Why Did it Fail?

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The original 1964 Pontiac GTO was a huge success. Pontiac’s attempt to bring the GTO back in 2003 was a massive fail.

Why? How could the same car not succeed, again?

Well, because it wasn’t the same car!

More to the point, it wasn’t really a Pontiac, either. Those stopped being made decades before the decision was made to put a “Pontiac” badge on an Australian-market Holden Monaro coupe powered by a Chevy V8 and call it a “GTO.”

And that’s what it was – and that’s why it failed.

Even though in many ways the last “GTO” was a better performance car than any of its namesake ancestors. It was quicker through the quarter-mile (13.8 seconds vs. 14.8 for the original 1964 model) and boasted a supercar’s top speed – 160 MPH – which it could reach due to its more favorable gearing and much more favorable aerodynamics.

But it wasn’t a GTO.

In the first place, because it lacked a Pontiac engine.

The original 1964 GTO did not have a Chevy engine. It was powered by a Pontiac 389 V8, which gave people a reason to favor it over a Chevy. Not that there’s anything wrong with Chevy V8s. Far from it. In many ways, they are admittedly superior – as for example being more compact and lighter, the latter benefitting both straight-line performance and handling. But those attributes are objectives and – sometimes – subjectives trump objectives.

Especially when emotions are involved.

Pontiac V8s were, first of all, Pontiac V8s. They were different than Chevy V8s. People liked them for that reason, the same reason some men prefer blondes and others, brunettes. Neither is necessarily “better” but they are different.

And that’s important.

The Pontiac V8 was also bigger – physically – than the Chevy, which came in both small and big block iterations. Even the “small” Pontiac V8s – the 326s and 350s – were dimensionally as large as the biggest 421, 428 and 455 Pontiacs. They looked more impressive when you popped the hood – a subjective that matters to people who are emotional about cars.

The 1964 GTO’s standard 389 cubic inch V8 – 6.5 liters in the androgynous engine terminology of the modern era – was bigger than most engines of its time and much bigger than the 2003 GTO’s 350 cubic inch – 5.7 liter – V8. Even though the two offered roughly the same advertised horsepower – 348 for the ’64 389 vs. 350 for the ’03 350 – and even though the ’03’s 350 horsepower was more real (rear-wheel) horsepower than the ’64’s optimistically rated SAE “gross” horsepower – a fact made clear by the modern GTO’s better numbers, 0-60 and through the quarter mile.

Nevertheless, the ’64 GTO remains beloved to this day and highly collectible – while the ’03 GTO is largely forgotten.

Three-eighty-nine has a certain ring to it that 5.7 liters doesn’t. The Beach Boys wrote a song about it. We’ve lost something important, arguably, via the adoption by American car companies of the metric  system. Something different. Something American – vs. European and the rest of them. Not – again – that there’s anything necessarily wrong with the rest of them or the metic system.

The point is that – once upon a time – American cars weren’t the same as the rest of them.

You could also get the original GTO with three deuces to go with that three eighty-nine. That’s affectionate slang for three Rochester two barrel carbs, which was a very Pontiac thing. The ’03 GTO’s 5.7 350 had the same port fuel injection system that the same 5.7 V8 was fed by in the Corvette, which was powered by the same 5.7 V8.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, objectively speaking. But that’s just the point. Or rather, the point missed. A Pontiac without a Pontiac engine is like Van Halen without David Lee Roth. Not that there’s anything wrong with Sammy Hagar, either.

Of course, it was about more than just what was under the hood. The early GTOs looked like GTOs. They were more than just good-looking cars – almost everyone agrees with this. They looked like Pontiacs. Anyone could tell, at a glance, that what they were looking at was just that.

The last GTO had “GTO” badges.

It wasn’t an unattractive car. But it wasn’t a magnetic car, as all of the early GTOs were. When one of the latter pulls into a parking lot, everyone notices.It can’t be helped. These cars make you look at them. When a 2003-2006 GTO pulls into the parking lot, no one notices.

Because what’s to notice?

The final fatal flaw that doomed the attempt to bring back the GTO and – so, it was hoped – keep Pontiac going – was the last GTO’s price, which was $34,000 in 2003 dollars. That works out to $56,675 in “inflation adjusted” 2023 dollars. As compared with the 1964s GTO’s $3,371 base price, which works out to $19,858 in 2003 dollars.

Granted, that didn’t buy you (in 1964) a GTO with AC, power windows and – all of which the 2003-2006 GTOs came standard with.

