1966 Pontiac GTO Sports Coupe
On loan from: Kevin Ericson of Axtell, NE
Original cost: $2,783 (Averages, 1966: cost of a car, $2,650; household income, $6,900; cost of a home, $14,200; gallon of gas, 32 cents)
Number made: Sports coupes: 10,363 (1966 GTO production: convertibles, 12,798; hardtop coupe, 73,785)
Engine, etc.: V-8 valve-in-head, 389 cid; 335 hp; 115 in. wheelbase; 3,445 lbs.
In 1963, John DeLorean was the Chief Engineer at Pontiac. He and his staff of smart, cutting-edge engineers liked to spend Saturday mornings at the GM Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. It was there that they decided to swap a 389 cu. in. engine into a Pontiac Tempest and the “muscle car” was born. The engine came from the Pontiac Catalina and Bonneville and replaced the standard 326 cid in the Tempest.
Since all Pontiac V-8s had the same engine-mount points, regardless of their displacement, it was an easy swap and not long thereafter DeLorean was driving the very first “GTO – Gran Turismo Omologato,” the world’s first LeMans coupe factory-equipped with the now-classic 389.
For the 1964 and 1965 model years the GTO was an optional package on the Pontiac Tempest LeMans.
In 1966, the GTO became its own model. Recognizing the GTO’s growing popularity, Pontiac promoted it from a Tempest option to a full-fledged model for 1966. The GTO – “Goat” – rewarded Pontiac with sales of 96,946 units, the highest one-year total ever attained by a true muscle car.
Credit for its success was twofold. Other GM divisions had copied the GTO with hotter versions of their intermediates, but like Ford’s new Fairlane GT, none captured the Goat’s all-around appeal. Mopar had the performance, but no special muscle models. And while all GM midsize cars were restyled for ’66, none matched the beauty of the GTO’s new Coke-bottle contours.
Wheelbase was untouched in 1966 from the original Tempest option and overall length and curb weights changed negligibly. But styling highlights included a graceful new roofline and cool fluted tail lamps. The unique GTO grille had mesh-pattern inserts made of plastic — an industry first.
Car Life magazine tested the 1966 GTO and reported that it was light in the rear end and very skittish on everything but the driest roads, braking was poor, but the shifter was “sweet”, the motor willing, and quality was high.
Several generations of GTO’s followed the introduction. It remained a separate model until 1972 when it reverted to an optional package for the LeMans models. In 1974 it moved to an option on the Pontiac Ventura. Sales improved over the figures from 1973 but not enough to continue production of the model. The name was again used from 2004 – 2006. The last GTO came off the production line on June 14, 2006.
See also: http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Pontiac/1966_Pontiac/1966_Pontiac_Performance_Brochure/dirindex.html (Original sales brochure)