The GTO was not the original pony car, and it was not the first muscle car. But it was a great vehicle nonetheless. The GTO wasn’t particularly much to look at in terms of an exterior appearance. Forego the humble exterior though and you have one serious muscle car. The GTO came out of the factory with a 389 cu in (6.4 L) Pontiac V8 or an optional 400 cu in (6.6 L) Pontiac V8.
Both of these engines were powerful choices at a time when big powerful motors ruled the roost. The six-speed transmission shifted with authority as the car was piloted. When it comes to sheer power, the GTO wasn’t shy about showing off its brawn. The GTO was a lot different than other pony cars at the time in that it was a full-sized muscle car.
Equally as iconic as the first year, the 1968 Pontiac GTO built on the brand’s reputation. Subtle improvements to the car made for a relatively smooth transition. The 1968 model changed for the better as it was based on the Chevelle. A close look at the two cars and you’ll see the similarities up close. The 1968 model stood out in a lot of ways because of its bolder styling.
This was a period that was right on the verge of the fuel crisis. The 1968 GTO was perhaps one of the last fun years for the car. If you were lucky enough to get the 6.0-liter V8 with the four-speed overdrive transmission, you had one of the fastest Pontiacs on the road. To this day, the 1968 GTO is one of the most coveted models. From a resale point of view, you can expect to pay a hefty amount of money. If you are lucky there are still a few barn finds left to be had.
The 1969 Firebird was a little different than the years that preceded it. GM had designed this particular car to compete with the Mercury Cougar. The 1969 model featured bolder styling of the front clip. This was done to further differentiate the car from its cousin the Camaro. Although both the cars are relatively identical the Camaro and the Firebird had a few things that set them apart. The Camaro, for instance, was a more utilitarian design, whereas the Firebird had more stylistic elements to it.
This being the last year of the first-generation Firebird, there were some great features and badging. The next generation that came after this would be one of the longest-running models in GM history. 1969 is often the less coveted of the Firebird models. The powerful V8 engine was still there and the car had a memorable design. The convertible version is rare, but if you love the open-air feeling of a muscle car, you can’t go wrong with it.
Surprisingly enough, the GTO didn’t start life out as its own brand. Instead, the GTO was an option for the Pontiac Tempest. Around this time, the concept of a muscle car was still a new thing and GM was toying with the idea of a performance package. Things were going good for the economy and there was a whole new generation of kids who wanted a fast car for a reasonable price. Around this time, the Mustang was just about to hit the market but GM didn’t have a pony car that was ready for production. The 1964 Pontiac GTO hit the market and the audience went crazy for it.
Pontiac originally set a goal of 5,000 sales for the first GTO and once the buying public got a hold of it the company sold 32,450. It’s hard to believe that the GTO was only a $296 option. So what made the GTO so special? Well, the optional appearance package which included big fat tires, and a powerful 389-CID V-8. You could also add to this package with the Tri-Power setup, which gave the car even more oomph.
The first real battle in the muscle car race was the 1965 GTO versus the 1965 Mustang. Both cars were powered by a V8 engine, and both cars were vying for the affection of passionate consumers who wanted a great ride. The 1965 Pontiac GTO was not all that different than the model that preceded it. Pontiac was hard at work to bring the Firebird to the light and the GTO was quietly getting a redesign. Around this period of the time, GM had a couple of aces up its sleeve in the muscle car department.
The 1965 Pontiac GTO incorporated a lot of features that made it worthwhile. The option package was still $296 and for that price, you got the powerful V8 and the GTO badge. It’s interesting to know that the GTO name is derived from Ferrari. The 1965 GTO is a highly coveted car to this day. There were three options that you could get, the LeMans coupe, convertible, and two-door hardtop. All of these options made for a great car that still holds its legendary demeanor to this day.
The G8 was the product of poor planning and no vision for the brand. What was perhaps the best sedan to come out of Pontiac in years only saw the light for a few years. The G8 was the right car at the wrong time, and GM knew it. We don’t know why GM waited until the end to release this wonderful sedan. The G8 was powered by a hefty 6.0 L V8. The stunningly beautiful design didn’t do the car justice. It was when you stepped behind the wheel that you were in for something special.
The G8 was offered in a few notable colors, but of course Pontiac red was the most popular. If you wanted to experience the last real V8 powered rear-wheel drive domestic sedan, this was it. The build quality of the G8 and the overall design was top-notch at a time when GM was teetering on collapse. Perhaps if the G8 had hit the market in the years prior we would still have a Pontiac brand to this day.
