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Thread: Post-mortem: Pontiac's GTO dies (again)

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Post-mortem: Pontiac's GTO dies (again)

    Post-mortem: Pontiac's GTO dies (again)
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    The GTO is dead -- again.

    History does repeat itself, it seems -- but with different antecedents.

    Just like the first time around, everyone knew this was coming. Sales of the new GTO have been disappointing from the get-go. In 2004 -- its first full year on the market -- only 13,569 were sold. This was about 5,000 fewer than Pontiac had hoped to sell. Last year, just 11,590 GTOs found homes -- a 14.6 percent drop over 2004. Despite a frantic second-year restyle (and horsepower infusion, with the standard engine going from 350 to 400 horsepower), the slide could not be arrested.

    And thus, 2006 will be the end of the line -- again.

    Back in 1974 -- the final year for the classic-era GTOs -- the once-formidable muscle car had been reduced to a half-hearted, sort of sporty Ventura with a couple of disco-looking tricolor decals, a nothing-special 200 hp 350 V-8 -- and a shaker hood scoop hurriedly borrowed from the Trans-Am. It was a muscle car in name only -- at least, in comparison to the sheetmetal Visigoths that had preceded it.

    Pontiac had given up on the car by then; the final year was an afterthought -- at best.

    It died as a result of emasculation; buyers used to pavement ripping Ram Air III 400s and 455 HO Judges with aluminum manifolds, hot cams and eye-candy bodywork were not about to accept a tarted-up Ventura with 7.6:1 compression 350. But that was all Pontiac could (or would) offer in the face of ever-more-restrictive emissions control and safety edicts being handed down by Washington bureaucrats. That and rising gas and insurance prices pretty much sealed the deal.

    The new GTO, on the other hand, never lacked for power. In fact, it was GM's myopic fixation on that one aspect of the car to the exclusion of other, equally as important attributes that arguably led to its failure. For despite being more powerful than all its classic-era forbears, the new GTO could never catch the originals when it came to simple curb appeal.

    Muscle cars are a lot like muscular humans; it's as much about image as it is performance. Think of that dark and ominous scene in the original "Terminator" movie when Arnold rises from the crouch of time-travel -- his massive chest filling the screen, those death-slit eyes staring out across the evening LA landscape.

    That, friends, is "presence" -- and the old GTOs had it, too. A blood red '66 convertible with "trips" (three two barrel carbs sitting on top of its 389 V-8) always turned heads when it rolled up to the curb.

    The new GTO never does. It goes unnoticed -- no matter how fast it is.

    The car isn't unattractive. It's just not attractive, in the literal sense of attracting attention. And that would be fine -- if it weren't a GTO. Because a GTO is as much about image as it is about 0-60 times. It is about making a statement; hell -- it's about showing off and intimidating other drivers, unnerving them with raw menace.

    The GTO is (or was) a hooligan. All real muscle cars were. That was kind of the whole point. Notice that what's popular with today's 18-25 year olds is pretty much the same stuff: wings, big (and loud) exhaust systems, aggressive bodywork. The whole street racer thing. That's what muscle car buyers want -- whether it's 1966 or 2006 -- and whether the car is a V-8/RWD head-kicker or a "fast and furious" import/FWD four-banger with nitrous.

    You want people to see you (and hopefully, cringe a bit in fear) when you drive past. You want other guys to envy you -- and you want the girls to think you're cool. That's the game. John Z. understood this. The current GM management clearly does not.

    Had Pontiac brought the car to market as the Pontiac GT (or some such) it might have done better. It could have been marketed as a domestic version of the BMW M3 -- a sophisticated performance coupe for the older guy who wants to run under the radar as much as he wants to go fast.

    But as a GTO, it was destined to flop.

    END

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    Re: Post-mortem: Pontiac's GTO dies (again)

    GM has just released a 4-door version of rear drive medium 'world car'. The Australian Holden Commodore, with alloy 3.6 V6 with 180 Kw and LS2 6.0 V8 with 270 Kw [and 530 Nm torque].

    Whether this 3-door car will appeal to buyers remains to seen. It's very similar to the failed GTO, and is developed from the same car which spawned that GTO, itself a development of 1989 Opel-derived Holdens, which have been successful in Aussie.

    I'm no expert but rear-drive medium size cars with big power do not seem to me to be the way of the future. In Australasia it is thought of as a large car, and with fuel prices.... ? That's not to say GM won't sell them, but to suspect that it is not what the mass market really wants.

    So far the promotion stresses 'quality', 'billion in development', but not a lot which makes a kid think, "Yeah!"


  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Post-mortem: Pontiac's GTO dies (again)

    Hi Rob,

    I don't think the problemis with V-8s or RWD; far from it! In this case, I think the problem was a mismatch between the image and legacy of the old GTO and a modern car far removed from that legacy in almost every key respect, from Pontiac heritage to a Pontiac-sourced powertrain. GM's LS1 series small-block V-8 is a superb engine; but it is not a Pontiac engine. And swapping "GTO" badges onto a non-Pontiac doesn't miraculously transform it into one! Also, the car is just boring to look at - fast as it is. The old Goats were attention-getters of the first order; and this has always been a key GTO attribute.

    Your pal,
    Eric

    PS - Head should be on the old Kaw by next week!

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    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Post-mortem: Pontiac's GTO dies (again)

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    .

    That, friends, is "presence" -- and the old GTOs had it, too. A blood red '66 convertible with "trips" (three two barrel carbs sitting on top of its 389 V-8) always turned heads when it rolled up to the curb.

    The new GTO never does. It goes unnoticed -- no matter how fast it is.

    The car isn't unattractive. It's just not attractive, But as a GTO, it was destined to flop.

    END
    I actually found it quite a boring car here as the Holden Monaro. GMH gave it so much hype, but it never gave me the buzz of the 60s and 70s Monaros.
    It looks so similar to the Volvo C70 (now also gone) but with a little less flair.

    GM thinks re-badge a vehicle and sell it. may have worked in the eighties but certainly not these days. Buyers are more savvy methinks.
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Post-mortem: Pontiac's GTO dies (again)

    It does sort of look like the C70 (also the Chevy Cavalier). Just kind of blah and round and amorphous; nothing memorable - certainly nothing noticeable.

    Now, my orange (Carousel Red) Trans-Am can deliver on the "Rubberneckin' Quotient" every time!

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