RE: Pontiac GTO

RE: Pontiac GTO

Thursday 22nd April 2004

Pontiac GTO

Robert Farago tests the US version of Holden's Monaro


Nostalgia ainโ€™t what it used to be.  Once upon a time, brand heritage kept customers loyal.  โ€œIโ€™m a Chevy manโ€ actually meant something.  These days, Chevrolet sells a Korean compact with about as much Chevy DNA as a Manchurian ring-necked pheasant.  Fordโ€™s offers a retro-Thunderbird whose driving dynamics, ergonomics and style would have found few takers in 1955.  And the new Pontiac GTO is a distant cousin of the old GTO, adopted and twice removed.

The original GTO started life in 1964 as option 382 on a Pontiac Tempest LeMans.  Two-hundred and ninety-five dollars bought a bigger engine (389 cubic inches) and air scoops (non-functional).  The new GTO is an Australian coupe, slightly modified for the US market, with a 5.7-liter V8.  In other words, if youโ€™re a heritage freak looking for a connection between the old โ€œgoatโ€ and the new, donโ€™t bother.  Unlike its illustrious predecessor, the new GTO has no kinship with any other Pontiac automobile made, ever. 

Does that really matter?  Shouldnโ€™t we cut the new GTO some slack, and simply thank God (a.k.a. Bob Lutz) that Pontiac sells a performance car that actually performs?  Ask the guy who works down at my local deli counter.  He used to own a black GTO.  โ€œIs that the new goat?  It looks like a rental car.โ€ 

Slack gone.  At the very least, Pontiac should have made the Monaro a rental car on steroids.  You know: fat rubber, 20โ€ wheels, blistered arches, fake scoops, quad exhausts, Hovercraft rear wing, decals, racing stripe, something, anything to give the new car some of the old carโ€™s charisma.  In fact, all that the antipodean GTO offers GMโ€™s coveted YAMs (โ€œYoung Affluent Malesโ€) is a few discreet badges and the distinctive rumble, burble, snarl, pop, thud and roar of a full-on V8. 

Quick

Close your eyes, give the goat some gas and you can easily imagine youโ€™re pedal-to-the-metal in a โ€˜69 GTO Judge.  [NB: Donโ€™t try this away from home.]  Saying that, the Judgeโ€™s ram-air V8 cranked-out 370hp, while the modern GTOโ€™s engine stumps-up โ€œonlyโ€ 350 horses.  Saying that, the new GTOโ€™s aluminum LS1 powerplant weighs 110lbs dripping wet and boasts a torque curve flatter than Kansas. 

 

Zero to 60mph occupies only 5.3 seconds of your time, while the quarter mile comes up in 13.8.  Thatโ€™s just a few ticks behind a stock โ€˜Vette, and more than fast enough to give the GTOโ€™s fully independent suspension and 17โ€ tires something to do around corners.  And a fine job they do too, providing adequate comfort at low speed and superb control at velocities that would frighten a 60โ€™s street racer to death.

If you think Iโ€™m going to continue singing the praises of this latter day muscle car and conclude that itโ€™s a victory of modern racing technology over sixties chic, if thatโ€™s what you want to hear, stop reading now.  For the rest of the GTOโ€™s package is rude, crude and kinda lame, Dude. 

Not for me though

The GTOโ€™s climate control knobs set the standard; the cheap rotary dials look like they were designed the same year the first GTO bowed-out (1974).  The Tremec T-56 six-speed gearbox is so notchy I began to suspect that the โ€œskip shiftโ€ function-- recommended by the flashing digital dash-- is more about maintaining forward movement than saving fuel.

Once you eventually find a gear and spool-up the GTOโ€™s V8, slowing down can be something of a challenge.  The vacuum-assisted stoppers lack bite and feel, and seem distinctly rubbery at full stomp.  The steering is equally over-assisted and spongy.  Thanks to its robust construction (i.e. weight), helming the GTO into a corner produces a fair amount of body roll.  And the pushrod V8 feels rough from low revs to red line.  Youโ€™d no sooner fully wring the GTOโ€™s neck than, um, a Manchurian ring-necked pheasant.

But hey, you would if you had to.  I mean, if you were hungry enough.  And thatโ€™s the ultimate equation facing potential GTO buyers.  Are you hungry enough for rear-wheel-drive horsepower that youโ€™ll give up any possibility of style points for sheer, unadulterated grunt and a user-friendly chassis?   Thirty-two large also buys you a VW R32, or an awful lot of Japanese sport compactโ€ฆ

GM executives arenโ€™t worried.  Thanks to US labor unions, the General is only importing 18,000 Aussie-built bruisers.  That many people would fork out $32k for a Chevrolet Aveo (donโ€™t ask) if it sounded as horny as the new GTO.  And thereโ€™s no question:  the GTO is a bit of a hoot.  Still, whereโ€™s the sizzle?  Unlike the old GTO, the new version will have to rely on the aftermarket for the visual statement goat owners expect.  And deserve.

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Discussion

johnywiz

Original Poster:

23 posts

236 months

Thursday 22nd April 2004
quotequote all
Very enjoyable article Robert. I think you just about have it there.
About the inside, and knobs aside, this is the best, I mean THE BEST quality dash to sit behind a Ponty badge ...ever. It's a quantum leap.
Sizzle.....interesting point. My spotless 17 year old primrose yellow Firebird would have difficulty seeing off an Accord in a straight line. But, burble through a small town in the middle of Illinois and I will be followed by 2 squad cars. That is sizzle. To me real performance with anonymity is an attractive idea - you have to have something on your side to keep your driving license. As it is my Firebird has got me arrested and nearly put in jail twice!