1970 marked a big defining year for GM muscle cars. The Camaro and Firebird were both completely redesigned as were the GTO/Chevelle/Cutlass trio. The 1970 GTO bares a striking resemblance to the Chevelle. You could get the Judge option, which many consider being the greatest among muscle cars. The 14-inch factory rally wheels are some of the most iconic rims in the automotive world. Every element of the design that went into the GTO was unique in some aspects.
The car had a serious punch off the line, and that’s why buyers loved it. The GTO was also much larger than the smaller Firebird interior-wise. This meant that drivers could have more passengers with ease, the six-passenger seating was pretty cool at a time when muscle cars were cramped for space. The 1970 GTO was and still is today one of the most iconic faces of the muscle car era. For the price, you got one of the fastest and best-performing cars on the road.
Not every car on this list is going to be a certified muscle car. The Grand Prix has long been one of the most well-known nameplates on the road. The 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix was a big, powerful coupe. The GTO in itself is a big car but the Grand Prix took it to the next level.
Aside from the land yacht seating accommodations, the 1969 Grand Prix incorporated a very aerodynamic design. The big 455 V8 engine was as smooth as it was fast, and it propelled the car with authority. The Grand Prix was meant to be a luxurious coupe and drivers appreciated it. While the Grand Prix might not have the clout of the GTO or the Chevelle, you can still find one and make it into an affordable and fun ride.
If there is one thing about the earlier Pontiac lineups, it was that there was a variety. The 1963 Pontiac Catalina is another one of these cars that influenced an entire generation. The wonderful blend of fine lines and attention to detail made the Catalina a coupe that people wanted to drive. The optional convertible version was a looker even by today’s standards. While the car might not be a GTO, it was still a performer on and off of the track.
The 421 V8 engine was among one of the most highly coveted to come out of Detroit. Pontiac emphasized designing performance cars that looked great. Aside from the 421 badging all over the car, there was also a pair of road-hugging rally wheels with tires. Take a look at the front clip of later cars and you might think that you are looking at a GTO. The Catalina shared a lot of the design elements with other GM cars at the time. If you want to find one of the better Pontiac coupes to come out of the 1960s, the Catalina is a great choice.
1969 was a great year for muscle cars, and Pontiac was in full swing. The Firebird was selling quite well and the GTO was a well-known choice for a muscle car. The GTO was and still is to this day one of the best performers on the track. For those who wanted a powerful, V8-powered sports coupe in 1969, the GTO was the only way to go. The 400 HO V8 engine was designed to provide a decent amount of off the line power in addition to brute torque. Shoppers were intrigued by the stylistic elements of the GTO. The muscle car provided handsome looks and a large interior.
This was the year that GTO cemented itself as muscle car royalty. The GTO is not a pony car like the Camaro or the Firebird. Instead, this is a serious performance coupe that can handle its own on the track or in the city. Values for the 1969 GTO has continued to rise over the past few decades. This body style, in general, is a highly coveted one, whether you get the GTO or the Cutlass. A common modification to this body style of the GTO is to outfit it with a new modern LS engine.
Similar to the original GTO, the 1963 Grand Prix was a hefty performance car in its own right. The 1963 Grand Prix was part of the 17th FIA Formula One races, and it also held it is on the drag racing circuit. What made the 1963 Grand Prix so unique was that it started to differentiate itself from the other sedans on the market. Pontiac marketed the Grand Prix as a modern family sedan with attitude. If you wanted the 1963 Grand Prix, you had a choice of engines for it.
Ordering a 1963 Grand Prix was a grand thing to do. The 1963 Grand Prix came in a coupe or a sedan. In terms of a noteworthy design, GM tried to mimic the success of the Grand Prix with other models later on. Up until the end of the Pontiac lineup, the Grand Prix remained a fixture of the brand. To this day, the 1963 Grand Prix is one of the more coveted models and constantly garners attention at the auction block.
Even though the 70s were a rough time for automakers, Pontiac wasn’t deterred and thus the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am K type was born. The original Type K was not supposed to be on the Trans Am package at all, it was designed for the base Firebird. Designed by Jerry Brockstein the Type K featured elements of a station wagon that were combined with a traditional Firebird. No Camaro was designed as this was going to be a Pontiac exclusive vehicle. Designwise, the Type K featured an all-glass roof and a fiberglass body.
The Type K was meant to be for consumers who wanted a Firebird but liked more interior space. Dimensions in these early Firebirds were quite cramped inside, so any chance to increase interior space was welcomed. The Type K never went into production but there are a few prototypes that are floating around. This was a rare part of the Pontiac lineage.
