(first posted 3/7/2017) “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, from President Theodore Roosevelt, and one embodied in the spirit of the final (year of) Pontiac GTO offered on U.S. shores. I thought it was quite appropriate that this one was parked in front of one of my favorite, former health clubs. The last-ever GTO, based on the Australian Holden Monaro CV8, had no visual gymnastics about it. Aesthetically speaking, it wasn’t a “grunter”, a “groaner”, or a showboat. It just simply, quietly kicked ass during its short, three-year import run. It was a shame about its sales figures (just under 14,000 for ’06 out of just under 41,000 over three years), but that does not diminish my respect for it.
Truth be told, this could be either a 2006 model fitted with the chrome wheels available only on the ’05, or it could be an ’05 fitted with the blackout taillamp treatment of the ’06. Both the ’05 and ’06 were powered by a 400-hp 6.0L LS2 V8 sourced from the concurrent Corvette, and were capable of 0-60 mph in the mid four-second range with a six-speed manual. The quarter mile came in the low-thirteens at almost 106 mph. (For comparison, the ’06 C6 did 0-60 in just 3.5 seconds, and the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds at 127 mph.) The ’06 GTO also had a starting price almost exactly half that of that year’s Corvette: $31,290 vs. $65,800. What price bragging rights?
Though I love the Corvette, a natural introvert / practiced extrovert like me might have been drawn to the GTO’s subtle-but-potent muscle if purchasing a new, American-branded, high-performance car had been on my radar and in my budget at that time. Attaching a storied moniker like “GTO” to a car that was not homegrown may have limited its appeal in the States, but I also remember reading criticisms of this car’s styling, with many judging it to be too innocuous. I find it attractive. Judging by the relative failure of this GTO in the U.S. market, American buyers seemed to prefer the looks of their performance cars as they do their fictional superheroes: obvious.
Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, September 19, 2010.
If you want Corvette performance but love that Grand Am styling, this was the car for you.
Ahem, the Grand Am was a Pontiac at least. GTO’s of the past were trim levels of the Grand Am’s predecessors.
Half the price and 1/20 the appeal of the Corvette.
I remember reading when the GTO came out that so many people knocked its styling. Too bland. A bloated Grand Am. Not GTO enough. Given that the retro trend was in full swing (Beetle, Mustang, Thunderbird…. some more successful than others), I can see why it would have been knocked as not being GTO enough. But, if you think about the original GTO…. what was there to really distinguish it from the LeMans that it was based on. Minor trim variations, if that. But you got a super sleeper with that big ass engine in it. Fast forward, and I think that the rehash GTO did exactly that… it looked a lot like the Grand Am next to it…. but was a super sleeper.
From day 1, I liked the styling. The minor updates in the last couple of years (better rear bumper, scooped hood) made it look even better. But it’s looks were understated, and to me that makes it even better. My Magnum may be a bit more overt in it’s styling, but so many people just shrug it off as a big station wagon. It still blends in. I like performance cars that blend in. Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for this GTO and for the Chevrolet SS.
When you consider that the original GTO was a LeMans, and thus not really that stylistically different from that pedestrian model, this last iteration is not off the mark. It may have done better if it had the stripes and scoops we tend to visualize on muscle cars, but at least it was not the plastic cladding and screaming chicken that befell Pontiacs of yore. Mostly it failed, as did the Chevrolet SS, the 4 door version of this car, because it did not carry the load it was birthed with. The Corvette, for all of its glory and all of its failings, has had over 60 years behind it. IT has changed over time, but has always been there. The GTO was a reuse of a glorious name, but it could never live up to the legend, no matter how good a car it was.
Now I want a GTO with a big ol’ Screamin Chicken on the hood and a Shaker hood scoop!
Brian, I agree with you – there is something to be said for understated athleticism, as regards this GTO and your Magnum. I also agree that the styling tweaks that arrived with the ’05s were on-point and appreciated. Needless to say, I like these GTO’s.
“…if you think about the original GTO…. what was there to really distinguish it from the LeMans that it was based on?… ”
True, but the original Lemans was beautiful and distinctive. The original GTO was no sleeper. When those twin pipes burbled and people turned around to look they said, “Wow!”
When the pipes on the new GTO burble, people turn around and say, “Where did that noise come from?”
Visually, the original GTO was a sleeper. Yes, when it started up you definitely heard that V8 and knew something was up. The same can be said for the 04-06 GTO. Visually… bland. Crank it up…. where is that noise coming from?
Yeah, this is a common argument, and I’ve never bought it. 1960s LeManses were still the latest and greatest from General Motors’ leading styling department.
The 2004 GTO was already a ten year old design when they introduced it, and not a particularly inspired one originally. The 4-door version had already failed in the US market (Cadillac Catera) with the reviews saying “dull styling” and “looks like a Chevy”.
