The Pontiac GTO is arguably the world’s first muscle car. Initially offered as an options package for the Pontiac LeMans costing only $296, the 1964 GTO was powered by a 389 cubic inch engine that produced 325 horsepower. The following year, 1965, was when the GTO really caught its stride and cemented its place in muscle car history.
That year saw the redesign of Pontiac’s Tempest line, of which the GTO was a part. The interior was revamped, the insturment panel remodeled, the car was lengthened by over 3 inches (though the wheel base stayed the same), and the brakes were increased 15% in area. The 389 CID V8 was back, but the cylinder heads were remodeled to provide better cooling and horsepower was boosted to 335. There was also a Tri-Power edition offered that had 360 horsepower. 0-to-60 mph took only 5.8 seconds and the car could reach 114 mph as a top speed. All of that, for a price tag of only 3,643.79 on a comfortably equipped Tri-Power model.
The 1965 GTO was not without its faults, though. The steering ratio was inadequate, taking four full wheel turns to go from hard left to hard right. While this ratio would have been perfectly acceptable for a family sedan, a 100+ mph car deserves something a bit more responsive. The brakes were also lackluster for the speeds the car would be travelling, and that wasn’t helped much by the fact that the 1965 restyling of the GTO added an extra 100 pounds of weight.
Buyers overlooked these faults, though. The 1964 sales of the Pontiac LeMans with GTO package were about 37,000. In 1965, that number more than doubled to 75,342. A portion of these sales can be attributed to the bevy of merchandise and promotional song mentions that GM rolled out for the 1965 model, but most of those sales were made up of people eager to get their taste of American muscle cars.