But it did buy you a GTO.

And – equally important – the people most interested in cars like that (young guys) could afford to buy one, back in 1964. It was mostly only older guys who could afford a 2003-2006 GTO – and by the time you got old enough to afford a car like that, you’d lost interest in cars like that.

Especially if it wasn’t an interesting car.

And that’s why “Pontiac” only sold about 10,000 more “GTOs” (40,757 total) over three years of production than Pontiac sold GTOs (32,450 of them) in 1964 alone.

John DeLorean knew why.

The people who thought they could sell a “GTO” that wasn’t even a Pontiac, didn’t.

. . .

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  1. I have 2 experiences in relation to this article

    1 I’ve been at the GM PG for 30 + years now. During development I saw a few of those GTO’s running around with a much more aggressive looking hood and fascia. Lots of us were dismayed that someone “up the ladder” killed that and they came up with what you see here.

    2 When it came out I asked a family member who spent (and still does)- big coin on new muscle cars about it. He loved the performance numbers but told me “I’m not spending that kind of money on a car that looks like a Cavalier!” lol

  2. Eric, the last gen Pontiac “GTO” (Holden Monaro VZ chassis/body) was the effective equivalent of the Holden Manaro HSV GTO / GTS. They were actually only produced for model years 2004-2006. 2004 got the LS1, 2005-06 got the LS2. I have a 2006 with T-56 and factory 18″ wheels, it’s really a pretty nice ride once you upgrade the suspension and the drivetrain aft of the transmission. I like the fact that it’s a Holden made in Australia, gives it some novelty. It makes it easier to get glanced over, and people don’t know what it is, or what it’s capabilities are.

    • Hi Forced,

      Yup! I test drove them when they were new. Great performers and enjoyable to drive. But they lacked the stage presence of early GTOs and weren’t really Pontiacs, either. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Holden (or Chevy). Far from it. I’m just making the distinction is all.

      • Eric,

        Bingo on the great performer/driver/powerful engine for the Oz GTO.

        I’m lucky enough to have had one, the big reason I bought it was the “performance to cost” ratio.

        I was going to buy a used corvette, about $24K, but the reason I chose a GTO was the price difference was literally 50 to 66% off to buy the GTO ($8K, the one I bought), plus the extra 2 seats, and a much more sleeper appearance than a Vette.

        John DeLorean had it right with the cost/performance ratio, in the original GTO. Too bad the bean-counter version of GM screwed the pooch on the second go-round for the GTO.

        Oh well, the used market has a lot of economical and powerful choices…of all sorts of vehicles.

  3. My brother had a real GTO, a ‘67 400 four speed, gold/black vinyl roof, factory 8 track, wood steering wheel with rivets. He bought it used in ‘68, what a gorgeous car. Everyone in the family loved that car. Somehow dad finagled it for a day and he and I went joy riding windows down dad smoking his favorite unfiltered Camels. He loved the power and smoked the car next to us launching from a light into a tight 2 into 1 lane merge.

    I got to drive it home one night, 13 years old, about ten blocks. My brother and his buddies decided to ditch me after playing pool and didn’t want to bother taking me home. “Here’s the keys, you’ll be fine hopefully mom & dad will be asleep!”

    • Great memories, Sparkey!

      I still have some myself – out in the garage. My ’76 TA wears the same Carousel Red paint as the ’69 Judge did. And it has much the same vibe, too. Pontiac used to be something. And then the government killed it. With GM’s help.

  4. It’s “Essence”, Eric.

    Without Duane and Dickie Betts it’s not the Allman Brothers, sorry Greg you can’t do it alone. A VW Beetle is rear engined, not FWD. Leather without the cow isn’t leather.

    And so it goes. Our era only poses. Reality is what any tranny says it is.

    The end is nigh.

  5. Bean-counting accountants ruined cars. They arrived about the same time as the regulators like Ralph Nadar (who doesn’t drive). It was the perfect storm. When everyone was enjoying cars in the 1960’s these two forces combined to pull the rug out from under it. Nobody saw those cracks appearing, the party was going to last and the 1970’s would be even better……

    Only it wasn’t……

    GM could have split up to preserve the individual brands, to resist the regulators, but they didn’t. Nope they let the accountants decide you didn’t need all those different engines. They are all V8’s right? As Eric points out, they weren’t the same. Now they are.

    There is no real way to individualize anymore with bean-counting and regulators.

