Car of the Month – February, 2021

1964 Pontiac GTO

Feb 2021 Car of the Month

1964 Pontiac GTO

Engine – Water-cooled V8, 389 CID cast-iron block
Horsepower – 348 hp @4900 rpm,
428 ft-lbs of torque @ 3600 rpm
Transmission – 4-speed manual
Carburetion – 3 Rochester 2-barrel carburetors
Curb weight – 3,485 lbs
0-60 time – 4.6 seconds
¼mile time – 13.1 seconds
Top speed – 115 mph
Number built – 32,450 (6,644 convertibles)
MSRP price – $3,377.00

When the GTO became available in 1964 as an option on the Tempest LeMans it caused a sensation; the affordable, good looking car featured incredible performance and distinctive differences in appearance and performance options over the standard LeMans.

John DeLorean was responsible for the GTO’s creation, which involved transforming the upcoming second-generation Pontiac Tempest into a “Super Tempest” or “Grand Tempest Option”, with the larger 389 CID Pontiac V8 engine from the full-sized Pontiac Catalina and Bonneville in place of the standard 326 CID V8. The complete performance package included stiffer suspension with specially-valved shock absorbers, a seven-blade 18” fan complete with cut-off clutch, dual exhaust system, special 14” wheels with 6”-wide rims (fitted with red-stripe premium, nylon-cord, low-profile tires), and a 10.4” Belleville clutch with grey-iron pressure plate for manual transmission cars and optional 3 two-barrel carburetors (TriPower). In addition, there was special trim and identification medallions. By promoting the big-engine “Grand Tempest” as a special high-performance model (GTO package for $296), Pontiac thought it could appeal to the speed-minded youth market.

Pontiac general manager Elliot “Pete” Estes approved the new model, although sales manager Frank Bridge, who did not believe it would find a market, insisted on limiting initial production to 5,000 cars. Frank Bridge’s sales forecast proved inaccurate; Pontiac sold 32,450 GTOs in 1964.

The GTO was so popular that shortly after its release the rock group Ronnie & the Daytonas released its single “Little G.T.O.” It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and sold over one million copies. .