Pressured by a constant onslaught of insurance-rate hikes, federal regulations, and parent corporation General Motors shifting away from high-performance vehicles, the Pontiac GTO returned for '72 but as an option package on the LeMans.
Adding insult to injury, the GTO's strong brand identity—literally every GTO option, including its signature Endura bumper—was shared with the LeMans Sport. To make matters even worse, the new '72 Luxury LeMans, not the GTO, became the top-of-the-line Pontiac A-Body.
In the new-car marketplace, there was heavy competition between the GTO and the Firebird Formula and Trans Am, though production numbers of all these sporty Pontiacs were severely compromised by a United Auto Workers (UAW) strike that lasted 67 days. The strike delayed the new-generation A-bodies until '73, forcing the '72 GTO to carry on as a mildly facelifted version of the previous year (on a platform which debuted in '68).
Gold was a very popular color for American-built cars in ’72 and Pontiac’s Quezal Gold fit
The GTO's demotion to option status meant that available body styles were different than the previous year. The W62 GTO option package was available on the two-door hardtop body style and—for the first time since '67—a pillared two-door coupe. The convertible was no longer available, though a nearly identical car could be ordered as a LeMans. It was also possible to build a GTO-like four-door or wagon, though they were clearly not GTOs.
Pontiac was in favor of producing LeMans models with the performance and appearance options of the GTO, as it was a way to get performance onto the street without incurring the wrath of the insurance companies. The GTO name, by this time, was a red flag as far as insurance companies were concerned, so a big-engine LeMans had a much better chance than a GTO of sliding by an unwitting underwriter.
Very little was actually new for the aging Second-Generation GTO body style. Interestingly, Pontiac's changes to the GTO for '72 were intended to give it more of a design tie-in with the Trans Am. Pontiac was sensing that the Trans Am, not the GTO, was its performance-car future, and the company hoped giving the GTO some T/A-inspired flair would help boost the GTO's declining sales.
Up front, the wire-mesh grille design used in '71 was traded in on a plastic egg-crate design with a chrome surround and argent shells that recalled the '70 GTO. It was similar in execution to what was on the Trans Am that year, though the T/A had gained a honeycomb grille design by then. The GTO's grille mesh was set farther back into the Endura nose than the year before.
The other significant change to the '72 GTO was the addition of forward- leaning, slotted fender extractors. They were a different shape and located lower in the fender than those on the Trans Am. Like those on the T/A, however, they relieved underhood pressure that caused front-end lift at high speeds. The presence of the fender extractors positively identifies a GTO or T-41–optioned LeMans as a '72, as it was a one-year only affair.
New Stripes and a New Spoiler … Almost
The loss of the Judge during the '71 model year meant there was no longer a top-of-the-line GTO option. Pontiac designers wanted to change the GTO into a more mature, all-around performance machine. With the new grille and fender extractors already in place, they planned to complete the look with a new stripe package and a rear spoiler.
For ’72, a new stripe option was added for the LeMans and GTOs. Note that this car is actu
The stripes were similar in overall outside shape to those used on the '71½ GT-37, though the similarities end there. Available in black or white, the stripe featured nine horizontal pinstripes within its confines, making for a very unique and eye-catching appearance, especially when teamed with a bright, contrasting body color. Only 150 cars came with this stripe option.
The other part of the visual upgrade for '72 was one that did not come to pass. Pontiac designers approved a very attractive ducktail spoiler that would bring a Trans Am-like design to the A-body platform. Intended for use on the LeMans and GTO, only about 10 or 12 were built before tooling problems killed the project. Only two or three were factory-installed, and the leftovers were assigned a part number, which was hand-written in marker and put into the parts stream. At least one '72 GTO owner purchased one for his car in this manner.
Minor Interior Revisions
With the GTO reverting back to an option package, it inherited the same interiors as the LeMans models. The Confortweave upholstery was dropped, and a cloth and vinyl bench seat was the standard interior choice. The pillared coupe body style was even more spartan, with rubber floormats becoming standard equipment over conventional carpeting. A new two-spoke steering wheel was standard; the LeMans Sport's tri-spoke wheel and the padded Formula wheel were optional.
Fortunately, more familiar interior appointments were a check of the option box away. The LeMans Sport's vinyl bucket seat interior with console was available on the GTO hardtop, though the door panels no longer had GTO callouts on them.
Though the ’72 GTO was essentially a carry-over design from the previous year and a stopga
The easiest way to tell a ’72 GTO from a ’71 from the side is the presence of front fender
About the only difference in appearance between a ’72 GTO and a ’72 LeMans with the $41 T-
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 base GTO powerplant was the 400/four-barrel. Carrying VIN code T, it was rated at 250
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.
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.
Here is a rarely seen photograph—a pre-production ’72 GTO sporting both a ducktail spoiler
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.
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.
For the first time since ’67, the GTO was once again available as a pillared coupe. With t
Since the GTO had returned to an option package on the LeMans, the Pontiac nameplate was a
Powerplant options for the GTO included a 250-horse 400/four-barrel; a D-port 455, also ra