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Pontiac makes ordering a 1972 GTO easier

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Art courtesy of the Automotive History Preservation Society.

I wonder how many muscle car devotees conjured up their ultimate 1972 GTO from this ad during the model year. For anyone who construed the GTO’s shift to Le Mans’ option status for 1972 (after it had been its own series since 1966) as just another sign that the muscle car era was winding down, Pontiac provided reassurance that the Goat still offered the “goods” by listing them right in this ad, complete with boxes to check.

Not only did it welcome fantasy shopping for a new Goat, those who actually acted upon the urge to buy one could then enter the dealership already knowing what they wanted, making the ordering process somewhat easier for all involved.

A glance at the 1972 GTO and its available extra-cost items reveals that plenty was still available to build a stylish driver-oriented muscle car. Included with the W62 GTO option was a 250-net-hp D-port 400 engine, dual exhaust with side splitters, Hurst floor-shifted H.D. three-speed manual transmission, G70-14 blackwall tires, Endura front bumper, scooped hood, fenders with air extractors, firm shocks, front and rear anti-roll bars, swirl-finished lower dash trim plate, and GTO identification.

The optional 8.4:1 compression ratio 455 H.O. engine, which debuted for 1971, returned. With its dialed-in Quadrajet, light aluminum intake manifold, free-flowing round-port heads, 288/302-degree advertised duration cam with .414/.413 lift, 1.50:1 ratio rocker arms, cast reciprocating assembly in a 4-bolt-main block, and streamlined exhaust manifolds, it produced 300-net-hp. Functional Ram Air and Unitized Ignition were required with the 455 H.O. The D-port 455 engine with an iron intake, less cam, and standard exhaust manifolds, offered 250-net-hp.

Compression ratios had dropped in 1971, which allowed engines to run suitably on unleaded fuel, but the move also reduced output a bit. In that same year, gross and net power ratings were published together to ease the transition to using net ratings from 1972 forward. The net figures were generated from testing engines with more of the equipment installed that would be used in the car, so the numbers were closer to the actual engine output, but they were lower than previously used gross ratings.

Some of the subtle styling updates for the 1972 GTO were deeply recessed grilles with blacked-out centers in place of the nearly flush bright mesh grilles of 1971, air extractors for the front fenders, and new exhaust splitters that exited under the rear quarter panels like the optional ones for the 1964-1965 GTOs instead of through the rear valance panel like the 1970-71 models. The parking lamp bright trim was revised, the “GTO” decals were moved to the rear quarter panels, “Pontiac” lettering was on the decklid, Le Mans taillamp lenses were used, and “455 HO” callouts were added to the rear quarters and “HO” to the decklid under the “GTO” decal when that engine option was ordered. And the extra-cost bodyside stripe design was new.

The GTO option could be specified for the Le Mans hardtop or, for the first time since 1967, the slightly cheaper pillared coupe, which came with a cloth-and-Morrokide bench seat and a rubber floormat, with all-Morrokide upholstery and a carpet optional. In the hardtop, a front bench seat upholstered in cloth and Morrokide and floor carpeting were standard and an all-Morrokide bench seat cost extra, as did bucket seats with upgraded door panels.

Despite all the choices available for the GTO, by the end of the 1972 model year, just 5,807 were built, down from 10,532 in 1971 and 40,149 for 1970. To be fair, as has been documented many times before, significant obstacles faced all muscle cars in the early 1970s. Rising insurance surcharges, increasing emissions and safety regulations that affected performance, competition from previous models that were cheaper used cars and had more power are a few examples.

The GTO also still had considerable competition from other automakers. Some of their muscle cars were redesigned for 1971 or 1972, so a portion of the buyers were likely lured away from GM’s carried-over 1972 A-bodies, which were a stopgap for the late-arriving Colonnade cars that were delayed until the 1973 model year. A few potential GTO buyers may have decided to wait to see what the new 1973 Colonnade Goat would bring.

Additional competition came from within Pontiac. Other Le Manses could be equipped with most of the standard and optional features that were offered for the Goat. The Judge option and GTO convertibles had been retired, but Le Mans convertibles were still available.

Despite the trials and tribulations that year, I’ve always felt that the ’72 GTO was still one of the Great Ones. Had I been afforded the opportunity to buy one back then and not been five years old at the time, I would have ordered a Lucerne Blue hardtop.

The WW5 Package for the GTO, which I would have likely specified, is not mentioned in this ad, but its contents are, and they were also available individually. It included the 455 H.O., Unitized Ignition, functional Ram Air, close-ratio four-speed or automatic (I’d take the four-speed), Safe-T-Track axle, body-colored mirrors, Formula steering wheel, power front disc brakes, Rally gauges, and handling package (included G60-15 RWL tires, power steering, special springs and shocks, and larger rear anti-roll bar), and GTO/HO identification.

I would have also added 15 x 7 Honeycomb wheels, Ivory bucket seat interior, console, AM/FM stereo, 8-track tape player, the special body stripes in white, and a rear spoiler. (Evidently my fictional exercise includes me having a job that pays well.)

Now that you have a list of options in front of you, how would you have ordered your GTO for 1972?