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1967 GTO

 CARS > MUSCLE CARS > 1967 GTO

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Muscle Cars

GTO 1964-1967

Shelby Mustang

Hemi

 

 



1967 GTO

The Great One

By the middle of the 1966 model year, James Roche, the chairman of General Motors, had already been doing a slow burn about Pontiac's GeeTO Tiger and Wide Track Tigers advertising campaign. He simply didn't like it, and every magazine ad he read and every TV spot he watched just added to his anger.

Unaware of Roche's displeasure with the Tiger, the people at Pontiac were delighted with the success of the campaign. "We had taken the Tiger theme, which came right out of the GTO, and spread it over the whole line," Wangers recounted. "All of the Pontiacs were promoted around the Tiger image. That was when we really reached our maturity in terms of recognizing the value of the GTO as an entire image builder for the division."

Unfortunately, that argument failed to cut any wood with Roche: he ordered the Tiger be returned to its cage. Pontiac needed to find a new theme for 1967.

While Wangers and Pontiac's advertising agency worked to develop a new campaign for the GTO, Pontiac engineering was also faced with challenges from the fourteenth floor of the GM building. Bowing to insurance and auto safety groups, GM president Ed Cole passed the word that all multiple-carburetion options were to be discontinued before the end of the 1966 model year. The only exception was Corvette, which was slated for a tri-carb option on the 427 engine in 1967. Most affected would be Pontiac and its Tri-Power performance option.

The Pontiac Tri-Power had symbolized the division's top-of-the-line performance option since it had been introduced in 1957. Although the dual-quad Super Duty may have displaced the Tri-Power in terms of sheer thunder, on the street where reputations were made, the Tri-Power was king. Losing it now could have been considered a fatal blowtothe GTO's image. But DeLorean and Bill Collins already had a more than suitable successor ready. They believed with the right hardware, GTO enthusiasts would soon forget multiple carburetion. Wangers remembered the obstacles placed in Pontiac's way in the spring of 1966: "It made things more difficult. It didn't hurt, we didn't put our heads in the sand and die and cry. We just rolled up our sleeves a little further and dug in a little deeper."

Wangers' first responsibility was to set the tone for the 1967 GTO introduction. For the public to forget the Tiger, he needed a theme that would set a new direction for the GTO. "We took liberty with the initials GTO and came up with TGO—The Great One." Drawing on the GTO's image with the "kids on the street" and the reputation the GTO had earned as the premier musclecar. The Great One campaign was built around the 1967 model.

With the theme intact, there was one more hurdle to jump, this one also imposed by the corporation. The Federal Trade Commission, under increasing pressure from insurance lobbies and safety groups spearheaded by Ralph Nader, had advised car makers that high-performance models should not be advertised in ways that "promote racing or aggressive street driving." Always sensitive to government intervention, GM management distributed guidelines advising how the divisions could advertise their high-performance models. GM didn't want to see cars with dust flying, wheels spinning, leaning into curves or exiting curves at high speed. Ideally, the cars were to be presented in static reposes. They could be shown in motion; however, the motion used was not to suggest or promote "aggresive driving."

Wangers and the D`Arcy advertising staff developed a series of magazine ads depicting the 1967 GTO in a neutral studio environment, either touting its good looks, plethora of options or engine line-up. For the television spots, actor Paul Richards was hired as Pontiac spokesman. Richards was cool and sophisticated-like John DeLorean-and smoothly delivered the new message about The Great One. As he walked around a GTO convertible in a darkened arena, the camera caressed the quarter panel`s profile, then snapped to the grille emblem, wheel, hood and the interior. All the while Richards was making the message clear that the GTO was the Ultimate Driving Machine: "if you don`t know what that means, then you're excused," Richards explained. "But if, when you see this car, you're seized with an uncontrollable urge to plant yourself be-hind the wheel and head for the wide-open spaces, then we're talking to you."

The Wide Track theme was still the foundation for Pontiac's main image, and for 1967, buyers were urged to "Ride the Wide Track Winning Streak." One TV commercial depicted two young ladies out for a cruise in a 1967 GTO convertible. The same composition had also been used in 1965 and 1966, and through the use of upbeat music, the idea was presented that driving a GTO was for pretty, sophisticated people. The message was simple: you could become sophisticated and attract females if you, too, drove a GTO.

While the battles for image and themes were going on, the solution to the end of the Tri-Power was much easier to find. Bill Collins and Pontiac Engineering had been ready for the Tri-Power's demise, and were ready to discard the Carter AFB as well in favor of a new series of Rochester Quadra-Jets. The new Q-Jets flowed more air than the old AFBs, and with a venturi area of 9.4 sq-in, the new Q-Jet would soon have Pontiac fans forgetting about the legendary Tri-Power.

