The muscle car was a very basic idea. Put your biggest, most powerful engine in one of your lightest bodies. Like most strokes of genius, it was breathtaking in its simplicity. The Pontiac GTO of 1964 created the genre and when sales took off rival American marques could only fall into line behind it. Initially the GTO was only an option package on the Tempest LeMans models, a ruse by Pontiac’s chief engineer of the time, John Z DeLorean to by pass a General Motor corporate performance car ban. However, it was successful that by 1966 the Tempest GTo had become a separate series in its own right with special wheels, trim and badging not to mention a sportier interior to let other drivers know this one was really hot. Big block engines gave up to 360 bhp in these relatively lightweight bodies, a sports hardtop, a sports coupe and a convertible, and with the suitably heavy duty suspension and brakes the performance was reasonably usable too.
Sales packed in 1966 at 100,000 cars and as the sixties rolled on the concept was watered down. The cars gained weight and lost power until the original thought behind their corporation was diluted. It got to the point where the later vehicles were struggling for their muscle car class rating as well as failing to capture the magic of the original GTO’s. There were no more GTOs after 1971, which may not have been such a bad thing.