It’s one thing to want an understated car, it’s completely another when most people couldn’t distinguish it from an old Sunfire sitting on the used car lot.
Spot on, the 2005 – 07 was indeed true to those first GTO’s in styling, if it had been released 3 years earlier prior to the retro trend really taking off it may have been a very different story.
I always liked the subtle style of this GTO, especially in the black of our featured car. These things sound really sweet too. I think I recall acoustic engineers getting into the act and tuning the sound of the exhaust note to mimic the original.
And if you wanted one of these to ‘stand out’ more, this car was available in a quite obnoxious shade of yellow (which actually looked kinda cool on this car ;o).
I’d have mine as an 06 in this beautiful orange color.
Nice Brain! – If I were getting one, I’m kinda partial to this blue one…
My friend had a 05 in that color, normally I’m not a fan of blue but that car looked perfect in it. I didn’t care at all for that orange copper color though, that color seemed to be a really short lived fad pushed by automakers in the 2000s, Nissan/infinity put out a bunch of cars in that color too, 350z, Murano, FX35, G35s all had it.
I think they were trying to bring back “That ’70s Burnt Orange” that was very popular in the late seventies. Several car companies did it. I think Ford did a Focus in that color IIRC.
My Dad just sold his GTO–in this color. That color really made the car stand out. The styling was pretty bland but the build quality was really quite good. It had some odd features like the euro-style window switches in the console behind the shifter.
A friend had one. My impression was that it seemed a lot better screwed together with nicer materials than was par for GM at the time.
Common complaint was “it looks like other Pontiacs”. However, the original GTO’s were based on Tempest/LeMans/Ventura and didn’t have “unique” body panels like Mustangs. Thus, they did “look like other Pontiacs”.
But, in those days, Pontiacs were viewed as style leaders. A mid-1960s LeMans hardtop or convertible was viewed as a stylish car, particularly once it adopted the stacked, quad headlights for 1965.
By the time this car debuted, Pontiacs were most definitely not viewed as style leaders.
I’d argue that part of the problem with this car was the name. It just wasn’t a GTO–those were mostly “in-your-face” whereas this car is rather subtle.
Sadly, Pontiac had tarnished all its good, classic names at this point, so not sure what they should have called it instead…
GTO styling never got “in your face” until the advent of the Judge option in 1969. Most GTOs ever sold were produced before ’69, and the great majority of ’69s to ’71s were plain GTOs without the rear wing, decals, etc., of the Judge option.
Agree that the Judge was really over-the-top, but I’d argue that the even basic Pontiac Tempest/LeMans styling in the 1960s was among the most aggressive on the market at the time (bold prows, split grilles, Coke-bottle curves), and the GTO enhanced that look still further. The mid-sized Pontiacs weren’t subtle in the context of the times, and sold well and built a strong reputation as a result. This modern-era GTO, on the other hand, looks like a generic “aero” coupe, without enough distinctiveness to be a Pontiac (naturally, because it wasn’t) and particularly not a GTO. You could stick an Acura badge on it and no one would even notice…
A lesser ’67 LeMans or Tempest, or even a ’69 Custom S, could be unbelievable dowdy and plain, sheetmetal notwithstanding. And there were many of them at the time. Some readers of this site might not imagine this to be true, because those plainer versions aren’t usually the ones that were preserved or restored.
(My family had a ’67 GTO hardtop with column-shift THM 400, positraction, factory a/c, and no console. Part of the GTO’s appeal at the time was that it could be equipped in so many different ways – quite unlike the Australian GTO.)
We could’ve sent you guys a stripper and let you option it up, but we thought we’d be nice and send you one with all the goodies…..
Seriously, it’s the Australian way to equip a car the way most buyers are likely to want it, and then some. There’s really no point having a stripper nobody wants. Over the last twenty years or so even fleet/taxi/rental models were equipped to a level you could live with. When there were only two companies angling for a market segment, competition was fierce and any deficiency was highlighted and quickly remedied. As a coupe version of the Commodore, the Monaro carried over all the good stuff, even though there was no two-door Ford competitor.
“Part of the GTO’s appeal at the time was that it could be equipped in so many different ways – quite unlike the Australian GTO.”
You could say that about any car today. Go back through and look at any old brochure and the myriad of options and available interior colors/patterns and exterior colors that were available. Especially in the 60s and 70s and into the 80s.
1978 Dodge Aspen T-Top coupe, black/white/tritone striped bucket seats, floor shift console, no A/C, Am/FM/CB radio, two-tone in Silver/Pewter, with HD suspension, 360V8 with 3-speed auto trans….. yes, why yes I will. So many different ways to configure a car, with so many stand alone options.
