Why we think the 1964 Pontiac GTO was the best muscle car ever?

1964 Pontiac GTO front third quarter view

Released on October 1, 1963, the Pontiac GTO had a Tri-Powered 389 CID V8 engine that could burst your eardrums with how loud it was. The Pontiac Motor Division managed to surprise the automotive world when they started producing factory-built high-performance cars. Pontiac’s parent company, General engineslimited the size of engines to just 330 CID V8s in mid-sized cars.

But what Pontiac found was that the fastest way to produce more horses was cubic inches. John DeLorean and Jim Wagners discovered a loophole and smuggled in the full-zed car engine as part of an option package. As the story progresses and thanks to the intelligence of DeLorean and Wagner, the 1964 Pontiac GTO was unveiled and became the world’s first muscle car.

Related: 10 Things Every Gearhead Should Know About The Pontiac GTO Judge

The Pontiac GTO Origin Story

The Pontiac Motor Division wanted to appeal to a younger audience with its cars. DeLorean and the Wagners knew that if they wanted to appeal to a younger market, they couldn’t just repeat what they’d done in the past. What they decided to do was extremely clever!

They more or less copied what all the young car enthusiasts did in the 60s, which was to put a lot of sporty, performance parts on their cars while replacing the engine with an increasingly larger full-sized car engine to fit in their mid-sized cars. What this did was give the younger car enthusiasts exactly what they wanted without having to work on the cars themselves.

Initially, the Pontiac GTO was overlooked and sales got off to a slow start. Eventually people started to see the potential the Pontiac GTO had. It was at this point that the Pontiac GTOs started to sell quickly, with Pontiac selling six times as many GTOs as they had expected. In the first year of production, no fewer than 32,450 Pontiac GTOs were sold.

Very impressive especially to say this was in the 60’s. Pontiac GTO sales skyrocketed again after a 1964 cover story stated that the Pontiac GTO was faster in the quarter mile than the Ferrari 250 GTO, and while this may not be true, people believed it and swarmed to buy a Pontiac GTO.

And with a base 389 VID 6.4-liter V8 engine and other options like a 4-speed manual transmission, Tri-Power carburetors and positrivity. It’s no surprise that the world sees the Pontiac GTO as the very first muscle car. John DeLorean saw a great marketing strategy when it came to the Pontiac GTO, and it was just to call the car GTO, which means Gran Turismo Omolgato.

In Italian, this basically means a car that can perform in many types of races. DeLorean saw the gap in the market and wanted people to know that the Pontiac GTO was an American-made high-performance car that could compete with the big boys. At $295 or the equivalent of $2,400 in today’s money, you could turn a Pontiac Tempest into a Pontiac GTO, with the option of a hardtop, coupe, or soft-top.

After the option was created to convert your Tempest into a GTO, the GTO option included many cosmetic and performance-enhancing upgrades. Transforming a dull, boring and slow engine into a fiery, exciting and fast muscle car.

Related: Here’s How to Find Burt Reynolds’ Iconic ‘Hooper’ Pontiac Trans Am

Pontiac GTO packs impressive performance

To say that the Pontiac GTO was designed, built and distributed in the 1960s and the performance stats are phenomenal. The beastly 6.4-litre 389 CID V8 engine was able to unleash 325 hp, reaching a time of 0-100 km/h in sufficient 6.9 seconds, while the top speed was 122 km/h. Quite awe-inspiring for a car made in the 1960s.

In addition to the breathtaking engine, the Pontiac GTO boasts a number of other impressive features, including chrome air filters, chrome valve covers, a heavy-duty suspension and a dual exhaust system, which only made the Pontiac GTO’s roar louder.

In addition to these fairly innovative features, the Pontiac GTO also featured 4-barrel Carter AFB carburetors and a 3-speed manual transmission operated by a Hurst shifter. Although the transmission can be upgraded to a four-speed manual or a two-speed Super Turbine 300 automatic.

Redline US Royal Tiger Paw tires were placed on the Pontiac GTO, while GTO decals were placed on the exterior and interior of the car to add that luxurious yet aggressive feel.

Related: Here’s What You Need To Know About The 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Collector’s Edition

1964 Pontiac GTO was one of a kind

Many people disagree that the Pontiac GTO was the first muscle car, and many others believe that the Pontiac GTO was in some ways a huge disappointment. But you have to remember that this car was designed and made in the 1960s, a period when many people did not have a car.

Pontiac couldn’t just make another beautiful and powerful muscle car. They had to work from scratch with very few resources to create the Pontiac GTO. And for that reason, the Pontiac GTO should be considered a very advanced piece of engineering with many advanced features and incredible performance stats at the time of release.

Source: Pontiac