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The Legendary Pontiac GTO: The Car That Started It All

Vukasin HerbezMay 7, 2019

  1. Royal Bobcat GTO

One of the best stories of how dealerships and major manufacturers combined their efforts to promote, build and race muscle cars is the tale of Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac dealership from Royal Oak, Michigan. He established the dealership in the late ‘50s and put it on the map by sponsoring and preparing local drag racing Pontiac. And he did that with the help of Pontiac’s marketing guru, Jim Wangers.

When Pontiac started racing and building performance machines on a bigger scale in the early ‘60s, Royal Pontiac was the company that helped prepare and test the car. However, the popularity of Royal Pontiac exploded with the GTO. In fact, Ace Wilson prepared all the GTOs before sending them to magazine testers.

Jim Wangers knew the magazine testers needed to be blown away with the performance of the new GTO. So, he instructed Ace Wilson to install the mighty 421 V8 and disguise it as a 389 V8. The trick worked and the legend of the GTO was born.

  1. Arnie Beswick’s GTO Drag Car

The main arena for those classic muscle cars was the drag strip. And since the GTO was the first proper muscle car, they often used it for racing. One of the most popular and widely recognized racing GTOs was Arnie Beswick’s “Farmer” GTO. It was a wildly-colored and brutally fast car.

Beswick first started racing in the stock car class. But by the end of the ‘60s, he had evolved into the funny car class with a Plexiglas body GTO. It also had a custom chassis and supercharged engine. Although he never had big sponsors, he was able to keep the red GTO up there with the factory teams, winning many races.

  1. 1971 GTO Judge Convertible

The Pontiac GTO was always a popular and a strong seller. But with so many competitors in the early ‘70s, sales were down. They continued the popular Judge version they introduced in 1969 for 1971. It featured big block 455 V8 engine, crazy graphics and a big spoiler on the trunk, which was wild for the 1971 model year.

Since the displacement limit was higher, intermediate cars from GM could have the biggest engines available. So, they gave the GTO a 455 big block V8 they rated at 335 HP. Although that’s a modest number compared to earlier GTOs, in 1971 Detroit moved from DIN to SAE horsepower ratings, which lowered the numbers.

Because the Judge version was relatively expensive, it didn’t sell as well as before. Also, the convertible cost $4,000 over the base price, which was a lot of money back then. And that is why they only built 17 GTO Judge 455 convertibles that year, making it one of the rarest GTOs and muscle cars they ever created.

  1. 2004 Pontiac GTO Ram Air Concept

The market was eager to see the new GTO in 2004 and Pontiac added to the excitement with their 2004 Ram Air Concept. From the outside, it was only the bright orange color that showed this was a special car since most of its unique features were underneath the body.

The power came from a special 389 V8 that pumped out 575 HP. The engine was mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Also, the performance figures were astonishing. Unfortunately, the orange Ram Air GTO remained just a concept car.

  1. Pontiac GTO from The Punisher

As a legendary muscle model, they used the GTO in many movies. But one of the most popular was the 1969 GTO they used in the action movie, The Punisher. In most movies, you see shiny and well-prepared examples, but in this film, the main character drives a rugged street fighter car that is far from perfect, but cool because of its flaws.

  1. Pontiac GTO from XXX

The 2002 action movie, XXX brought the classic 1967 Pontiac GTO back to the spotlight for car and movie fans alike. They equipped the dark purple GTO with weapons, as well as some tasteful modifications like the intake on the hood and side pipe exhaust. The look and the stance of this classic GTO make it one of the legends of the muscle car world and movie history.

Now you know much more about the legendary Pontiac GTO. It was the car that started it all, which makes it an important part of muscle car and motoring history.

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