Pontiac GTO
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Pontiac GTO, John DeLorean's great automotive success

For many, the Pontiac GTO was the car that created the muscle car category as we know it today, and all of this is due to the ingenuity and daring of John DeLorean.

By the early 1960s Pontiac, which was one of General Motors' five brands dedicated to building automobiles in the United States, had a bad reputation. Yes ok the company had no apparent problem during the 1950s it had become in the eyes of the American public a manufacturer of cars for seniors and that they lacked any interest among the youngest.

In 1961 GM introduced a series of compact saloons which are very popular. Except for Cadillac, all the conglomerate's brands received their own model with three volumes and smaller proportions, including the Pontiac Tempest. This vehicle was already peculiar in itself, as it was offered with an inline four-cylinder engine, something unusual for an American vehicle at that time, but curiously it would end up being the car that reinvented Pontiac as a brand.

pontiac tempest lemans 1963
1963 Pontiac Tempest LeMans.


Within the initial range of the Pontiac Tempest, there was a top-of-the-range finish that was the LeMans, which would end up becoming its own model in 1963. At that time, Pontiac was already working on the second generation of the Tempest, which would increase in size to now become a mid-size car. and at GM they would forget about compact cars until the seventies arrived.

The company's design team included John Delorean, a young promise who had already worked at Chrysler and Packard and who came to General Motors in 1956 to become Pontiac's chief engineer in 1961., at 36 years of age, making him the youngest figure to hold this position. It was this approach of a young person that triggered that change in the brand and with which the future GTO would be forged, but the car was plagued with controversies during its development.

1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO.
1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO.

Since 1957, General Motors had prohibited its divisions from participating in the world of competition after the Le Mans disasters in 1955 and a NASCAR accident in 1957 that left five people injured. For this reason Since the early sixties, Pontiac began advertising its cars with street racing and young drivers in mind., a marketing strategy that more than worked.

Until then GM had an internal rule that larger displacement engines were reserved for larger bodies. However, Delorean skipped that rule and equipped the 8 cubic inch (389 liter) V6,4 in the mid-size Tempest.

The result was a car weighing just 1.600 kilos and 325 HP or 348 HP if the extra three double-body carburetors were equipped. All this together with a smaller size that made it more manageable than contemporary cars like the Chevrolet Impala SS. Even so, he would continue to transfer some problems inherited from the Tempest such as very poor braking and slow and imprecise steering.


As another commercial strategy, Pontiac wanted to name the new car GTO, an acronym that stands for Approved Gran Turismo and that they had Ferrari GTO 250 as inspiration. For this, the brand had to talk to the FIA ​​to approve the vehicle as a racing grand tourer., for which they were required to produce at least one hundred units. Thus, this sports finish of the Tempest LeMans was launched in 1964, and the first forecasts were pessimistic and predicted around 5.000 units sold during the first year, but the result ended up being 32.450 cars.

Fortunately for DeLorean, the GTO was a success, because breaking the rules could have made him lose his job at General Motors, but ended up redefining what muscle cars were and gave Pontiac that much-needed identity. At the advertising level, the brand created very daring advertisements with tigers as protagonists in advertisements that were sometimes even risque and on the streets it was known as GOAT (Greatest of all time or the best of all time).

The Pontiac GTO would become its own model a few years later, and was one of the architects of the war for more horsepower that North American manufacturers had in the late sixties and which generated the golden age of muscle cars. For its part, to its creator, John DeLorean, a few more years awaited him at General Motors until he left the company to found his own company with his last name as his name, although the story in this case was not so wonderful and was involved in a drug trafficking scandal, but would end up leaving behind another great automobile icon thanks to the film Back to the Future.1965 pontiac gto

Images: GM

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Written by Javillac

This thing about cars comes to one since childhood. When other kids preferred the bicycle or the ball, I kept the toy cars.
I still remember as if it were yesterday a day when a black 1500 overtook us on the A2, or the first time I saw a Citroën DS parked on the street, I have always liked chrome bumpers.

In general, I like things from before the time I was born (some say I'm reincarnated), and at the top of that list are cars, which, together with music, make the ideal combination for a perfect time: driving and a soundtrack according to the corresponding car.

As for cars, I like classics of any nationality and era, but my weakness is American cars from the 50s, with their exaggerated shapes and dimensions, which is why many people know me as "Javillac".

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