Hit or miss?: The last GTO

The Pontiac GTO, or “Goat” as it is affectionately called by diehards, is one of the most beloved nameplates in the history of hot rods. Though the brand has been retired, along with the entire Pontiac division, the popularity of these monsters among car enthusiasts and collectors has never waned.

In a last ditch effort to resurrect the GTO name, GM outsourced production of the American classic from their Australian subsidiary Holden. The Holden brand is unique among the many GM divisions, as it was largely spared the value- and badge-engineered cars that littered the lineups of its American counterparts. As the most popular native label, Holden was profitable enough that it could design and build its own models in Australia that catered to native tastes.

Down Under, drivers never lost their love for rear-wheel-drive muscle cars designed for performance. Because Australia never enacted many of the strict design standards the U.S. government did in the 80s and 90s, the hot rod lived on and thrived south of the equator.

This meant that Pontiac had access to a member of the GM family that was making modern iterations of the screamers Pontiac hadn’t been able to produce successfully in over two decades.

In 2001, Holden resurrected a classic nameplate of their own. The Holden Monaro was originally the Australian equivalent to the pony cars that ruled the roads stateside throughout the 60s and 70s. It was a RWD performance coupe that roared hard.

The original 68 Monaro, like the GTO, was essentially a souped-up version of the brand’s standard coupe, the Kingswood. The car packed a punch with its highest offering, the 350ci V8. That wasn’t all the Monaro had in common with the Goat, as it also spent several years absent from dealers lots, with enthusiasts waiting for a triumphant return.

In 2004, Pontiac tweaked the Monaro to meet U.S. regulations, put the steering wheel on the left-hand side, slapped on a different logo and called the car a GTO.

The car received mixed reviews, as it met performance expectations, but its looks were less than impressive. The smooth lines and plain features didn’t resemble a muscle car so much as a toned down version of a Chrysler Sebring with a split Pontiac grill.

In fact, the design of the new GTO seemed like a step back from the direction that Pontiac was going with its current models at the time. The Grand Prix had beefier, more aggressive features, and the Grand Am was notorious for its use of cladding to bulk up its look. This new GTO was a different beast entirely, as it looked more like a mild economy coupe than most of the ones GM actually offered.

The last GTO rolled off the assembly line in 2006, as Pontiac threw in the towel on the expensive reboot. Because the cars were made in Australia, GM had to pay a significant amount of money to have them shipped over to the United States. This caused the price tag on these machines to be more than most consumers at the time were willing to shell out, especially given the car{‘}s lackluster look.

This last incarnation of the GTO may not have been a huge hit sales wise, but it does have its fans who appreciated the car’s old-school performance.

Do you think the last GTO did the legendary line justice, or was it just a mistake from the get-go? Share your thoughts below: