The delays that the 67-day UAW strike caused for GM set the clock back for the new-generation A-body intermediates. Though initially set for a '72 release, they actually hit the showrooms for model-year '73.

The Pontiac GTO also returned for '73, but sadly it was little more than an afterthought. Pontiac had learned all too well that the market had moved away from the GTO nameplate. It was damaged goods as far as the insurance industry was concerned. That is why Pontiac built so many GT-37s, LeMans GTs, and T-41–nosed LeMans Sports. They looked and ran like GTOs, but didn't have the nameplate to tip their hand to the underwriters.

Although the weight was up, the power choices were down, and the new-generation styling was controversial, the '73 GTO ended up being the best handling, best braking, and safest GTO that had been built up to that point. Many of the design and engineering changes that the '73 GTO received were done in order to comply with new federal safety standards, which included low-speed impact, rollovers, and side impact.

New Platform

The '73 A-body platform was a new design, significantly more rigid, more impact resistant, and stronger than before. It was also heavier than the previous version. Sharing the 112-inch wheelbase as its predecessor, the new chassis featured an updated front-suspension design, with the same upper and lower control arms and spindles from the '71-and-up full-sized Pontiacs and the '70½ Firebirds. The new frontend featured greatly improved geometry settings, which reduced bumpsteer and other handling maladies. Front disc brakes were made standard and enlarged to a full 11 inches. A 1.25-inch front sway bar was used to control bodyroll for the now heavier GTO.

The steering system was carried over from the previous generation, and the rear suspension was a carryover from '72, with a 1-inch rear sway bar. With a front suspension essentially identical to the Trans Am and an arguably superior rear suspension, the '73 GTO was a great-handling car.

The standard wheel-and-tire combination consisted of 15x7-inch steel wheels with baby moon hubcaps and G60-15 bias-ply tires. Options included Deluxe wheel covers, 15x7-inch Rally II wheels, or Honeycombs.

All-New Styling

The '73 GTO shared its basic body with its GM intermediate siblings. A new Colonnade body design, which used pillarless doors with sturdy B-pillars, was a new design convention that quickly took hold throughout the industry. It gave the sporty styling of a pillarless hardtop door design with the protection of a pillared roof. In fact, the Colonnade body design allowed for a much stronger roof section, one that could more effectively resist crushing in the event of a rollover. With improved side-impact beams in the doors and beefier main framerails, the '73 GTO and its LeMans parent series were much more capable of protecting occupants than the previous generation's offerings.

Up front, a large and rather imposing chrome front bumper—something that had not been seen since '67—highlighted the '73 GTO's styling. It was mounted on a pair of energy absorbers and housed the turn signals at the front corners.

A new dual headlamp arrangement set in squared-off bezels replaced the quad headlamps seen before, and a pair of rectangular grille openings housed blacked-out vertical plastic mesh inserts, which were exclusive to the GTO. A prominent nose beak flowed back into a large ironing-board contour on the hood, which also featured a pair of NACA scoops. These scoops were intended to be part of a factory Ram Air system, but ended up being non-functional, save for a handful that managed to get out through the parts network.

The body sides were perhaps the most interesting features of the new-generation GTO. Bladed front-fender contours flowed back into the middle of the door, while a similar contour was used for the rear quarter-panels; the trailing edge providing the flattened shape of the rear deck, which used single, rectangular taillamps and a large, jutting chrome rear bumper with energy absorbers. Combined with a semi-fastback roofline, the look was unlike any Pontiac that came before it.

The '73 GTO was a $368 option for LeMans two-doors and could be had in two body styles, the only real differences being the shape of the quarter windows. The first was the lower-level Colonnade coupe, which featured a large, open triangular-shaped rear quarter glass. It fit in the model lineup in the same way as the LeMans pillared coupe.

The second available body style was the Colonnade Sport Coupe, which featured the sportier louvered rear-quarter window. It gave the GTO an aggressive appearance, but came at the expense of visibility, as the glass opening was significantly smaller and created blind spots.