Is the 1970 1/2 Ram Air IV Trans Am the best Trans Am ever built? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view. The Ram Air IV Trans Am of 1969 was lighter, so theoretically it was faster, but the road manners of the all-new 1970 1/2 T/A was light years ahead of its predecessor. Later HO and SDs combined Round-port 455 torque with luxuries like A/C and power everything. Perhaps they were best since the Ram Air IV T/As were not available with such boulevard accoutrements as air conditioning. You could argue the point forever but, for my money, the most brutal engine ever offered in a Trans Am was the Ram Air IV. And wrapped in the voluptuous body of a 1970 1/2 T/A with underpinnings that caused puss-gut, gold chain decorated Corvette owners to question their choice of transportation, this combination was nearly impossible to beat in image and performance! Todd Lemmen of Coopersville, Mich. would most likely concur. The 34-year-old grew up with fast Pontiacs. His family owns Lemmen Pontiac right in Coopersville, where Todd worked as a mechanic for 10 years. Lemmen's first car was a 1969 GTO he still owns. He just sold his 1969 Judge but still has a 1970 Judge ragtop. Quite the eclectic collection.
With all of this A-body muscle at Todd's disposal, why the need for the F-car? "I had grown up hearing my brothers talk about how mean the 1970 Trans Ams were and how great the Ram Air IV engine was, so I decided I had to have one," Lemmen recalled. "I began my search on the Internet and soon found one." When Todd checked out this T/A at then owner Eric Vicker's house, he brought along HPP contributor and owner of Classic Restorations Melvin Benzaquen. What they found was a very solid Ram Air IV Trans Am with the correct VIN and XP engine code. The Turbo-400 trans and the Safe-T-Track rear were correct as well. The T/A had been about 80 percent restored according to Todd and was purported to have come from California at some point and had accumulated only forty-some-odd thousand miles since its birth in July of 1970.
When Lemmen and Benzaquen were satisfied that the T/A was the real deal, a price was agreed upon and the Pontiac was delivered to Classic Restorations for completion. Its engine was pulled, checked, reassembled and reinstalled, a new exhaust system was mounted and the body was stripped and repainted in the correct Polar White hue. Though reproduction decals and stripes were used on much of the body, the ever-important Firebird nose decal is NOS.
The braking system and suspension were restored prior to purchase and were left well enough alone. All Trans Ams for 1970 1/2 featured 11-inch disc brakes up front with 9.5-inch drums in the rear. Heavy-duty front coils and rear leaf springs were augmented by a 1.25-inch diameter front stabilizer bar paired with 7/8-inch rear. The standard Rally II wheels sans trim rings measured 15x7 inches and were shod with F60-15s, as seen with the repros on this T/A.
Inside, blue metallic appearing Morrokide abounds. This interior hue has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Low-back bucket seats with separate headrests are peculiar to 1970 Birds as high-back buckets arrived in 1971. Creature comforts are few with AM/FM radio and console the only amenities chosen from options list. To organize GM's convoluted restraint system for 1970 with its separate belts for the lap and the shoulders, small plastic holders were added to the console to hold the buckles securely when not in use. You don't see many Birds of this era with the holders in place.
We all know that the 1970 1/2 TA looks great and it handled great for its day but the real story lies under the hood. The Ram Air IV for 1970 was filely unchanged from 1969 and that's a good thing as it was probably the most potent 400 cubic-inch engine from any manufacturer for street car use. A solenoid operated shaker hood scoop feeds cool outside air to a jetted Q-jet that sits atop an aluminum dual-plane intake manifold, which features a separate cast-iron heat crossover. The latter was the first thing to go back in the day when lead foots, who were in search of a denser intake charge to make more power, tossed the crossover. As a result, original pieces are as rare a hen's teeth today. They are reproduced, however.
Mixture is delivered to the intake ports and then past 2.11-inch swirl-polished tulipped intake valves into 67cc. combustion chambers where it is squeezed to the tune of 10.5:1(advertised as 1/4 point less than 1969). A hasty exit is then facilitated on the exhaust stroke when the spent remains are pushed past 1.77-inch exhaust valves through the famed round exhaust ports and into streamlined Ram Air manifolds. The remainder of the trip consists of twin 2 1/4-inch head pipes, a single crossflow muffler, a pair of tails and standard chrome tips. This orchestra of internal combustion is directed by a 308°/320° camshaft that combines with 1.65:1 ratio rockers to create .520/.520 lift at the valves. Thicker 7/16-inch pushrods are employed to lessen deflection and manual lash limited travel hydraulic lifters are installed to reduce pump up. They require a special procedure for setting lash that is shared only with SD-455 of 1973-74.
Short-block specifications include 4-bolt mains, an Arma steel crank, cast rods and forged pistons. A 60-pound relief spring in the oil pump ensures quick delivery of crude to all parts in need of cooling and lubrication. As you can see, the Ram Air IV was no station wagon engine.
In Todd's T/A, the potent plant is backed by a Turbo-400 trans, which makes it even more rare than the 4-speed models of which 59 were produced. Power is transferred to a 10-bolt 3.73-geared Safe-Track differential.
Off the showroom floor, Ram Air IV T/As were good for low 14s in the quarter. Drop the pipes and 13s were in the offing. A sharp tune, slicks and headers and you may see 12s. Not bad for 400 cubes in a 3,700 pound street car. Is the 1970 Ram Air IV T/A the best ever made? They're all great!
| IN THE CODES |
|COMPONENT || CODE |
|Ram Air IV engine |
| XP |
|Ram Air IV heads || 614 |
|Ram Air IV intake manifold || 9799084 |
|Ram Air IV carburetor |
| 7040270 |
|Ram Air IV exhaust manifolds || 9799721 right, |
|Ram Air IV camshaft || 041 |
|Ram Air IV distributor || 1112013 |
|Turbo 400 transmission || PQ |
|Safe-T-Track differential, 3.73:1 gears || COX |
|Rally II wheels, 15x7 || JW |
|Paint, Polar White || 10, C |
|Blue Custom interior || 211 |
Strange But True Ram Air IV Trivia
- At first blush you may think that the production numbers listed in the story are backward, since you have seen 29 stick and 59 auto in print many times. According to Pontiac historian Fred Simmonds, the numbers were swapped by Pontiac by mistake years ago and were accepted by researchers at the time as being correct, but they weren't.
- The bottom-end was once thought to be comprised of exotic SD or Ram Air V components, which is believed to have been the original intent thanks to Pontiac listing the engine as "4 BBL SD R/A." Further research revealed that the SD/Ram Air V to Ram Air IV marriage was never consummated and the Ram Air IV short-block differed little from the previous year.
- Even the Ram Air IV's name has mystery surrounding it. The moniker was actually derived from a proposed Ram Air system that placed Ram Air scoops behind the grilles to augment the two on the hood (in 1969) for a total of four scoops-hence the name. It had nothing to do with its perceived place in Ram Air engine development.
Strange But True Trans Am Trivia
- If you look closely at the 15x7 Rally II wheel, you will note the wheel is comprised of a 14-inch center with a metal band added to mate with the 15-inch outer rim--1970 is only year that you will find this.
- The Trans Am was originally going to be called Sebring but Plymouth already owned the rights to name.
- The curved rear window glass that debuted in 1975 was scheduled for 1970, but each time the glass was installed, it pushed the sealer out of the channel as it was lowered. It took till 1975 to develop another installation method.
- A hood tach was listed as a dealer installed option for 1970--how many have you seen?
- Rear shoulder belts were listed as optional for 1970. Option production documents state that 206 sets were installed.