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The Pontiac GTO started the Muscle Car Era

Pontiac muscle car legion began with the 421 Bonneville and Catalina 2+2 and took off with the introduction of the 1964 GTO, which was an affordable high performance automobile. The TransAms, based upon the Firebird model. are very sought after by visitors to MotorCity Classic Muscle Cars. My Father-in-Law had a cherry 1964 midnight blue GTO coupe, with the original 4 speed manual shifter. Less then 60,000 miles over 40 years and I doubt he ever used 3rd gear. I personally owned a white 1968 GTO convertible with  console 3 speed automatic and sold it for 2500.00 to buy a family station wagon. Wish I had it for-sale at today's prices.

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"A muscle car, by the strictest definition, is an intermediate sized, performance oriented model, powered by a large V8 engine, at an affordable price. Most  models were based on "regular" production vehicles with a special options package factory installed."

As the cheapest and lightest of Pontiac's full size coupes and convertibles, the Catalina was the car of choice for fullsize performance enthusiasts from 1961 to 67. With light-weight body panels to Super Duty engines and other modifications, the Pontiac Catalina would firmly establish Pontiac's performance image. Catalina's featured the 389 V8 caming in several forms. With a single four barrel, it was rated at up to 333 bhp and with three two barrel cars (Tri Power), it was rated at 348 bhp. There were even special "Super Duty" versions which increased its power to 363 bhp.

Pontiac fullsize performance reached its peak in 1963. All fullsize models got new sheetmetal for 1963, including stacked headlights. Performance enthusiasts once again turned to the Catalina, the lightest of the Pontiac fullsize coupes. The standard engine was a 389 cid V8 with 283 bhp. Next up were two 421s with 10.75:1 compression ratios: a four barrel with 353 bhp and the Trophy 421 HO (High Output) which sported triple Rochester two-barrel carburetors operated by a progressive throttle linkage and was rated at 370 bhp. For serious drag strip use, buyers could specify the Super Duty 421 which came in three states of tune which all benefited from an increase in the compression ratio from 11.0:1 to 12.0:1 and an increase in the maximum shift point from 5900 rpm to a screaming 6400 rpm.  Face it folks ET times ruled the showrooms during the Musclecar era and the early Pontiacs had impressive numbers.

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The Catalina underwent a mild restyling for 1964 and Pontiac officially created the Catalina 2+2, to carry the performance banner for full size Pontiacs. Only 7,998 carried the 2+2 option from the factory in 1964. The 2+2 standard engine was the 421 V8 with a single four barrel carb rated at 338 bhp in 1965. Two other 421 engines were available, including a Tri-Power (3x2 bbl) version producing 356 bhp and the 421 HO rated at 376 bhp. Standard features of the 2+2 included heavy-duty springs and shock absorbers, a three-speed transmission with a Hurst shifter, dual exhausts, and a performance axle ratio. There were also special interior and exterior trim treatments, including bucket seats, seat belts, full carpeting, custom pinstriping, and vertical louvers on the front fenders, all standard. A new Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission replaced the old Hydra-matic and improved performance. Car and Driver tested a Catalina 2+2 and recorded a top speed of over 130 mph and a 0-60 time of just 3.9 seconds.


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The Pontiac Tempest GTO is considered by many the first true muscle car. Whereas other manufacturers were concentrating on their fullsize lines, Pontiac saw the potential for dropping a big block engine into an intermediate frame and marketing it at a budget price. Pontiac sneaked past the GM restriction on this combination by making the GTO an option on the Tempest model, creating the hottest performance machine yet. The GTO sold in great numbers and would fuel the competition between GM, Ford, and Chrysler that would keep the muscle car industry thriving for years to come till the GTO fadded out in 1974 after 10 years at the top.

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The success of the 1964 model prompted Pontiac to improve the GTO for 1965. Front and rear styling were changed with the GTO getting stacked headlights like Pontiac's fullsize models. Both versions of the 389 were improved and Pontiac released an over the counter kit that would turn the decorative hood scopes into the first functional ram air setup. These improvements obviously worked as Pontiac sold 75,342 copies, of which 20,547 had the tri-power option.

Pontiac made the GTO its own model for 1966 and was rewarded with sales of 96,946 units, the highest ever for a true muscle car. The GTO was restyled again for 1966 with gourgeous coke-bottle contours with the roof and taillights receiving the most attention. 389 V8 360 bhp @ 5200 rpm, 424 lb-ft @ 3600rpm. 389 V8 Ram Air 360 bhp @ 5200 rpm, 424 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm...Performance: 389/360: 0-60 in 6.5 sec, 1/4 mile in 14.65 sec @ 98mph. The GTO was drastically restyled for 1968 and gained GM's new split wheelbase A-body. The GTO now sat on a 112 inch wheelbase but was still heavier than the 1967 models. The main news was the new Endura bumper, which was a rubber bumper that gave the car a bumper-less appearance.

