Our featured automobile is the 1964 Pontiac GTO. The GTO was one of the great automobiles that was introduced in 1964 at the start of the muscle car revolution that began in earnest during the middle 1960’s.The GTO was the first of the Supercar genre and was supported by creative marketing programs.

1964 pontiac gto
1964 Pontiac GTO

The GTO name used by Pontiac was lifted by Chief Engineer John DeLorean from the Italian race car Ferrari 250 GTO. GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato.

Using Ferrari’s GTO abbreviation violated a general rule but it was nevertheless given the OK by management. Also putting an engine over 330 cubic inches in a street car was also against GM policy at the time but it was approved for the GTO.

Creation of the Pontiac GTO

Many would say that the Pontiac GTO was born when GM engineers at the GM Proving Grounds just outside Detroit fitted a Pontiac LeMans, with the thumbs up from DeLorean, with a more powerful engine. This formula had actually been used by hot rod enthusiasts for some time. It simply was the art of placing a more powerful engine in a lighter car. Examples of this could be the introduction of the Olds Rocket 88 and the Chrysler Hemi back in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. Another great example would be the 1961 Chevy Impala 409.

gto specsThe platform for the firstĀ  GTO was the 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans. The Tempest was introduced in 1960 as an A-Body Intermediate size car. By 1964 the car was redesigned to be larger and more powerful.

Tempest available engines were one V-6 and two V-8’s. The most powerful Tempest V-8 put out 280 HP. The first GTO was an option package for the 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans. This GTO package was priced at only $295 and gave you a 389 cubic inch V-8 with a Carter four barrel carburetor delivering 325 HP.

One major difference with the 1964 Pontiac GTO compared to the earlier muscle cars mentioned above were it’s sales. Pontiac management wasn’t necessarily sold that they had a big winner with the GTO. Nevertheless, GTO’s popularity soared. Only 5,000 units were planned for the 1964 model year but as it turned out over 32,000 were sold. Sales increased to over 72,000 for the 1965 GTO. Talk about management being out of touch! The GTO became more successful than GM management ever dreamed it could be.

It’s interesting to note that in 1963 General Motors banned all of it’s divisions from participating in auto racing. With that being said, it appears that GM engineers turned their attention to performance on the street rather than on the track. Pontiac had a long reputation for performance and the effort with the GTO was a way to keep that image alive.

1964 Pontiac GTO Specifications

As mentioned above, the 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans GTO package came with a 389 cubic inch V-8 with a Carter four barrel carburetor delivering 325 HP. A buyer could also order an optional Tri-Power 389 with 340 HP with three -two barrel carburetors.

Standard was a three speed manual gear box. Later, a four speed manual and an automatic were offered.gto photosThe 64 GTO had a heavy duty clutch along with heavy duty springs and shocks. Also included were wider tires, air scoops, sports bucket seats, hydraulic brakes, and of course the GTO nameplates.

1964 Pontiac GTO’s were built as two door coupes, hardtops and convertibles. New car price tag was about $2,900 for the coupe, $3,000 for the hardtop and $3,100 for the convertible.

Additional Auto Museum Online articles you may enjoy are found on the links below..

1967 Pontiac GTO

1969 Ford Torino

1961 Chevy Impala 409

Reference material for this article included…The Complete Book of Pontiac GTO: Every Model Since 1964 by Tom Glatch and Bob Lutz…GTO: The Legend Returns by Gary Witzenburg…Pontiac: The Performance Years by Martyn L. Schorr.

1964 Pontiac GTO Collector Cars

Pontiac GTO’s from the 1960’s are obviously popular collector cars. Most people would say they are legendary muscle cars and one of the most popular in the history of muscle cars. From the mid 1960’s through 1970 automakers were competing with each other as to who could produce the fastest cars.

pontiac gto first generationIn the case of the 1964 GTO, you’re looking at a car from the first model year. It’s the model that some would say started the craze. To be sure, there were high performance automobiles made long before the GTO appeared, but the 1964 model is considered the one that kicked off the muscle car era of the late 60’s. Because of this the 64 GTO is special.

As of this writing we see restored 1964 Pontiac GTO’s with asking prices of $43,000 for a hardtop, another hardtop at $45,000, convertibles at $59,000, $64,000 and $75,000.

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)