IN THE Noughties veteran car executive Bob Lutz was king of the General Motors hill.
The ex-BMW, Ford and Chrysler man re-joined GM in September 2001 as Vice Chairman of Product Development and was promoted to Chairman of GM North America shortly after. He remained in this role, while also briefly serving as President of GM Europe at the same time, before moving to Head of Global Product Development in 2005.
Basically, what Bob Lutz wanted, Bob Lutz got, and Bob Lutz wanted a Holden Monaro. Lutz was a big fan of Holden, seeing GM’s Australian arm as the little engine that could. Specifically, it could make a very good car with relatively little resource.
Top of Lutz’s list was Mike Simcoe’s reborn Monaro, a reasonably priced, rear-drive V8 coupe to plug into a GM lineup in desperate need of just such a vehicle in its showroom. Sadly, despite Lutz’s power, GM bureaucracy delayed the introduction of the Monaro, which was now called the Pontiac GTO, reviving a classic US muscle car nameplate after a 30-year hiatus.
Initially available with the 5.7-litre LS1 V8, the GTO received a unique camshaft and dual-exhaust system to boost outputs to 260kW/500Nm, changes that would also appear on the Aussie Monaro.
A year later the 6.0-litre LS2 V8 arrived, lifting grunt to a formidable 298kW/542Nm, along with bonnet nostrils added in an attempt to give the styling more menace after US journalists heavily criticised the GTO’s “plain, anonymous” looks.
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Despite those same journalists praising the GTO’s performance and dynamics, the criticism clearly stuck as buyers stayed away, not helped by the strong Aussie dollar pushing the price higher than expected. All in all, 40,758 GTOs were sold – an impressive number by local standards, but well short of GM’s high expectations.
Nonetheless, the GTO export program helped amortise Monaro development costs and paved the way for the future Chevrolet SS.
2004-06 Pontiac GTO specs:
Engine: 5665cc/5967cc V8, OHV, 16v
Power: 260kW @ 5600rpm/298kW @ 5200rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 4000rpm/542Nm @ 4000rpm
0-100km/h: 5.5sec (LS1) /5.0sec (LS2)
Price new: US$31,290-$33,690
3 Fast Facts
1. Playing dress ups
GTOs were built in Holden’s Elizabeth plant and the last coupe it produced was a GTO on June 14, 2006. Monaro production had ended on December 13, 2005.
2. Choose your weapon
GTO had a three-year production run, with 2004 cars fitted with a modified 5.7-litre LS1 (new cam and exhaust) and 2005-06 models scoring the big-banger 6.0-litre LS2.
3. Behind the wheel
Interior was plastic fantastic, but had most of the mod-cons of the day. Only real change was the updated instrument cluster that arrived with the LS2 from 2005 onwards.