Several issues ago, we asked HPP readers to participate in our Pontiac Correspondence Research Study by sharing the written communication experienced with Pontiac over the years, or any such letters they may have in their collections. We received a number of interesting responses, so many, in fact, that we were forced to separate them into two segments. The first ones appeared in last month’s issue, and we’re excited to share even more with you this month. Follow along as we learn how Pontiac answered questions from its enthusiastic customers.
If you have a letter from Pontiac and would like to participate in future installments of Pontiac Pen Pals, please send high-resolution scanned copies of your letters to email@example.com. Otherwise, high-quality color copies can be sent to: Pontiac Correspondence Research Study, c/o Rocky Rotella, 9422 Granville Pkwy., La Vista, NE 68128.
Gregg Gorman was a teenager during the musclecar era, and every Pontiac he wanted up to that point, such as the Firebird 400 and GTO, were uninsurable. “I bought a new ’69 Firebird with a 350 H.O. and installed a Royal-Bobcat kit. As soon as I saw the new 1970½ Trans Am, I wanted one,” he says. “I knew I could never afford the insurance on the 400-powered Trans Am, so I wrote to Pontiac to see if I could order one with a 350 H.O., or even a 303 or R/A-V, to see if I could sneak it by the insurance company.”
A letter from Pontiac dated August 5, 1970, arrived in Gregg’s mailbox a few days later from Engineer Herb Adams, who graciously answered all of Gregg’s questions and offered ideas on which Firebirds he could order to make his own small-cube V-8 Trans Am.
“After receiving the reply, I decided to order a ’71 Trans Am anyway,” says Gregg. “I figured that if I couldn’t find an insurance company to insure me, I would store the car until I could. Tired of changing clutches,
I opted for an automatic transmission, and that actually put the Trans Am in the intermediate-sport insurance class, which made it somewhat affordable.
I wrote a second letter to Pontiac in 1975 when my Trans Am turned over 100,000 miles, and the company sent me a dash plaque to commemorate the event. I still own the Trans Am to this day and the dash plaque is still on it.”
Richard Barooshian purchased a ’73 Trans Am with the Super-Duty 455 engine option a few years ago, and accompanying the car were seven letters from Pontiac that the original owner, Mikal Woodward, had saved. Richard shared these letters with HPP and the detailed information contained within is very exciting, particularly for Super-Duty 455 enthusiasts.
It seems that Mikal was well-educated on the Super-Duty engine and inquired about ordering a new ’73 GTO equipped with it. On March 16, 1973, R. B. Reed, Pontiac’s assistant national customer service manager, sent a reply. Mikal received another reply from Pontiac’s Reed on April 26, 1973 (not shown), notifying him of the cam change on the SD and that Ram Air would not be offered.
In response to yet another letter from Mikal, John Harwood, Pontiac’s customer service manager, sent a detailed reply on May 14, 1973, stating that because of numerous production delays, which included exhaust emissions recertification, the SD-455’s release wouldn’t occur until very late in the model year.
Harwood noted in that same letter that because of the camshaft specification change, which was required to comply with emissions standards, net horsepower was reduced to 290, but that the new cam increased torque and performance shouldn’t be grossly affected.
The final letter from Pontiac (not shown here) that Mikal saved is dated June 6, 1973. Harwood confirmed for Mikal that his order for a ’73 Trans Am with the Super-Duty engine had been accepted by Pontiac and that he could expect a follow-up letter advising when his Trans Am was to ship from the Norwood, Ohio, assembly plant. It’s unclear if any additional letters were sent, but Mikal received his new Super-Duty Trans Am a few weeks later.
On May 26, 1967, Denny Drone purchased a new GTO. He tells HPP that he planned to keep it for three or four years and then upgrade. “Based on what I read in the March 1968 issue of Hot Rod magazine, which had Mac McKeller surrounded by four experimental Pontiac V-8s on the cover, you would have thought that a 500hp Hemi or overhead cam V-8 was right around the corner. The early ’70s brought low compression, massive bumpers, and emissions equipment, however, and the only glimmer of hope was the SD-455,” he recollects.
As an early GTO owner, Denny was rather disappointed with the new-for-’74 X-body GTO and its 350 engine. “Once I heard that both the GTO and SD-455 were going away for ’75 and read performance was doomed with the new emissions standards, I had to do what I could to keep my GTO alive.”
Denny sent a letter to Pontiac on September 16, 1974, asking if he could purchase a 1967 Pontiac Service Manual. Aware of the tunnel-port R/A-V, he also asked if he could purchase a complete R/A-V engine from Pontiac or if any individual components were available so he could build his own. “I had to ask if there was any hope of the GTO retuning as an option or separate model, and I felt the need to remind them of Pontiac’s successful racing history,” he adds.
T. F. Tippin of Pontiac’s Customer Services department replied to Denny’s letter on October 2, 1974. Tippin told Denny (mistyped Drome) that Pontiac didn’t sell direct and suggested that he instead contact the parts department of his local dealership about parts availability. He also included an order form so Denny could order a service manual for his GTO from the printing company. Lastly, Tippin confirmed that Pontiac has no plans for a new GTO in 1975 or any year after.
Pontiac’s response helped Denny decide to preserve his ’67 GTO. “At that point, I decided keep my GTO,” he says. “Being just 24 years old at the time and married with two kids, I wasn’t in a position where I could pursue the R/A-V dream. But I am very proud to be the original owner of my ’67 GTO that I still have 44 years later, which was also my first car.”