Pontiac GTO - 1975 To 1998

1975 To 1998

Pontiac had planned to offer a 1975 GTO, again based on the compact Ventura and powered by a Pontiac-built 350 CID V8. The Ventura and other GM compacts underwent substantial styling and engineering changes, the latter including front and rear suspensions similar to the sporty Firebird. In the end, however, the GTO was discontinued following a corporate decision to switch to Buick V8 engines on the 1975 Ventura line, though Pontiac V8s were continued in all other division models. GM management decided that the GTO must end its production run.

In 1975, an enterprising Pontiac dealer in the Eastern United States reportedly decided to "create" a new GTO. Sensing that the 1974 GTO should have continued on the intermediate Le Mans platform rather than downsized to the Ventura line, this dealer advertised and sold an undetermined number of 1975 Pontiac GTOs. These cars were factory-ordered by the dealer as Le Mans Sport Coupes equipped with the 400 or 455 CID V8s with four-barrel carburetors, Turbo Hydra-Matic transmissions, Strato bucket seats and console, power steering, power disc brakes, Rally II or Honeycomb wheels, and Radial Tuned Suspension with whitewall or white-lettered radial tires. The dealer replaced the Pontiac and Le Mans nameplates with "GTO" badges inside and out. This dealer-made 1975 GTO could be ordered with any Le Mans exterior/interior combination along with any other extra-cost options available on the regular Le Mans.

In 1976, Jim Wangers reportedly presented a Le Mans Sport Coupe as a new GTO Judge prototype with a 400 CID V8 that was painted Carousel Red to Pontiac division officials as a possible GTO revival to supplement dramatic sales increases for the Firebird Trans Am (now accounting for 50% of Firebird sales) for those buyers who wanted a sporty performance car but needed a roomier back seat and larger trunk. However, division officials turned down the idea of an intermediate-sized GTO, but the concept was considered and approved for production; not as a GTO revival, but as the 1977 Pontiac Can Am.

During the subsequent 30 years, Pontiac considered several plans to revive the GTO nameplate, but none came to fruition. In 1988, when Oldsmobile planned to create a 442 based on the Cutlass Calais, Pontiac built a prototype GTO based on the Grand Am, equipped with a Quad 4 engine. The revived 442, introduced for the 1990 model year, proved to be a low seller, leading Pontiac to quietly cancel the GTO revival.

In 1990, Japanese automaker Mitsubishi marketed a GTO coupe, but it was sold in U.S. and Canada as the Mitsubishi 3000GT to avoid legal conflicts with Pontiac. Fans of the original GTO considered the appropriation of a famous muscle car by a Japanese automaker to be sacrilegious, much as sports car fans of the 1960s had been infuriated by Pontiac borrowing the name of the Ferrari racer.

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