2004-2006 Pontaic GTO
2004 Pontaic GTO
The story of the proper muscle car in America starts pretty much with the Pontiac GTO in 1964. Stuffing big engines from sedans into smaller coupes was nothing new, but John Delorean’s ideal for Pontaic would be the beginning of a trend that quickly spread beyond America to some of the far reaches of the globe. Few people realized that like in a parallel universe, an alternate reality existed in Australia where the same muscle car trends going on in here were happening on a Continent far far away. We had our Camaros, Mustangs and Chargers while they were smoking the rear wheels with Monaro’s, Falcons and GTR Torana’s. The muscle car was alive and well on both contents through the 60’s and suffered a similar fate by the mid 70’s.
While GTO and Monaro were long gone by the 90’s, they shared resurgence as the new Milluninum got underway. This is where the parallel universes converged, as the new Monaro (also called Chevy SS, Lumina, or Vauxhall Monaro in other markets) became the basis of the American return of the GTO in 2004.
It had been two years since GM dropped the F-Body cars, leaving Pontiac without its Firebird. Pontiac executives figured the GTO would fill the gap and offer a Pontiac alternative to the re-designed Mustang and nostalgia based muscle cars from Chrysler. The Monaro was a muscle car in the truest sense, spawned from the Holden Commodore (the basis of the Caddllic Cetera- “the Caddy that Zings”) it featured a fully independent sports suspension and massive V8 power. Unlike the GTOs and Monaros of the past, it was a comfortable highway cruiser with a fair amount of up to date technology like obnoxiously loud entertainment systems, navigation and safety equipment.
The centerpiece of the GTO was its Corvette sourced 5.7 L LS1 and eventually the LS2 engine, making as much as 400 hp. While the Monaro was available with V6 power in Australia, only detuned Corvette LS V8s were available in the US market.
Initial excitement gave way to a mixed reception, as reviewers praised the car for its solid performance, comfort and exhaust note, but bemoaned it for looking somewhat bland and not being true to the GTO heritage from a design perspective. More aggressive looking versions of the car were available in England as a Vauxhall, so Pontiac designers decided to include typical Pontiac flair by adding non-functional air vents to the hood. The twin hood scopes, a modification that actually improved the looks and bumped up the “open shirt middle-aged man” factor significantly, was criticized by the Australian auto media as ruining the looks of the car. Other gradual changes were offered by the factory and by dealers wanting to make the GTO as close to the departed Trans-Am in the aggressiveness department. Sales were timid at best and not helped by dealers who charged a premium markup on the few GTOs that trickled into their dealerships.
Nevertheless, the car developed a following slowly and became quite the bargain on the used car lot. Pontiac only intended to sell the GTO for three years (in line with Holden’s plans for the Monaro). By 2006, sales were so few that it did not matter anyway. The GTO offered fit and finish quality that was a step ahead of the American built car line up of the time and advanced Pontiac ergonomics to the point of being almost world class. Despite being rear-wheel drive, having V8 power and being a comfortable cruiser, it never really took off with the Middle America target market that Pontiac was aiming for, but those chrome 18s on the later cars looked sweet. Some sketches of a GTO with a more direct link to the muscle car of the 60’s was shown in a few magazines but no real plans were made for a direct replacement if you don’t count the related next generation sedan derivative called the G8.
In fact, Holden had none for the Monaro either but displayed a Holden Coupe called the Coupe 60 in 2008. The Coupe 60 was a fully operational one-off convertible that will likely not see production – how sad. Meanwhile retro style and power continue in the US with the Mustang, Charger and Camaro. Hey GM, with no chance of a offering a Firebird, how about a new old GTO or Chevelle? Maybe in a parallel universe. Tune in to the next suprising episode: The Pointaic G8.
2006 Pontiac GTO with dealer options