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Who is going to buy a 2004 GTO?    Posted 7/1/02
First, a recap for those of you who slept through the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT on March 27, 2002: At the 2002 New York Auto Show, Bob Lutz announced that there would be a new 2004 GTO.  The car will have a 5.7 liter LS1 V8 engine and a 6-speed transmission.  It will be rear-wheel drive with independent rear suspension.   Wow!
On April 20, 2002, GM showed us a Monaro design with a slightly different nose.  They unveiled this single design sketch: 2004 GTO  proposal

Let's examine the question, "Who will buy a 2004 GTO?"

It is a niche vehicle, not a mass-audience vehicle.   Production will be limited to about 18,000 vehicles the first year.
Did we mention that the car will be imported from Australia?   Most American car enthusiasts are willing to overlook the fact that the car will be imported, a derivative of the popular Holden Monaro.
The overriding factor is that the car will be RWD with a big American V8 engine, attributes that attract USA performance-lovers like sticky honey.   But don't look to the Australian HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) website for information on the USA GTO.  They aren't exactly the same animal.   The HSV GTO and the HSV GTS model are markedly different in features and styling than what will be offered in the USA.

First of all, it is virtually impossible to live up to a legend.   That's not Pontiac's fault.  But they do face an uphill battle on that point.  This automotive legend isn't necessarily based upon truth, it is based upon image and perceived reputation.  The legend was created around a car that wasn't always the fastest at the track.   The first GTO's were arguably plain-looking.   For the most part, the now-classic GTO was built up in the mind's eye with bold print ads, product tie-ins, and catchy songs heard on the radio.  It is unlikely that there will be popular songs about this new car.  Can you imagine everyone singing "My Aussie GTO"?  But still, it is likely that GM will find buyers for the small number of cars it can import.

This influential group of people are going to be the "make or break" test for the new GTO.  GTO enthusiasts have pointed out that they are feeling cheated about the so-far proposed styling of the car, revealed on April 20, 2002.   According to feedback on this web site, visitors are 9-to-1 opposed to the styling of the 2004 GTO.  They feel it needs more visual reverence to the older GTOs.
Should Pontiac revise the styling on their proposed 2004 design? Click -> which is which? Look at this comparison photo of the 2004 GTO parked next to many other popular cars.  You decide if it is "same old same old".
GM wouldn't necessarily need to go to the same extreme "copycat" measures to duplicate exact details of the old GTOs, such as Ford did with the retro Thunderbird.  Just give the car a meaner look of the tigers that used to roam Woodward Avenue.  Something that looks like a standout, some subtle hints at performance.  Almost everyone expressing an objection to the proposed GTO styling points out that the car is missing a hood scoop design.  Some feel it would be a mistake to rely on aftermarket companies to correct this shortcoming.   It is expected that the old GTO fans will continue to be the most vocal about the new GTO.  They send hundreds of email comments here.   Many have expressed a desire to add a 2004 car to their garage if GM would only "get it right".

Probably not the target market.  The trend for younger buyers is toward lighter 2,000 pound cars that are supercharged.  The 2004 GTO is much heavier.  It will be quite a large car, not in tune with what younger buyers want.  Young first-time car buyers are expected to ignore the GTO.  But that's probably ok with GM.  At $30,000 plus, the GTO won't carry a price tag that younger buyers are likely to afford anyway.

They may like the fact that the new GTO is roomy.  The car that the GTO is based on, the 2-door Monaro, was derived from the Commodore, a 4-door car.  Thus, the GTO will have a backseat area that will suit adults without cramping.  The trunk is
also a nice size, suitable for families with a lot of stuff to carry.  Up till now, GM had been concentrating on selling more
4-door sedans and fewer coupes.

Several other cars on the market are visually more exciting than this incarnation of the GTO.  Will they even take notice of the
Australian import?  The brakes on this V8 car have not gotten much favorable press.  In an article that generally praised the Monaro, one automotive performance magazine did not seem happy with the way the transmission worked.  It is too early to predict which way the general performance enthusiasts will be swayed.

As mentioned above, the old GTO enthusiasts continue to be the most vocal about the new GTO.   GM still has a short while to beef up the too-subtle looks of the 2004 GTO.   The first public showing of the 2004 GTO is expected to be at the L.A. Auto Show January 4 - 12, 2003.  It is at the L.A. Convention Center.

