A lot of people have heard of John DeLorean as the founder of the DeLorean Motor Company, the ill-fated luxury car manufacturer of the 1970s. However, DeLorean was long thought of as an automotive design genius before starting his own company.
He was the chief engineer of the Pontiac division of General Motors in the early 1960s and he was instrumental in the design of the GTO along with chassis expert Bill Collins and engine man Russell Gee.
The GTO was conceived largely because of the fact that General Motors had decided to stop allowing its divisions to be involved in automobile racing. By the early 1960s Pontiac had developed a reputation for performance, so the management team turned its attention to street legal muscle.
The Pontiac GTO made its debut for the 1964 model year and during that initial production run it was not a model in its own right. The Pontiac Tempest could be purchased with the GTO package, and the lower-cost package was powered by a 325 hp 389 cubic inch V-8.
There was a more expensive GTO package available as well and it included what was called a “Tri-Power” carburation system that upped the horsepower to 348 bhp. The GTO equipped with this package was timed at 14.8 seconds for a quarter-mile from a standing position and it is said that it could go from 0 to 60 in 6.6 seconds.
Looking back on the history of the muscle car it is clear that the GTO was a ground breaker. The initial run of the car lasted through the 1974 model year, and it will always be considered one of the quintessential muscle cars that distinguished itself during the classic era of the breed.