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The big news for 1969 was the introduction of a new option for the GTO. Rumored to be a sleeper budget model to combat the Plymouth Road Runner, it actually was the opposite. Named after a phrase on the TV show "Laugh In", the Judge was actually a $332 option package that included a new 366bhp Ram Air III 400 cid V8, outrageous body paints, a large rear spoiler, and decals throughout. New to both versions of the GTO was a Ram IV 400 cid V8 seriously underrated at 370bhp, as well as restyled taillights, deletion of the vent windows, and the discontinuation of the HO engine.

A rare option on the 1970 GTO Judge was the Vacuum Operated Exhaust (VOE - Option Code W-73) option. The VOE option was an attempt to simplify the old hot rod trick of opening up the exhuast system for more power. With the VOE option, the driver could pull on a knob under the dash and engine vacuum was routed to a diaphragm on each muffler. The diaphragm opened an internal baffle and gave the exhuast an express route through the muffler. The device reduced backpressure (and thus increased power), but it also significantly increased the noise level caused by the exhaust. This option was available only from early November 1969 through January 1970.

More Pontiac history shown below featuring the TransAMs which are one of their most collectable models in 1968 through 1970 based upon the Firebird models. Todays TransAM still is a force on the street and drag strip and remains in production.


Spotlight Ads for Pontiacs Muscle cars go here

Showcase Car Ad# 1004 for:
1974 Pontiac 455 Formula Coupe

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DESCRIPTION:1974 PONTIAC FORMULA 455 H.O. being sold for $33,200 EXTREMELY RARE FORMULA 455 HO. HEAVILY DOCUMENTED and LOADED WITH OPTIONS, A ONE OF A KIND CAR WITH VERY INTERESTING DOCUMENTATION. HAS 28 FACTORY OPTIONS ON THE ORIGINAL PAPERWORK AND THE ORIGINAL MANIFEST SHIPPING ORDER AS A FACTORY COMPANY CAR.  WE ALSO HAVE PONTIAC HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAPERS. NUMBERS MATCHING. 455 HO WAS A BRUTE OF AN ENGINE. UNLIKE MOST OTHER MUSCLE CARS AT THE TIME THIS MOTOR WAS NOT DETUNED. IT TOOK OVER WHERE THE RAM AIR IV LEFT OFF. THIS WAS A STRIKE YEAR AND THE 455 HO RAM AIR WAS BUILT IN VERY, VERY LIMITED QUANTITIES. IT WAS ALSO ORDERED WITH A STRIPE PACKAGE WHICH NONE OF THE EXPERTS HAVE EVER SEEN. HAS VERY RARE 14' HONEY-COMB WHEELS TOO. RESTORED WITH A NEW MIRROR FINISH PAINT, FRESH REBUILT MOTOR, VERY NICE INTERIOR, ETC.. Options and Accessories: 455 H.O. with RAM AIR -TRANSISTOR IGNITION -POWER STEERING -POWER DISC BRAKES -POWER LOCKS / TINTED GLASS -POWER WINDOWS / RECESS WIPERS -DELUXE INTERIOR / CONVENIENCE LAMPS -POSI TRACTION -CONSOLE - 14' HONEYCOMBS -RALLY GAUGES -FORMULA WHEEL -ELEC DEFOG / REAR SPOILER -VISOR MIRROR / WHITE LETTER TIRES Seller will accept escrow payment and will allow overseas purchases!

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Year 1974 Body Style 2 door
Make Pontiac Mileage 12,234
Model Formula 455 VIN number 843V45329
Ask Price $33,200 Exterior color Black
Location Troy, MI Engine 455 HO 390hp
Contact # 248 -xxx-xxxx Condition mint
Class Muscle car Transmission 4-speed

The Pontiac Firebird was offered with both six and eight cylinder engines, like the Mustang and Camaro, and was based heavily on the Chevrolet Camaro chassis. Pontiac did try to make it their own and would create a European styled and mannered pony car that could hold its own against its more experienced competition.

A special "H.O." (High Output) version of the 326 V8 fitted with a four barrel carb was rated at 285bhp. At the top was the 400 V8 borrowed from the GTO. This engine was rated at 325 bhp, and was available with or without Ram Air (which suspiciously didn't affect the engine rating). The Ram Air engine included a hotter cam, stronger valve springs, and made use of the otherwise decrorative hood scoops. With no publicized power increase and a hefty $600 price tag, the Ram Air option was rarely ordered. All V8s came with a standard heavy-duty three speed manual transmission; a four speed manual and two and three speed automatic transmissions were optional. Performance axle ratios up to 4.33:1 were available as well as front disk brakes. Firebird prices were roughly $200 more than comprable Camaros and the Camaro outsold it two to one. But Pontiac's pony car had arrived.

