and marketing wizardry of Jim Wangers, the idea and efforts of reviving the famed moniker, creating a modern version of the GTO, lies firmly in the hands of one man, Robert A. “Maximum Bob” Lutz.
Bob Lutz had a long and prestigious automotive career, having held high positions at the “Big Three” American automakers as well as BMW. Lutz is a true car guy and is credited with the successful launch of many vehicles, including the Dodge Viper RT/10 while at Chrysler.
Then Vice Chairman of GM North America, and eventual Head of GM Global Product Development, Bob Lutz had visited Australia early in 2002 on a fact-finding mission to GM’s “Down Under” subsidiary, Holden.
While on the island continent, Lutz drove a V8-powered Holden Monaro, a two-door coupe version of the highly touted Commodore SS saloon (sedan). His reaction to the stout little GT car was similar to most who climb into its cockpit and row through the gears – he was impressed, to say the least.
It seems the growl of the Monaro’s corporate Gen-III LS1 V8 brought about an epiphany in Lutz. This car, he thought, would be a great rear-wheel drive platform for the U.S. market – for Pontiac – and perhaps as a new GTO. With the Monaro CV8 already in production at Holden’s Elizabeth factory in South Australia, the basic platform and engineering was already there.
The conversion from Monaro to GTO would, however, require the addition of more than 450 unique components. Included in the transformation were redesigned front bumpers, headlamps and fuel cell (located in the single suitcase size trunk), along with weather-proofing for cold climate operation and increased corrosion protection – all to meet U.S. federal and state safety standards.
With the exhaustive efforts of people such as John Mack, Head of GM Design for International Joint-Venture Projects, and Michael Simcoe, Holden Design Chief, the work progressed quickly, giving the U.S. car-buying public their first glimpse of the new GTO at the LA Auto Show early in 2003.
The show-going Goat was dipped in limited edition Pulse Red Metallic paint (an exclusive color initially slated for a 40th-anniversary edition GTO) and wore the 18-inch rollers later available for the ’05 model year.
The new GTO’s aggressive, yet refined, appearance created much fanfare and anticipation. “The public’s interest in the GTO has been everything we hoped it would be and more,” said Lutz. Just seven months after announcing the return of Pontiac’s fabled muscle car, Lutz proclaimed, “This latest GTO will carry on the proud tradition of a legendary line.” With mouths watering and savings accounts being checked, Pontiac said that the new GTO would be available in dealer showrooms later in the year.
2004: Hot Car, Lukewarm Reception
The new GTO took longer than originally expected to arrive from Australia. Enthusiasts and Pontiac proponents who had placed their orders and deposits months in advance were at the mercy of production and shipping schedules. It was late-2004, by the time large numbers of new Goats galloped onto American shores, whisperings of a revised ’05 model were already in the air.
Once new the GTO was here, Pontiac made it very easy to get your example. The Pontiac tagline in the back of the ’04 GTO catalog read,
“Powerful. Simple. Evocative.”
- Every GTO is built one way: to perform
- Select an exterior color and matching gauge cluster
- Choose an available interior color
- Decide on manual or automatic
- Drive out – at posted speeds
That about says it all, as every GTO came loaded with standard features and pegged to cost $32,495, including a $700 destination/freight fee. The only option was the close-ratio, Tremec six-speed manual, at a bargain price of $695.
For the stated MSRP you got a true 2+2 GT coupe, powered by the 5.7L (346 ci.) LS1 V8 with sequential-port fuel injection, making 350hp/365lb-ft. and mated to the standard Hydra-Matic 4L60E automatic transmission. Similar to versions powering the late 4th-Gen V8 Firebirds and Monaro CV8, the GTO’s LS1 differed from its predecessors by being blessed with the Corvette’s high-lift camshaft and appropriate engine tuning, resulting in higher horsepower numbers.
Both manuals and automatics received a limited slip 3.46:1 final drive axle ratio, providing energetic off-the-line response, endless top end performance and decent fuel mileage. The Aussie Monaro was equipped with 3.08 gears in automatics and a 3.46 gear set in manual examples, by comparison.