Now days, you want x option you have to add on the Premium group, the Technology group, etc… just to have that one option. It makes for easier manufacturing to group certain options and limit the available combinations… but it’s across the board. The newer GTO is a product of it’s times, not the example.
Prior to the Judge, the GTO boasted aggressive styling, but it was also very clean. Spoilers, stripes and side scoops weren’t part of the package.
The 1968 and 1969 GTOs, with their Endura front bumpers and available hidden headlights, took clean design – highlighted by the lack of chrome and any spoilers – to a new height.
I wouldn’t say the Tempest really hit that point until the 66…ok MAYBE the 65s with the stacked headlights, but still, overall the 64 & 65 body are fairly generic A-body coupe(by extension generic mid 60s blocky coupe) for the most part as well, it was the substance and marketing that made the GTO cool in it’s early years.
I think that one big problem with this car was that the word went out that the GTO was coming back, so mental images of the old one was what people were thinking of, and then they saw this. The sixties GTO’s were based on some of Pontiacs most successful styling ever. This car looks like a bar of soap. It could never live up to the name with such bland styling. Thirty years is way too long to leave a legendary name in mothballs and just expect to dust it off.
Love these! More familiar with it as a Holden as I was down under in ’06 and fondly remember drooling over Monaros as they periodically sped past me in my fleet-queen V6 Commodore (which had its charms, but was a far less engaging beast)
Subtle muscle just as you say Joseph, nicely put! And a nice write up of the Pontiac variant.
Fascinating (not to mention hilarious) to read the majority of the US commenters panning this *Australian* for being too subtle. Not a criticism generally levelled at Aussies 😀
I love their Q-shippiness enough to occasionally consider buying one; same goes for the G8. But then I dive into owner reviews, and the reliability problems are frightening. They may look like New GM, but they’re built like Old GM… with worse parts availability.
I agree with the earlier commenters who pointed out that the problem (when new) is that people were expecting an later-type extroverted GTO. Other than the subtle look, this car nails the “modern muscle” concept. Well, GM learned their lesson and gave us the undriveably stylish new Camaro.
Fun fact: the Australian-market version was briefly available with awd! Only as an automatic, though. There was also the Adventra, a jacked-up wagon version with awd. Both offered the 5.7 V8.
This was a Bob Lutz plan to get a V8 GTO on the cheap. While that part might have worked, what didn’t work were sales, and I suspect a big reason was that the Holden Monaro had a roof line that looked way too much like a ’95-’05 Chevy Cavalier with a thyroid problem.
But what was most sad was that the scheduled next generation GTO was going to have styling much more retro and in line with the classic sixties’ cars. Of course, the death of Pontiac laid those plans to rest.
Still, we have to thank you Americans. If it hadn’t been for the likelihood of export sales, the Monaro probably wouldn’t have happened at all.
The biggest problem stylistically was that these looked like cars from 94-96, not cars from 04-06. Oh, and they look more like Sunfires more than Grand Ams overall 😛 Get past that and they’re perfectly attractive designs. Inside they couldn’t be less like GM products as we know them, I think the interiors in these are on par with the best in terms of material, design, fit and finish, and they even have excellent rear seat legroom for a coupe.
The 6.0 in the 05-06 really should have been installed from the getgo, as well as the “ram air” hood and dual exhaust cutouts. The 04s were very underwhealming given all the hype, and I think a lot of people who got turned off by the plain 5.7 powered 04s were unaware of the substantial updates in 05/06. Plus these were horribly compromised by US certification, moving the fuel tank from under the trunk to behind the back seat IN the trunk. Plus plus there was a lot of not invented here attitude among muscle car “enthusiasts” at the time, rebadging an imported car with the badge of an all-American icon
Even by 90’s standards these are bland. It was dullest looking car in their entire lineup.
Nailed it, these are essentially a coupe version of the 1994 Opel Omega B.
(Which also flopped in the NA market as the Cadillac Catera.)
When the 2005 retro Mustang came out, the baby boomer target market was too busy drooling to notice that Pontiac had upgraded the GTO. Still a nice car, but the jellybean styling was no where near au courant.
I never liked the new GTO’s styling-remember we’re talking about one of the most important cars of the 1960’s along with the Mustang. When Ford introduced the new version of the ‘Stang they at least got the styling right. In the ’60s Pontiac had some of the most aggressive styling; subtlety was simply not part of the package. Several years ago I pulled up behind a car in a parking lot; my first impression was that someone had done a really good job of customizing a Cavalier-then I walked around to the side and saw the GTO emblem. Had the vehicle had a more retro look I think it would have sold much better, who wants a customized Cavalier?
It’s not like the Mustang was absent until 2005 you know, and there are actually those of us who actually prefer the smaller more modern/aggressive design of the 99-04 bodystyle to the retro cars, and in that context the GTO isn’t particularly disconnected. Again it’s main problem is that it looks more 90s than 00s, in fact the 94-98 Mustang really has a lot of big design similarities.
