The 1968 Pontiac GTO – An Icon of American Muscle Cars

The 1968 Pontiac GTO stands as one of the foremost icons of the American muscle car era. With its potent performance, aggressive styling, and innovative features, the ’68 GTO was not merely a car; it was a symbol of power, freedom, and the American spirit.

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The Birth of a Legend

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The GTO, an acronym for “Gran Turismo Omologato”, was introduced in 1964 as a performance-oriented option package for the Pontiac Tempest. The GTO quickly gained popularity and by 1966, it was spun off into its own model line. The 1968 model marked the second generation of the GTO, with a complete redesign that would set the tone for the rest of its production run.

Aggressive Styling

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The 1968 GTO featured a complete redesign from its predecessor. Its body was more streamlined and featured what Pontiac dubbed the “Endura” front bumper. This bumper, made of a special plastic, could withstand minor impacts without damage, a feature that was innovative at the time.

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The GTO’s design was aggressive and muscular. It featured a long hood, a short deck, and a wide stance. The hood had a distinctive dual scoop design, and the rear featured a spoiler integrated into the deck lid. The car was available as a two-door hardtop, a convertible, and a rarely seen Sports Coupe model with a fixed B-pillar.

Performance Beast

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The GTO was renowned for its performance. The standard engine was a 400 cubic inch (6.6L) V8 that produced 350 horsepower. However, the true performance gem was the optional Ram Air II engine, a version of the 400 that featured special heads, a more aggressive camshaft, and a unique induction system. This engine produced 366 horsepower and gave the GTO a 0-60 mph time of around 6 seconds, impressive for the era.

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The GTO also offered a choice of transmissions. The standard was a three-speed manual, with an optional four-speed manual or three-speed automatic available. The car’s handling was enhanced by a heavy-duty suspension system, which included stiffer springs and larger sway bars.

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Comfort and Luxury

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While the GTO was a performance car, it didn’t skimp on comfort and luxury. The interior was roomy and well-appointed, with bucket seats, a full array of gauges, and a sports steering wheel. Options included power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, and a variety of audio systems.

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The 1968 GTO also featured the innovative “His and Hers” Hurst shifter when equipped with the optional automatic transmission. This feature allowed for either automatic shifting (in “Hers” mode) or manual shifting (in “His” mode), providing the best of both worlds.

Reception of the 1968 Pontiac GTO

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When it was first unveiled, the 1968 GTO immediately caught the attention of the automotive world. Its sleek, muscular design, powerful performance, and innovative features set it apart from the competition. The car was hailed as a breakthrough in muscle car design, with its Endura bumper, optional Ram Air II engine, and the “His and Hers” Hurst shifter being particularly well-received.

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The GTO’s performance did not disappoint either. Reviewers were impressed by its powerful engine, agile handling, and quick acceleration. The Ram Air II engine, in particular, was lauded for its power output and the enhanced driving experience it offered.

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The car’s luxurious interior also received praise. The comfortable bucket seats, full array of gaos, and the sports steering wheel were all appreciated, as were the available options such as power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, and different audio systems.

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The 1968 GTO’s success was reflected in its sales. Despite stiff competition, the GTO sold well, solidifying its place as one of the top muscle cars of the era. The car’s popularity was further cemented when it was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, a recognition of its excellence in design and performance.

Sales and Production of the 1968 Pontiac GTO

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The 1968 Pontiac GTO was a success in terms of sales and production. It came at a time when the muscle car market was at its peak, and the GTO stood out with its distinctive design, impressive performance, and innovative features.

Sales

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According to historical sales data, Pontiac sold approximately 87,684 GTOs in 1968. This was a significant increase over the previous year, reflecting the positive reception and high demand for the new model.

The 1968 GTO was available in three body styles: the two-door coupe, the hardtop, and the convertible. Among these, the hardtop was the most popular, accounting for the majority of the sales. The coupe and convertible models were also well-received, contributing to the overall strong sales performance of the GTO that year.

Production

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The production of the 1968 GTO took place at Pontiac’s assembly plants across the United States. The car was built using body-on-frame construction, a common method at that time for American cars.

The GTO was produced with a variety of options, allowing customers to customize their car to their liking. These options included different engines, transmissions, interiors, and other features. Despite the wide range of options, Pontiac managed to maintain high production standards, ensuring that every GTO that rolled off the assembly line met their rigorous quality requirements.

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The 1968 model year also saw the introduction of the GTO’s optional Ram Air II engine. This high-performance engine was more complex and time-consuming to build than the standard 400 cubic inch V8, but Pontiac was committed to offering customers the best performance possible. The Ram Air II was produced in limited numbers, making it a rare and highly sought-after option today.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

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The 1968 Pontiac GTO left a significant mark on American automotive history. It was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1968, cementing its status as a performance icon. The GTO was also prominent in popular culture, appearing in numerous films, TV shows, and songs of its era.

Today, the 1968 GTO is a coveted classic. Its distinctive design, powerful engine, and innovative features make it a favorite among classic car enthusiasts. The GTO’s influence can be seen in later Pontiac models and in the broader muscle car genre.

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In conclusion, the 1968 Pontiac GTO is a testament to a time when American cars were bold, powerful, and stylish. With its potent performance, aggressive design, and advanced features, the GTO defined the muscle car era. More than just a vehicle, the ’68 GTO is a piece of automotive history, a symbol of an era when the open road was a place of freedom and adventure, and the muscle car was the perfect companion for the journey.

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