Cohort Classic: 1973 Pontiac GTO – Insurer’s Special

(Me, in 1973): “Hello? Yes, good morning, I would like to get an insurance quote on a new car please? Of course I can wait….Oh, yes. Of course. 25 years old. Living at home. Midtown. Yeah, it’s quite a nice part of town isn’t it? What, oh, employed in IT. It’s a new field. Like record-keeping but for computers. Sure, sure, steady with a five mile commute. The car? Oh, it’s a Beige Pontiac with a black roof. What? Ah, a GTO…Hello? Hello!?”

Now what was the mistake of 1973 Gerardo Solis?

Well, for starters, 2018 me would question why he’s not buying a Coronet instead of a blobby Colonnade if he’s dead-set on getting a midsize. And If he isn’t set on a mid-size, why the hell is he not buying a Dart!? The Dem-ahem, sorry middle America, the DART SPORT is right there! But if you were dead-set on a new GM intermediate in 1973, there were worse options available. The GTO carried the new corporate look pretty well, even with the questionable addition of a padded roof in this example. To 2018 me a padded roof on a GTO, even this GTO, is a bit like fitting a Tesla Model 3 with wood paneling, but 1973 me has less options to compare it, not to mention lacking any idea of just what the hell a Tesla Model X is.

For reference purposes, here’s a GTO without a vinyl hat. An improvement…of a sort.

Pontiac’s version of the all-new A-Bodies worked the new bumper regulations into its design pretty well, the split grille with the large chrome bumper took some of the heft of the new front and hid it away. Compare and contrast with the also new Cutlass/442. That one had a similar grille arrangement but the narrower bumper that looked like an afterthought when it was on. Take it off however, and the resulting gaping maws will make it immediately clear that it was planned to look like that from the start.

You even had a pretty good choice of engines. Sure, numbers had plummeted ever since manufacturers were forced to come up with some actual figures instead of plucking some numbers from the aether and showing them to oooh-ing crowds with a tiny *(gross) sticker next to them, but up to 250 horsepower from the 455 engine was no less than last-years GTO. So as long as you didn’t look how much your new GTO weighed in comparison with that one, it was as though you weren’t losing anything. If you weren’t the sort of person who would go around telling everyone how much power your car made, you could keep the standard Pontiac 400 and bolt it to a 4-speed manual for a much easier way to confirm to the world that you enjoy driving.

And if you look at the competition from around the time, the A-Body just kept making more and more sense for the sort of person that would buy a GTO anyway. Over at Ford, the executive committee had clearly made HFII see the writing on the wall for muscle cars and double down on Brougham. The Torino would just keep packing on lard and sound deadening until its death in 1976. As for that Coronet, it was only available as a four-door sedan and wagon by now. The Charger had been left guarding the coupe front, which was a sound idea to cash in on name recognition until you remember that the insurance companies knew them mostly for having to pay checks to the owners of businesses who had their storefronts unwillingly decorated with 3,600 pounds of Dodge.

And that was indeed the mistake that 1973 me did. Because by this stage the GTO no longer had any unique features that would sell it apart from its lesser Pontiac coupe brethren. No tach on the dash, no unique glowing paints, no ‘here come da judge!’. In anything other than the stickers, some trim and the grille, all you were getting was a LeMans. However, because it still had prominent GTO badging throughout, it created images of standing quarter miles and company sponsored prototypes being sneakily taken out to Woodward drive on Friday evenings for some “Real-World testing”. Smoke coming out of tires, fire coming out of exhausts. Front wheels coming off the ground. In reality, all you were getting was the ability to have insurance companies do the same for your quote than car manufacturers did with gross horsepower. So if 1973 Gerardo wanted a fast colonnade Pontiac.

He should’ve just bought a LeMans. The market agrees. Only 4,806 GTO’s rolled off the line in 1973

Special thanks to nifty43 (nifticus) for uploading this GTO to the Cohort. I can’t imagine they sold very many of them in Canada either.