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Most 1964 model year Pontiacs had redesigned front ends with stacked headlights, but, for one year only, the Tempest, LeMans, and GTO featured the older style side-by-side lights. Photo: David Newhardt.

Automoblog Book Garage: Pontiac GTO 50 Years

Book Garage

I was in college when Pontiac brought back the GTO. All I knew about the GTO was that it was one of the old muscle cars. Beyond that, I didn’t have a frame of reference for “The Great One.” Still, I loved this new version so much, I would scope out Pontiac lots in Omaha near where I went to school. At the time, Need for Speed: Underground 2 was a popular video game my brother and I often played.

I would always pick the modernized GTO.

In 2009, when I entered the car business officially, I fell in love with another Pontiac: the G8 GXP.

20 Minutes of Fame

Well before my college days, dealership years, and lazy Saturdays on the Playstation with my brother, the Pontiac GTO was carving its name into history. The muscle car era in the United States is well documented, but it began rather unassumingly. Pontiac Chief Engineer John Z. DeLorean, with Bill Collins and Russ Gee, bolted a 389 ci V8 onto a Tempest chassis prototype for the GTO. It took them 20 minutes.

The muscle car era was born. The rest is history.

With 510 pound-feet of torque, Buick’s Stage I 455 produced more torque than any other car during the classic muscle-car era. Any car built anywhere on earth. Photo: GM Media Archives.
With 510 pound-feet of torque, Buick’s Stage I 455 produced more torque than any other car during the classic muscle-car era. Photo: GM Media Archives.

#1 Crush

From that day forward in 1963, the Pontiac GTO was known as the first muscle car. Not only was it fast, powerful, and bold, but it was affordable – and the Baby Boomer generation ate it up. Pontiac GTO 50 Years: The Original Muscle Car captures the GTO’s evolution from concept to classic. Hundreds of photographs line the pages, documenting the various designs, packages, and product launches through the years.

Author & Photographer

Darwin Holmstrom has written, co-written, or contributed to over thirty books on subjects ranging from motorcycles and muscle cars to Gibson Les Paul guitars. He is the Senior Editor for Motorbooks, who we partner with for this Book Garage series. David Newhardt accompanies Holmstrom with his detailed eye and vivid photography. He has provided photography for a number of Motorbooks titles including Muscle: America’s Legendary Performance Cars, Corvette: Fifty Years, and Mustang: Forty Years, among others.

Gran Turismo Omologato

Sometimes I think about what a new Pontiac would look like. Do you ever wonder? Maybe we will see such a division in General Motors again? You just never know. Pontiac GTO 50 Years: The Original Muscle Car might be the closet we will get – but if we have to live vicariously, this book is a pretty good way to go.

Looking at some of the photos, I swear I can actually hear the cars running. Pontiac GTO 50 Years: The Original Muscle Car is available through Amazon and Motorbooks.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan

Pontiac GTO 50 Years Gallery

Last weekend in the Automoblog Book Garage, we featured another General Motors’ classic.