When this monstrous volume showed up at Chez Murilee- and this is one freakin' huge slab-o-musclecar-porn, displacing 206 cubic inches- I figured I'd find nothing but pretty pictures within. Such was not the case.
GTO: Pontiac's Great One is a real history book (albeit a glandular case that won't fit on any normal bookshelf and might even overstress your coffee table's legs), and Darwin Holmstrom does an excellent job of describing Pontiac's path to its smash 1964 hit. We all know the basic equation of the GTO: [powerful engine from full-sized car] + [mid-sized coupe] + [$2.98 worth of hood scoops and emblems] + [relentless youth-centric marketing] x [Baby Boomers finally old enough to buy new cars] x [nuclear annihilation looming over the horizon] = JACKPOT! The story of the GTO was really all about corporate politics and marketing, and Holmstrom walks us through the crafty efforts of "Bunkie" Knudson and John Z. DeLorean (yes, that DeLorean) to reinvent Pontiac's image, all the while fending off the sclerotic shamblings of 14th Floor overlords (I recommend DeLorean's On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors to anyone puzzled about how GM's 40-year downward spiral really got rolling). The story is blessedly free of hypersimplified and/or head-slappingly nostalgic nutshell descriptions of the sociopolitical climate of the 1960s- all too common in car books- and for that alone it deserves praise. We get technical details of Pontiac's tough-but-flawed Strato-Streak engine and the engineering magic that turned it into a solid performer, and of course we get the complete account of the GTO's 1964-72 glory years… followed by unflinching documentation of the not-so-glorious Malaise Era GTOs, which your truly zealous GTO fanatics will no doubt slice out of the book while wearing rubber gloves and a respirator.
That's not to say that this book skimps on the pretty pictures; in addition to the drool-inducing arty shots of showroom-condition Goats done by David Newhardt, we get countless vintage ads, drag-racin' shots, and so on; why, there's even a big fold-out reproduction of Car & Driver's original review of the '64 Tempest GTO. This is an easy Four Rod Review (out of a possible five, the Mercedes-Benz OM617 representing the pinnacle of enginehood). Murilee says check it out!