    • That’s absolutely correct. I used to think that Nader helped make cars safter. When I’ve seen it’s logical conclusion take formation over the last 15 years, I yield nothing to that bastard. I would rather deal with the largely shit handling behemoths that were there in the 1960’s than the crap we are faced with today.

      That includes emissions regulations. I really could give a fuck less about them. I was around in the 1970’s. The air pollution was pretty thick in some spots, but it was tolerable compared to the overall environment today. Our roads are congested, our cars are outsized, ugly as hell, and things just absolutely suck.

      I want to go back to 1969.

      • Amen, Swamp!

        I owned a ’64 Corvair incidentally. Nader was a preening jerk as well as an ignoramus. That car was superior to the VW Beetle (which I have also owned) in every way, as a car. Yet he never attacked the Beetle – which was laid out very similarly. The Corvair’s only “defect”was the person behind the wheel – if he failed to heed the inflation pressure recommendations and drove the car like an idiot.

        • My dad had a 1963 model. I want to acquire a 60-64 model before they become extinct or overpriced. I would love to actually press one into daily use just to stick out. I doubt 1 in 50 people know who Nader is and what the Corvair represents. I like the early models better than the 65 and after. They just had more of that I don’t give a fuck Old Man style.

          • I miss mine!

            Idiot that I am, I sold my ’64 Monza coupe in ’03 – after I’d put a lot of work into it, including a complete NOS interior (white parchment) and a nice Daytona Blue paint job, among other things.

            Much as I love old VWs, the ‘Vair had power enough to easily cruise at 70, had working heat and was much more comfortable and spacious.

            The only thing about it that was a PITA were the thermostatically controlled air doors for the cooling system. You had to watch them…

            • The day I sold my Monza Turbo Spyder was one of the happiest of my life. Granted, it looked good outside, with great interior design. And it handled amazingly well.

              But it had all the reliability and quality of a Yugo, was disgracefully slow, and went through oil and tires like Stevie Nicks went through blow.

              • Hi Mike,

                I’ve heard the turbo cars were bad; I think that’s generally true of carbureted turbo’d cars. My Monza had the twin-carb 110 hp engine and it was a fun little runabout; very much like a Beetle but with much more power (especially on the highway) and a far better ride. Plus the heating system worked much better!

        • Nader is one of the major figures that laid the groundwork for creating an uninhabitable shithole for sure. By screwing with the tire pressure issue and putting it on manufactuers, he absolved people of individual responsibility for their well being. He is a contemptible asshole. Incidentally, I met him in 2000.

  6. It think it was the high price and bland styling that really did it in. Not so sure if a Pontiac designed motor could have helped. After all, the the 80s Firebird/TransAm sold very well with Chevy 305s and 350s.

    I believe the last Pontiac motor was the wretched 301. After 1980, and with the exception of the Fiero (which was very interesting) and the Solstice (although this was also a Saturn Sky, which had better styling), GM relegated Pontiac solely to badge engineering for economies of scale. The plan worked until it expended all of the brand cachet is earned over the previous 20 years. Ultimately, this doomed Pontiac. I give ’em credit for at least trying with the GTO though.

    Speaking of interesting vehicles with old names, there seems to be a buzz about Toyota bringing a small pick-up back to the US market under the “Stout” name for under $25k.

    • A Toyota pickup based on the TNGA (think Camry/Highlander/RAV4) at that price point would sell well right now, especially if they give it a non-hybrid, non-turbo option with the 2.5 L 4-cyl engine going into the platform.

      Ford doesn’t seem interested in producing enough Mavericks to meet demand, and I only see “garage queen” trim levels in the examples on the streets here in Austin.

      • I don’t understand why anyone would want a Maverick. It’s Front Wheel Drive. I only drive FWD cars because they are common and affordable. I only drive Honda products because of their parts interchangeability and their ubiquity. If i had my perferences, their products would all be rwd. I don’t see how anyone would be interested in a fwd truck.

    • Of course, a small Toyota pickup priced under $25k and delivered at that price point would be a threat to the agenda, specifically the Cybertruck/F150 Lightning sales. We’ll see if it is allowed to happen.

    • “ last Pontiac motor was the wretched 301 “

      Hey don’t be raggin’ on ‘Old Yeller’ my beloved ‘79 Gran Prix! Pale yellow with tan interior, quiet, comfortable and 255k nearly carefree miles on the smoothest v8 ever made, that Pontiac 301! Yes many were toast at 85k due to morons using the wrong oil (10w40 in a 10w30 motor, enjoy your wiped cam and gummed up rings).

