One area that was new for the '72 GTOs—and all GM cars for that matter—was a revised VIN system that contained all of the information previously encoded plus the factory-installed engine. While all '72 GTOs are listed in the VIN as LeMans-series cars, it is possible to eliminate a six-cylinder, 350, or 400/two barrel-powered car as a potential GTO, as no GTOs came with those powerplants. VIN codes for GTO engines were T for the 400, Y for the 455 D-port, and X for the 455 HO.

New Net Power Ratings

New for '72 was the dropping of the SAE gross horsepower rating system in favor of the new SAE net standard. In order to bring more accuracy and consistency in power rating, the new system rated power at the transmission tailshaft with all accessories installed and operating. Though to the casual observer, it would appear that power levels had dropped off considerably from the year before, there was little if any loss in performance from '71. This was particularly true in the case of Pontiac engines, which were nearly identical to their '71 counterparts, with the exception of casting numbers and a switch to smaller 14mm-thread spark plugs.

As had been the case for '71, the GTO's base engine was a 400/four-barrel. With the 067 cam and 8.2:1 compression, it was rated at 250 horsepower at 4,400 rpm, with 325 lb-ft of torque at 3,200. It was available with three or four-speed manual transmissions or a three-speed automatic.

The first option up the ladder was the D-port version of the 455/four-barrel. Also using the 067 cam and having an 8.2:1 compression ratio, the engine was rated at 250 horsepower at 3,600 rpm, with 370 lb-ft of torque at 2,800. As with the year before, this engine was only available with an automatic.

Returning for one last year, the 455 H.O. was the top of the line engine for the GTO. With a slightly higher 8.4:1 compression ratio and 068 cam, the Round-Port 455 was rated at 300 horsepower at 4,000 rpm, with 415 lb-ft of torque at 3,200. It was available with three or four-speed manual transmissions or a three-speed automatic. Gear-ratio options ranged from 3.07 to 3.55 for all GTOs.

In order to provide buyers with the best performing options for their engine in one package, Pontiac made available the WW4 option for the 400-powered GTOs and WW5 for the 455-powered cars. The WW4 package included the four-speed manual transmission, Safe-T-Track differential, Y99 handling package, power front disc brakes, and carpeting for pillared coupes. The WW5 version took those items and added body-colored sport mirrors (with driver remote) for the hardtop, a Formula steering wheel, Rally gauge cluster (now with 120-mph speedometer), roof-drip mouldings for the pillared coupe, Ram Air, decals, and unitized ignition. The D-port 455 retained its automatic-only availability, even with the WW5 option.

There aren't any known road tests of '72 GTOs, but with no appreciable differences between them and their '71 counterparts, performance should have been in lockstep powertrain for powertrain. A feature of a one-owner, bone-stock original '72 GTO with a 400/four-speed and 3.55 gears appeared in the Feb. '92 issue of High Performance Pontiac. With radial tires and 89,000 miles on the odometer, it ran a best quarter-mile e.t. of 13.8 seconds at 102 mph.

LeMans GT

With the dropping of the T-37 moniker, the GT-37 was also dropped at the end of the '71 model year. The same stripped-down car was simply known as the base LeMans. The GT-37's replacement was the Code 332 LeMans GT; it covered all of the ground that the GT-37 did, and went even farther.

The LeMans GT was available on two-door hardtop and convertible body styles, and came standard with the 175hp 350/two-barrel and three-speed manual. It was also available with all of the GTO engine choices and the T-41 Endura front end.

What were the practical differences between a well-optioned LeMans GT and a GTO? The answer is the cost of the insurance and little else. It was a rather blatant ploy to bring GTO performance and/or appearance to buyers without the insurance penalty. However, without the W62 option code, they are not real GTOs.

Production Figures

With so much internal competition and disfavor in the market, the number of '72 GTOs dropped significantly from an already-soft '71 model year. Total production for '72 LeMans with the W62 GTO option was just 5,807. Of those, 5,673 were hardtop coupes and just 134 were pillared coupes.

In retrospect, the use of the T-41 nose option and the LeMans GT option did help Pontiac maintain a bit more market share with these insurance-friendly variations, but in the end, the changing marketplace and the strike-shortened model year squashed any attempts to sell Pontiacs, performance-oriented or not.

Yet another internal competitor to the GTO would enter the market for 1973, one that would further hamper the next generation of GTOs.

With a slightly higher 8.4:1 compression ratio and 068 cam, the Round-Port 455 was rated at 300 horsepower at 4,000 rpm, with 415 lb-ft of torque at 3,200.