I don’t post anything on this site for nearly two months, then I show up out of nowhere and proclaim that I’ve ordered a Pontiac GTO as my next new car. So what happened? A few months ago, I was proclaiming proudly that the GTO sucked and I was gonna be getting my hands on a new Shelby GT-500. Why did I change my mind?
A lot can happen in a few months. Actually, I imagine that if I were still working at my old job, still doing the same stuff I’d been doing the last few months or even years straight, I probably still would be on course to try and snag a GT-500 (not that that’s going to be real easy for anyone to do). But since I changed jobs, started riding with a different crew, and broadened my outlook on life, I think my tastes in cars have also changed. Matured, I’d like to say.
I’ve decided that my next car should be less of a rackety muscle machine and more of a refined grand tourer. However, I’m still unable to divorce myself from the shit-eating grin-inducing power and growl of a V8, which would seem to make for an interesting dilemma — what sort of soft, cushy grand-tourer can one get equipped with a raucous eight-cylinder with a sound that harkens back to the sixties? And then it hit me — a GTO.
As powerful as the new Shelby will be — it’ll certainly be able to spank the Goat, not to mention most of the other cars on the street — it’s still got a live axle, still a mostly-plastic interior and still a pony car. Not that that’s bad; some days you want to be the bad boy in the crowd, but I’m starting to tire of the harsh rides, excessive cabin noise and a tail end that dances over every pothole. What with the problems I’ve been experiencing with my Trans Am lately, particularly the ever-increasing cabin rattles, mysterious vibrations from parts that have worked loose over the last seven years, and the somewhat cacophonous drone in the cabin, I’ve become increasingly aware of how much I’d prefer something a bit more svelte — at least, during day-to-day operations.
That’s the great thing about the Goat. Unlike other refined, posh vehicles, like the Lexus fleet, when you want to act out, the car is ready for your command. You’ve got 400 horses and 400 lb-ft under there, a six-speed manual gearbox and an exhaust note which, above 2500 RPMs, reminds you of GTOs from another era. The car is a sleeper, a classy, sleek machine with clean Euro lines, sipping fuel and veritably idling in sixth gear at 60 miles an hour, but when you want to open it up, it needs little coaxing. And there’s plenty of room to keep going, and going, and going.
Then there’s the interior — it’s easily the nicest interior ever seen on a GM product, except for maybe one of the spiffy Cadillacs. That’s right, ever. The red leather, red stitching on the leather appointments, red suede (yes, suede) door panels and trim, red gauge faces and optional (sourced from Australia) center-stack gauge pod with the missing oil press and voltmeter gauges are just too frickin’ cool, and there’s nothing in the competition’s lineup that quite matches it. The bucket bolsters wrap around you like the hot seat in a fighter plane, and the rear seats can actually comfortably fit two adults, unlike the formality of a backseat that has always graced the F-body. And since you usually spend most of your time with a car behind the wheel, the interior is not an aspect to be overlooked.
I watched almost all of my new friends and colleagues buy new cars in the last couple of years. One guy, who lives and breathes Consumer Reports, bought a Lexus ES 300 — because the quality on anything else is crap. Another bought a Mercedes coupe, and another picked up an Audi A6. None of these are cars I ever want to find myself owning, but they all carried a certain air of sophistication and class which it would be nice to taste some of each day, instead of sipping pure, unrefined horsepower and little else. The Trans Am is a brute of a machine, a powerful beast for the ages, and one which was perfectly suited to my tastes for the last seven years of my life. But now it’s time to move up to bigger and, arguably, better things.
When I first thought about how I was going to announce this news on the site, I figured my friends would be the most surprised of all. After all, not only had they roundly criticized the GTO after seeing it at the NAIAS a couple years ago, I even joined in on their remarks. In my opinion, the 2004 GTO was an underachiever. It was a decent powertrain wrapped in a somewhat bland package. Since that time, the bland package has grown on me, but that’s been helped by the sprucing-up Pontiac has given it, especially in the name of a sport appearance package option. Additionally, the formerly “decent” powerplant was replaced with the awesome 6-liter LS2 V8, packing 400 horses, and suddenly things seemed a lot more exciting.
So, while this may come as a shock to my cohorts — particularly Reaper, who, as much as I think his WRX STi kicks all manner of ass, still failed to convert me to the import world (nothing personal dude, I guess it’s just who I am) — I have decided on the GTO, not the Mustang, or the Charger, or the next Camaro if and when it appears, or any of that. There’s something special about the red arrowhead badge, something that still draws me in today as it did ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago.
And while that may change someday, that day has not yet arrived. 🙂