Pontiac GTO: The Forgotten Muscle Car You Should Buy

Smart Buy

If you want a cheap V8, this is the car to get.

If you're in the market for a sports car or muscle car - there's really no shortage of cars to choose from. A base Ford Mustang provides 310 horsepower for just $26,395 while the base Chevrolet Camaro offers 275 hp for even less, just $25,000. The only downside is at those prices both cars will be powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder rather than a hulking V8. Dodge will sell you a Challenger with a 305-hp V6 for $27,845 but it still isn't the same as having eight cylinders.

Opting for a V8 on any of these three cars will push the price well into the $30,000+ range and that's before factoring in any options. If all you want is an affordable V8-powered sports car and you'd like something more unique than a run-of-the-mill Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger, you should be looking at the Pontiac GTO.

Why You Should Buy One

Since General Motors shut down the Pontiac brand back in 2010, many people have forgotten about the fifth generation GTO, which was built and sold in the United States from 2004 to 2006. We say 'sold in the United States' because people in other countries may know the GTO as the Holden/Vauxhall Monaro or as the Chevrolet Lumina Coupe. These cars were actually built in Australia by GM's Holden division, then imported to the US as Pontiacs. Due to difficulties meeting US regulations and the strength of the Australian dollar, the car arrived late and at a much higher price than initially anticipated. Therefore, it never sold well in the US.

In fact, GM only sold 40,808 vehicles during the GTO's three model years, making them quite rare and collectible today. Plus, you can have the fun of ordering Holden or Vauxhall badges to truly embrace the car's Australian heritage. Or, we recommend you swap out the Pointac badges for Chevy ones and wait to receive many confused stares at car shows.

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The Price

Seeing as these cars are now up to 15 years old, prices are extremely affordable compared to a brand-new muscle car from Chevy, Ford, or Dodge. We found plenty of higher mileage examples for less than $10,000 with over 100,000 miles on the odometer. On the other end of the spectrum, a pristine, low-mileage example with 10,000 miles or less can still be found for less than $25,000.

We recommend finding a well-kept example for around $15,000 to $20,000 with anywhere from 30,000 to 80,000 miles on it. This way the car won't be a garage queen in need of just a new set of tires and hoses, nor will it require heavy maintenance. These prices are quite fair considering the car originally sold for $34,000 back in 2004.

The Performance

Shopping for a used GTO isn't as easy as simply picking out a nice example and taking it home. There are several performance variables to consider. The original 2004 model came with a 5.7 liter LS1 V8 engine producing 350 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque. With a curb weight of around 3,500 pounds, 0-60 mph was dealt with in 5.3 seconds and the quarter-mile took 13.8 seconds. Transmission choices were either a four-speed automatic or a six-speed manual - we shouldn't have to tell you which option was better.

A 2004 GTO may be cheaper to purchase but you should still opt for a 2005 or 2006 car. These were powered by a newer 6.0-liter LS2 V8 pumping out 400 hp and the same amount of torque. Thanks to the added power, the 0-60 mph time dropped to 4.8 seconds and the quarter-mile now took just 13.3 seconds.

Even though the GTO was powered by a massive V8 engine without any modern stop/start or cylinder deactivation technology, it achieved decent fuel economy figures of 17-mpg in the city and 29-mpg on the highway.

Practicality & Issues

As with most modern muscle cars, the GTO was sold as a four-seater, though the back seats are only practical for children or small adults. In order to meet US crash regulations, GM had to move the gas tank to behind the rear seats, which considerably cut the GTO's trunk space. It still offers nine cubic feet of storage but you shouldn't think of this car as a practical daily driver.

As you'd expect from a car built in the mid-2000s, the GTO lacks many modern amenities such as automatic climate control, push-button start, Bluetooth, navigation, or driver assistance technology. Just install an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto-enabled head unit and call it a day.

These cars tend to be pretty reliable, as they mainly rely on commonly used GM engines and parts. However, there are plenty of unique parts from Australia (such as the bodywork), which can be expensive to replace. Parts such as the bumpers aren't easy to come by so your insurance company won't be happy if you get into an accident. These cars are also getting up there in age, so don't expect to buy a problem-free car.

Verdict

Sharing its platform with the Australian-built Holden Monaro, the GTO was often praised for its excellent handling characteristics. This was more than just a simple muscle car, it was a world-class sports car. We don't think these cars will remain cheap forever as parts become harder to find and naturally aspirated V8 cars with manual transmissions continue to die off. The Pontiac bodywork wasn't quite as handsome as the overseas models but with a little elbow grease, you can rebadge the GTO as a Holden, a Vauxhall, or even a Chevy and drive something even more unique.

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