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Few daytime game show prizes are as enticing as a brand-new car. For decades, automakers have put their latest vehicles up for grabs on game shows as a form of advertising. On “The Price Is Right,” this tradition dates back to at least 1972 when one lucky contestant won a Chevy Vega.

However, not every vehicle winner goes home with the car of their dreams. In the mid-2000s, Donna Tillman of Puyallup, Washington, won a new Pontiac GTO on the show. Unfortunately, the car didn’t live up to her expectations.

What was wrong with the supposedly new ‘The Price Is Right’ car?

On June 28, 2004, Tillman won a car on “The Price Is Right.” She took home a 2004 Pontiac GTO worth $33,495. After driving the car for several months, she took it in for service following a fender-bender. That’s when she allegedly learned her GTO had major damage. She said it was severe enough that it had affected the frame. Additionally, the damage appeared to have been repaired and concealed.  

“It had been reconstructed underneath to look like a new vehicle, but it was not,” a law firm spokesman for Tillman told Reuters. “What is clear is that she did not receive a new car.”

In December 2007, Tillman filed a lawsuit against CBS, the dealership that provided the car, and the transport company. The suit claimed negligence and breach of contract and sought unspecified damages.

Tom George, the owner of Thorson Motor Center, the Pontiac dealership that provided the car, told Reuters that Tillman had received a brand-new car. “There is no record of it being in a wreck,” he said. He claimed she only complained of previous damage after crashing the car herself.

Public records show Tillman moved to dismiss the lawsuit, filed with Los Angeles Superior Court, the following year. The documents don’t specify why the former game show contestant requested to dismiss her suit, but a judge closed the case in 2008.

Tillman didn’t respond to a request for comment from MotorBiscuit.

Was the 2004 Pontiac GTO a good car?

A black 2004 Pontiac GTO is parked at right front angle with a cloudy sky in the background
2004 Pontiac GTO | Courtesy of Bring a Trailer

The 2004 Pontiac GTO was a statistically excellent car that only got better with age. Back in 2004, Pontiac was reaching for an identity. The muscle car era of the 1960s and 1970s was good for Pontiac, and the 1980s brought innovation with vehicles like the Fiero and Trans Am GTA. By the 1990s, Pontiac was struggling to find its way until GM decided that Pontiac would be the hub company for badge-engineered performance vehicles. The GTO is just a Holden Monaro from Australia with a Pontiac front facia, according to Car and Driver.

This GTO is powered by a Corvette engine, a 350-horsepower Chevy LS1 engine, which sends power to the rear wheels. Essentially, the Pontiac GTO is a Corvette with a backseat and a usable trunk. This made the GTO a favorite among many drivers who wanted a sleeper V8 muscle car while still having the practicality of a back seat.

The Pontiac GTO was a car worth fighting for

Given that these Pontiac GTOs were so great on the road and they were only produced in America for a few model years, it is no surprise that Donna Tillman sued to get the brand-new GTO she was supposed to win. Here at MotorBiscuit, we found that in April 2008, court documents showed that Donna Tillman requested the case to be dismissed. We reached out to Tillman for comment, but we have yet to hear back about the conclusion behind this case.