1964 PONTIAC GTO-
GTO = GRAN TURISMO OMOLOGATO
What? That’s what GTO stands for. It’s Italian for “Grand Touring-Hologated”, which normally meant a street-legal race car that was built in very limited numbers just to satisfy the rules for a certain class of racing. At the time, Ferrari was campaigning its legendary and gorgeous 250 GTO and John DeLorean liked it so much he wanted it for his car. At first there was outrage among a small group of Ferrari and motorsports faithful, viewing it as nothing short of sacrilege. But with time, the name stuck and today most people associate the name “GTO” with Pontiac. Another name that stuck is the nickname affectionately given the GTO by its owners, “the Goat”, derived by mixing up the letter G, T and O.
1964 PONTIAC GTO-
BIRTH OF A LEGEND
The GTO is credited with touching off the Classic American Muscle Car Era. It was the brainchild of 3 very talented Pontiac engineers, Chief Engineer John DeLorean, Powertrain Engineer Russell Gee, and Chassis Engineer Bill Collins, and Pontiac’s chief marketing manager, Jim Wangers.. Basically, they took a humble Pontiac Tempest, just having been completely reengineered itself for 1964, stuffed a big block 389 out of the full-size Pontiac Bonneville/Catalina line, upgraded the suspension, wheels and tires, and tarted it up with lots of cool ‘go-fast’ cosmetics. The resulting car was an instant hit.
UPGRADES TURN A TEMPEST INTO A GTO
Just one year before, in 1963, General Motors had backed out of racing, and wanted to distance itself from it, whether professional or amateur (in other words, street racing). So they made it official policy that no A-body mid-sized GM car would have any V8 engine larger than 330 cubic inches. Hence the Tempest’s 326, and Chevy’s 327. But, the Pontiac team skillfully steered around that by making the 1964 Pontiac GTO a mere ‘option package’ for the Tempest, which happened to include a 389 big block V-8 intended for a full-sized car. Elliot “Pete” Estes, then Pontiac General Manager approved it and the die was cast. Other upgrades included trim, wheels, tires and hubcaps, badging and those cool little phony chromed hood vents.
1964 PONTIAC GTO SPECS & EQUIPMENT
The 1964 Pontiac GTO came in 3 body styles: 2-door Coupe (with post), 2-door Hartop (postless), and 2-door Convertible. The GTO option package for the Pontiac Tempest added $289 to the pricetag. It included a 389ci V8 rated at 325hp at 4,800rpm. It had a single Carter 4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust, a 7-blade clutch fan, and chromed air cleaner & valve covers. The suspension was also beefed up with stiffer springs, a larger front sway bar and wide wheels with 7.50 X 14” Redline tires. There were several transmissions to choose from including the standard 3-speed manual using a Hurst floor shifter, a 4-speed with Hurst shifter, and a Powerglide 2-speed automatic.
1964 PONTIAC GTO OPTIONS
If you knew which boxes to check, you could load up your new Goat. Options included metallic brakes, a limited-slip (posi-traction) rear end, heavy duty cooling, ride & handling packages, and loads of other cool power & convenience features. The top-rated engine option was the 389 Tri-Power which had three 2-barrel Rochester carbs on top, and producing 348hp, was capable of doing zero-to-60 in the mid-6s and the quarter mile in the high-14s, right around 100mph trap speed. That’s way fast for an early 60s box-stock street car.
THE GTO IS A SALES SUCCESS
Early in the GTOs development stage, Pontiac Sales Manager Frank Bridge tried to discourage the GTO, believing it would never find a market for more than 5,000 cars. In reality, from the time the 1964 GTO hit the streets until the close of the 1964 calendar year, they sold over 10,000 units, and for the entire 1964 model year, sales totaled 32,450 cars.
The top rated engine was the 389 Tri-Power, which was the same as the 4-barrel 325hp 389, but with a different intake manifold topped by 3 Rochester 2G carbs (the infamous “Triple Duce”) and making 348hp. Not only was it fast, and fairly drivable, it just plain looked bad!