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The original muscle car

2 years ago

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Hamir Thapar | Journalist


5 December 2022

Asked to picture the heyday of the muscle car, I’d bet plenty the vast majority of you will think of the late 1960s. The names come so easily to mind: Mustang, Camaro, Charger, Challenger… That’s when they were all born, each spawning a nameplate so successful they remain with us to this day.

What’s curious is that there’s an anomaly lurking there too. It didn’t survive long, yet many credit it with birthing the entire muscle car genre. Unlike the others, its fate was to die an unceremonious death after just eleven years and, unlike so many of its contemporaries, it never got to reinvent itself for the 21st century. That car is the Pontiac GTO, a name whose imprint on American performance is dwarfed only by the obscurity into which it has sunk.

General Motors had been no stranger to competition by the late 1950s. Chevrolet, for instance, had made quite the name for itself during the early days of oval racing. But as was the case with nearly every form of motorsport at the time, terrible and often fatal accidents were common. The Nascar Sprint Cup Series alone claimed seven lives between 1952 and 1957. Unsettled by the mounting death toll, and wary of increased safety legislation from Washington, GM ceased all racing activities in 1963.

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