History of the 5th Gen Pontiac GTO
Pontiac began production of the fifth-generation GTO at the start of the 21st century as public interest in muscle cars surged to levels not seen since the 1970s but ran into issues with creating the base for this new model. Production of models that could have served as a foundation for this new generation, such as the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, had stopped production in 2002, so Bob Lutz, former GM President, decided to turn the Holden Monaro into the new GTO. The third generation of the Holden Monaro already used an LS1 V8 engine and featured a modern coupe design, which made it ideal for the new GTO.
HISTORY OF THE PONTIAC GTO (5TH GEN)
The revival of the GTO had started with Bob Lutz seeking to bring the Holden Monaro, a car that was praised as being the best model manufactured by General Motors, to the United States. Cars that could perform at the level of the Holden Monaro were not seen in the US due to the regulations that automobile companies faced regarding automobile production, which created a customer demand that could not be met.
Importing the Holden Monaro also faced issues beyond US regulations in the form of GM executive management as the North American GM division resisted the use of a car from the Australian region. This friction slowed the introduction of the new GTO into the American market while creating an opportunity for higher costs to increase the price of the GTO. When the new generation of the Pontiac GTO hit the US, it was apparent that the new model did not look like the GTOs that came before it, but it managed to perform, comparatively, at a much higher standard than the old models.
The 2004 Pontiac GTO came with the V8 aluminum LS1 engine that Corvettes at the time used, four-speed automatic transmission, 365 lb-ft of torque, and 350 horsepower. Road tests resulted in a 0 to 60 mph at about 5.5 seconds and a 14-second quarter-mile at 105 mph, which was impressive for the $34,000 it initially sold at as it arrived in the US. These results, coupled with the lack of a 4–5-year development period that a new model would have taken to design, seemed to point at the GTO becoming a success in the new market.
Modifications that set the new 2004 GTO model apart from the Australian Holden Monaro were the inclusion of new bracers and moving the fuel tank to meet US safety regulations. Additionally, GTO stitching was added to the head of the seats along with new badges and a new exhaust system. For external cosmetics, the model initially came in several colors such as Barbados Blue Metallic, Quicksilver Metallic, Cosmos Purple Metallic, Phantom Black Metallic, Yellow Jacket, Torrid Red, and Impulse Blue Metallic.
General Motors’ high expectations of the new GTO's performance in US markets did not come to pass as the model only managed to sell under 13,600 GTOs in 2004, compared to the projected figure of 18,000. The failure to meet this expectation was the same as the reason GM expected the new generation GTO to perform well in terms of sales, and that was the endearment that the GTO had garnered from the 1960s to the 1970s. While the 2004 model certainly performed to the standard of the time, it did not look like a GTO.
The Holden Monaro design shared a likeness with European and Japanese cars rather than American cars, and this discrepancy did not go unnoticed by consumers. Sales were not helped by the fact the Australian dollar had seen growth since the vehicle was in concept back in 2001, which inflated the price that GM planned to sell the GTO from $25,000 to $34,000.
GTO Evolution and Changes year-by-Year
The fifth-generation Pontiac GTO saw production for three years from 2004 to 2006 and managed to deliver three models during this period. The biggest changes to these models occurred during the production of the 2005 Pontiac GTO as the engine was upgraded significantly to improve performance. Additionally, each year saw the addition of new color options, a Sport Appearance Package, and internal quality-of-life improvements.
2005 saw the Pontiac GTO model revamped from its previous version in ways that sought to further transform the Holden Monaro into a true GTO. Most notably non-functioning hood scoops were added that closely resembled the look that fourth-generation GTOs sported, though these same scoops could’ve been added to the 2004 model as part of a Pontiac dealership Sport Appearance Package.
Performance enhancements came mainly in the addition of the small-block LS2 engine, which increased horsepower from 350 hp which the LS1 engine offered to 400 horsepower and torque to 400 lb-ft. Corvette components were thrown into the mix in the form of front rotors along with improvements to the brake alignment were given through upgraded calipers. An improved drivetrain along with a driveshaft was also used to increase the power that could be transferred from the engine. The upgraded powerplant and the improvement of its car systems led to a significant boost in performance that was tested by Car and Driver magazine, which clocked the 0 to 60 mph acceleration time to 4.8 seconds and a quarter-mile time around 13.3 seconds consistently at 107 mph.
The previously mentioned Sport Appearance Package was changed, due to the hood scoops becoming standard with the 2005 model, into offering both lower and frontal fascia extensions, distinctive exhaust muffler, different spoiler, and recessed grilles. Color choices were slightly different from the 2004 model as Cosmos Purple and Barbados Blue had been replaced with Midnight Blue Metallic and Cyclone Grey.
Market performance, despite the upgrades, was successful than the 2004 model as only 11,069 units were produced in 2005. This result was partially affected by the shortened model year.
The 2006 Pontiac GTO model did not see any significant changes compared to the upgrades the 2005 model received. Color choices for metallic paints shifted as Yellow Jacket and Midnight Blue were replaced with Spice Red and Brazen Orange.
Despite no significant upgrades to the model, it did see an increase in unit production compared to the 2005 Pontiac GTO as the final numbers resulted in 13,948 cars produced in 2006. GM cited the failure to reach 2007 airbag safety standards as the reason for discontinuing the imports of the GTO on February 21, 2006.
5th Generation Pontiac GTO FAst FActs
- The last GTO produced was in Australia in 2006.
- The total production of the Pontiac GTO reached 40,808 units over three years.
- Although a four-speed automatic was standard, customers could opt to get a six-speed stick.
- Pontiac GTOs, although cheap in comparison to their performance, had to be discounted to compete with Ford’s Mustang.
- Pontiac GTO’s initial planned base MSRP was around $26,000.
Legacy of the Fifth Gen GTO
The fifth generation of the Pontiac GTO was not able to capture the attention of consumers despite its strong performance and impressive handling. The 2004-2006 GTO also should’ve had a strong appeal for customers as it offered a great deal of comfort for a 2+2 performance car. The models also featured luxury details such as leather seats, keyless entry, and sizeable legroom for a coupe. These proved to be counterproductive as base options due to causing a high base MSRP which was not able to compete with the much cheaper Mustang GT, which managed to produce significantly more units that year. Unfortunately, the issues that the GTO faced before it reached the US market could not be overcome by its performance, and ultimately led the GTO to cease production for good.
More Pontiac History: G8 (2008-2009)