1966 PONTIAC GTO RESTYLED…AGAIN
For the third year in a row, the entire Pontiac Tempest/LeMans and GTO line gets a total reskin with a much more tapered shape. The belt line (the line where the side glass meets the top of the door and/or body) now kicked up at the quarter panel, giving the overall car sort of a “Coke bottle-look”. The GTO was growing larger with every year, now up to 206.4 inches in length, and 74.4 inches in width, rear track having grown a full inch, all on the same 115 inch wheelbase as the 1964 and 1965 models.
1966 PONTIAC GTO FINALLY A STAND-ALONE MODEL
1966 was also the first time the GTO was viewed as an actual model, and not an option package within the Tempest/LeMans model line. The 3 body styles continued, the best-selling 2-door Hardtop; the 2-door Coupe (with pillar/post); and the Convertible. The 1966 Pontiac GTO became the first production car in history to replace their metal front grilles with molded plastic units.
1966 PONTIAC GTO CONTINUES TO GROW IN SALES
Each year, GTO production was rising. From 32,450 in 1964, to 77,352 in 1965, the growth continued with 96,946 GTOs sold in the 1966 model year.
The new interior included “Strato Bucket Seats” which were taller, narrower and better contoured for improved comfort and support. Adjustable headrests were optional. The entire IP (instrument panel) and gauge cluster was redesigned and now the ignition switch was where people expected it to be, just right of the steering column, rather than over to the far left of the dash, as it was on the 1964 and 1965 models. The 4-gauge layout continued but now with wood trim.
Actually, the two primary engine offerings, the 389 4-barrel making 335hp, and the 389 Tri-Power with 360 hp, remained unchanged for the 1966 model year. However a new, albeit very rare option was offered for the first time. The XS option had a Ram Air setup breathing through a single Carter AFB 4-barrel, with a hot .744-lift cam. Pontiac may have understated the power output for political reasons, because it was advertised as 360hp, the same as the Tri-Power. Doesn’t matter much, as only 35 XS-optioned GTOs were every built. However, dozens of Pontiac dealers all across the country installed an estimated 300 factory Ram Air kits on GTOs either before or after the sale.
THE 1966 PONTIAC GTO HAD SOME COOL OPTIONS Pontiac must have been comfortable with their self-proclaimed moniker of GM’s “Excitement Division”. Because their cars exuded excitement, and the GTO was on the top of the heap. What else do you call 3 carburetors sitting on top of a big V8? Or the 3 small chrome air cleaners that sat on top of those? And what about that cool center console, with that big chromed Hurst shifter sprouting out the top? But, the absolute coolest option had to be the hood-mounted tachometer. Visible through the windshield, it resided in a small blister that popped up out of the hood. Very cool. And a popular option with collectors today.