Why Is a GTO Called a Goat?

by Cynthia Clark

The Pontiac GTO was introduced in 1964 as the optional GTO performance package for the Pontiac Tempest and quickly became popular as a supercar, or what is now known as a muscle car. Often called the "Grandfather of Muscle Cars," the GTO has also been referred to as "The Legend" and "The Great One." However, it is the unlikely name "The Goat" that gained popularity and remains common for the classic GTOs.

GTO Name

John DeLorean is credited with taking the acronym GTO from the Ferrari 250 GTO. It stands for Gran Turismo Omolgato, describing a car suitable for racing in multiple events. Edmunds notes that “the Ferraristi were up in arms about an American carmaker giving a midsize coupe with no pedigree the same name as their legendary sports car.” Arrogance is cited as the reason the name remained on the Pontiac in spite of protests.

Single Syllables

As with other cars, Americans have a tendency to reduce the names to a single syllable word. A Corvette becomes a 'vettte, and the Mustang a 'stang. The Barracuda was reduced to 'cuda, eventually influencing Plymouth to refer to the performance models as 'Cuda by 1968. Goat became the single-syllable name for the Pontiac GTO. The original source for using Goat is unknown, as it quickly caught on. A number of sources attribute the name to a reversal of the last two letters in the GTO acronym (GOT) with a long vowel sound applied to the "O."

American Attitude

A reason the name caught on so well is credited to an American attitude that strikes fiercely independent chords against what was an European name. Edmunds notes that, “the original Pontiac GTO was nicknamed 'the Goat' as much for its defiant, stripped-to-the-basics personality as for the letters in its name.”

Power References

A casual practice of automotive subcultures is to relate personality traits to vehicles, which may or may not be related to the acronyms of the automobile's name. In keeping with ''The Goat," and because the animal is known for eating anything, the Pontiac GTO is attributed to "eat anything on the street" as a reference to its power and ability to beat other cars when racing. The acronym for GOAT has been turned into "Gas Oil And Tire” burner, which is both complimentary and derogatory. Those who had a GTO probably spent time and money purposely burning the three resources, while those who did not have the privilege pitch the phrase as sour grapes.

Pontiac's Tiger

In 1965, Pontiac teamed up with U.S. Royal's new line of Tiger Paw Tires for joint advertising and an exclusive line of tires only available on the new model GTOs. Reusing tiger-themed advertising, Aaron Severson of AteUpWithMotor recalls that Pontiac created the "GeeTO Tiger" as a nickname planned to continue marketing the GTO as the Tiger. “Despite Pontiac's heavy promotion of the tiger theme,” the public's affection for "The Goat" dominated but failed to “amuse GM senior management in the slightest.” TopSpeed notes that "The Goat" had a strong public footing by 1966. Pontiac never used the name in advertising as any plans had been “vetoed by upper management, which was dismayed by its irreverent tone.”

About the Author

Cynthia Clark began writing professionally in 2004. Her work experience includes all areas of small-business development, real-estate investments, home remodeling and Web development. Clark is skilled in a number of design disciplines from digital graphics to interior design. Her diverse background and commonsense problem-solving skills allow her to tackle a variety of topics as an online writer.

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