You received a dual exhaust with twin catalytic converters, resonators, mufflers and chrome tips, exiting from the driver’s side. Pontiac’s team made every effort in tuning the GTO’s exhaust note to capture the essence of the musclecar’s heyday. In fact, it’s once been noted elsewhere that a 1964 GTO, borrowed from the GM Heritage Collection, was used to get the exhaust note and tone just right – down to the decibel.
Riding on a fully-independent suspension with MacPherson struts and progressive-rate springs up front, semi-trailing control link with gas pressure dampers out back and direct-acting stabilizer bars 28mm front/16mm rear; the 3700-lb. GT machine was nimble in a way its iconic forefathers were not. With a 55/45 front/rear weight distribution, “responsive ride” is an understatement, as directional control is wielded by variable-ratio rack and pinion power steering.
A standard three-channel traction-control system keeps things in perspective and has an on/off button for the more skilled pilot. With 350 ponies capable of roasting the rear meats at will, it certainly comes in handy.
Power meets the street via sticky 245/50/17 BFG G-Force T/A tires, wrapped around attractive 17×8-inch satin-silver-painted five-spoke alloy wheels. Braking is facilitated via four-wheel discs employing 11.7-inch ventilated front and 11.3-inch solid rear rotors, all power-assisted by way of a four-channel ABS system.
Built for refined high-performance, Motor Trend Magazine’s band of road testers had gotten ahold of an ’04 GTO and put it through its paces. Rave reviews streamed-in, as the new Goat thundered to 0-60 in 5.3-seconds, blowing past the 1/4-mile in 13.6 at a tick less than 105 mph. All of these numbers, by the way, were superior to any GTO that had come before it.
More surprising yet equally impressive, was the Goat’s beautiful and well-appointed interior. The 2+2 bucket seats feature sport-style bolsters and are covered in perforated leather as are the steering wheel and shifter.
Based on the Monaro’s palette, seven exterior colors were available on ’04 Goats. The hues offered were:
- Quicksilver Metallic
- Phantom Black Metallic
- Torrid Red
- Impulse Blue Metallic
- Barbados Blue Metallic
- Cosmos Purple Metallic
- Yellow Jacket
The choice of exterior color can extend to the interior, adorning seats/stitching, door inserts, lower-sides of the center-console and under dash area. Color-coordinated gauges are the “cherry on top” providing a match for, or pleasing contrast to, the interior leather and exterior paint color. For example, if you ordered a Torrid Red GTO, you could’ve chosen between black or red leather, and you would have received red gauges in any event.
Drowning out the exhaust music when summoned, is a Blaupunkt 200-watt 10-speaker audio system with an in dash 6-CD changer with auto-tone control. An in-glass rear-window antenna receives signal incognito. Additional interior styling, comfort and convenience features included:
- The large telescoping/rake adjustable steering wheel is equipped with radio control paddles.
- Both driver and front passenger get 8-way power adjustable seats with manual lumbar control dials.
- Machine drilled accelerator, clutch and brake pedals convey a racy high-end European touch.
- The analogue gauge cluster features a programmable drivers information center (DIC), monitoring several vehicle functions and performance data.
- Satin nickel appointments on the shifter, door handles/vents and center dash-control frame, provide an upscale and sporty look of quality.
- Safety features include: dual front air bags, theft and content deterrent system, emergency mode system, headlamps with auto-on/off/programmable delay and 3-point safety belts front/rear with rear seat-child anchor points.
After spotlighting the major accoutrements that are standard GTO fare, the MSRP doesn’t seem so outrageous; in fact it’s a heck of a lot of car for the money. Even with the new GTO’s awesome performance confirmed and touted by every auto publication out there, as well as anyone lucky enough to drive one, its sleeper appeal and lack of retro-styling, connecting it with iconic Goat’s from the past, hampered interest and overall sales. As a result, many ’04 GTOs drove out the door at significantly reduced prices.
