GTO Gone

October 31, 2010

Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine
Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389
Listen to her tachin’ up now, listen to her why-ee-eye-ine
C’mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO

Little G.T.O., Ronnie and the Daytonas

(Illustration found here).

One of the great cool, and violent cars, of my youth and most likely also of a big group of baby boomers was Pontiac’s GTO — or Gran Turismo Omologato, but nobody, and actually nobody at all, ever used that elite term — and although Pontiac’s official demise ends today, the great, grand GTO died a long time ago.
From the New York Times:

It was 84 years old.
The cause of death was in dispute.
Fans said Pontiac’s wounds were self-inflicted, while General Motors blamed a terminal illness contracted during last year’s bankruptcy.
Pontiac built its last car nearly a year ago, but the official end was set for Oct. 31, when G.M.’s agreements with Pontiac dealers expire.

Its biggest triumph was the GTO, developed by Mr. (John Z.) DeLorean, the brand’s rebellious chief engineer, in violation of a G.M. policy dictating the maximum size of a car’s engine. The GTO was a hit, and the age of the muscle car had begun.

Although the public was awash with the Pontiac Firebird, the car Burt Reynolds manhandled in 1976’s “Smokey and the Bandit,” the GTO set the stage for muscle being cool.

My first job was for Avis Rent-A-Car — I washed and cleaned out the cars — and by far the neatest and best built were the Pontiacs, they handled so good with power to spare.
Although Avis didn’t have the GTO, we did have the Tempest, which was just a streamlined, lesser-powerful version of the GTO, in fact the original template for it.

And like everything else nowadays, that was long ago in a place far, far away.

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