For 1967, there were four engine choices, all now displacing 400 ci. This was the first time the 389 had been punched out since 1959. To achieve the new displacement, bore diameter was drilled out from 0.406 to 0.412 in.; the stroke remained constant at 3.75 in. The cylinder head was redesigned for improved volumetric flow. Part of its efficiency was achieved by moving the chamber to the center of the bore, thus permitting larger 2.11 in. intake and 1.77 in. exhaust valve diameters. The intake-port design flowed significantly better than previous heads, and also boasted screw-in rocker-arm studs and stamped-steel valve guides. The dual-plane intake manifold was redesigned to accept the Quadra-Jet and was plumbed for future emissions equipment, as was the 1967 head, which featured exhaust-port air-injection holes. Interestingly enough, port dimensions were identical to 1966, and quite a number of Pontiac enthusiasts took to bolting the 1966 Tri-Power onto the1967engine. Some legends just die hard, it seemed.

The base 400 was rated at 335 hp at 5000 rpm. This engine was quite similar to the standard 1966 GTO engine, and utilized the same air cleaner, camshaft profile, valve springs and exhaust manifolds.

Optional at no cost was a low-compression, small-valve 255 hp 400 that was offered only with automatic transmission. It was the first time a nonperformance engine was installed in the GTO. Its introduction into the line-up was the result of the Marketing Department insisting on a low-compression engine available for the buyer who wanted the GTO image but not the horsepower or the GTO's unquenchable thirst for gas.

Next step up the engine option ladder was the new 360 hp 400 HO. The HO featured an open-element air cleaner, a slightly bumpier camshaft and cast-iron exhaust manifolds that were similar to the classic "long branch" headers from the 1962 Super Duty. These new headers separated the exhaust pulses beyond the ports and allowed the engine to exhale with less restriction.

At the top rung of the ladder was the Ram Air engine, also rated at a tongue-in-cheek 360 hp. All the usual Ram Air goodies were there like the open scoop ornament and the foam-lined tub around the carburetor, but now the four-barrel Q-Jet breathed through the HO's open element and exhaled freely thanks to the HO's exhaust headers. Inside, the Ram Air was a carbon copy of the 1966 XS engine, right down to the 744 cam and stiff valve springs and dampers. Toward the end of the model year, the 670 cylinder head was replaced by the 97 head, which used a special set of valves and taller valve springs.

The Ram Air engine was offered only with 4.33:1 rear gears and was a real handful on the street. Put it on the drag strip in street trim and closed exhaust and The Great One could pull the quarter in 14.11 seconds at 100 mph. Breathe on it just a little by advancing the timing, loosening the belts and bolting on a set of cheaters and times would drop to 13.72 seconds. That was almost 0.5 second faster than the 1966 Tri-Power GTO.

Mated to the new 400 engine was a new transmission option, the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic, replacing the two-speed Powerglide that had been in use since 1964. The M40 Turbo Hydra-Matic was a strong, gutsy transmission that could handle the torque and shock of the powerful GTO engine. An automatic transmission was favored not only by the older, more sophisticated buyer, but also by the drag racer, who knew the automatic tranny would make him more consistent in the quarter mile.

When the console option was ordered with the Turbo Hydra-Matic, the Hurst Dual Gate shifter was standard equipment. Introduced in the early 1960s, the Dual Gate was picked up by Pontiac for use in 1967 as original equipment. The Dual Gate allowed the driver to leave the shifter in drive, permitting the transmission to shift at the factory's predetermined points. If he wanted to shift for himself, the driver slipped the lever into the right gate and slapped the lever forward. A positive latching mechanism prevented missed shifts, and it was virtually impossible to whack the lever into neutral and grenade the engine. Hurst claimed their new Dual Gate would "switch a lot of manual-shift lovers over to automatic." They were right. For the first time in GTO production history, automatic transmission-equipped models outsold the stick-shift versions by roughly 3,000 units.

The remainder of the drivetrain options and rear-axle ratios were essentially carried over from 1966, although the base three-speed manual transmission shift lever was moved from the steering column to the floor.

The exterior styling of the 1967 GTO was mostly unchanged from 1966, but cosmetic touchups were applied to the grilles, which received a handsome chrome mesh. The rocker panel was pulled up to cover the lower edge of the door, and the GTO emblem was dropped to the bottom of the fender and mounted in the bright rocker molding. A twin pin-stripe highlighted the upper beltline. Around back, the bumper was redesigned, as was the trailing edge of the deck lid, providing a flat horizon across the rear. The taillamps were changed, now placed in two stacks of two on each side and recessed into the panel. The GTO nameplate remained in its usual location on the quarter panels and the deck lid.

Several new options appeared in 1967, including the Rally II wheel. The five-spoke wheel featured red lug nuts and a chrome-trimmed center cap with the letters PMD encased in a clear lens. The Rally wheel introduced in 1965 was still available, now designated Rally I. For improved stopping power, Deico Morraine front disc brakes were available. These four-piston units were offered with or without power assist.

