In 1969, Pontiac unleashed the beast – the most powerful factory-built version of their iconic 400 cubic inch engine. Dubbed the Ram Air IV, this powerhouse was a rev-happy monster, designed to scream all the way to 6,500 RPM.

Building on the legacy of the 1968-½ Ram Air II, the IV brought significant upgrades. It boasted larger air intakes, a new high-performance aluminum intake manifold with a removable heat shield, and aggressive 1.65:1 rockers that boosted valve lift. Paired with the familiar round-port exhaust headers, this new engine officially churned out 370 horsepower at 5,500 RPM and a whopping 445 lb-ft of torque at 3,900 RPM. But those numbers were likely conservative.

Thanks to a high-compression ratio and a specially tuned Rochester Quadrajet carburetor, insiders believe the true output neared 450 horsepower. This powerhouse had a much broader powerband compared to other 400s, making it a dominant force on the drag strip.

The Ram Air IV came with a choice of transmissions – a heavy-duty Muncie 4-speed manual or a smooth Turbo 400 automatic. No matter the choice, drivers got standard 3.90 rear-end gears, with the option of even steeper 4.33s for ultimate acceleration. These performance-focused features limited production numbers, but that only adds to the legend of this incredible machine.

Photos by Aaron Summerfield courtesy of RM Sotheby’s