1965 Pontiac GTO

1965 Pontiac GTO

Born in October 1963 as a $295 option package, the Pontiac GTO put a 389-cubic-inch V8 in a Pontiac Tempest/LeMans body, and is considered to be the first factory-built "Muscle Car." The GTO was produced from 1964 through 1974, when high insurance rates and emmisions regulations forced the dropping of its legendary horsepower down to a meager 200 h.p.

John Z. DeLorean, then a Pontiac chief engineer, gave the GTO its name by appropriating the Italian racing designation Gran Turisimo Omologato, a name associated with Ferrari. Pontiac expected to sell 5,000 1964 GTOs, but demand skyrocketed and GM built 32,540. Sales reached a high of 96,946 GTOs in 1966.

Starting in 1966 the GTO went from being a package option to its own model and remained that way until 1971. In 1970 the GTO underwent a major design change that stayed with until 1973 when the front end was changed due to government safety regs concerning bumpers. In 1972, due to declining sales, the GTO reverted back to being an option package on the LeMans and Lemans Sport, costing just $353.88.

1965 Pontiac GTO, front. 1965 Pontiac GTO, rear.

Many critics said, "Everything wrong with the '64 was fixed in 1965," which meant more horsepower (360) and a better suspension. This was the first year the trademark Pontiac stacked headlights appeared on the GTO, as did the prominent (non-functional) hood scoop and styled steel Rally wheels. Sales rose to more than 75,000, as Pontiac GTO was named "Motor Trend" magazine "Car Of The Year."

While everyone else scrambled to market GTO clones, the mildly restyled '65 GTO was an even bigger hit than the '64 model. Even though there was a UAW strike at the start of the model year, 75,352 GTOs were sold in 1965.

1965 Pontiac GTO, hood. 1965 Pontiac GTO, grill.

The song "Little GTO" came out shortly after the car and spent 17 weeks on the pop charts, rising as high as No. 4. More than a million singles and 500,000 albums sold. It was recorded by a group of Nashville session musicians under the name Ronnie and the Daytonas:

"Little GTO, you're really lookin' fine. Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389. Listen to her tachin' up now, listen to her whine. C'mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO."

1965 Pontiac GTO, tri-power. 1965 Pontiac GTO, engine.

Improved camshafts and intake manifolds boosted horsepower ratings to 335 for the four-barrel-equipped 389 and 360 for the Tri-Power-topped engine. A big boost to the rapidly growing GTO legend was the August 1965 release of an over-the-counter dealer- or customer-installed cold air induction kit for Tri-Power cars. The kit made the hood scoop functional and gave birth to Ram Air. The Ram Air package continued as a dealer-installed option in 1966. A few factory-built Ram Air GTOs were built and known as the XS package (after the engine block code).

1965 Pontiac GTO


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