CAPTURING NOSTALGIA: RAM AIR 6 AND W40 PACKAGE
Before most 2004 GTO’s were even off the boat, GM Performance Division had unveiled the Ram Air 6 GTO Concept at the ’04 Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit. The Dream Cruise is filled with enthusiasts from all over the country (sometimes the world), and it makes complete sense from a marketing standpoint that the Big Three takes advantage of the event to roll out their latest and greatest ideas.
Such was the case with the Ram Air 6, as it would be a glimpse of things to come for the new GTO. The Ram Air 6 had a hood with twin scoops, massive 20-inch wheels/tires, and was shown in Rollback Orange, a color reminiscent of the GTO’s Orbit Orange hue from yesteryear.
The hood scoops fed air into twin intakes sitting atop a Gen IV LS7 block with LS2 heads, crankshaft, rods and a custom-grind LS1 camshaft. The hot-rodded motor displaced an iconic 389 cubic-inches (ala’ ’64-’66 GTO) and made 575hp.
“We want to try out some ideas that will go into production or will influence the production car,” said Kip Wasenko, Chief Designer for the Ram Air 6 GTO.
The concept was a little over the top, with only the roof, doors and decklid remaining stock, all other panels were new and depicted a wide-body design. The Ram Air 6, did indeed hint to some design features coming for the ’05 Goat, hopefully satisfying the purists and newbies alike.
Another attempt to harness the Goat’s storied past and commemorate it’s long-standing as the first musclecar, was the W40 package. Introduced late in the model year, the W40 was originally intended as a 40th-Anniversary package for the GTO. It’s been said that after the disappointing launch and lukewarm sales, that the plan was abandoned.
The W40 was dipped in the aforementioned exclusive Pulse Red paint, had unique red GTO embroidery on the seats and grey-colored gauges. While 800 of the final 2004 GTOs built featured the rare W40 package, none of them were actually denoted or stamped with any kind of emblems or badging proclaiming either the W40 or 40th-anniversary livery. However, rumor has it that if you unzip the front seating upholstery, there’s a label or a tag inside that’s attached to the leather, depicting otherwise.
Originally slated to build and import 18,000 GTO’s to the U.S. from Australia, Pontiac sold 13,569 units for 2004. Equal to less than half the number of 4th-Gen Firebirds sold in 2002-its final year of production, the new Goat’s sales numbers fell shy of expectations.
2005: More Cubes and Updated Styling Cues
To many GTO fans and prospective buyers, 2005 would bring about the GTO that all had expected. Once again benefiting from its corporate cousin, the GTO was now fitted with the Gen-IV LS2 motor straight out of the new-for-2005 C6 Corvette.
The LS2 was an improved version of the Gen-III LS1, with a totally new cast aluminum block. The cylinder bore and stroke was increased to an even 4-inches and 3.22-inches respectively, creating a displacement of six-liters, or 364 cubic-inches.
The engineering process cut weight and mass wherever possible, making the LS2 the quickest-revving pushrod V8 ever built up to this point. Adding to the LS2’s increased efficiency were revised cylinder heads and camshaft, providing more airflow that complimented the engine’s larger displacement.
An increased camshaft lift (taking advantage of the increased cylinder head flow), relocation of the camshaft sensor from the rear to the front of the block to make room for new oil galleries, a new flat-top piston design with floating wrist pins to reduce friction and operating noise (a common complaint with LS1s), more efficient ignition coils (requiring less energy to provide a comparable spark) and electronic throttle control, replacing the LS1’s cable-operated system.
With a compression ratio of 10.9:1, the fresh mill made 400hp/400lb-ft, making it the most powerful GTO Pontiac had ever produced. With its rearranged cubic-digits from 346-to-364, the new powerplant made an already fast car into one of the fastest vehicles on the street at the time. It’s still a match for most anything today.
Certainly not lost on Pontiac, was the 6.0L Goat’s performance prowess and the bragging rights that went with it. As poignantly put in the ’05 GTO catalog, “This GTO completely overpowers every car in its class (100 horses and 80 lb-ft more than the Mustang GT.) That’s also more power and torque than the BMW M3 and the Porsche 911 Carrera.”