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The Pontiac Firebird underwent a major restyling for the 1969 model year. The front end was redone and the rear end and interior were changed slightly. The redesign did not do well with customers, and sales fell, despite the fact that production lasted for 17 months, well into 1970 due to production problems with the 1970 model. The Ram Air 400 was renamed the Ram Air IV and had a slight increase in power. The 400 HO option was known as either the Ram Air, Ram Air II, or simply HO. It too received a slight increase in power. In March of 1969, Pontiac released a little publicized option package, the Trans Am Performance and Appearance Package. Conceived to campaign in the SCCA's road racing series (with a special 303 cubic inch V8 which was never offered in production cars), Pontiac paid a $5 license fee to SCCA for each Trans Am sold to use the name. Offered as a $725 option, only 689 Firebird coupes and 8 convertibles (talk about a collectible) were built. Although not appearent at the time, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, along with the Chevrolet Corvette, would be the only American high performance cars that would remain in continuous production since their inception.

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1969 Pontiac Trans AM brings a premium price for today's Muscle car collector.

The age of the Trans Am is upon us: There is no collector vehicle on the market today in more demand than Pontiac’s premier performance car. And as the generation that came of age in the 70’s continues to enter the hobby, expect this trend to strengthen over the next decade. This is the one that started it all, and one of only 689 1969 TransAMs built. This gorgeous, numbers matching, four speed 1969 Trans Am is amongst the rarest and most desirable muscle cars ever built. With the PHS documentation for the car including invoice this T/A is at home in any high end collection.


Standard features of the 1969 Trans Am Package: 400 cubic inch Ram Air III engine (335 horsepower, 430 lb-ft torque, 10.75:1 compression, 4-barrel Quadrajet carb, chrome valve covers, long branch exhaust manifolds with dual exhausts,) floor mounted three-speed manual transmission, 3.55:1 Ratio 10 Bolt Safe-T-Track locking rear axle, exclusive Trans Am hood with twin functional scoops "ramming" cool air directly into the carb, air extractors on front fenders allow hot engine compartment air to escape behind the front wheels, high effort quick ratio power steering, high effort power front disc brakes, heavy duty shocks, heavy duty springs, one inch diameter front stabilizer bar, front lower spoiler, floating rear deck lid spoiler (marked as D80 on data plate,) Trans Am paint scheme ((Cameo Ivory (50 on data plate) with twin Tyrol Blue stripes. Striping was used on hood, roof, deck lid and spoiler (pedestals only) ending in a solid blue tail panel.)) Trans Am decals grace the front fenders and rear spoiler, and the grilles are blacked out.


Present is all original equipment installed on the car. In addition to the code 322 Trans Am package, the PHS paperwork shows the 354 M20 four speed transmission, 454 Rally II wheels and the 472 center console. Somewhere through the years previous owners made the car more interesting by adding tilt wheel, the wood-grain shift knob and a factory AM radio....
PRICE USD 119,900

FOR THE NUMBER GURUS: 1. Engine stamp : WQ (400 cu. In., 335 hp., 10.75 :1 compression ratio., 4 bbl. carb., manual trans.,) Firebird 400 Ram Air III. 2. Engine casting: 9790071 = ‘68 / ‘69 400ci. Engine VIN : 29N105834 , 2 = Pontiac, 9 = 1969, N = Norwood, 105834 = Last six digits of vehicle VIN. Cylinder head casting : 48 (RAIII heads.) Quadrajet Carb Number : 7029273 XB, 70=before 1976, 29=1969, 2=emission code ( 49 state ), 7=Pontiac Division, 3=manual trans, XB = plant code. Intake 9794234 (RAIII.) Distributor 1111952, 9C11 date code. Transmission stampings P9C15A (M20,) VIN 29N105834. Rear axle code ZH=Safe–T–Track, 3:55 ratio.

Treated to a high-quality cosmetic restoration, this Trans Am is largely original. The paint lies flat and smooth on all panels, the Tyrol Blue stripes and tail treatment is excellent, but the original panel gaps remain as Norwood set them. Chrome parts from nose to tail are in excellent shape as are the stainless pieces. The original Rally II wheels hold newer 215/70/14 BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires. The glass is in great shape and all doors and lids close as they should. This is a very clean, unmolested car. An item commonly missing is the space saver spare in the trunk. Not only is it there as it should be, the correct inflator bottle still resides there, as well. The original jack sits on top of the new trunk mat and original trunk floor, and the reproduction jack decal is correctly applied to the trunk lid.


Underneath you’ll find undercoating applied when the car was new over the original floor-pans. There’s a new fuel tank, a newer exhaust system, new ACDelco shocks, rebuilt brakes and a sorted suspension, but the majority of the components are original. Being protected you can enjoy the car without worry, which is important as this car drives better than ANY pony car we’ve ever had. No bumps, squeaks or rattles invade the cabin, the brakes are spot on, the steering is fantastic, the motor makes plenty of power and the transmission is better than perfect. These cars were meant to be driven, and this one’s exceptional at it.


Inside you’ll find a nearly original cabin. New upholstery covers the original frames, new cranks operate the windows, there’s a new carpet set on the floor with reproduction Pontiac floor mats and the aforementioned installed parts, but nearly everything else is original to the car. The door panels, A pillar moldings, kick panels, dash, console and more were installed at Norwood and remain in excellent shape.


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