The 1962 Catalina was the welcome to the new design elements of the car. Before the Catalina, there were few sedans on the market designed for performance. The line was so popular that the Catalina lasted up until the 1981 model year. You might notice that the 1962 model looks a lot like the Impala of the period. The 1962 Catalina is a winning combination of performance and design. Consumers loved how warm and inviting the interior was as it offered a good deal of features.
When you look back on Pontiac’s heritage most, enthusiasts will talk about the Firebird or the GTO. But the Catalina was also an important aspect of Pontiac history. The car had a good deal of style and performance that drove consumers into Pontiac showrooms. The 1962 Catalina looked the part of a 60s family sedan, but performed a lot better. Finding a 1962 Catalina can be quite pricey recently. But if you want to get your hands on an early piece of Pontiac history, this is it.
Third generation F-bodies are highly regarded as one of GM’s best vehicle lines. The third generation of the Firebird was very similar to the redesigned Camaro. The 1987 model year brought a few changes that would bring the car into the future. First, there was the TPI fuel-injected engine, which was a vast improvement over the 305 Carbureted motor. Then the interior was redesigned to be a bit more modern. The dashboard had faux carbon fiber across it and the seats were a bit more race-inspired then the Camaro. You can see that a lot of design work went into the 1987 Pontiac Firebird.
The car had several improvements over its predecessors. This Firebird model ended up being one of the best sellers for Pontiac. Step into the Formula version of the car and you were in for a real treat. The 4-speed automatic transmission was enough for most enthusiasts, while the 5-speed manual was short and crisp. The third generation of the F-body was one of the last authentic Firebirds to hit the market. Later years featured a car that was just in the shadow of the Camaro and the Mustang.
There were quite a few rare Pontiac models that hit the road during the 60s and 70s. What exactly was the GT-37? It was a poor man’s GTO. The 1971 Lemans GT-37 was a stripped-down version of The Tempest. You got all of the GTO looks without the GTO price tag. While the car managed to sell in respectable numbers, it was still never as highly regarded as the GTO. Finding one of these is not going to be easy as production numbers were still low.
The 1971 Lemans GT-37 had locking hood pins and the car even had Judge style stripes. The 250hp, 350-cu.in. V-8 was a good option for most people. The engine motivated the heavy car with authority and still made you feel like you were in a GTO. The rather unique design of the car and the stripped-down price tag made it appealing. But most consumers were still trying to get their hands on the Firebird and GTO around this time. Gas prices were also starting to rise and thus, the GT-37 didn’t have a long shelf life.
Where do we even start with the Fiero? It wasn’t a performance car, and it wasn’t necessarily an iconic car either. The Fiero was the product of GM 80s engineering, and the car had some pretty cool features. This was the first mid-engined Pontiac model to hit the market ever. With that being said the car’s only competition was the Toyota MR2. Both cars had their strong suits and both cars were also very cramped. The Fiero, on the other hand, had a whole other issue which was engine fires. Pontiac later rectified this problem, but it was far too late and Fiero was eventually discontinued.
Still, the Fiero is a pretty iconic part of the Pontiac lineage. The car had one of the most unique designs to come out of a GM factory in a long time. At this point, GM was throwing everything that it had to compete with the imports. The Fiero was GMs attempt to lure younger buyers into the showrooms. The car was lightweight and featured an interesting design and had it not been for the engine fire the Fiero would live on.
1989 was another eventful year for the Firebird lineup. There were quite a few models that you could choose from. The first of which was the base Firebird which still offered a potent V6. Then you had the Trans Am, which added a bit of power to the mix. If you were daring, you could get the Formula model. All of the engines were improving now that fuel injection was becoming the norm. Cars were becoming quicker off the line and there were fewer maintenance issues. The Trans AM GTA featured a race-inspired interior and a more aggressive air inlet.
Whichever model you chose, the Firebird was a combination of pure adrenaline and horsepower. The car had many improvements over the standard Camaro. Most traditional Camaro buyers were loyal to the lineup but in a lot of ways, the Firebird was the better car. Sure from the outside, the two looked very similar, but a good deal of design went into the 1989 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. T-Tops were also an option that you could still get on these cars. 1989 was getting closer to the final curtain call of the third-generation cars.
