The ‘Unknown GTO’: Why GM Abandoned a 1980s Pontiac Revival

Many brands have passed through the General Motors turnstiles. Some we’ve long forgotten about, and some we still miss. Where would you place the defunct Pontiac in that regard, particularly the GTO? Would a rediscovered concept change your mind?

Rare Classic Cars & Automotive History recently released a video about a little-known Pontiac GTO concept from 1988. Following a brief overview of the GTO’s history, at about the five-minute mark, the time capsule opened.

And it’s not exactly pretty or profound.

At first blush, it resembles a fourth-gen Chevy Camaro in bright canary yellow, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Then you see hints of the Pontiac Firebird, maybe a Fiero, and bits of Saturn, too. Yeah, kind of all over the place, but such is the purpose of a design study. For what’s supposed to be a sports car, though, it’s not the least bit intimidating. It’s certainly sleek. The rear three-quarter angle is its best view if you’re looking for a modicum of muscle. I still doubt it can do a pull-up.

<em>Rare Classic Cars & Automotive History</em>
Rare Classic Cars & Automotive History

If the year is correct, this GTO concept would fall between the unveiling of the Pontiac Banshee and Protosport concepts. Those were actually shown and released into the wilds of public opinion, while the apparently unnamed GTO concept of 1998 was not. So far, an online search for images of this specific car eventually just led back to this Rare Classic Car YouTube video.

GM has a habit of releasing images from its design vault long after the concept in question is utilized or relevant. This one probably could’ve remained in there. As the narrator points out, this 1988 Pontiac concept looks like nothing any GTO that came before or after. Automotive design is neither better nor worse for it. What’s your take?