The 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO has been the focus of much scrutiny over the past few years. Traditionalists considered the car "unpure" and accused it of not living up to the legendary GTO name. Meanwhile, modern armchair auto "experts" quickly dismissed the car as a plain-looking, uninspiring performance coupe. Well, it's time that these cars received some well-deserved praise, so we at GMHTP will now stand up and defend the neo-GTO. This may offend some of you die-hard Tin Indian fans, but let's face it-this is the best Pontiac that Pontiac never built.

With the GTO's rip-snorting LS1 (and later, LS2) powerplant, fully capable four-wheel independent suspension, and lavish leather-lined interior, we can't think of any other GM-branded car of late that is as nicely polished as the down-under Holden Monaro from which the GTO is based. One look underneath and it's apparent that Holden (aka GM of Australia) went with a European approach for precision engineering, resulting in a car that handles and stops as well as it goes.

But as good as this car was, Pontiac had a tough time selling them. On paper, it seemed like a great idea, but the PMD boys were looking sales disappointments in the face, as only 30,000 units were sold during the GTO's short three-year lifespan. Luckily for us GM fans, these low quantities make the GTO a rather uncommon find today, and they are the best-kept secret since the '64 model. So what if it looks like a '90s Jellybean? It'll trounce just about anything in the lane next to it-and, in our opinion, look handsome doing it.

GT OwnershipThe best way to experience a GTO is to own one, so we found one we wanted from an original owner in arrest-me Torrid Red with just 21,000 miles on the clock. Equipped with a sumptuous black leather interior and the desirable 4L65E automatic transmission, our LS2-powered Holden, er, Pontiac, made itself at home in our garage. Considering that no other GM car can give you such bang for the LS2 buck, it's a logical and cost-effective choice until the new Camaros go on sale.

The first order of business was to improve the GTO's appearance with subtle and noticeable aesthetic enhancements. For the front, we found a factory Torrid Red Sport Appearance Package (SAP) front spoiler. Pontiac dealers no longer stock these parts and the market has adjusted accordingly, so it cost us an arm and a leg. As a matter of fact, we paid $630 for it, which is nearly double of what it was when new. To match the front spoiler, we also popped in a set of funky-fresh SAP front grilles, which drained our wallets yet another $500. As expected, these discontinued OEM parts will remain pricey, even as cheaper aftermarket copies are being introduced to market. Remember, you get what you pay for.