Why The Pontiac GTO Was Discontinued

Prior to its demise in 2010, Pontiac was responsible for some of the best American cars on the market. The brand made the absolutely legendary Firebird. It was a Firebird with a Trans Am performance package that helped Burt Reynolds elude the law in Smokey and the Bandit. In the 1980s, Pontiac made the Firebird, a weird compact mid-engine sportscar that enjoys a loyal fanbase to this day.

Just like its corporate brother Chevy, Pontiac was responsible for quite a few muscle cars. One of the last cars Pontiac ever offered was the G8 sedan. It was essentially a Holden Commodore from GM's Australian division (via Edmunds). Either way, it could be equipped with a stout V6 or the storied LS V8 similar to the engine found in a Corvette. Perhaps the most well-known Pontiac muscle car is the GTO. Starting in 1964, the GTO was produced until driving off for good in 2006, just four years before Pontiac as a whole closed its doors. 

The original muscle car

Originally, the GTO was not its own dedicated model. It was an option package for the 1964 Pontiac Tempest. According to General Motors, that package included a GTO badge, all manner of hood scoops and cosmetic upgrades, and dual exhaust pipes. But the real draw of the GTO package was the 389 cubic-inch V8 that made it one of the first ever cars to earn the "muscle car" moniker.

By 1969, the GTO was its own Pontiac model and was firmly part of muscle car royalty. Although the GTO didn't take the title of king, it went with a more judicial namesake. The most powerful GTO was named simply the "Judge." The Judge was equipped with the usual host of cosmetic upgrades as well as a 455 cubic-inch V8, way larger than engines in its rivals from Chrysler. Overall, Pontiac built just over 4,000 Judges between 1969 and 1971 (via Hemmings). It was during this era, the late 1960s, that the GTO earned the nickname "The Goat." 

The Goat is gone

As Motorweek notes, the GTO went into hibernation in 1974. It awoke in 2004 with an Australian accent. Much like its sibling the, Pontiac G8, the GTO for the new millennium was based off an Australian Holden, in this case, the Monaro. Stylistically, the new GTO looked more like a two-door version of the Pontiac Grand Prix driven by a high school guidance counselor than a serious muscle car. All the aggressive lines and harsh angles of the GTO from decades past were sandblasted into an inoffensive rictus grin. Nevertheless, the Aussie Pontiac housed a 5.7 liter V8 right from a Corvette that put out 350 horsepower initially.

Reviews of the newest iteration of the GTO were polarizing. It's hard to argue with a big and goofy V8, but some thought the more sedated and smoothed-out appearance betrayed its wild-eyed past. Interestingly, Edmunds notes that the last generation of the GTO was never officially crash-tested. According to MotorTrend, sales were much less than Pontiac expected, and the last GTO only hung around until the 2006 model year. It's unlikely the GTO will ever come back as Pontiac itself left this world over a decade ago.