1970 PONTIAC TRANS AM – A NEW GENERATION After 3 dynamite years of the 1st-generation, Pontiac released the all new 2nd-generation Firebird in 1970. A totally new design, with European-inspired flowing lines and an aerodynamic shape, was longer, lower and heavier than the previous design. There were no rear quarter windows, just a big sail of a C-pillar. And there was not going to be a convertible version…period. But the new Firebird and Trans Am were gorgeous and would sell well over a long and storied 12-year lifespan that ended with the 1981 model year. Few modern cars have lasted that long.
SEEING MY FIRST 1970 PONTIAC TRANS AM Body cladding and copious flairs and spoilers, like the Trans Am, were new to the American market at that time, but were already well-established in Europe, especially in motorsports. Many Americans were introduced to the idea, myself included, with their first glimpse of a Trans Am. I can still remember the moment I first time I laid eyes on my first 1970 Pontiac Trans Am, white with blue stripes, just like the one pictured here. I was a sophomore in high school in 1970, the car pulled up into the parking lot and a crowd instantly gathered. What a car! I’d never seen anything like it. The stripes, the bulging, gyrating hood scoop, the fender flairs, the spoilers. I wasn’t sure at first what they all did, but the look was breathtaking. It had to be the most visually stunning production car at the time. It certainly was for me.
PONTIAC INFLUENCED BY EUROPE Another example was the use of the name “GTO”, which stands for “Gran Turismo Obliogoto” or “Grand Touring Homologated”, which was a Ferrari model name at the time, and actually meant something. The Ferrari GTO actually was a Grand Touring car and was Homologated for the street, meaning that a very limited nuber of production street cars had to be built to qualify it for a certain class of racing. In the case of the big, mid-sized Pontiac GTO, the name really had no bearing in reality. As a big, square, mid-sized American car, it wasn’t a Grand Touring car, and of course, Pontiac produced them by the thousands, as quickly as they could be sold. So the use of the “GTO” name on a Pontiac paid homage to European racing and sports cars.
PONTIAC GOES METRIC Pontiac was one of the first, if not THE first major American brands to quote metric displacement on their engines (ie: in liters, rather than cubic inches). Arguably, it was probably more of a marketing ploy than anything else, at first. It’s no secret that Pontiac chiefs Jim Wanger and John D. DeLorean were enamored with European cars and racing, and yearned to make Pontiac “more European”. Quoting metric displacement was a bold move for an American brand back in the late 60s and early 70s, when most Americans didn’t know anything about the metric system. It did give their cars a bit of flair that set them apart.
1970 PONTIAC TRANS AM ENGINE OPTIONS The standard engine for the ’70 Trans Am was the 400ci (6.6L) V8 with Ram Air III with 335hp. Or you could option up to the 400 Ram Air IV with 345hp. Paradoxically, the same exact engines produced more power when installed in the 1970 GTO, 366hp and 370hp respectively. As it turned out, the way the throttle linkage was set up on the Firebirds, it would hit up against the firewall before allowing the secondaries to fully open. A simple adjustment (most just bent the thing) brought the Firebird’s performance up on par with the GTO’s. There was technically also a 400 Ram Air V option, but no car was built with it from the factory, nor were any kits sold to dealers to install. It was possible to assemble all the bits through the parts catalog, however.