      Adding to the excitement was that motor was mated with the GM Turbo 200 “metric” 3 speed auto transmission, that I will agree was the worst trans GM ever produced. Fortunately mine had been rebuilt and all I did was fix the governor to get the shift points down and then keep the fluid changed. It also made it to 255k until it ralphed its guts on the way home and died in a puddle of trans fluid in my driveway. The a/c wouldn’t hold a charge that week plus the trunk rust, Old Yeller was done.

      • Hi Sparkery,

        The Pontiac 301 gets a lot of unfair abuse. It could have been much more than it was – as the 3.8 liter Buick V6 became. At first, the latter wasn’t much, either. But by the mid-1980s, in GN and GNX iterations (also in the ’89 TA) it was one of the strongest engines available and very reliable, too.

        The ’82 TA was supposed to have gotten the 301 (turbo). Hence the off-center hood scoop. But GM killed the 301 V8, so it was never refined/developed as the 3.8 Buick V6 was.

        1980-81 turbo TA 301 was gimped by a turbo originally designed for a four cylinder engine that did not produce much boost and blow-through/carbureted induction as well as a crappy factory exhaust. Even so, it made a respectable for the time 200 hp and (IIRC) 345 ft.-lbs. of torque. Lot of potential there…

        There are people building 301s;TTA Performance is one of them; see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1lHoSLPgzA

  7. 24 time zones, 15 degrees between each one, can’t really use the metric system there. The earth does not play by all of the rules.

    The speed of light defies the metric system. You can use time to measure astronomical distances.

    60 seconds later and it’s all gone.

    The plans to build an engine are all drawn on paper first.

    Cars are cool, cooler than Ralph Nader will ever know or be.

    Ralph mahes me ralph. Harrumph!

    A carpenter’s rafter square is the original slide rule.

    One inch is 2.54 centimeters.

    1/10th inch is .254 centimeters or 2.54 millimeters.

    A 12 mm wrench is almost a half inch wrench. Metrics in wrenches do work quite well.

    1/100th of an inch is .254 millimeters.

    1/100th of an inch is shorter than a millimeter.

    The hundredths scale on a rafter square is there to aid in large layouts of very large building projects. 1/100th of an inch can be one foot in length, five inches will be 500 feet.

    At the drafting table, drawings made to scale will be inches to feet, will remain that way.

    One liter of water will weigh 1000 grams, a kilogram.

    One meter of cubic volume will be 1000 liters and will weigh a metric ton. Metric volumes are good for calculating. Precision scientific scales to weigh reagent grade chemicals will use metric weights to measure how much. To the 1/10,000ths of a gram.

    A bushel is 32 quarts. 32 degrees F is freezing temp for water. 32 ounces to a quart. 32 inches for a door or window is aesthetically pleasing, the view and look you want to see.

    British standard weights and measures are used for a reason and they work purdy darn good.

  8. My guess is that if car companies revived older models, built pretty much the same as the originals, with the minimum safety features and with modern engines, probably would sell a few hundred thousand. not legal of course. nothing is legal anymore.

  9. So, the Chevy SS was also a Holden car, but it had the 6.2L Corvette engine and 5sp manual for some years, yes? Maybe *that* could have been the GTO. Did it come out later? The Chevy SS is the ultimate sleeper car! Too bad the rear seats dont fold down for a trunk pass thru! How hard is that to do, tho? (Daydreaming @ Chevy SS)

  10. Creativity at GM in 2003 was still light years beyond where they are right now, and the trucks were in that sweet spot of automotive technology in the early 2000s which means that many are still on the road.

    • Which means under the current regimen they will stay on the road, cause the electrics don’t have the staying power.

    • In Car Guys and Bean Counters former GM exec Bob Lutz talks a lot about the GTO and the end of Pontiac. According to him, the GTO was supposed to be much cheaper but factors outside the company’s control drove up the price. On styling Lutz says that the car was supposed to be released a few years earlier when the styling was more new/hip. He also decried that the styling had been toned down before release. He also wished Pontiac had been saved. It’s a very interesting book about Lutz and pre bankruptcy GM.

      • Hi A,

        I met Lutz at a press event years ago; it seems a lifetime ago – when men who liked cars ran car companies. As opposed to what we have now.

  11. We don’t know who makes anything anymore. Badges are for sale. I blame Sears for starting it with their “Kenmore” appliances. Kenmore has never made any thing.