Mechanically, there was little revision to the GTO's suspension or chassis in 1967. A relocated cross-member was used for the Turbo Hydra-Matic, and a new, dual-cylinder master brake system was standard equipment.

Few changes were made to the GTO's interior. The upholstery pattern was revised on seat and door panel surfaces, and a notchback bench seat was now offered at no extra cost. The dash pad was restyled, and a woodgrained plastic applique faced the instrument cluster fascia. The optional console was also covered in a woodgrained applique. The steering column was re-engineered to meet new federal safety regulations that required the column to collapse in a front-end collision, reducing the chance of injury to the driver. The standard steering wheel was a three-spoke design with a brushed-metal center cap and the horn buttons located in the spokes. Optional was the three-spoke Custom Sport wheel, unchanged from 1966 with the exception of a slightly revised horn bezel and cap.

Standard instrumentation was identical in appearance and placement for 1967. The Rally gauge cluster was again offered, and it too was a carbon copy of 1966; however, the oil pressure gauge was changed to peg at 80 psi, up from 60 psi in 1966.

Pontiac also released a new tachometer in 1967. Unlike most factory tachs, which were usually buried by the driver's knee or bolted to the console, this tach was right in the line of sight, mounted on the hood. This novel idea had been toyed with since 1965, and when released at the start of the 1967 model year, it was to be dealer installed only. Less than a month later, the hood-mounted tach became a regular production option and one of the most talked about new options in Detroit.

With sales of 81,722 units. The Great One held its own against the rising flood of competition in the marketplace. Only Lincoln and Cadillac weren't fielding some kind of musclecar in 1967. At Chrysler, both Plymouth and Dodge introduced their versions of the GTO. The Plymouth GTX carried the same basic dimensions as the GTO, and was powered by the 375 hp 440 ci engine. Dodge's entry was the Coronet R/T, also powered by the 375 hp 440. Both the GTX and the R/T could be powered by the 425 hp street Hemi. Chrysler was still a year away from finding the formula that would launch the success of the Pentastar performance program. The hardware was more than adequate, but Chrysler was to look long and hard at how Pontiac marketed the GTO and then apply those techniques with great success.

Ford continued their Fairlane GT and GTA, while Mercury stayed with the Cyclone GT. Both were basically unchanged, still powered by the 335 hp 390 engine and in a holding pattern until 1968, when they would be restyled and a new 428 ci engine would be offered in an attempt to make them more competitive with the GTO.

Corporate rivals Chevelle and Cutlass 4-4-2 grew stronger in 1967 as their pro-grams initiated in 1965 came to market.

The SS396 Chevelle was the GTO's fiercest competitor, posting sales of 63,006 units, down from 72,272 in 1966. The 4-4-2 grew hair in 1967 with the addition of the W30 package, a cold-air package that included hand-selected engine parts, big cam with heavy-duty valve springs, fiberglass inner fenders and trunk-mounted battery. Rated at 360 hp, the W30 4-4-2 was a bruising, 13.8 second musclecar that was not kind to the GTO. Fortunately for Pontiac, it was a well-kept secret. Total 4-4-2 sales were 24,833 units, of which only a handful were W30s. The Buick Gran Sport trailed far behind, still lacking an image and an engine; sales were dismal at 13,813. It wouldn't be until 1970 that the 455 Stage 1 Gran Sport would gain a reputation as a torque monster.

The Great One also met new competition from within its own family. Pontiac fielded the Firebird, their own version of the Mustang-Camaro ponycar. The Firebird was offered in five different packages, using lessons learned from the GTO. The mild versions were powered by either a six-cylinder or a 326 V-8; however, two Firebirds were stepping on The Great One's shoes. Both were equipped with the 400 ci engine and both were rated at 325 hp, with one version equipped with Ram Air. The Fire-bird's horsepower figures were altered because the Firebird was 500 Ib. lighter than the GTO, and although the F-bird's 400 was just as powerful as the heavier GTO, it was forbidden to break GM's policy of 1 hp for every 10 Ib. of curb weight. There was another reason for underrating the Ram Air Firebird's horsepower rating, and it had to do with image. If the GTO was The Great One, flagship of the Pontiac performance fleet, it could not be outpowered by the new Firebird. On the street or strip, however, the 325 hp Firebird was capable of embarrassing its big brother.

Although the GTO faced increased competition, it retained a panache and style all its own, and that was the key to its continued strong sales. Other manufacturers screwed together high-performance cars that looked like GTOs and ran like GTOs—but they weren't anything like the Pontiac GTO. Years later, Pontiac would field a GTO ad titled, "Others have caught on, but they haven't caught up." That ad was more than just advertising hype. It was a statement that rang true on the street, at the drive-ins and the drag strips across America. Dedicated men like Pete Estes, John DeLorean and Jim Wangers had poured their very souls into the GTO; it was one of the reasons no other car had its unique character.

 


 
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1967 GTO

 CARS > MUSCLE CARS > 1967 GTO


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