A Tale of two GTOs

Bill Wilson
14 August 2013

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but where does emulation end and exploitation begin? As with beauty, admiration is truly in the eye of the beholder. Nothing illustrates this principle more than the ever-controversial decision to name the original muscle car after Ferrari’s magnificent 250 GTO, one of the most desired autos ever built. Pontiac executives saw it as tribute, the Italians as an insult. To this day, car aficionados argue over which interpretation is more accurate.

PHOTOS: See more of the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

The 250 GTO was built for one purpose only: to win GT races. At its heart is a 3.0 L V-12 engine adapted from the 250 Testa Rossa. Surrounding the powerplant is a tubular frame, A-arm front suspension, wire wheels, and four-wheel disc brakes. The interior design takes minimalism to an extreme; there’s not even a speedometer. The exterior was crafted by Nauro Forghieri, who at the time was a newcomer to Ferrari. The final design was the result of input from multiple parties, which may help to explain its stellar track record.

pontiac-gto.2000x1333.Jan-06-2012_13.58.34.984577
pontiac-gto.2000x1333.Jan-06-2012_13.58.34.984577

To say that Pontiac’s GTO came about differently would be a massive understatement. Its very creation was in violation of GM policy, which forbade engines larger than 330 c.i. (5.4 L) in its A-body intermediate line of vehicles. To get around the rules, the GTO was actually offered as an optional package for the ’64 Tempest, with a 389 c.i. (6.37 L) engine, four-barrel Carter AFB carb, dual exhaust, and three-speed manual tranny. The project was nearly snuffed by angry GM engineers, who (correctly) recognized it as an attempt to get around the rules. John DeLorean, who was Pontiac’s chief engineer at the time, intervened on the GTO’s behalf, and muscle car history was made.

PHOTOS: See more of the 1964 Pontiac GTO

In 1984, Car and Driver magazine decided to put the two GTOs head-to-head in a series of performance tests, to settle for all time which is the better vehicle. Who won? I won’t tell. But you can read the original article at this site and find out for yourself.

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