  12. I once owned a 2004 Grand Am GT. This had the 3.4L V6 that was in everything at the time. It looked sporty, but was a real dog. And there was the oversteer. I never could pick a line in a turn because there was about a 30% chance the car would actually go where you pointed it. But it felt like there was potential. It was fairly light, had a big enough engine and the “ram air” intake felt like some bolt-on performance was possible. I often dreamt of upgrading the suspension and installing a turbo, then adding a letter O to the end of the GT badge. After all, the GTO started out as an econobox Tempest, so why not make the Grand Am a 90’s equivalent?

    But then something else would break and it would be back in the shop again. Then the clearcoat started to peel off. The last straw was the head gasket actually disintegrated because of the Dexcool coolant. What a POS!

    • I had a 2003 Pontiac Grand AM. It was the worst car I ever owned, and got rid of it for my old, WRX (which I still have, original clutch replaced at 219K), now has 254K on the engine. I started having problems with it at 50,000 miles, which thankfully, the extended warranty paid for all the problems I started having with it. Thank God I paid that thing off early, and dumped it. That is, traded it in for the WRX. It was a nice looking car, but that is about the only thing good I could say about it.

  13. If they would have based it on the Holden Commodore it may have made it. The Zeta platform was really good and I think started around that timeframe.

    • Those do look pretty cool! I had never heard of Holden before. I just did a tour of the Wikipedia page which has a large number of models in pictures. I would have loved to have several of those Holden Wagons. The Executive, Sportswagen, Acclaim, etc. Those look really nice!

      • Agree XM, we actually got it for a few years in the Chevy SS, but no one knew about it. Lucky if a dealer had one. I test drove one to buy one, but it’s suspension was too stiff for me. I think they even made a mag-shock suspension version but I never could find one to drive.
        I really wanted the longer wheelbase version the cops were allowed to buy, but it never became a consumer chevy. I bought a 300 V8 instead and enjoyed it a lot.

        • Mag-Ride suspension was available in the Chevrolet SS sedan from 2015-on.

          The longer wheelbase version was the Caprice PPV. Search the auctions for them, you might find one.

        • ChrisIN,

          Small world. I’ve always wanted both a Chevy SS and a Caprice PPV- oh and a G8. I love these cars! I wish more automakers made cars like them! Sadly none of these are in the budget right now.
          I too once owned a Chrysler 300 with a v8- what an amazing car that was! Horrible as it sounds to say, I still miss the heated and cooled cup holders- don’t knock it till you try it 🙂

  14. For the same reason the last generation Monte Carlo was just a bloated redecorated Lumina, and why the majority of drivers of those cars are fat, ugly, methhead, NASCAR fans. They are all just “wannabees” of an age that was more than just “badge engineering”.

  15. ‘When a 2003-2006 GTO pulls into the parking lot, no one notices.’ — eric

    Indeed — it’s a bland, anonymous, apologetic coupe, indistinguishable from a dozen other econoboxes on offer at the time, and evidently sorry for imposing its nondescript presence on our goodselves.

    Whereas the orange 1969 (?) GTO in the penultimate photo exudes strength, aggression, and testosterone. It was the muscle-car equivalent of today’s mean-faced, absurdly tall, semi-cab wannabe pickups, which sell like hotcakes even to people who have to scrabble up into them like a bonobo climbing a banana tree.

    Distinctive design sells, even in the case of codpiece-substitute contemporary pickups. Pity the poor 2003 GTO: it had no mojo at all. John Z DeLorean never would have signed off on that wallflower p.o.s.

    Want a lesson in distinctive design, search “Nudie Pontiac.” GM actually gave Nudie Cohn, of Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors in Hollywood, 17 vehicles in 17 years to work his outrageous magic. This white Pontiac Bonneville, with an interior of tooled leather and silver dollars, Nudie made for his friend Roy Rogers:


  16. And it wasn’t just the GTO. From about the mid seventies forward, every Pontiac car was really a Chevy with slightly different front and rear lights. A Ventura was a Nova, the Bonneville was a Caprice Classic, T 100/Chevette, Grand Am/Monte Carlo, etc. The Fiero and Aztec were probably the only unique looking Pontiacs, and I’m sure they were still made from Chevy parts. Same with Buick and Oldsmobile. Just a Chevy with a little more chrome. Even the options and equipment didn’t differentiate any of them. I had a Caprice Classic in 85 that had every option you could imagine, as nice as any Cadillac. Why pay more for the Cadillac? Unlike the 60’s when you couldn’t get many options on a Chevy. You want power windows? You’ll have to move up to Pontiac or Oldsmobile. Want leather and auto climate control? Go see the Caddy dealer. You would climb the GM corporate ladder as you built wealth because the cars were actually different. By 1980 or so, they were all the same thing. Ford/Lincoln/Mercury and Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth followed the same business model.