I agree with XR7Matt – the car was not unattractive but it looked like what good design looked like a decade earlier. Not that GM was alone, because the Ford 500 did the same thing in aping 10 year old Audis for its inspiration.
I get what you are saying Joe, and this aspect of the car is attractive to me. In a vacuum this car has a certain conservative appeal. But when Ford came out with the 2005 Mustang that evoked the memory of great Mustangs of the past, this car was just another 90s blob that was past its sell-by date the day it was introduced.
Hmm. Great number poor execution. Shifting the manual transmission was aking to stirring roofing tar with a number two pencil. The trunk was half occupied by a fuel cell. The radio’s volume knob was on the passenger side.
I’ll take the used 09 Mustang GT Premium with the glass roof.
Oooh… glass roof Mustang. I’ve seen several online, never in person. Wonder how many of those were actually built.
At $2,000 it was an expensive stand alone option. The glass roof may be all wrong for sporting purposes, but it transforms the interior. You no longer feel like your in the typical muscle car cave.
The combination of the 45th anniversary badges, 18″ polished bullet wheels, glass roof and manual transmission sealed the deal.
Also the 4th generation Camaro & Firebird last year was 2002. They had an overload? of SS models for a brief time. The Cobalt, Trailblazer, etc. They had hope for the Chevy SSR. The GTO was only alive for 10 years, and then gone for 30.
Maybe the Holden HSV GTO would fit better as a Pontiac.
Note the bonnet scoops originated on the GTO, the initial HSV cars didn’t have them.
That’s right, but even with a flat hood that nose looks more aggressive than the original. (Although I still like it). It’s interesting how almost all HSV from that time looks like Pontiacs, as the HSV Senator and the GTS, probably they would be more succeeded than the Catera in US.
I could never understand why they went to Opel for the Catera, when they could have taken our bigger, roomier Commodore, with a Chevy V8 anyone could fix.
A few US GTO owners have retrofitted the Holden parts to their cars, and I find it a huge improvement. I can’t imagine what it cost them to get those shipped here!
One thing I always found interesting on the last GTO was how much better they look without the rear spoiler. I’ve seen a few with the spoiler removed and the mounting holes filled, painted, and well-blended with the car’s color, and it makes a world of difference on the Goat’s appearance.
I read somewhere Dr Porsche being quoted as saying ‘ don’t spoil it with a spoiler’
I remember the first time I saw one of these and the first thing that came to mind was BLAND. The rear end was especially not attractive (can you say Sunfire) and thus I think the poor sales were a result of the odd, mediocre styling. As XR7Matt said earlier it looked like a car from the 90’s not the 2000’s. I have seen a few dolled up with stripes, nice wheels and such and they are definitely a lot sharper. I know there were modifications available and many special editions that were created by different companies for these cars – in fact there is one in R.I. that I see all the time that looks amazing. It is a burnt orange color with black stripes and incredible chrome wheels – a real looker if you will. These cars will always be known as a sleeper – too bad they weren’t just a tad bit more showy and sales would have probably doubled.
Here’s what I don’t understand. Pontiac discontinued the Firebird in 2002, because IIRC, they said that it was too much money to keep the Quebec plant that it was being built in open, just to continue production. Fair enough, I can see that. But then, why would GM spend more money, the bring back the GTO? Not just bring the name back, but they would’ve had too, pay to import the Monaro here to the states, they would’ve paid a lot of money to federalize it so it could be sold here, and the high price tag and generic 90s styling, would’ve meant it would’ve lost money, regardless how good the car on it’s own merits was. In the end, GM probably just as spent as much, if not more, to do all of that for a car that was only available for three years, then it would’ve been to keep the Quebec plant open for them to keep pumping out Firebirds.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Lutz was the CEO at the time, and this was one of his babies. It certainly does feel like it, wasting a bunch of money on a niche product only he had a modicum of interest in, when in reality GM should’ve been taking that cash and bolstering their passenger cars and SUVs went. And we wonder why GM went bankrupt.
My understanding is that GM had an arrangement in which they were compelled to export a minimum number of units from that plant. It’s by this arrangement that the U.S. got the GTO, Pontiac G8, Caprice police sedan, and Chevrolet SS-all Holdens in U.S. guises, while at least the UK got a Vauxhall something-or-other (that was then souped up by a couple aftermarket firms, two iterations of which were featured on Top Gear).
To my knowledge, none of the export versions sold worth a crap. The GTO would have looked bland in 1996, let alone 2006. The G8 had promise, but came while GM was on its deathbed. The Caprice was a police-only affair. The SS seems like it should sell well, but GM doesn’t bother to market it. Top Gear really liked at least the Vauxhall whatever Magoo version they tested, but I’m guessing a big Australian-sized V8 sedan wasn’t a good fit for the UK market.