The 2004 GTO will also be at the North American International Auto Show January 5 - 20, 2003 at Detroit's Cobo Center.   Jan 5 - 7 are press preview days.   Jan 8 - 9 are Industry preview days.   Jan 10 is a charity preview.   Jan 11 - 20 are the public show days.   Full production of the US-bound GTOs is expeced to begin at the Elizabeth, Australia plant by summer.  They start to roll off the assembly line in September of 2003.   So who will buy a 2004 GTO?   People who are convinced it is still "The Great One", as the classic ads promised.

Your comments?

Some of the comments received below were edited down to conserve space...

From: Kirk Neese (sunarise @

If the styling of the GTO is anything as mundane as the ones I saw on the Aussie site it will never go over. Another person said it needs nostrils and I think he is 110% right. It has to look mean as the 69 did from the front with hideaways. If it looks wimpy like the one on the Aussie site Pontiac should be ready for a flop. WIDE TRACK means just that. When a GTO approaches you from behind it has to look mean and menacing. Grrrrrrrrrr in the dictionary says GTO.   When one comes up on you on
a road your first thought would be to get the hell out of the way.

Hood tach - Yes
RAM AIR Scoops - Yes
Rear Spoiler - Yes
Rally III Wheels - Yes
Hurst Shifter Yes (T-Handle optional)
Judge Option first year Yes
A real Pontiac Engine If we could only wish it true.
Looks MEAN There is no doubt

From: Eric F. (schlabac @

I am currently thinking about the opening scene of the movie "Dazed and Confused", when a
1969 Judge with its Hummer Orange body and black top and sweet wheel well
pinstriping rolled through the parking lot of the school.
So, if you're asking for my opinion, the 2004 GTO should not be labeled as a
GTO.  Sure its got the same basic body design but it does not have the
signature RAM IV hood scoops, or the awesome spoiler, beautiful front end and
more than enough horsepower.

From: Harry Gedney (Gedneygoats @

I have had 14 GTOs in my lifetime.  The first one was a 66 in 1966.   Now I have a '65 and a '69.   GM lacks what it takes to be a leader on the GTO.  Where is the hood scoops, tach, a set of wheels like the rally I, and a rear spoiler would be a nice touch.

From: John L. Greco (Jhstrung @

I didn't expect Pontiac to put out an exact replica of a past GTO, but I thought GM would do a good job with it that the 2004 GTO would have body cues from the past models with some new styling. I mean come on, no hood scoop? Every GTO had one!  At least stack the headlights or something. I am a firm believer that the muscle of this car should not just be under the hood. Yet with that aside, the fact that Pontiac will still have a V8 in its line up, and that it will be a GTO I think is great. There's
no doubt that I'd be happy to drive by in a 2004 Goat, being that I'm of a generation that missed the better years.

Now, for an Australian perspective...

From:  Adam Krawczyk (turon @

I don't like family cars. The only reason the Monaro has got street cred in Oz is because of the tradition associated with that model. Otherwise it doesn't really stand out so much. It looks a bit like a Volvo C70 coupe. I like a lot of American designed cars, things like Stingray Corvettes- THEY stand out, they have a specific shape. A lot of Australians were disapointed that the Monaro didn't look more aggressive, but then a lot of people here think bonnet scoops and spoilers are just tacky add ons. A few of the sketches on this webpage for the GTO are far more exciting than the Monaro. Although I think the Monaro is more stylish than a lot of the new budget sports cars in America, like the Mustang- its so square, especially the interior, it looks like it was designed 10 or more years ago. Foreign and especially the US market will be the real test for the Monaro, where
there will be less bias of sentimentality- in fact, introduce it as a "Holden Monaro", see how it does when doesn't ride on a tradition at all.  If the GTO thing goes ahead, at least we'll have some nice bodykits to choose from  :)

From:  Edward (e.lipka @

Ok, first of all, I'm only 21 years old, so I wasn't around during the heyday of the GTO.  That being said, I am a huge fan of the new GTO.  Ii am just happy that someone in corporate america is making a rear-wheel drive muscle car with a 350 hp engine.  I don't really care about the styling; it looks good enough for me.
ps - this car is going to kick the Mustang's ass

From: (Poncho400 @

I'm very excited that GM is bringing back the GTO. Its being rear wheel drive, LS1 hopefully making around 380hp. If you are going to reborn the GTO, it needs to be worth bringing back. The style of the car is good, but that front end can be a lot better. maybe have the grills bigger, with a hood scoops the size of the grilles. Kinda like the '71 GTO.  Put a hood tach and a similar '70 Judge spoiler.

