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This 455 H.O.-Powered, Original-Owner '72 GTO is 1 of 7
By Thomas A. DeMauro High Performance Pontiac

Imagine for a moment that you could walk into a Pontiac dealership in late 1971 and order the exact '72 GTO that you desired--a 455 H.O. in a post coupe with A/C, automatic trans, and special-order Starlight Black paint. It boggles the mind, doesn't it? Well, not for Henry Ray "Terry" Pope and his wife, Barbara, it doesn't. Because that is exactly what this Clarion, Pennsylvania, couple did in September 1971 when they sat down at Mills Oldsmobile Pontiac in Clarion to place their order. Suggested retail was $5,099.74 once a whopping $2,252.74 in options was added in (See "Car Shipping Record"), but the out-the-door price was $4,038.10. Gee, how much do you think it's worth now?

If that doesn't make them a special breed of Pontiac hobbyists, then perhaps the fact that they still own this GTO 34 years later and it's still in about 95-percent factory original condition will be enough to convince you.

Terry and Barbara Pope's '72 455 H.O. post coupe GTO sports
special-order Starlight Black paint. Evidence of an early build
date is that the optional 15x7 Honeycomb wheels have unadorned
center caps like '71 wheels. A red arrowhead was added in 1972.
The tires are not original, but they are vintage.

Then there is the rarity factor. Pontiac assembled 134 post coupe GTOs in 1972 of the 5,807 total GTO production that year. Just 7 were built with the 455 H.O. and the automatic trans like Terry's (3--455 H.O. with manual trans, 5--455 D-port with automatic trans, 59--400 with manual trans, and 60--400 with automatic trans). Sure, there are two combos more rare than the Pope's, but when you consider they paid $115.85 for W51 special paint, choosing Starlight Black, how many GTOs like theirs do you think were built for 1972?

Terry blows out the cobwebs, proving the H.O.
can still toast the tires and get up and go.

While you may believe this was the Pope's first collectible Pontiac, it's actually more like the latest. "I first became interested in Pontiacs at age 14 when my dad bought a Sunset Glow '59 Bonneville convertible," Terry says. It was the first Pontiac he would drive--and drag race. Next, his dad bought a '64 GTO with a four-speed. Terry inherited the Goat in 1966; he and Barbara drove it for years. Then it was stored with 46,000 miles on it to purchase the '72. The Popes still own the '64 as well. Do you see a pattern developing here?

The 455 H.O. four-bolt main block wears code YB,
and 7F6 round port heads with 2.11/1.77 swirl polished
and tulipped valves. A tried-and-true 068 cam features
288/302 degrees duration and 0.414/0.413 lift with 1.50:1 rockers. Streamlined cast-iron exhaust manifolds (No. 478141 left and
No. 9799721 right) usher away spent gasses. Note the heat
shroud on the exhaust manifold and the tube to the air cleaner
were removed by the owner back in the day.

"The '72 GTO was ordered as a result of our continuing love of Pontiacs, tempered by our experiences with the '64 GTO," Terry says. "In fairness to my wife, who had been shifting gears and chirping the tires for years, there was no doubt our family car was to be an automatic. Furthermore, quarter-mile times were no longer as important as A/C and a bench seat up front to better accommodate a family of three.

"It was for these reasons and due to the fact that I liked understated cars that I ordered the GTO the way I did," Terry says. "I also preferred the coupe doors with the frames because the windows sealed better and the doors felt sturdier when you closed them. In fact, the only thing I didn't like was that the body-colored mirrors came with the WW5 option. In my opinion, those mirrors looked tacky, and I preferred only one chrome rearview mirror, on the driver's side, which I believed would complement the stainless window trim." The dealer promised the GTO would be built with the single chrome mirror on the driver's side.

The WW5 option was no lightweight. It included the 455 H.O. engine, ram air, a Unitized ignition, a choice of a Turbo 400 or an M22 trans, a Formula wheel, power disc brakes, Rally gauges with tach, a Safe-T-Track rear, and a host of handling upgrades that could turn any '72 GTO into one of the quickest and best handling on the road. There were a few appearance items as well (See Car Shipping Record). It was possibly the most complete performance package Pontiac ever offered.

This engine received ram air as part of the WW5 package.
Notice the factory runs on the firewall.

Option selection didn't end there, however. You would think that Terry knew how much this GTO would be worth someday by the way he chose popular options, yet he ordered them on a base model to create a dichotomous yet unique musclecar. A post coupe is a low-priced model, yet it would get the best drivetrain and suspension available thanks to UPC WW5. It would also receive A/C, Honeycomb wheels, and extra-cost bright moldings. But then you look inside and it has a bench seat and column shift--back to low cost. But wait, the B50 cushion foam front seats are an upgrade from standard. As you can see, the Popes had ordered one of the most interesting GTOs ever to be built, but they hadn't seen it yet. And the story gets better.

Upon dealer delivery, the Starlight Black special-order paint GTO arrives with a white Endura nose. "It was as much a surprise to the dealer as it was to us," Terry says. "We learned that Pontiac 'lacked the ability' to paint the Endura nose to match the special order paint." So the dealer painted it prior to delivery. This was the only factory anomaly Terry can recall on the GTO. He found no factory defects, and states that the Pontiac never went back to the dealer for any repair work since he has owned it.

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