I assumed that the trickle of cars from Holden Australia to the United States was due to some very fine print of some 90s agreement. Maybe Holden took a subsidy that would require the export of vehicles. Who knows if we’ll ever find out.
It is surprising that when the American dollar was strong, neither Ford nor Holden exported anything to the US.
….they said that it was too much money to keep the Quebec plant that it was being built in open, just to continue production. Fair enough, I can see that. But then, why would GM spend more money….
I asked this exact question about the SSR when that topic came up, and I think it could also be asked about the Solstice/Sky as well. The only logical answer is that GM was run by morons. I swear for all the love Lutz seemed to have for niche vehicles, the effects of GM going whole hog on them during his tenure made his legacy a warning to automakers to NOT go down that path, lest they suffer the same fate.
It’s a shame since Holdens were excellent cars, vastly better than any car in GM’s US lineup even in bread and butter form – imagine a if the Commodore based model replaced the B body rather than yet another W-Body badge job – but they all got imported as hot performance models, GTO, G8, Caprice, SS, niche models within niches, and far too late. The closest we got to that Austraili-American model was the 5th gen Camaro, and low and behold, it was actually a successful car, now if only that had been applied a decade earlier on more mainstream models.
I think Lutz overestimated the halo effect, as much as I respect him. GM would have been better off investing more in mainstream models. Look at now: few niche models and the mainstream models are winning awards and praise. The Impala and Cruze are in Consumer Reports’ Top 10 cars of 2016. Could you imagine THAT ten years ago?
That being said, Lutz kept things interesting at GM last decade. XLR. SSR. HHR SS. Sky. Solstice. etc
I think the reality was that GM had been plotting to get rid of Pontiac for quite some time. So they let Lutz play around with it to see if there was any remaining performance brand value there (turned out not really). Solstice, GTO, G8, etc, was all done on the cheap.
Back in the mid-1990s, one of the auto rag reported that GM was considering bringing over the Holden Commodore as an Oldsmobile. I agree that it’s a shame it never happened.
Too conservative, huh? It’s hard to explain the Monaro’s Aussie appeal to Americans, but I’ll give it a go:
Suppose you had a country where four door sedans or wagons were the norm, Brougham never really happened, and two door designs were only for cars not big enough for four. Or sports cars. Nothing else.
Suppose you had two sedans, one Ford, one GM, that dominated the sales charts year in, year out for several generations to the point of having little or no real competition. And only recently had the Japanese really caught up. And they weren’t in the most popular market segment anyway.
Suppose those home-grown top-sellers hadn’t been available in coupe or hardtop form since the late seventies, and those old ones had become widely-recognised, undisputed Aussie icons. Family versions of those had flopped big time. So they were definitely seen as sports machines.
Suppose the current GM sedan, the Commodore, usually won the nation’s most important motor race, Bathurst, with a variety of versions available for you to buy from V6 fleet special through several versions of V8, almost as potent as the winner. But despite the bodykit, still a four door sedan.
Now you heard that after almost thirty years absence, the Monaro was coming back, as a two door (think SPORTY!) coupe version of your favourite race winner!
That’s the appeal of the Monaro.
Bam! Spot on, Pete. You are exactly right and I hope that explains it to the Americans here. We are a fairly coupe-averse country and are traditionally more practical with our car purchases. We didn’t do personal luxury coupes. Our RWD V8-powered cars have been, for the most part, sedans. So while the GTO may be innocuous-looking for an American coupe, it looks great for an Australian coupe because, well, we hadn’t had an Aussie coupe in 20+ years!
Comment of the day for explaining the Monaro.
Thanks, William! 🙂
I’ll second that – Pete, thank you (and Will) for providing that context.
“We didn’t do personal luxury coupes.”
Not usually, but there were exceptions.
Which sold 1,385 units in 3 years, about 20% of the equivalent sedan (the LTD), and which only went ahead due to the insistence of the US-expat managing director.
If that sounds negative, I think the world is a more interesting place because pet projects like this happen, and it wouldn’t have been a costly exercise as the number of unique parts was low – primarily a slight modification to change the side window opening. The cars themselves are good, with a 4-bbl 351 Cleveland, 4-wheel disc brakes and with all the equipment Ford Aus could throw at them. Note that the vinyl top wasn’t heavily padded.
Plus only the mild V8 was exported, HSV would do a road legal race car if you had the coin, the hot ute was the fastest pickup on this planet.
Great photos, Joe! That is probably the nicest-looking Aussie GTO I’ve ever seen.