With every bit of the perfectly matched 400/400 numbers felt “seat of the pants;” an invigorating driving experience is enjoyed to say the least. Planting the go-pedal from a dead stop, rowing through the six-speed or letting the computer do the shifting, provides smile-inducing, 4.6-second 0-60 sprints. MotorWeek TV ran the 1/4-mile in 13.4-seconds, which was slightly more than the manufacturer’s 13.1-second catalog stats, but that could be driver/track and temperature related.
That being said, here is a list of features added to the 2005 GTO, reviving the look as well as the performance of Pontiac’s exalted “Great One”.
- True dual exhaust, now with separated tips exiting from both sides of a redesigned lower rear valence with “GTO” indented lettering
- New hood with twin scoops standard, smooth hood a no-cost option
- Improved larger brakes, 12.6×1.25-inch vented discs front/11.25x.75-inch vented discs rear and red-painted aluminum PBR calipers in front with “GTO” lettering
- Optional 18×8-inch, five-spoke, satin-silver-painted, alloy wheels with P235/40-R-18 W-rated summer performance tires, (not available until mid-production)
- Driver’s footrest (dead pedal)
- Revised “6.0 LITRE” fender badges with “6.0” and “Pontiac” lettering on rear of trunk
- Revised font and graphics on gauge cluster
- Discontinued colors: Barbados Blue Metallic and Cosmos Purple Metallic
- New colors: Midnight Blue Metallic and Cyclone Gray Metallic
SPORT APPEARANCE PACKAGE (SAP)
In an attempt to satisfy those who wanted to make more of a visual statement with their GTO, Pontiac offered the SAP (Sport Appearance Package) starting in ’05. First appearing at the 2004 SEMA convention as the “Autocross GTO”, the package consisted of a more aggressive front fascia design with wide mouth lower valence, recessed grille inserts, rocker extensions, a custom high-level spoiler and rear fascia extension featuring “GTO” lettering. Deep throaty-sounding mufflers with dual/dual chrome exhaust tips completed the package and the statement.
The body pieces came painted in red, black, and silver or primed, available through your local Pontiac dealer’s parts department. The package was dealer installed and covered by the cars GM new-vehicle limited warranty.
Even with the additional bang for the buck, retro cues and realization that performance wise, the GTO was a match for, or the better of, cars costing thousands more, sales fell as interest just didn’t seem to be there.
Pontiac sold just 11,069 Goats in ’05, making it obvious; it would take more than hood scoops to continue the legend.
2006: Refined, Maligned, End of the Line –AGAIN
As the ’06 model year rang-in, the outlook for the GTO was not good. Despite its impressive performance, the iconic moniker did not attract the late-20 and early 30-somethings to the showrooms like Pontiac had expected.
Changes made to the ’06 Goat were few, as Pontiac’s import quota was about at an end. Emphasis was put on refinement and addressing owner issues.
Additions to the 2006 GTO are as follows:
- A new center console-mounted power door lock on/off button
- Blacked-tinted taillights
- Revised faster-operating power seat motors
- Colors out: Yellow Jacket and Midnight Blue Metallic
- New Colors: Brazen Orange Metallic and Spice Red Metallic
- Continued availability of Sport Appearance Package (SAP) and optional 18-inch satin-silver painted wheels, with (Midnight silver finish available midyear)
Sales figures rose nicely for ’06, with 13,948 units sold, but still did not meet original projections.
June 2006 would see the last GTO roll out of Holden’s Elizabeth plant. The new age GTO’s brief three-year run had yielded 40,808 cars coming to American shores. In the words of this author, never before in the annals of automotive history, has such an awesome car been so maligned, experiencing a sort of car-like Rodney Dangerfield syndrome and “getting no respect.”