The fourth-generation F-bodies were among some of the best performing muscle cars to come out of GM to this day. What made the fourth gens cool was the fact that they incorporated a Corvette derived LS1 V8 engine. The 2000 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Liftback looked intimidating. Its engine remains one of the most reliable engines that GM ever made. Everything will fall apart around this car before the engine goes. This was a real testament to GM design and ingenuity.
The car was slated to be discontinued for the 2002 model year, at which point Pontiac and Chevy would be out of the Pony car race. The interior was a rather upscale version of the Camaro. The car still featured T-Tops as earlier models did and there was also an option to get a Ram-Air hood and air intake. In addition to the limited edition SLP line which incorporated new performance upgrades right from the factory.
Pontiac surprised the performance community in 2004 with the release of the GTO. There were high hopes for the car as it featured an updated LS-series engine. The 2005 Pontiac GTO was critically panned for the heavyweight of the vehicle. The 2005 GTO increased the standard horsepower and added a few new exterior colors to the mix. Performance-wise the car was a monster, and the stock exhaust note of the GTO was soul-satisfying.
Sadly, this model of the GTO was never a popular choice among pony car buyers. Around this time Dodge was also introducing the Hemi powered Charger Sedan. The GTO had a lot of competition around this time. But aside from the lackluster handling, this was after all a new generation of the legendary GTO. There were Pontiac diehards who had to get their hands on one and see its performance.
2006 was the swan song for the GTO and its the final year of production. For this model, Pontiac increased the horsepower of the vehicle to over 400HP. If that wasn’t enough to entice buyers into Pontiac showrooms, the car also had Euro inspired tail-lights. The 2006 Pontiac GTO was a sad day for many Pontiac enthusiasts because the company was exiting the muscle car arena again.
via: Motor TrendAlthough the car was universally panned over its short existence, the GTO did offer a modern dose of Pontiac’s muscle. Toward the end of the Firebird’s lifespan, it had grown tired and dated. Surprisingly enough, this generation of the GTO found a loyal following in the drifting circuit. The car had a good deal of horsepower and its the rear-wheel-drive which made it the perfect choice.
The final year of the Firebird was a special one. The WS6 was a limited edition that came in white with blue stripes or yellow with black stripes. The car was a fitting end to an era and stood out as a great-looking car. Under the hood was a series of SLP upgrades which made the car immensely faster than a standard Firebird model. Although the Firebird was never as much of a volume seller as the Camaro toward the end, the model still deserved a fitting end. You could also get a WS6 in a T-Top or a convertible version. Both rank highly when it comes to the aftermarket auction block.
The 2002 Firebird is perhaps one of the most iconic cars to come out of GM. It’s not as coveted as an early model Firebird, but if you want a modern rendition, this was it. The WS6 package is known for its performance upgrades over the standard Firebird. The package incorporated a good deal of features that made it both fun and perform well on the road. The Firebird WS6 is a stellar addition to an already storied lineage of muscle cars.
The 1998 Firebird was a revolutionary model in two ways. First, it had a redesign to a modern look. The second was the addition of the Corvette derived LS1 engine. The LS1 is a modern engine all around and this was the same engine that you’d find in the C5 Corvette. Buyers of this Firebird were treated to interior improvements including redesigned seats and a Pontiac-inspired dashboard. The convertible model of the 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am had a power top option, while T-Tops retained their iconic style.
There was also a new and improved Formula option of the Firebird, which added SLP upgrades. SLP was the company that GM would farm all of their performance cars out to. The SLP kit included a beefier air intake and a custom exhaust system. Pound-for-pound, the 1998 Firebird was a whole lot more powerful than the Mustang GT at the time. The 1998 Firebird was a fitting redesign for a car that had a cult following.
The Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 is a car that you don’t hear a lot about if ever. It was originally designed for the racing circuits. GM was constantly losing compared to the aerodynamic Ford Thunderbird. So they went back to the drawing board to redesign the G-Body cars. Since the G-Body models were some of the best selling cars in the country there was no need for a total redesign. Designers were brought in to tweak the existing design and make it more aerodynamic. The 1987 Grand Prix 2+2 is the product of this marriage.
The first thing that you’ll notice is the sloping rear hatch. The glass is designed to give the car a more aerodynamic presence. For the most part, it worked, and the car had a much better off the line time. The 2+2 design is to replace the bench seat that was in the rear of the generic G-Body coupes. The 2+2 was rare yet the car didn’t sell very well. If you can get your hands on one of these iconic Pontiacs, you’ll be in for something special.
