Imran Chaudary is a close friend.We share a love of Pontiacs, and even though we live in different countries, it's only about a 90-minute ride between our homes; his in Ontario, Canada, and mine just outside of Rochester, New York.
It is most likely because of this friendship that this '73 GTO was built the way it was-not brought back to original factory specifications, but rather as the car that Pontiac wasn't able to build. This '73 Goat was to become the car that perhaps could have rewritten the twilight years of the first musclecar era had it been allowed to live.
During one of those trips to see him in Wainfleet, Ontario, back in 2005, he introduced me to his latest project, already disassembled and on a rotisserie in his 40x80 foot shop, known affectionately as "Garage Mahal," a tongue-in-cheek nod to his Middle Eastern heritage. After restoring a few '68-'70 GTOs, Imran was looking for a new challenge, and this rare Ascot Silver '73 GTO, originally equipped with the optional 250-horse 455 four-barrel and automatic, was the vehicle of choice.
Looking over the progress already being made on the GTO, I paused for a second and said in passing, "Since the original engine is long gone, it would be so cool to make this into a 455 Super-Duty GTO, just like the Hi-Performance Cars Car of the Year."
Imran's response was a bit disconcerting, as he went pale and stammered a bit. Clearly, a crowbar had been taken to Pandora's Box and the idea was out there. Regaining his composure, he walked over to the frame, which was painted and resting on jackstands, knowing full well what a huge commitment of time and money such a project would entail. "Yeah, yeah-we could do that," he said, the idea clearly taking root in his mind. Scratching his chin and pacing around some more, he added, "It will take a lot of research and some serious cash to make it happen. Have you seen what SD stuff is going for these days?"
I knew all too well. Nevertheless, I could see that a new obsession was being hatched as we stood there. I should have remembered that Imran is a doer. This guy makes things happen-big time. With him, there is no other option besides all the way.
As usual, I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's get into the background.
The Stillborn Super-Duty GTO
For longtime Pontiac fans, the story of the legendary Super-Duty 455 was one like many others from the Wide-Track Division, it held so much more promise than it was allowed to deliver. During the early '70s, the triple-whammy of rising insurance prices, a new wave of emission regulations, and the Arab Oil Embargo made the promotion of musclecars about as politically correct as a KKK family cookout. It seemed like everyone was jumping on the bandwagon, trading in their GTOs, Cobra Jets, and Super Sports for Plymouth Crickets, Ford Pintos, and Datsun B210s. Talk about dark, misguided times.
Pontiac was in a particularly tight bind, as its marketing strategies in the late '60s depended on street performance, and that notion had placed it firmly in the crosshairs of several groups bent on making the world safe from the evils of Ram Air and four-on-the-floor. Still, PMD engineers were doing their level best to cater to the needs of their target market, despite the fact that they were quickly losing favor with a new management regime.
The need to comply with low-lead and no-lead fuel gave rise to the 455 H.O., which took over where the Ram Air IV had left off. Performance remained, and even took a small step forward despite the odds, as the larger-but-milder 455 H.O.'s broad torque curve actually made the '71 GTOs a little quicker than the high-strung Ram Air IV. Always against the odds, Pontiac's rebellious underdog image was preserved a bit longer.