Debuting for the 1964 model year, the Pontiac GTO was born from the division’s need to attract the youth market after General Motors brass had put the kibosh on racing activities. A tragic crash at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans prompted the Automobile Manufacturers Association to institute a voluntary ban on participation in competitive motorsports before the US government stepped in. Pontiac had hinged their reputation on racing-derived performance, and the AMA ban was sure to hinder that going forward.
The Pontiac GTO was the answer to capturing the youth market. The brainchild of John Z DeLorean, Russ Gee, and Bill Collins, the GTO would be an option package for the Pontiac Tempest. Their idea was to swap the potent 389 V8 used in the full-size Pontiacs into the mid-size Tempest. At the time, General Motors had an internal rule limiting mid-size cars to 330 cubes of displacement, but the Pontiac guys skirted the issue by saying it didn’t apply to option packages. The 389 was to be fed by a single Carter AFB four-barrel carb, and would be dressed with air cleaner and valve covers. Spent gasses exited through true dual exhaust. Output was 325 horsepower. An optional triple Rochester two-barrel carb “Tri Power” setup yielded 348 horses. Transmission choices were a two-speed automatic or a three- or four-speed manual with a Hurst shifter. Stiffer springs, a thicker front sway bar, and wider 7.50 x 14-inch wheels shod in redline tires made for a beefier suspension. Much to the chagrin of Enzo Ferrari, DeLorean dubbed the new car the Pontiac GTO.
Initial forecasts called for 5,000 units for the first year of production, of which the Pontiac GTO sold 32,450. Pontiac had a hit on its hands.
For the 1966 model year, the Pontiac GTO became a model unto itself. In 1968, the GTO was completely redesigned, as were all the other GM A-body models. The wheelbase was slightly shorter, as were overall length and height. The previously stacked headlights were horizontally oriented, and the chrome front bumper was replaced by the new body-color, flexible Endura impact bumper.
The 1970 model year would be the acme for Pontiac GTO performance, until the Holden Monaro-based GTO bowed for the 2004 model year. For 1970, GM removed their internal restriction to 400 cubic inches of displacement for mid-size passenger vehicles, allowing for a 455 cube option (the Corvette was not included in that edict). The Ram Air 400 was standard for the GTO, with an available 400 cube Ram Air IV engine rated at 370 horsepower. An upgraded suspension included a new rear anti-roll bar, a stiffer front anti-roll bar, and available variable-ratio power steering.
Our feature 1970 Pontiac GTO was the subject of a comprehensive restoration by Bright Built Hot Rods of Salina, KS. Finished in rare Atoll Blue over a blue vinyl interior and white vinyl convertible top, it is one of 168 GTO Judge convertibles built for the 1970 model year. It is powered by the numbers-matching 400 cubic-inch Ram Air powerplant backed by a four-speed manual transmission. This GTO is a multiple award-winner, having been a 2011 Goodguys Muscle Car of the Year Finalist, the recipient of the 2011 Muscle Cars and Corvette Nationals Concours Silver Award, and the 2012 GTO Association of America Concours Silver Award. It is equipped with Rally gauges with tachometer, factory A/C, 8-track player, a Positraction rear end, decklid spoiler, and a copy of the window sticker.
This rare Pontiac GTO will cross the Mecum Auctions block at their Glendale, Arizona event happening March 28th through the April 1st.