Built on a proven chassis platform and being mechanically sound overall, the 2004-’06 GTO had a few gremlins. Here are the common problem areas associated with the entire three-year model run:
- Ignition Lock Cylinder sticking/not turning; replace old part #92172018 with new part #92234035
- Front strut rub; most prevalent on cars with 17-inch wheels – possible camber adjustment required and 4-wheel alignment.
- Broken front fascia clips allowing for small gap; under headlights, between front fascia and fender.
- Seat stitching coming loose on top of front/rear seats; perhaps high temperature and sun-exposure related.
From the point Pontiac said the word go, aftermarket performance and tuning shops were on the new Goat, “like white on rice.” Both, the LS1 and LS2 cars, saw the lion’s share of performance parts, packages and even one-off test vehicles displaying the array of goodies available for late-model GTOs. From the air intake to the exhaust tips, you could completely build an entire drivetrain for your GTO using all aftermarket parts. Some of the test cars used by our friends in the aftermarket included:
- JBA Performance Exhaust (Vortech-blown ’04)
- Edelbrock (nitrous-fed ’04)
- Lingenfelter Performance Engineering
- Flowmaster Exhaust
- SLP (421 and 455 Bobcat)
- GM Performance Parts (LS7 ’04)
As a result, the new GTO was quite the performance platform and tuners took full advantage. Always at the forefront of hot rod high-tech, with a flair for old school cool, SLP developed two levels of horsepower upgrades for the new GTO; dubbed the 421 and 455 Bobcat performance package.
Paying homage to the “Royal Bobcat” modified GTOs from the musclecar’s golden age; SLP had built two test mule cars in the process. Denoting crank-rated horsepower rather than cubic-inches like in the old days, both packs featured multiple SLP performance parts including, exhaust, suspension, engine components and custom PCM tuning. You can learn more about them in a previous article HERE.
Following the forty-year movie and TV career enjoyed by classic GTO’s, the new 2004 model was featured in a USA Network action film called, “The Last Ride.” Starring Dennis Hopper as an ex-con paroled after a 30-year stint in prison, reuniting with his detective son played by Will Patton, while being introduced to his grandson for the first time who’s already in his 20s, this made-for-TV movies filled with GTO goodness.
In the TV film, Hopper reunites with his vintage ’69 GTO Judge, while his grandson “borrows” a new ’04 model off of an Auto Show turntable. Also appearing in the TV flick is a modified red 2004 GTO, featuring (SAP) Sport Appearance Package-like cues; such as hood scoops, tall deck rear spoiler and recessed grille openings, with Will Patton’s character showing up in the end with a Yellow Jacket ’04.
Few would argue, that the new Goat’s marquee role was worth its weight in advertising gold, as far as GM and Pontiac were concerned. If you’re interested in watching the film, DVD copies are available for purchase through Amazon and other outlets.
We all know that modifying cars for the street or Friday night’s local test and tune is one thing, but it’s quite another feat when you transform a street car into a serious road racing, drag racing or Formula-D competitor. Few cars have achieved such racing dominance in such short a time as the ’04-’06 Pontiac GTO. Here are the major accolades accrued by LS-powered racing Goats.
Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series GT Class:
Making a mid-2005 season debut, the GTO-R (racing variant of the street car), captured three wins and the pole in its first six races against international competition including the vaunted BMW M3 and Porsche GT3.
Winning the Engine Manufacturer’s Championship for the second year in a row, 2005 saw the 500+hp version of the Pontiac GTO LS2 V8 overpowering the competition, with a 1-2-3 sweep of the Rolex 24 at Daytona (for the second consecutive time), followed by 10 wins and four podium sweeps in the first 12 races. Rewriting the record books, this performance left BMW, Porsche and Lexus, scrounging for second.
NHRA PowerAde Pro Stock Drag Racing:
After a mid-season change to a new GTO, Warren “The Professor” Johnson set track records for elapsed time and top speed in his very first event.
Sparking the GTO’s winning ways, Greg Anderson captured the trophy at Sonoma and didn’t let up until securing his third straight NHRA PowerAde Pro Stock Championship win, and Pontiac’s ninth Manufacturers Cup Championship in 10 years.
