Earlier today I posted the article on Pontiacs at the Scottsdale auctions this year. GTO’s naturally figured prominently there and it got me thinking: what was the last “real” GTO? I think different people have different opinions because there are a few years that could qualify.
You’d have to say that officially, it would be the 2006 model, the last car to be sold by Pontiac under that name. Many people consider that car to be a GTO in name only, though. It was an Australian import and pretty blandly styled. But it had a large, naturally aspirated V8, manual transmission available, decently quick with good handling. Thank you Bob Lutz for at least trying!
Prior to that modern car, the last one sold by Pontiac under the name was in 1974. It was a Ventura, which was a Chevy Nova with a different grille and taillights. It did have a Pontiac engine with a shaker hood scoop, 200hp 350cid V8, dual exhausts and 4 speed manual available. The X-body is considered a decent handling car for the times and the GTO got radial tires, so it was probably actually an improvement over its predecessors in handling. But did I mention it’s a Nova?
The last mid sized A-body GTO was the 1973, making a one-year-only appearance on the new Colonnade body. Pontiac seems to have given up on the GTO by this point. This image above is the only factory promotional image I could find on the internet, which is lifted from the corner of one page of the LeMans brochure. It didn’t even get a whole page.
There was also a series of black and white photos taken by GM, I believe for use by magazines. It has the same license plate number as the car below, which means it’s a very special car.
Cars magazine tested a preproduction 1973 GTO, and wrote a gushing article about it, declaring it the Top Performance Car of the year. It was so impressive, they said there wasn’t any other car even close to it. The only problem was the car had the new Super Duty 455, rated at 310 net hp in that GTO. As I mentioned in the Pontiac article, this was special engine that Pontiac used every trick it could throw at it to make a top performing drivetrain for the emissions era. Just before release, Pontiac decided to pull the engine from the GTO (and Grand Am) and only offer it in the Firebird.
Production GTO’s still had a 230hp 400 standard, with a 250hp 455 available, plus it had cool NACA air ducts in the hood. The dwindling muscle car market and Pontiac’s complete lack of promotion resulted in only 4,806 sales. In 1966 they sold almost 100k.
Purists may feel that 1972 was the last year the GTO was its glorious self, the last in a steady stream of flagship performance cars with unique looks and the most power Pontiac had to offer.
The GTO was available with the 455H.O. engine making 300 net hp. Despite making a great car, similar to the 1970 and ’71 models, and at least some promotion, Pontiac only managed to move 5,807 cars, a drop of almost 35k in two years. Contemporary road tests showed the ’71 (and very similar ’72) GTO’s to be the fastest of the line. They were also the last available as convertibles. As far as the collector car market goes, the 1972 is the last year GTO that commands serious money.
So what do you think? Which of these years do you consider to be the last real GTO? Or maybe you have another year or even non-GTO model you consider spiritually to be the last in the line. Let us know!