Johnny
Chicago

Nero5

17 posts

209 months

Friday 23rd April 2004
quotequote all
If you do not like the style (and most of Australia do not), have a look at the pictures of the aussie production version, particularly the HSV versions. Issues with brakes...then the HSV (brembo) or Harrop brake conversions are available. More power then the supercharging kits are already there as are some 7lt engine conversions ala' callaway
From what I have read the ride/handling balance is perhaps well balanced compared to the other cars on the USA market?
BTW Ford Australia has a car to compete in the XR6 Turbo...but it is 4 door

BrianTheYank

7,585 posts

219 months

Friday 23rd April 2004
quotequote all
Another ultimate sleeper mobile.

thirsty

726 posts

233 months

Friday 23rd April 2004
quotequote all
Like I said before... what has this guy been smoking. I think he must have spent his childhood sniffing exhaust fumes from an old ragged out Jaguar.

You can always spot built in bias, and it seems clearly evident with everything I see him write.

robert farago

108 posts

239 months

Friday 23rd April 2004
quotequote all
What are you on about thirsty? What bias? C'mon bro, bring it!

golem

58 posts

226 months

Saturday 24th April 2004
quotequote all
I personally resent it having the name GTO. It should not be compared with a GTO. It is not a nostalgia car.

It's a Commodore Coupe. It is to the Commodore what the 330Ci is to the 330i. It is not a retro-mobile like some daft arse New Beetle.

It should be judged as an individual model.

86turbo

209 posts

224 months

Monday 26th April 2004
quotequote all
Saw one the other day, was standing next to it for about ten minutes before I reallized what it was. The owner came out, I told him "Nice car" and he was thankful, apparently I gave it the first bit of recognition he had had since he got it. Maybe they'll spice up the styling. The skip-shift transmission GM puts on its performance cars is truly one of the most annoying things ever to grace a car. It's the only thing my dad regrets about buying a Z06. GTO seems like a good deal though, regardless of what it should be called. I was surprised by how big it was.
Dan

Miguel

1,030 posts

234 months

Wednesday 28th April 2004
quotequote all
Dan said:
The skip-shift transmission GM puts on its performance cars is truly one of the most annoying things ever to grace a car. It's the only thing my dad regrets about buying a Z06.


Funny you said that, Dan. I just read a letter from a 2004 Z06 Corvette owner in the May, 2004 issue of "Road & Track" who said that if he had known that the car had that skip-shift deal, he wouldn't have bought it. You might have to do a little research on this to help your dad, but I remember when these cars came out, people said that the skip-shift was very easy to defeat. It only involved the disconnecting of a wire (or group of wires) to the transmission. I'm sure you can find some Corvette or Camaro/Firebird group or specialist with people who can give you more specific information so that your dad can have a more enjoyable Z06 experience.

Oh and nice car, your Lotus. BTW, who makes the Lotus? ;-) Sorry, couldn't resist after reading that post about the comments people make about Esprits. Don't worry, I've been a car buff (definitely including Lotus) for as long as I can remember.

Miguel

johnywiz

Original Poster:

23 posts

236 months

Wednesday 28th April 2004
quotequote all
I seem to remember reading about an aftermarket chip that that addresses the gearbox skip. It is also worth having a look at the box itself. I disconnected the lock up on my auto Firebird by simply unplugging it!

Miguel

1,030 posts

234 months

Tuesday 4th May 2004
quotequote all
Thanks for the article on the GTO, Robert. I do have some comments, though. I thought I posted this when I put my other comment here, but for some reason, it didn't go through.

robert farago said:
Saying that, the Judgeโ€™s ram-air V8 cranked-out 370hp, while the modern GTOโ€™s engine stumps-up โ€œonlyโ€ 350 horses.

American cars up to 1971 had power and torque figures rated by SAE gross standards. Starting in 1972, this was changed to SAE net standards, which give smaller power and torque numbers, being equivalent to the DIN standards of the engine as installed in the car with accessories, full factory exhaust, a correction factor for higher air intake temperature duplicating the conditions under the hood, etc. For some reason, to this day, journalists often refer to the two as if they were directly comparable. The truth is that the "only 350 horses" (net) of the modern GTO is actually more power than the 370 (gross) horsepower of the old one. If I had to guess, I'd say that the 370 (gross) hp engine put out about 300 net hp.

robert farago said:
Saying that, the new GTOโ€™s aluminum LS1 powerplant weighs 110lbs dripping wet and boasts a torque curve flatter than Kansas.

While I'm with you on the "flatter than Kansas" torque curve, you missed the weight by over 400 lbs. This engine with accessories weighs over 500 lbs., though I don't know the exact number.

Miguel

robert farago

108 posts

239 months

Sunday 9th May 2004
quotequote all
Thanks for the horsepower info. I won't make that mistake again.

The 110lbs. refers to the block itself. The rest of the gubbins accounts for the remaining 390lbs.

Or so they tell me.

Miguel

1,030 posts

234 months

Monday 10th May 2004
quotequote all
You're welcome, Robert. And thank you for your articles. They're a good read.

Miguel