  17. “389 cubic inch V8 – 6.5 liters in the androgynous engine terminology of the modern era ”

    I loathe the metric system. No nation ever accepted it voluntarily; it was foisted upon the masses by the elites of the day.

    • ‘I loathe the metric system.’ — Mike

      English units are meaningfully naturalistic: an inch corresponding to the distal phalange of the thumb; the foot to the human foot; the yard to a centurion’s pace.

      Whereas in 1791, the French National Assembly accepted a definition of “meter” as one ten-millionth of the length of a quadrant of the Paris meridian: a geometric abstraction of no relevance in daily life.

      Wild-eyed Jacobins mandated the metric system, as the ‘national razor’ chopped off the heads of any who resisted. They also imposed a revolutionary ten-day week: primidi (first day), duodi (second day), tridi (third day), quartidi (fourth day etc.), quintidi, sextidi, septidi, octidi, nonidi and décadi. Months were three weeks long.

      Their butchered calendar didn’t stick. But the rest of their abstract, powers of ten obsessed scheme still insidiously advances. Liters are for losers.

      • Once upon a time, I had an instructor claim the metric system was more accurate than SAE. I called bullshit. Accuracy is completely dependent upon decimal points, period. Regardless of the unit of measure. A mile is just as accurate as a millimeter.
        He was a local high school shop teacher, called in to the mill I worked at to “educate” us. In other words, he had never done an honest days work in his life.

        • John Kable: “In other words, he had never done an honest days work in his life.”

          Obviously the clown had never heard of a machinists rule or the fact that precision parts like helicopter rotor bearings and jet engines are machined within hundreds of thousandths of an inch. Metric is a gay system for gay countries.

          • ‘Metric is a gay system for gay countries.’ — Sicilianswitchblade

            It’s telling that the UK itself — which invented English units — along with Canada, Australia and NZ, went fully metric.

            That’s what socialism does to your brain. Then you transition to a different gender, selected from an ample menu.

            “I used to have a 175 mm member … before it got chopped off.”

      • Jim H:

        Great comment. The “wild-eyed Jacobins” have been trying to get the US converted to the metric system for a very long time without a whole lot of success (save for wrenches to work on imported cars).

        Modern day Jacobins, using “Critical Theory,” have also been doing everything in their power to upend every foundational principal of western society and humanity. In order to create a new society for us, they must first destroy the old one.

    • The Imperial system is based on fractional math. 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 all pretty easy to figure out in your head. 12 is the most useful number because it is divisible by so many other numbers.

      Metric is decimal. 1, 10, 100, 0.1, 0.01, etc. Great if you think in base 10, like a calculator. But becomes a lot more difficult to multiply and divide measurements compared to imperial’s easy fractional math.

      • “ 12 is the most useful number because it is divisible by so many other numbers “

        Yep – try dividing your meter into thirds!

      • >Metric is decimal
        If we had 12 fingers, likely we would be using duodecimal:
        Actually we do use base 12 or base 60 for many purposes, such as measuring time and angles. And, discrete items such as eggs and cookies get sold by the dozen, because you can’t divide 10 of anything into thirds without breaking something.

        The main thing SI (Metric) has going for it is the units are all related.
        But, try laying hands on a convenient approximation to a meter. Fail.
        Una pulgada? No hay problema, porque cada hombre tiene dos pulgas.
        Tambien tiene cada hombre does pies, y doce pulgadas es egual de un pie.

        >fractional math. 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32
        IOW, powers of 2, a.k.a. binary, just like modern digital computers. But, division by 3 is essential, so it makes sense to pick 12 as a base, since it is divisible by 2,3,4, and 6. If you need 2,3,4,5,6,10 and 12 as divisors, use base 60. Interesting to think about building a digital computer with *hardware* that could use base 12 arithmetic.

        Carpenters, and others, will also know the usefulness of Pythagorean triples, such as 5,12,13, and “near approximations,” such as 12,12,17 (actually 12,12,16.97 by strict calculation).

  18. Great Beach Boys song. Also loved little duece coupe when i was a kid. I has to ask my dad what a four on the floor was.

    • I feel old when Eric mentions “three on a tree”. It is up there with working with co-workers who are young enough to be my kids. Also I may have had the record (and cassette tape) with this old, Beach Boys song….


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