“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.