Formula-D Drift Series:
Competing against Formula-D’s top dogs, both Japanese and domestic, World Rally veteran Rhys (Mad Skills) Millen and his race-built GTO, won the first race of the season and roasted through the remaining six events, leaving jaws agape and taking home the 2005 Formula-D Drift Championship.
This kind of overwhelming prowess on the track translates seamlessly to the street version of the new age GTO. Backing-up its legendary name with championships in every level of racing, only confirms the GTO’s status as truly “Great Ones”.
RACING ROOTS: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOEY SCARALLO:
As featured previously on GM-EFI, Joey Scarallo has made a name for himself in the world of auto racing, building a prestigious career spanning three-decades. Two-thousand eight saw Joey piloting his 650 hp ‘06 Pontiac GTO racecar in World Challenge GT. Owning and driving both race and street versions, we sought his thoughts and opinions on Pontiac’s new Goat.
GM-EFI: With your Australian origins and prior knowledge of the Holden Monaro, what did you think of its transformation into the Pontiac GTO?
Joey Scarallo: “It was the ideal car to pick. The Monaro is Australia’s equivalent of the GTO or Chevelle, it was the natural choice, an awesome car to begin with.”
GMEFI: After years on the professional racing circuit, mostly behind the wheel of C5/C6 Corvettes, what made you choose the GTO for World Challenge GT in 2008?
JS: “Besides racing politics and economic reasons, we knew we could win races with it. The GTO was the perfect fit, an Aussie car for an Aussie driver. Plus at the time we (Scarallo Motorsport/ROH Wheels) were producing, marketing and selling exclusive wheels for the street version, it made perfect sense.”
GMEFI: Owning a 2006 Torrid GTO yourself, what are your impressions of the street Goat?
JS: “Well here’s a little story for you relevant to your question. Soon after getting the new GTO in 2006, we acquired a beautiful 1993 Porsche 928 GTS with only 9-thousand miles. Although the Porsche was a great German GT car, front-engine, rear-drive, V8-power, etc, we soon realized the GTO rode nicer and was an overall better car. It did everything better, and cost 30-grand less, incredible bang for the buck.”
To this author, the mere utterance of GTO in the same sentence as Porsche from a professional racecar driver, much less touting its superiority to the great German machine is Nuff said.
VISIONARY: INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT A. “BOB” LUTZ, FATHER OF THE NEW AGE GTO
GM-EFI: As the story goes, you were in Australia in early in 2002, visiting Holden when you first drove the Monaro. Were you immediately hit with the idea to transform the Aussie GT coupe into a new GTO, and what was the thinking behind it?
Bob Lutz: “It goes back further than that. A couple of years prior to that trip, I remember seeing the Monaro in some Australian car magazines and reading the rave reviews it was getting. I also saw an article in one of the American publications, touting the awesome V8-powered rear-drive Monaro as the best GM car you can’t have in America. At that point, I said to myself, what’s wrong with GM?
GMEFI: What was the reasoning behind bringing the ’04 GTO to fruition without the retro styling cues (hood scoops, dual outlet exhaust, etc.) why not wait to release the ’05 with these features?
BL: “When I first mentioned the prospect to GM management, I was told that the Monaro was part of the Asia-Pacific branch of design and we (GM North America) had nothing to do with it. Once they were convinced and the project got underway, making the Monaro into a Pontiac GTO, by way of redesigning the front fascia (with the dual grilles) etc. took precedence; retro styling was not part of the plan. The new GTO was to be a modern iteration, not a duplicate of the cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s.”
GMEFI: Given the very warm reception the GTO received on the show car circuit early in 2003, were you surprised by the backlash from purists?
BL: “Backlash is inevitable with these classic cars. Every time the new generation comes out, they write you letters on how you ruined the car, and say they’ll never buy another. The Corvette guys are the worst; complaining about loss of this and that styling cue from one generation to the next.”
