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A quiet moment before the indoor concours judging is conducted at the 2012 POCI convention in St. Charles, IL.

1970 Pontiac RA IV GTO - Dick Lackey's Ram Air was built to fly

By Eric White and Society Staff – reprint with permission only

For the Pontiac GTO, the Ram Air IV, 400 cubic inch engine was the pinnacle of performance. The RAIV was offered for the 1969 and 1970 model years only; two years of 370 hp bliss. 759 RAIV GTO's were made for 1969 and 804 were produced in '70. Why were so few built? There were several logical reasons that would account for the rarity of this powerplant option.

First, it was EXPENSIVE. A typical base '70 GTO hardtop coupe retailed for $3,300. Add a few power-assist options and perhaps air conditioning, and you're looking at a sticker of more than $4,000. Guess what the most expensive item on the GTO option listing was - the RAIV engine at $558. Add to that a mandatory 4-speed manual ($185) or TurboHydramatic 400 ($227) and H.D. Safe-T-Track differential ($63), and the price for proudly displaying that little RAM AIR IV sticker on the hood quickly runs past $800.

Second, it was NOT ECONOMICAL to run. Teamed with a mandatory 3.90:1 differential gear ratio, this was a thirsty engine, especially at highway speeds. But it certainly didn't take long to get up to those rapid freeway velocities.

Third, it was quickly becoming extra COSTLY to insure a RAIV GTO. For several years the insurance industry had been attaching "performance surcharges" to policies covering certain high performance vehicles. The top-of-the-line performance GTO certainly met those parameters. In some instances, the monthly insurance premium payment exceeded that of the purchase loan note.

Fourth, AIR CONDITIONING was not available in conjunction with the RAIV option. By the early '70's, A/C was quickly becoming a very popular option for the American car buyer. Many spoiled buyers were dissuaded from the RAIV simply because the comfort of conditioned and cooled air was removed from their option possibilities.

The Ram Air IV may have been hard on the purchaser's pocketbook, but the car sure could fly down the road and the drag strip.

That consideration may have been the main reason for the first owner's choice of muscular transportation. You see, that person was used to flying. In fact, flying was a way of life since he was employed as a corporate pilot for the Upjohn Co. (now Phizer Inc.) of Kalamazoo, MI. The dark green GTO was originally invoiced to the Orsen E. Coe Pontiac dealership of Grand Rapids, MI. It is not known for sure if this Goat was originally sold through Coe Pontiac, as it could have been traded to a dealer closer to K'zoo by the time Mr. Pilot purchased the green monster.

One thing is for sure, the Ram Air GTO has spent its entire life in Southwestern Michigan. The second owner was a seventeen year old from Richland, MI. Believe it or not, this was his first car! The teenager knew fine machinery when he got his hands on it and took good care of this rare Pontiac. Well, let's say he didn't abuse the car to the point of destroying the original drivetrain. The oil embargo of late 1973 added another layer of cost to owning this financially challenging example of Pontiac iron, and soon it was placed on jack stands where it was relegated to restful slumber for more than a quarter century.

By the time the third and current owner, Dick Lackey, purchased the GTO in the spring of 2009, it still featured the highly coveted factory-installed engine, complete with all of its original, date-coded component pieces like the aluminum intake manifold, round-port exhaust manifolds and "614" heads, WC-code QuadraJet 4bbl carb, and bolt-on accessory items like the 37-amp XC-code alternator, and power steering pump. The M21, close-ratio 4-speed Muncie transmission, and heavy-duty, locking rear differential are also original-issue items. Even the original standard wheels, front calipers & rotors, and rear brake drums are factory-installed parts.

Soon after taking possession of the GTO, Dick started in on a complete restoration in his backyard shop. He performed all the necessary resto tasks in this facility with the exception of replacing the rear quarter panels. That chore was left up to his good friend, Gary Talant. Additional project help was supplied by a very helpful Art Dempsey.

The quality of the restoration was quantified with the presentation of a Gold Award at the 2012 Pontiac Oakland Club Int'l's national convention which took place in St. Charles, IL. Next summer a trip to the GTOAA/POCI Co-vention is planned. The GTO will be entered in concours competition with both organizations events.

Pepper Green was the fourth most popular color applied to the 1970 GTO line with a total of 3,661 built. The Ram Air IV engine was the rarest engine released in the GTO that year; just 326 non-Judge GTOs were produced with the M21 transmission and the L67 Ram Air IV engine.

Many enthusiasts consider the 1970 GTO to be the most attractive ever built. Add all of these attributes together and you get one rare and attractive freeway flier.

Original options installed on this GTO:

  • 4bbl Ram Air IV Engine, $558.00
  • Safe-T-Track Differential, $63.19
  • Tachometer, Hood-Mounted, $63.19
  • Power-assisted Steering, Variable ratio, $105.32
  • Special Shocks-Ride/Handling, $4.21
  • 4-Speed Manual, Close Ratio, $184.80
  • G70x14, White Wall,  B.F. Goodrich Tires, $30.54
  • Console, Floor-mounted,  $55.82
  • Power-assisted Front Disc Brakes, $64.23

Additional reference material available on WAC:

A classic "barn find." GTO sat on jack stands for over twenty-five years before Dick rescued it several years ago.

Dark Green, bucket seat interior features standard Deluxe steering wheel, standard seat belts, and four-on-the-floor w/console.

The trunk is as well restored as the rest of this extraordinary example of classic Pontiac muscle.

Here's what you got if an optional wheel cover or Rally II wheels weren't ordered. Pepper Green was one of four wheel colors offered by Pontiac in 1970.

Pepper Green GTO as photographed on the show field of the Gilmore Museum's Muscle Plus show in the summer of 2012.

Numbers matching, highly detailed, and very impressive example of Pontiac's finest.