Greg Teeters' 1970 1/2 Trans Am makes good use of its available 530 horsepower, thanks to a one-of-a-kind 488 cubic-inch, aluminum block, Ram Air V engine. To say this one is rare is a gigantic understatement.
Unobtainium: (Noun) A facetious term used in automotive circles to describe any part that is almost impossible to obtain.
It seems that in the 40-plus years since the legendary Pontiac Ram
Air V came and went, more of these mythical beasts have been sighted recently than at any time in the past. We find that fact amazing, considering that the engine never went into series production and was only available through the dealer parts network. Somewhere between 80 and 200 engines were built and a good share of them were destroyed in racing or unceremoniously scrapped by the factory.
With the odds very much against them, a handful of very dedicated enthusiasts have pooled the very limited supply of available parts together and actually succeeded in the difficult, time-consuming, and expensive pursuit of building complete, running Ram Air Vs. We have even chronicled several tunnel-port-powered machines in the past few years, including Tom Schlauch's '69 Trans Am 303 R/A-V short-deck stroker, Chuck Henley's "Ray Faro Pontiac" '69 Ram Air V Judge, and Jim Pickett's Ram Air V-powered '61 Tempest wagon, to name just a few.
Greg Teeters' 1970 1/2 Ram Air V Trans Am is a little different, a rarity among rarities, if you will. Greg is a guy who likes a challenge, and after several GTO Judge restoration projects, he was looking for a new one. Most people embark on easier pursuits, like atom-splitting or climbing Mount Everest, but Greg decided that a Ram Air V project would be perfect.
As most of you know, the Ram Air V program was a stillborn effort by Pontiac to work around GM's anti-racing ban, offering privateer racers an engine competitive with Chevy's Mark IV V-8 and Chrysler's infamous Hemi. The plan was to introduce a high-revving, ultra-heavy-duty Pontiac V-8 with a forged bottom end and a set of heads copied largely from the 427 Tunnel Port Ford. Using such huge ports necessitated several changes, such as a revised valve layout, pushrod tubes going through the middle of the ports, and of course, a specific camshaft, as well as intake and exhaust manifolds.
The plan was a success, and though it wasn't a great street engine, those few that were raced did very well, putting full-bodied GTOs into the low 12s-not bad for a 400 cubic-incher. Though it was supposed to result in production Ram Air V GTOs and Firebirds, ultimately management killed off the project because of the tightening emission and safety regulations, as well as backlash from the insurance companies. The engines that were built ended up going through the parts network for dealer installation. Yet another opportunity to put Pontiac at the top of the heap in the horsepower wars was crushed.
Going On A Diet
In Greg's case, it wasn't enough to build a Ram Air V engine that would resemble a factory installation. It's been done, so he wanted something a bit different. The recipe for his project included a very special piece from a later Pontiac development program, namely the 455 Super-Duty.
In 1972, Pontiac Special Projects worked with Reynolds Metals and Sevakis Industries, a Detroit-area firm that did the machining on the aluminum Chevy Can Am 430 program. Using a high-silicon Reynolds 390 aluminum, the block was cast from a special mold and featured a beefed-up lifter-bore area, siamesed cylinder bores, 3-inch mains with splayed bolt caps and dry-sump provisions. Like the Chevys, they were designed to run sleeveless-the pistons rode directly on the aluminum.
The block was intended to put Pontiac back on the map in the gas, dragster, and Funny Car classes, most likely topped off by modified 455 Super-Duty or Ram Air V heads. With a stock 4.21-inch Pontiac 455 crank, the displacement could reach 507 cubic inches, using the maximum-recommended bore size of 4.375 inches. Even with the beefy iron main caps, the total unit weight comes in at just 94 pounds, more than 100 pounds lighter than a factory iron block.
Here's what all the commotion...
Here's what all the commotion is about: 488 cubic inches of aluminum-blocked Ram Air V power. The block was part of a collaborative effort in the early '70s between Pontiac, Reynolds Metals, and Sevakis Industries. Just a handful of the blocks made it out before the program ended. Notice the callout on the shaker scoop.
With the shaker scoop off,...
With the shaker scoop off, one gets a clearer view of the Ram Air V engine. Most obvious cues are the huge intake runners, Holley carb, and the absence of siamesed center exhaust ports. The intake ports were fashioned after the famed 427 Ford Tunnel Port design, while the exhausts were carry-overs from the Ram Air IV, albeit relocated.