We can personally attest to how strong the '67 Ram Air GTO was because the staff here at CARS Magazine ran one all year in open competition. The car was originally set up and prepared by Royal Pontiac, then sent to New York where Motion Performance put the final tune on the car and maintained it all year. Driven by Cars editor Marty Schorr, the car racked up an impressive number of wins in the B/SA class at many strips all over the east coast.
The GTO grew a little more luxurious in 1968—and heavier. The top regular production option was the 360 horsepower HO engine. The limited production ram air engine was continued without change. Not much attention was paid to the GTO's engine compartment for '68 because the body style was all new and that's where all the money was spent.
There was also a new Grand Prix for '68 with new engine options for it. The new Grand Prix was beautiful, a true luxury/personal performance car if you so specified the SJ option. In addition to the heavy duty suspension, wide oval tires, etc. you got a 428-cubic-inch engine rated 390 horsepower at 5200 rpm.
We remember testing one with a 4-speed transmission and full Royal Bobcat tuneup. The car was a mind-blower on the street because it could run with 90 percent of the supercars around and this was a full luxury car with power everything.
The 1969 car and engine lineup was almost unchanged at the beginning of the model year. The HO engine was now called the Ram Air III because it had open scoops on the hood. The rating was now 366 horsepower at 5100 rpm. Midway through the model year, Pontiac made two changes. First, they added The Judge to the car lineup. The Judge was a gimmick-ridden GTO with, a wing on the back and bright orange paint and stripes. This was at the height of the popularity of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In TV show and we imagine the name sounded good at the time. Through the miracle of hindsight, now, we all know that the name and the car were lead balloons.2
A more important mid-year change was the introduction of the Ram Air IV engine to replace the early ram air package. The Ram Air IV engine rated 370 horsepower at 5500 rpm (still on the 400 block). It had a 308/ 320 camshaft, superbeef throughout, light valves and new heads with round exhaust ports for much better breathing. This engine was also optional on the Firebird as were all Pontiac's 350 400-cubic-inch engines.
Another goodie in late '69 was the Firebird PFST. This was an experimental suspension package on the Firebird that dramatically increased the handling capabilities of the Bird. It also proved to be the prototype of the Firebird Trans-Am package. We remember testing one of these PFSTs and the cornering power and overall handling of the car was superb as on all later Trans-Am Firebirds.
In 1970, Pontiac turned its attention to the handling of the GTO. A much needed rear sway bar was added for increased evasive capability and the suspension was tightened down another peg to offset more weighty luxury items. The engine lineup was the same as for '69 with the Ram IV being the top option.
The Firebird Trans-Am became the hot setup for the sporty car set in '70 and there was a Formula 400 with the Ram IV engine as an option for the acceleration crew.
On the '70 engine scene, Pontiac announced a 303 solid lifter engine rated 290 horsepower for use in the Trans-Am Firebird. This was at the height of factory participation in the Trans-Am road racing series and Pontiac was thinking of jumping in with both feet. The 303 was a destroked 400 Ram Air IV engine but with a solid lifter camshaft and some other special items. The engine was never produced except for a few experimental units.
Nineteen-seventy also saw the announcement of a new Ram Air V engine for optional installation on GTOs and Firebirds. The Ram V was almost a completely new engine although many of the parts interchanged with earlier engines. The heads featured round intake and exhaust ports for super top end breathing. The aluminum high rise intake manifold mounted a 780 cfm Holley 4-barrel. The camshaft was a 368/320 degree unit but worked with solid lifters for higher revs. All this plus the engine had special beefed rods, 4-bolt mains, extra webbing etc. for increased high rpm durability. None of these engines were ever installed on the assembly but it was possible—and still is—to purchase a whole Ram Air V engine.
For '71 and '72, the high performance 400 options were dropped from the GTO and Firebird lineup. In their place was a. new 455-cubic-inch engine which turned out to be merely a bored and stroked 428. Top horsepower rating for the low compression 455 engine in 1971 was 335 at 4800 rpm. In '72, Pontiac had a 455 HO option with a lot of the old ram air goodies chocked into the 455 block. With the new net horsepower ratings, the output was 300, at 4000 rpm. Our Firebird Trans-Am road test with the 455 HO engine proved to us that the HO was the strongest street engine available last year.
And here we are in '73 and Pontiac's GTO has just won our Performance Car of the Year award mainly because of the new Super Duty 455 engine. It's an incredibly strong street engine which has been analyzed extensively in this and other publications. It's net horsepower rating is 310 at 4000 rpm and it is by far the strongest street engine for '73. And the Grand Am, a new intermediate model from Pontiac, continues Pontiac's tradition of producing fine, roadable cars with handling, acceleration, ride and comfort. And you can't hardly ask any more of a car maker.