I’d love to take a test drive in the AWD HSV Coupe (the HSV version wasn’t badged Monaro but, rather, Coupe – how dull!). No stick shift though 🙁
I don’t think I’ve ever seen one but I’ve seen a bunch of Monaros (and a couple of GTOs in the States) and they are all lovingly cherished. Their resale value is going to remain sky high… All the Aussie coupes (Valiant Charger, original Monaro, Falcon hardtop) are ridiculously expensive due to their collectability.
It’s interesting how much bolder the VE Commodore was than its predecessor, perhaps with an eye to the American market. Ironically, the G8 was actually toned down from the VE Commodore SS/SS-V it was based on, with the lip spoiler instead of a big wing and I believe a more subtle front bumper treatment (correct me if I’m wrong).
Holden created a concept of a Monaro successor called the Coupe 60. With Pontiac’s shuttering messing up Holden’s export plans, the Coupe 60 never got the green light (if it was even going to become a Pontiac anyway).
The G8 was quite a different look from the Commodore SS and I would say different rather than more or less aggressive. The Commodore is often seen in bright colours which probably helps! After the G8 was cancelled there was a special edition Commodore to get rid of the leftover Pontiac fascias.
At the risk of double posting, I’ll just say that I love mine.
It’s the best way to get 400hp under $20k.
And not everyone wants to get lost in a sea of Mustangs.
Who knows, they may one day be considered a classic. Given limited run, that may be guaranteed. In the meantime you drive it like it was meant to be driven !
It’s beautiful, but i would say probably the best way to get 400HP in a coupe for under $20K. I got my 425 HP wagon for $16K. 😉
Still got it (now with Brembos and less paint on the roof) and, somehow, despite the insanity of car prices the last few years, I STILL think it’s the best 400hp less than $20k can buy.
My first car was a ’64 GTO I bought in June of ’71 for $550. Good memories, except for the 10 mpg. I sold it for $575 9 months later and if I recall correctly, I read an article within 2 weeks of the sale that advised owners of muscle cars there would be appreciable appreciation soon.
The gas crises that followed probably affected that prediction! Unless you had a very generous interpretation of the term “soon”, that is.
Ha! Yes, indeed… it did take a while, but they did appreciate… after the GTO’s successor ’68 Ford Falcon and ’68 Chevy Nova (307 V8, 4 speed) the gas crisis was one of the reasons I downsized to a new Fiat X1/9 in ’74.
“Judging by the relative failure of this GTO in the U.S. market, American buyers seemed to prefer the looks of their performance cars as they do their fictional superheroes: obvious”
That’s surely part of it.
I remember internet forums buzzing about the Monaro back in the day. The pained wails of “Why can’t we have that here in the U.S.??” were everywhere at the time. Of course once it was actually available in the U.S. those same tortured souls changed their tune.
I think the clamoring was to utilize Holden for their platforms rather than drag the W-body out to the bitter end, as they did, not have it effectively replace the beloved Camaro/Firebird and be called Pontiac GTO as an imported bespoke performance model. And to lesser extent it also looked somewhat fresher in 2001 when it first hit production than it did in 2004 when we actually got it.
Also, this 1999 concept was very much being cited by all of the publications of the time immediately after the announcement that the GTO was coming back. Most took “based on the Monaro” as based on the chassis, not the whole car, I think I still have some Pontiac Performance magazines speculating this. Now mind you, I found this concept overwrought and tacky – it actually seems to have major elements recycled into the 5th gen Camaro concept, which I have similar feelings about – but what people were led to expect and what they actually got were clearly very different.
Australia and the US both lost out with Commodore and the Falcon. I’ve just replaced my 2010 Ford Falcon FG XR6 turbo Ute with a 2015 Holden Commodore SS Sportswagon, I miss the Ford, the Barra motor is a gem, V8 amounts of torque and strong power, the ZF 6 speed auto is sweet and the handling was totally neutral to slight over steer. The VF Commodore is very similar for a V8. The biggest difference is the handling which is a generation ahead and not surprising coming from a Ute with leaf springs to a wagon with IRS. And the interior again a generation ahead of the Ford, but there’s a classic simplicity to the 2010 Falcon XR6 interior that’s lost in the series 2 Ford of 2012, the final FGX XR6 is an improvement. In summary the VF Commodore SS is a generation ahead of the FG Falcon Ute XR6 turbo, but the Ford is a great motor car, I’d put it up against any car you choose and defy you to not want to drive away in one, they are that good. And I miss mine dearly.
after a lengthy 4 years in the us it was a bit of a shock to see holdens again – either aussies prefer wolf in sheeps clothing or they have no style – mustangs here look amazing in comparison…
I liked the idea and the LS engine, but to echo others here, it looked dated even when new. It looks a bit like a ’98-’02 Volvo C70 coupe to me. (Picture from Swedespeed.)
Peugeot 406 coupe too, but only in photos
Keep in mind that the 2001 Monaro was a development of the existing 4 door Commodore that had already been around since 1997 – and the Commodore styling was hardly cutting edge even then.
