“GTO” once stood for Gran Tourismo Omologato, Italian for an international racing class for “homologated” (approved) Grand Touring” cars. Ferrari once dominated GTO competition and hung that label on one especially fast and beautiful series in the early ’60s.

Pontiac had the nerve to wedge a big racingderived V8 into a mid-size 1964 Tempest and the gall to ca" />

Issue: Apr 2004


Cars Worth Noting: 2004 Pontiac GTO



2004 Pontiac GTO

by Gary Witzenburg

“GTO” once stood for Gran Tourismo Omologato, Italian for an international racing class for “homologated” (approved) Grand Touring” cars. Ferrari once dominated GTO competition and hung that label on one especially fast and beautiful series in the early ’60s.

Pontiac had the nerve to wedge a big racingderived V8 into a mid-size 1964 Tempest and the gall to call it “GTO,” then Car and Driver had the unmitigated gall to do a feature comparing the two GTOs…and the Pontiac won! Eurocar purists howled, but the uppity plebian Pontiac simply hauled ass, and an American legend was born.

That legend expired 30 years ago of overregulation, industry angst and insurance company greed. But this 2004 reborn GTO — sprung from the loins of GM’s Australian Holden affiliate with German Opel blood in its veins — is fast and good enough to revive it. Like the original, it hauls proverbial butt. Unlike the original, it’s a multidimensional athlete, as good through the corners as on the straights.

The deeply supportive bucket seats are superb. Squeezing into the rear requires patience while a power front seat glides slowly forward, but there’s surprising room and comfort there for actual adults. The standard 200-watt 10-speaker Blaupunkt sound system with 6-CD changer and steering hub controls is a joy but for the right-side volume knob and no knob for manual tuning. The Aussies like big-V-8 grunt as much as we do, so their Corvette-powered Monaro (as legendary a name Down Under as GTO is here) was a natural for conversion into a new U.S. Goat.” It has some minor furrin’ car quirks, and the repositioned (for safety) fuel tank takes up a bunch of trunk. But fire up its melodious V-8, stand on its machine-drilled metallic go-pedal, hear and just revel in the GTO magic.

The legend is reborn!

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