From: "MR.GTO 1BDGOAT" (showgoat67 @

For a car that dominated the roads in the 60's it should be built to do the same in the 21st century.  There are too many other manufacturers out there.  Pontiac needs to grab the young buyer just like it did in 1964.  All the imports and Dodge and even Chevy are putting hood scoops and body kits, turbos, etc to beef up the cars to get the young buyers.  In my opinon, they need to add some effects to the car or else it will not be a success.  Even the Grand Prix has a hood scoop and not the GTO.  I don't think so.  At least make it a option to get a hood scoop, spoiler, redline tires and the 405 horsepower motor that they put in down under.

From: Ed Raden (edraden @

I think the proposed design for the new GTO needs some work to make it look more like a "real" GTO and less like every other car out there. There is a legacy and it needs to be honored, like Ford has done with the Mustang & T-Bird.

From: Chris G (willcg @

Like many others, I find that I have mixed feelings about the new GTO.  While it will be nice to see the car return, there are several things missing.

There is no passion or soul in the design, which can actually be said about every other modern vehicle on the road.  While I can understand not wanting a clone of the original, and the need to save research and development money if a new GTO is to be produced at all, we don't need a warmed-over Grand Prix/Grand Am.  A high school freshman could have sketched the design that Pontiac released!  People are talking about design changes in a few years, but why not do it right the first time?

I've already sent a note to Pontiac via their Website.  Maybe they'll take our complaints to heart.

From: Dan Zabetakis (dan @

Summary for Pontiac executives:

1) The styling of the prototype can not even be described as "subtle". It is absent. The proposed car will not attract buyers when compared to other performance cars.

2) The GTO's rightful place is at the top of GM's lineup. The performance of the GTO must at a minimum equal that of the Corvette. If that is too painful to accept then the GTO project is misconceived and doomed.

3) Ford has put a shot across your bow. The new Cobra has the specs of a true GTO. If you do not match the price/performance ratio the GTO will be an embarrassment.

From: Jim Zentz (jz @

This latest version of a GTO should be sold back to the Toyota design studio.  Please do not let GM do their update like they
did with GTO emblems on a Nova body. With the Firebird gone, they should have LOTS of resources and money to build a REAL GTO!

From: Mike Roberts (goldbowtie @

As an owner of a 1968 GTO, it reminds me of the last days of the GTO bloodline. If I remember correctly it was a Nova with
GTO badging. It still makes me mad just thinking about it. Now they may use a Totota design look alike to try and sell cars. Since killing off the Firebird, it became too heavy, they should have plenty of spare money and a few good designers they should be able to come up with a true GTO. A couple of emblems do not make a GTO.

From: Edward Alvord (edwteralvord @ in Spring Hill, Tennessee

I give Bob Lutz and GM an "A" for effort, but I agree with many others on styling points: even though it's body will be exclusive in the USA, it needs more GTO cues like hood scoops, unique wheels, redline tires, etc. (Hey, there's a 97-02 Grand, it's a Dodge, it's a new GTO!?!?)  Those who slammed the [ 1999 ] Concept GTO should be ashamed! GM needs to look no further than the runaway success of the New Beetle, the Thunderbird, and of course the PT Cruiser (which oddly enough has no history!) to see what we want: a GTO that not only moves like a GTO, but one that LOOKS like a

From: Doug Jones (brotherjulian @

As a pontiac enthusiast and former owner of a '70 goat I'm excited to see the new GTO on the drawing board. While I agree with the outraged masses that the body styling just isn't where it needs to be, give them a little time and remember that we've seen prototypes.   Style the GTO to be macho and distinctive, but put the real bells and whistles on the Judge model to stand out in comparison.   Remember guys, this isn't the worst idea Pontiac has had. I remember a proposal in the early nineties to revive the GTO name as a Grand Am with the supercharged Buick V6.

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