So the Pontiac GTO/Monaro was already a stylistic antique by the time it hit the US in ’04, and the similarity to 90s stateside US models is no coincidence.
Having said that, it was a nice clean design, something that many Aussies like, whereas Americans like car styling to make more of a ‘statement’. It seems Lutz and Co thought that American car buyers would appreciate the GTO/Monaro’s dynamic attributes enough to overlook styling that wouldn’t appeal to them.
Yes, the 1997 VT Commodore was based on the 1994 Opel Omega B. The original coupe concept car (by Mike Simcoe) was shown at the October 1998 Sydney motor show, and debuted in 2001.
The Monaro was its own project following the very strong response to that concept and designed for very low-volume production (circa 5,000 units) before Bob Lutz got involved with the GTO project.
My reply was going to be much longer, but I think I will write a Curbside Classic about it instead. It’s been a while!
Well I like the understated looks of these. To me, that’s their real attraction. I’ll take mine in silver, and cruise around incognito while the cops pull over the red Mustangs.
A LIDAR unit neither knows nor cares what make, model, or color vehicle you’re driving, and at typical LIDAR clocking distances of around 1800′, neither does the officer. Your speed makes you a keeper or not.
Lots of people still get stopped based on observation and discretion.
A red sporty car changing lanes rapidly and often is going to stand out more than a plain silver one.
A while back there were news stories about a company that built an updated version of the Pontiac Firebird under the name, “Trans Am.” Just a slightly modified Camaro, they were available with the screaming chicken hood decal and they had Burt Reynolds do some publicity for the car.
They also have a version of the Camaro available with the styling influenced by the ’69 GTO Judge. You can look at the cars at their website: http://transamdepot.com/
Looked at the web page. I’m amused by the total lack of prices, or even price ranges for any of their cars. Guess it must be the classic “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
Syke, not true sir these are still out there, I have a 04 it has the LS 1. You can still find these under $10,000.00. They handle like a dream and once you buy one you will be hooked.
Values on the Monaro of this generation have skyrocked for V8 (and low K’s V6) models in Australia recently with most now over $100k for average condition.
“subtle muscle” sounds like its an homage to a song title from my favorite bad. Joe, does that make you a fellow Clutch fan? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHTr38mO0Fo
I always liked these GTOs for what they were. Tons has been written about whey they failed, and a few common themes were touched upon but never really strung together.
I love niche products too, but GM’s tripling down on them without tying them into something mainstream pretty much nails it. Yes these cars’ styling was bland for a muscle car. A few scoops/stripes to butch them up would have definitely helped on that front. But the real key would have been bringing this platform over as a full line. A sedan, coupe, wagon and even the ute starting out with V6 engines on up to the LS2 would have given the Mopar LX cars a run for their money. The reality is that while vanilla appliance cars will always sell more, there’s a solid base of buyers who don’t necessarily want a truck or SUV (or already have one of those and like ‘regular’ cars too) but want the tried and true visceral feel of rwd and gobs of power. The GTO and to a lesser degree the G8 and PPV have only checked a few of those upper level boxes. These needed mainstream V6 models and some more variety to have any real legs. Again, see the Mopar LX cars which are an undisputed success.
I agree completely. Pontiac should have basically been a front for Holden the way Buick is(or was as of this week) a front for Opel today. Not just a bespoke V8 only model in a lineup of crap, Only the Corvette can get away with that, and frankly the mere existence of the Vette is all the halo GM ever needed period. Ponycars like the F-bodies and cars like the Holden’s shouldn’t be niche, they should be a viable everyday option for the masses who want a car like that – not a track machine, not a Sunday toy, not a retirement present – and GM’s approach was effectively all and nothing. The GTO was the equivelant to Ford’s Terminator Cobra, but without the other 96% of bread and butter Mustang packages that actually sold to fall back on. The G8 almost succeeded in that it had a V6 standard, but it was way too late to ever be viable, in addition to the economic collapse, and let’s not even mention the confusing and pointless G naming scheme. The irony of course is that it effectively replaced the GTO in the lineup, and maybe GM had reservations about putting that badge on a 4 door, but Dodge did it with the LX Charger and they definitely succeeded at it.
I think that actually comes across as a very solid case there. For as long as I can remember, Pontiac was the “We Build Excitement” brand in the GM portfolio. And there were a few hits here and there; Firebird/TransAm, Turbo Grand Prix, Grand Prix GXP.
Just like with the Mustang, and any performance car.. there were the lesser models that made up the bulk of the sales. But when the lesser models were just rehashes of the same basic car you could get at Chevy or Buick, the message kind of got lost.
Pontiac should have been selling rebadged Holdens since at least the mid90s. Since they were going after the “budget BMW” market, many times the cars were knocked for being FWD. Having those Holdens here would have solved that and given Pontiac something unique.