The later years for the Grand Prix weren’t very eventful. And this sedan was just a sportier option for a family sedan. 2002 was an important year because of the addition of the Ram-Air GTP performance model. Whether you picked a coupe or a sedan this was a serious way to drive around and the sedan performed admirably. Pontiac was trying to present an affordable alternative to the boring sedans on the market. The GTP was this solution and it sold like hotcakes. The Grand Prix had generally favorable reviews.
The Grand Prix GTP lived on until the G8 hit the market. Unfortunately by that time, the brand was on the way out. The Grand Prix will live on as one of the more exciting cars of the last few decades. Family sedans were still semi-boring around this time and the Grand Prix provided a handsome solution. You can find these cars on the used market for a dirt-cheap price, and most of them still run well.
2005 was a remarkable year for the Pontiac brand. There were two powerful V8 offerings in the lineup for the first time in years, the GTO and the Grand Prix GXP. The Grand Prix sedan was known for having a V6 powerplant, so it was a surprise to shoppers when the Northstar V8 made its debut. The GXP featured chrome accents throughout the vehicle, as well as custom chrome rims. The Northstar V8 isn’t necessarily a performance-oriented engine but it did offer a good amount of power for a vehicle that was intended to perform.
Interior-wise the GXP got an upmarket treatment over the standard model. This was one of the first Pontiacs to offer a built-in navigation system. The Grand Prix GXP with the V8 was sold in very low numbers which made it a rarity. The GXP was a breath of fresh air for Pontiac enthusiasts as it offered a real performance sedan offering.
Although V8-powered sports cars are generally the way to go, GM has put forth some solid turbocharged V6 offerings in the past. The first that comes to mind is the Buick GNX, and the second would be the Grand Prix Turbo. The Grand Prix Turbo coupe was exciting enough, but there was also a limited edition McLaren ASC edition as well. The performance was derived from a turbocharged version of the original V6 powerplant. The design of the car culminated from the brand’s racing heritage.
The Turbo had an interesting plethora of options such as a heads-up display and a steering wheel that was full of controls. The Grand Prix stands out from the crowd for having a unique exterior styling and one of GMs better V6 powerplants. The ABS was still new on these cars and the wheels had that authentic 90s ABS badging on them. Finding a Grand Prix Turbo from this era might be difficult.
The reason why the Grand Am Coupe is on this list is that it is an iconic model. Before you start writing hate mail, just hear us out. The Grand Am Coupe was one of the few performances oriented mid-size sedans on the market. At a time when cars were generally lackluster the Grand Am was adding a touch of performance to the mix. The Ram-Air edition of the car featured a supercharged engine that gave the lightweight vehicle a serious amount of power.
Coupled with the standout styling features of the car, the Grand Am Coupe was a pretty unique vehicle to say the least. The car had a stellar amount of features for the price. Finding one of these users is a bargain. Sure, Pontiac used a massive amount of body cladding which was panned by the automotive press. But the overall design of the car was noteworthy enough to build a solid following behind the car that still drives it.
Perhaps no car is as universally hated in the automotive industry as the Pontiac Aztek. The car was the birth child of a GM plan to hatch crossover SUVs way before they were a thing. While the Aztek seemed like a great idea on paper, the final product was a dud. The styling was horrific, covered in grey body cladding and an ugly nose. Coupled with the addition of the cars notoriously horrendous V6 engine. The Aztek was smoothed out in its later years but this was not enough to justify sales of the hideous vehicle.
The Aztek gained a huge amount of notoriety long after its demise thanks to the TV show, ‘Breaking Bad.’ Although the SUV was panned for its looks, there has been a recent resurgence on the used car market. Now, all of the sudden, people are interested in this thing. The Aztek surely deserves to go down in history as one of the most iconic Pontiacs on the market.
The Pontiac G8 was the final hurrah of the Pontiac brand and one of the most influential cars to come out. The G8 has the misfortune of hitting the market during the economic collapse. In addition to that, the poor car didn’t stand a chance as GM discontinued the brand for 2009. This means that if you are lucky enough to have a G8m you have one of the rarest cars on the market. The powerful V8 engine and rear-wheel drive design made the sedan a performance powerhouse. Coupled with the noteworthy addition of the GXP model, the G8 is a legendary vehicle.
There was originally a G8 sport truck that was planned as well. Sadly, economic conditions caused the G8 to live a short life and it was only sold for two years. The last G8 rolled off of the assembly line on June 19th, 2009. A total of 23,157 models were sold in 2009, and only four made it to Canada. The G8 was an iconic car in many aspects and it was also the very last Pontiac car every produced.