Flashback Friday: Vintage Pontiac GTO commercials from the ’60s

Digging through the archives of the internet, we came across some interesting advertisements for the then-new Pontiac Tempest GTO. First offered as an equipment package on the 1964 Tempest, it wasn’t until the 1965 model-year that Pontiac gave it time on the airwaves in the form of the above advertisement.

Watching the advertisement, it is surprising that such a tame, almost mundane advertisement exists for what is widely seen as the start of the factory Muscle Car movement. Ignoring the thinly-veiled sexism in the ads, addressing the car’s handling prowess while implying that it was tame enough for your wife to want to drive, and dubbing it “The Swinginest car” in other advertisements from that year, seems like an odd way to market a muscle car, by today’s standards.

It wasn’t until 1967, a year after the GTO became its own vehicle, as opposed to just an options package, that they started to direct their television ads towards the enthusiasts. There, they dubbed it “The Great One” and “The Ultimate Driving Machine” in a slick, elegant walkaround of the car, and appealed to those who developed emotional attachments to automobiles, driving away the “It’s Just A Car” crowd.

The trend of highlighting the GTO’s performance continued into the 1968 model-year, although in an arguably-cornier fashion. After a pair of Bonnie-and-Clyde type bank robbers steals a GTO under the guise of a test drive, they are so impressed with the performance of the car, they throw their ill-gotten gains at the salesman in exchange for the car.

That ad complimented an equally-odd advertisement from the same year, featuring the presenter wailing on the bumpers of the newly-restyled 1968 model with a crowbar, and then touting them as “revolutionary”. One thing for sure, is that performance automotive advertising and marketing has changed a great deal in the last 50 years, but the classic appeal of the first- and second-generation GTOs seen here is timeless.

About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent seventeen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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