This car does what so many others only talk about—it really does combine brute, blasting performance with balance and stability of a superior nature. The managing editor, for instance, was cruising through a pitch black Florida night on a road that skirted the Atlantic. He was traveling at about ninety when he got into a series of ess-bends marked for 45 mph—he found himself going in at about 75 and coming out at 100, so he choose 95 as a comfortable median and negotiated the entire series, including bumps, camber changes and nasty, narrow little bridges without ever touching the brakes or changing the position of his hands on the steering wheel. The car does not handle particularly well in a 35-mph right-angle turn because of its large size, but as the speed rises the quality of the handling goes up by the square.

Charlie Kolb helped us wring the cars out at Daytona and he liked them so well that he wanted us to promote a team of them for the 2000-kilometer Daytona Continental race in February. Lapping the track at Daytona with Kolb driving was quite interesting because we were able to sit back and, examine the car’s behavior under really extreme conditions. It was totally forgiving, and always stayed pointed. Its handling starts as understeer at very low speeds, becomes neutral at moderately fast speeds, and gradually—quite pleasantly in fact—becomes oversteer when pressed to its limit. Two staff members managed to spin the car in the same 80-mph corner, and both times the tail came out, stayed out, and led the way off the road. It is, incidentally, a very pleasant car to go off the road in, provided you don’t catch a finger in the whirling spokes of the steering wheel.

Obviously, the GTO as we drove it, without the $16.82 heavy-duty suspension option, is not suitable for road racing. It rolls too much and the steering, even with the 20 to 1 ratio manual installed, is too slow. But what a road car! The metallic brake linings pulled the car down from speeds as high as 120-125 over and over again without grabbing or pulling one way or the other. The car would vibrate viciously on the rough banking at 125 mph, but never showed an indication that the suspension was being overtaxed. We used Goodyear Blue Streak Stock Car Specials (7.10-7.60 x 15 rear, 6.70 x 15 front) for the road circuit and the tri-oval but found them absolutely unable to handle the wheelspin on the acceleration runs.

We didn’t like the U.S. Royal Red Line tires on a car this powerful. We would like to have had Dunlop SP’s. We prefer belted tires in all high speed cruising situations, and we feel that a tire like the SP, which has proved in rallying that it can hold up and give maximum stability under the wildest power-input and wheelspin conditions, would be just right. An interesting sideline here is that we got more miles per hour in the quarter mile with the Red Lines, while we got better elapsed times with huge drag racing slicks. The times quoted in our data panel were obtained with the standard tires and are spectacular enough, but when we ran the slicks we got down as low as 12.8 seconds at 112 mph. Now that’s 1 what we’d call pretty fair acceleration. It was only ten years ago that we were all pretty impressed when a Cadillac Allard cut a 15-second quarter at the Santa Ana Drag Strip. A production Cobra won’t go that fast.

So, in winding this up, how do we classify this car relative to other GT cars, and particularly to the car from which it stole its name? The Ferrari GTO is a racing car that costs upwards of $20,000 dollars new. Therefore we are not surprised that it will go around a road racing circuit several seconds faster than our Tempest GTO. What does surprise us is that we found the Tempest GTO a better car, in some respects, than most current production Ferraris. It is not as refined, the quality of the materials and the workmanship is not as good, it feels bigger, and it is bigger, but cars are to drive, and when you drive a Tempest GTO with the right options on it, you’re driving a real automobile. Can Pontiac help it if they’re too dumb to know that a car can’t go fast without a prancing horse decal on the side?

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