GMEFI: The projected build/import goal for the ’04-’06 GTO was supposed to be 18-thousand units per year – sales fell short of that number. If sales had been more robust, showing greater enthusiasm, would there have been a redesigned GTO for ’07 or ’08, perhaps on the Zeta-platform?
BL: “The GTO was never about sales, it was more about forcing GM to globalize; using the offerings from its subsidiaries, like Holden in different markets, [for example]: the Monaro/GTO and Vauxhall iterations. Slow sales were a result of two factors. When we began the project, the Australian dollar was weak and the U.S. dollar strong; the GTO was originally set to cost around $25k. By the time we released the car, they were about even, resulting in the $32k MSRP.
The other ‘fatal’ mistake was the initial misallocation of GTOs to markets where the Grand Am had sold well. The two cars couldn’t have been more different, resulting in areas of the country, like California, having dealers begging for GTOs, while units sent to the northern states, just sat.
A redesigned GTO was a possibility on a modified Zeta-platform, but never moved forward.”
GMEFI: Many naysayers and opponents of the new-age GTO say it was a major nail in the coffin for Pontiac Motor Division, leading to its untimely demise, is this true?
BL: “No, Pontiac was always my favorite GM division. It was a tragedy to see it go, but the GTO was [used as] a wedge to pry open GM’s subsidiaries and globalize. The GTO led to the Commodore SS into becoming the excellent Pontiac G8, and eventually, the Chevy SS performance sedan. By the time GM was in financial trouble and in need of government assistance, Pontiac was on the way back, but because of lack of viable profits, was chosen by the Feds to go instead of Buick and GMC. It was ‘Pontiac, or no bailout.’”
GMEFI: Almost a decade since the last GTO was built and five years post Pontiac’s demise, the ’04-’06 Goats are finally getting their due, enjoying a cult-like following among late-model GM and Pontiac enthusiasts – even many GTO purists are now on board. What are your thoughts on this?
BL: “This was inevitable, too. I know guys that have new GTOs (usually in black) and they keep them in the garage and cherish them, right along side the vintage cars.”
Automotive history is filled with cars that have fallen short of expectations that many consider to be failures. The 2004-’06 Pontiac GTO is no failure. The new age GTO is a high-performance machine that accomplished its mission on every level, not only out-performing every car in its class, but all GTOs that came before it.
Bob Lutz’s vision and Pontiac’s efforts in reviving the GTO, based on the Holden Monaro, were spot-on. The Monaro was a compliment to the great GTO moniker and worthy of it in every way. As Mr. Lutz confirms, the new GTO was never supposed to be a retro-styled duplicate of the classic Goats from the late-‘60s/early-’70s, but a new, modern iteration of the GTO – as if it had evolved and advanced naturally through time, consecutively in production up through the new millennium. So citing that an ’06 GTO doesn’t resemble a car from forty years earlier is a moot point.
Today the modern GTO is largely accepted by Pontiac and late-model enthusiasts alike, as a “cool car.” Known for it’s clean, slick shape, muscular features and Vette-like performance, it has become the ultimate sleeper. Not much unlike the original Tempest/LeMans cars.
The aftermarket continues to provide parts and enhancements in every category for the new age Goat, as their popularity and rarity increases with every passing year. Like a painter’s future masterpiece, that is not accepted and deemed as such until time and feelings can catch-up and recognize the greatness of the work; Bob Lutz’s vision and the awesome car it culminated, shall have their day in the sun.
In the opinion of this author, the neo-GTO is one of the last great Pontiac’s to hit the road, exemplifying everything that the late motor division stood for; taking risks, exploiting chances, building exciting cars and roasting the competition.
Since obtaining his driver’s license way back in 1987, Andrew’s automotive interests have revolved around late-model, GM EFI iron. Predominantly a Pontiac guy, he had grown-up driving and experiencing many EFI cars from the ’80s to the present. Since 2008, he’s been a freelance writer/photographer for multiple niche auto enthusiast magazines and websites. Andrew claims to have a short yet definitve list of passions, in which late-model performance cars, hold a top spot.