The Holden Commodore could have been sold here as the Grand Prix, with RWD 6-cyl common models and the V8 powered SE/GT/GXP (whatever Pontiac decided on).
The long wheel base Holden Statesman could have been the basis for a RWD Bonneville. Again, 6 cylinder for lower models and either V8 or SC3800 as the performance model SSEi.
Finally, the Ute could have been what Pontiac was ultimately trying with the G8 ST…. a high performance niche vehicle.
This would have assisted in more production in Australia, and given Pontiac something unique that wasn’t available in any other GM dealership.
But then again, just armchair quarterbacking here about decisions made 20+ years ago.
The only problem with that would have been product.
While Opels come in a full range of shapes and sizes for Buick to sell, Holden’s only unique model by this time was the Commodore sedan/wagon/ute, Adventra AWD wagon, Monaro, and related LWB Statesman sedan – all based on the same platform. Everything else was imported from elsewhere in the GM empire, usually Korea by this time.
While I totally get the appeal – the return of the ‘classic American car’ – could Pontiac have survived selling only large-ish imported V6 or V8 RWD sedans wagons and coupes – and if so, for how long? But what a way to go!
That reads like a fairly long list of product options right there old mate.
The Australian Commodore from the 1997 VT series onwards was a truly wasted opportunity for GM in the states. The point about marketing of the original GTO is a salient one, and with the right advertising the Commodore as Pontiac GTO could have moved more units. An earlier release for the Monaro/GTO and then an updated retro styled 2006 model would have made a difference too.
My obnoxious yellow…
Like I said above, Jess, that color is kinda cool on that car. ?
I had a black on red 2004 and a red on red 2006 (both stick-shift). Replaced the 2006 with a 2012 Boss 302. I regret that to this day. Great car-only flaw was weak headlights.
That was actually another issue with the last GTO: dearth of options. Unlike previous Goats, there wasn’t a lot of factory customization for the US Holden Monaro. IIRC, the only choices were exterior color and transmission. Not so much as a sunroof.
As I said earlier, something that might have helped was if the goofy rear spoiler had been a delete option. Getting rid of that spoiler really improved the look of the car.
Youre kidding surely delete the rear wing and it isnt driveable at speed it might look daft to non car people but its fully functional.
My friend deleted his from his 04 there is zero difference, it’s cosmetic.
Naturally CC-in-scale has a Monaro. 🙂
This one’s painted in Ford (shock, horror!) Acid Rush.
I thought the styling on the new GTO was a complete failure, we’re talking about one of the most iconic cars of the 1960’s. I pulled up behind one in a parking lot years ago, my first impression was someone had customized a Chevrolet Cavalier. In the 1960’s Pontiac had the most aggressive styling in the industry; subtlety was not part of the package.
Great car but stylistically a huge disappointment. It just looked like ‘generic GM blob’. It didn’t have to be in your face; it just needed some distinction.
Some originals (64-70 GTO in this case) just can’t be successfully retro’d, no matter how hard they try (especially with some of the obscene prices that have been attached to some of the many offerings by car companies).
I’ve several friends who purchased retro or specialty models like the SSR in hopes of making a quick buck a decade or so down the road.
Its strange that the same car with a bit more HSV was rebadged Vauxhall for the UK market and the nearest performance competitor was a M5 at 10K more, according to road test a M5 wasnt as fast but it was closest in price and ability.
That’s almost praise for an Australian made vehicle, I’m speechless are you feeling all right old mate? My personal fave was a review in Autocar of the final VF series 2 HSV Commodore sold in the UK, a really positive review, it was like, Australia finally builds a truly world class car and then stops building cars. Bought a tear to my eye. Worth a read
The Holden VT Commodore was going to be the basis of a Australian built Buick (which was previewed during 1994 as the XP2000 concept car, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buick_XP2000 ). Very 90’s Buick jelly mould styling, built on eventual 1997 WH Holden Statesman floor plan.
Picture of Buick XP2000 concept car based on Holden WH Stateman floorpan.
Very 90’s Buick jelly mould design. Holden used the experience to develop LHD production for export Holden Commodores including the GTO.
This is a beautiful car – thanks for sharing this information, Travis. This is very “Buick”, indeed – that front end looks very much like the last Riviera.
Thank you Joseph.
I like the buick design myself too, it has real presance about it. And it would’ve included the Buick 3800 V6 with or without supercharging. Using the Holden Australian 304 or 355 cubic inch V8 would’ve sounded great and bags of low rev torque, but hard to imagine importing a V8 to the USA.
I think from memory the Pontiac GTO from 2004 to 2006 was GM “honouring” the the missed opportunity Holden missed from the production of the XP2000.
I really would like to share more of my largish automotive knowledge on CC.