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Pontiac 69 GTO : Classic Cars

The Pontiac GTO is an American automobile built by Pontiac Division of General Motors from 1964 to 1974 and by GM subsidiary Holden in Australia from 2004 to 2006. It was a muscle car classic of the 1960s and 1970s. From 1964 until midway through 1973 it was closely related to the Pontiac Tempest/LeMans and for the 1974 model year it was based on the Pontiac Ventura. The 21st century GTO is essentially a left-hand drive conversion of the Holden Monaro, itself a coupé variant of the Holden Commodore.

The GTO was the brainchild of Pontiac engineer Russell Gee, an engine specialist; Bill Collins, a chassis engineer; and Pontiac chief engineer John DeLorean. In early 1963, General Motors' management issued an edict banning divisions from involvement in auto racing. At the time, Pontiac's advertising and marketing approach was heavily based on performance, and racing was an important component of that strategy. With GM's ban on factory-sponsored racing, Pontiac's young, visionary management turned its attention to emphasizing street performance.

In his autobiography “Glory Days,” Pontiac chief marketing manager Jim Wangers, who worked for the division’s contract advertising and public relations agency, states that John DeLorean, Bill Collins and Russ Gee were indeed responsible for the GTO's creation. It involved transforming the upcoming redesigned Tempest (which was set to revert to a conventional front-engine, front transmission, rear-wheel drive configuration) into a "Super Tempest" with the larger 389 cu in (6.4 L) Pontiac V8 engine from the full-sized Pontiac Catalina and Bonneville in place of the standard 326 cu in (5.3 L) Tempest V8. By promoting the big-engine Tempest as a special high-performance model, they could appeal to the speed-minded youth market (which had also been recognized by Ford Motor Company's Lee Iacocca, who was at that time preparing the sporty Ford Mustang variant of the second generation Ford Falcon compact).

The GTO was basically a violation of GM policy limiting the A-body intermediate line to a maximum engine displacement of 330 cu in (5.4 L). Since the GTO was an option package for the Pontiac Tempest and not standard equipment, it could be considered to fall into a loophole in the policy. Pontiac General Manager Elliot "Pete" Estes approved the new model, although sales manager Frank Bridge, who did not believe it would find a market, insisted on limiting initial production to no more than 5,000 cars.

The 1969 model did not have the vent windows, had a slight grille and taillight revision, moved the ignition key from the dashboard to the steering column (which locked the steering wheel when the key was removed, a Federal requirement installed one year ahead of schedule), and the gauge faces changed from steel blue to black. In addition, the rear quarter-panel mounted side marker lamps changed from a red lens shaped like the Pontiac "V" crest to one shaped like the broad GTO badge. Front outboard headrests were made standard equipment on all GTOs built after January 1, 1969.

The previous economy engine and standard 350 hp 400 CID V8 remained, while the 360 hp (270 kW) 400HO was upgraded to the Ram Air III, rated at 366 hp (273 kW) at 5,100 rpm. The top option was the 370 hp (280 kW) Ram Air IV, which featured special header-like high-flow exhaust manifolds, high-flow cylinder heads, a specific high-rise aluminum intake manifold, larger Rochester QuadraJet four-barrel carburetor, high-lift/long-duration camshaft, plus various internal components capable of withstanding higher engine speeds and power output. Unlike the highest rpm big-block Chevy and Hemi motors, the Ram Air IV utilized hydraulic lifters.

By this time, the gross power ratings of both Ram Air engines were highly suspect, bearing less relationship to developed power and more to an internal GM policy limiting all cars except the Corvette to no more than one advertised horsepower per 10 lb (4.5 kg) of curb weight. The higher-revving Ram Air IV's advertised power peak was actually listed at 5,000 rpm—100 rpm lower than the less-powerful Ram Air III.

The Ram Air V (500+ HP) engine was introduced in 1969 to professional racing, not for sale to the general public except as conversion parts, and not in cars in showrooms, and was sold and delivered in a crate. It was a special 400 4-bolt main block with newly designed high compression tunnel port heads, radical cam, and a special high rise intake manifold. A prototype GTO so equipped could go 0–60 mph in 5.7 seconds or less, and the usual quarter-mile time of 13's seconds at 101.76 mph was lessened to 11's at 123 mph (198 km/h). Ram Air Vs were not installed in GTOs at the factory.

The most significant event of 1969 for the GTO was the launch of a new model called "The Judge". The Judge name came from a comedy routine, "Here Come de Judge", used repeatedly on the Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In TV show. The Judge routine, made popular by legendary showman Sammy Davis, Jr., was borrowed from the act of long-time burlesque entertainer Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham. Advertisements used slogans like "All rise for The Judge" and "The Judge can be bought". As originally conceived, the Judge was to be a low-cost GTO, stripped of some gimmicks to make it competitive with the Plymouth Road Runner. The package was US$332 more expensive than a standard GTO, and included the Ram Air III engine, Rally II wheels without trim rings, Hurst shifter (with a unique T-shaped handle), wider tires, various decals, and a rear spoiler. Pontiac claimed that the spoiler had some functional effect at higher speeds, producing a small but measurable downforce, but it was of little value at legal speeds except for style. The Judge was initially offered only in "Carousel Red", but midway into the model year a variety of other colors became available.

The GTO was surpassed in sales both by the Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 and the Plymouth Road Runner, but 72,287 were sold during the 1969 model year, with 6,833 of them being The Judge. The rarest 1969 GTO, omitting color options, was the Ram Air IV Judge Convertible - only five were built (Year One catalog).


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Sources : Pontiac 69 GTO Photo | Pontiac GTO Information

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