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Kraut defends the GTO
posted 7/29/03 by Sean Mattingly, updated 7/31/03

Pontiac fans have been asking for it's return since 1975.   GM has committed to producing it.   Orders are being taken for it.   So why isn't Pontiac's reincarnation of the GTO gracing all the auto magazine covers?   Maybe the car's looks are not likely to sell many magazines.   But the car's early performance figures may light a fire.

Here is a generalization that sums up why the upcoming Aussie import is not getting many approving glances.  The Australians typically favor cars with simpler lines, more plain looks, and almost no add-on appendages such as spoilers.   The Americans are quite the opposite with their styling tastes.   One only needs to look through a USA auto accessories catalog to see all the flashy bolt-on goodies that are the objects of North American affection.   Stick-on hood scoops, tall spoilers, bolt-on hood tachs, fender flares, sunshades, hanging dice, spotlights, bendy antennas, flashing tire valve lights, flame stickers, bugshields, headlight covers, black vinyl car bras, and gold chain license plate frames.   Some of these accessories cross the line into silliness, for sure.

At the Australian end of the spectrum is a car styling subtlety that seems akin to a fast jellybean with wheels.   On the American end, styling tastes run toward more aggressive shapes, punctuated by personalized add-ons that say "Hey, look at me!".

Kraut speaks to GTOAA members in July 2003

Pontiac's plans to release a 2004 GTO were hotly debated at a July convention of the GTO faithful in Columbus, Ohio.   At the convention, Pontiac representatives held a forum to speak about the car's features.   Rather than ignore the intense scrutiny of the national GTO club conventioneers, Bob Kraut of Pontiac answered questions fielded by a standing-room-only audience.   Kraut was questioned on the car's power, handling, and options.   He even had a black prototype car on display in front of the crowd.   Several GTO enthusiasts who had driven a similar test car stood up and attested to the new GTO's roadworthiness.   They spoke approvingly and passionately of the car's generous power and super handling.   But when the styling issue came up, the crowd was heard to chuckle.   Kraut revealed that aftermarket parts would be available to spruce up the looks of the car, specifically mentioning an aftermarket hood with hood scoops.   He went on to explain that the 2004 GTO does have a Ram Air intake system, letting air into the front of the car, just not as obvious as having hood scoops on top of the hood.   Earlier in the year, Bob Lutz of GM stated in an email to Sean Mattingly of that hood scoops would be for the 2005 model.

At the GTO convention, Pontiac seemed to be lobbying hard for the support of classic GTO enthusiasts.   The company was passing out glossy brochures with photos and facts about the new car.   The brochures paid some homage to the GTO's past, featuring one photo of a 1965 GTO large metal grille badge.  Privately, one young convention-goer pointed out the 2004 GTO's new grille badge, much smaller, made of plastic, tiny, almost unreadable at a distance.   It was quite a contrast.   When prodded by an audience member, former Pontiac advertising executive Jim Wangers took a chance to publicly spank Pontiac for changing the checkered fender emblems on the sides of the car to a more modern version.   He felt that the company could have left the angular style of the familiar GTO emblem alone.   However, Pontiac stylists chose to round off the edges of the emblem, making it match the car's round curves.

It remains to be seen whether Pontiac will sell all the GTO's slated for importation from Australia.   A Minnesota GTO enthusiast named Dave emailed the website Monday to say that he had recently ordered a 2004 GTO...


Got a call from my local Pontiac dealer on Friday.

Said he was allocated one 04 GTO.    Spent all weekend searching the web for help on selecting colors but could only find the same info the dealer gave me.

Today I ordered my Impulse Blue Metallic, Black Interior, 6-speed.  (Exterior color, Interior color and tranny are the only options.)

Has anyone else placed an order?   I have seen chances for the rights to purchase on E-bay going for $ 1,000 - $2,000.

They don't even know how much the price tag will be.   He thinks mid 30's.

Keep up the great work on the website.  It is appreciated.

By the way, my Gold on Gold 69 is for sale in order to help pay for the 04.   (Then I'll start the restoration of another 69)

Will keep checking the website for more info from others on the 04.


When interviewed by an Australian newspaper this month, Holden spokesman Jason Laird expressed confidence that the Monaros-turned-GTO's would sell well, saying;
   "General Motors dealers in California say they would sell the full quota between them let alone the rest of the US."
An employee at an Indianapolis Pontiac dealership revealed that their allocation of new GTOs would be limited to ten cars.

At the GTO convention this month, participants had a chance to walk up and inspect the black prototype GTO for four days.   Some classic GTO fans were eager to find out more about Pontiac's upcoming release.   One participant, the President of an Indiana GTO club chapter, took the opportunity to climb inside the car and check out the seats for comfort.   He was shooed away by the car's security guard.   Test drives will come much later in the year, as production versions hit the USA shores probably in December of 2003.

Pontiac is certainly aware of the cold reception the '04 car's looks have garnered since the first public introduction.   This summer, Australians seem to be still smarting from the American's disfavor of their beloved Holden Monaro.   Quoting Australia's Courier-Mail newspaper in a July 12th edition...

Backlash in the US over the Monaro has been so great that the website,, has replaced the GTO, featured as picture of the week since the site's inception seven years ago, with the Ford Mustang. 

This spiteful measure was designed to ensure that General Motors was aware that American car fans were unimpressed with the soft, clean, some would argue bland look of the Australian car. 

At one stage, of the 36 comments about the Monaro on, 33 were critical of the car's styling.

This is the controversial Mustang photo (from March 2003) that the Australian article speaks of...

It is a retro-styled silver 2005 Ford Mustang concept.   This was the Picture Of The Week on for 3/23/03. This was the first time since the Ultimate GTO Picture Site was created that a Pontiac was not featured as the Picture Of The Week. Why? The new 2004 GTO was introduced to the public at the winter auto shows. Response to the styling of the GTO was very negative. The crowds were gathered around this car, a Mustang. Pontiac fans were expressing their displeasure with the bland looks of the new GTO. One person who traveled hundreds of miles to see the GTO at the Detroit auto show was floored to see a "GTO" on display that had no styling cues of the old GTO's. He suggested that the Mustang should be the Picture Of The Week. He pointed out that the Ford designers "get it" and gave their followers what they wanted...a visually exciting performer with a muscular stance.   Some Pontiac enthusiasts did complain about having the Mustang chosen for the Picture of the Week, while most others said they agreed with the choice.

Earlier in the year, the 2004 GTO was featured as this "Picture of the Week"...

Above is the 2004 GTO on display at the LA Auto Show on January 3rd, 2003. Photo by Mike Radke of the GTO Association of America.

How do you put a punctuation mark on classic GTO enthusiast's desire to have a modern car with muscular looks?   At the conclusion of the weeklong convention of GTO enthusiasts from all over the USA gathered in Columbus, there was a point to ponder.   It seems that retro is IN.   At the final awards gathering, a club officer asked the crowd in the large convention hall a question about the new car;
   "How many of you plan to buy a new GTO?"
There was an enthusiastic cheer from a couple ladies at one table.   Then uncomfortable silence.
Then the club officer asked a second question;
   "How many of you would buy a new GTO if it looked like a GTO?"
The convention hall was rocked with cheers, raised hands, applause, and laughter.

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