By Bruce Nelson
Some of you readers may remember a blurb I wrote a while back about the return of the Pontiac GTO. Well, itís here. I still feel it is a car that I question the market for, but it has been a hit so far. I guess that it is the General Motors engineerís idea of what the evolution would have been if the GTO had been produced until today. Actually if they were trying to be as accurate to the old car as possible, it would be a Grand Am with a V- 8. Now that wonít happen or probably work, but unfortunately, the car looks more like itís lesser siblings than I think it should. But, we have looked at this already. What we havenít gotten into is the just released 2005 Mustang. Now the big advantage the Mustang has is that while both the GTO and the Mustang came out as new models in 1964, the GTO only lasted 10 years, while the Mustang never left us. That being the case, it was able to evolve rather than be resurrected after a 30-year absence. After reading about the new Mustang in some detail, this is a car that has been totally re-thought for this new series. The first series of mustang, made from 1964-1966, was considered by many to be the best and purest Mustang ever. The next series, 1967-1968 was not far behind in styling, and much advanced of the last series in performance. The 1969-1970 cars were somewhat unusual in styling in the fact that the standard Mustang of these years was much plainer, while the new series of Mach-1 and the Boss cars are considered by most to be the most beautiful of all the early Mustangs. In 1971 the cars got much larger and sales fell off drastically. By this time, the gas crisis was under way and so in 1974 we were given the Mustang II. This car has been ridiculed since shortly after it was released, but it increased sales back to near record levels. In 1979, the Mustang was restyled and improved. During the long run of this series we saw the return of the GT, the convertible and performance return. This was a car that not only appealed to a large audience, but was available in many levels from economy car to muscle car, much like the original car. In 1984, the car had a rather major makeover. This is the car we have had offered to us up through this year. Again, this has been available with anything from an economical V-6 to a dual overhead cam V-8 with a supercharger that makes 385 horsepower.
Now in the last few years, many manufacturers have come out with cars that have been a hit with ďretroĒ styling. The new beetle, the Thunderbird, the SSR and the PT cruiser are just some examples. So Ford decided to make the 2005 Mustang also look retro. In my opinion, they did a fantastic job of melding the second and third series high points into a beautiful car for today. The fastback styling, (that was famous for blind spots) has great windows in the rear quarters. These not only make the car safer, but also are retro to the 1966 GT350 Shelby fastbacks. Even the dash looks retro with two large eyebrows over both sides of the dash and gauges that are very similar in styling to the Ď67s. But for an update to 2005, the driver can select gauge lights in 125 colors. The most important thing to me is that this car looks like nothing else on the road. But, when you see a picture of this new car, you immediately recognize it as a Mustang. Not only are there changes in the styling, but also the car is vastly improved in both engine and chassis. The new V-8 engine has a new 3-valve overhead cam design with a center-mounted plug that helps both performance and economy. The new hydro-formed frame is something like 8 times as rigid as the previous model. The only disappointment to me is the one-year absence of a convertible and SVT series GT. Iím told these will return next year along with a new Lightning pick-up.
I guess what bothers me the most about the GTO verses the Mustang is that the GTO will cost a lot more than a similar Mustang. Iím sure the performance will be similar, but the styling and the whole package of the Mustang is much more thought out. But, keep in mind, the Mustang was a whole new design from Ford, the GTO is only a different trim package bolted onto the Existing Holden Monero from Australia. Maybe if General Motors really designed the new GTO from scratch with some retro flavor, we would have a totally different car. Now donít get me wrong. I will always be a Pontiac fan. I own way more Pontiacs than any other make, and Iíve had a number of GTOs in the past and hope to own more in the future. I just think that General Motors has lost itís styling prowess. By the way, I hope to test both these cars to get a real comparison soon. Bruce.
By Bruce Nelson
Last Update: 03/19/04