The cars we loved.
The 1970 was tough for the American auto industry. For muscle car builders like Pontiac, it was especially touch. Names like Charger, Chevelle and Javelin were either fading or becoming watered down decal versions of their former selves. Pontiac was somewhat defiant in the wake of all this muscle car emasculation. By 1973, it was assumed that the GTO’s best years were behind it. So it came to everyone’s surprise, that a new GTO was available just as America’s first oil crisis had began to take root.
The new styled GM-A bodies with Colonnade roof styling had made their debut. Although available in very small numbers (less than 5,000 cars) the GTO was available with two V8 engine options. Buyers could choose between a 4.0 230 hp L78 or a 250 hp 4.5 D-Port. Only 544 Colonnade style GTOs were made that year with the more powerful engine. Gas prices and emissions standards made more fuel efficient cars attractive, but Pontiac made every effort to keep some performance in its most powerful engines, even as it was squeezing them for improved emissions and gas mileage. Pontiac still produced performance, but ultimately the Trans-Am would be the sole recipient of the powerful SD455, even as rumors spread of its
possible use in the GTO.
With no SD455 in the picture for the GTO, Pontiac tried to make the most of its L75 code 455-cubic inch V8. One of the ways Pontiac tried to improve performance was by tweaking the restrictive exhaust system. The Exhaust Gas Recirculation (ERG) mechanism was new and designed to help meet new emissions standards. Pontiac engineers tricked the system into disabling itself with an elaborate system using timed recirculation. The system worked but not before the EPA made Pontiac retrofit the system to standard compliance. The next attempt was nearly as successful and legal. By using and air induction system borrowed from aeronautics, Pontiac added two NACA ducts on the hood that forced air into the carburetor for an infusion of power. For once there was a hood scoupe that did something, when they were fast becoming decloration. Unfortunatly, the resulting noise did not meet federal regulations and Pontiac left the ducts as a cosmetic feature, although they still drew air into the engine compartment. Full functionality of the ducts could be restored by dealers as an option (which was a very common and popular procedure).
The other than its more powerful V8 engines, the GTO was like most other GM-A bodies of the time with 3 speed automatic transmissions and a comfortable interior with bucket seats. The chassis was bolstered with taller front spindles and thicker anti roll bars in the front and rear. Louvered rear side window slats and a tapered tail enhanced the sleek profile of the GTO. Rallye II or Honeycomb styled 15 in wheels on Goodyear Ployglass GT tires rounded out the performance look. Big bumpers that were the result of recent safety regulations were a stylistic handicap on most cars, but managed to be an elegant solution
on the GTO (as much as they could be). Although clearly not what it used to be, it was a wonder that the GTO still offered any kind of performance at all considering all the pressures on the industry at the time. It would be all down hill for the GTO in 1974 when a smaller new third generation car was introduced. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that a GTO almost worthy of the the name would appear and it came from Australia of all places.