1970 Pontiac GTO Sports Original 455 V8, Hides Expensive Options Inside Out and Around

1970 Pontiac GTO 455 34 photos
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Here we go again – back to when gas was cheap, cars were pretty, and America was the biggest carmaker on Planet Piston. Not only that, but it made heaps of cool machines every year, icons of the automotive universe in their own right. Sadly, those days are all but gone – not just in Detroit, but nearly everywhere else. Fortunately, not all is  (yet) lots, as survivors from that era make our day once in a while.
From the mid-50s to the mid-70s, the United States of Automobile experienced what would probably be the best two decades of carmaking success. Domestic manufacturers were strong and productive, and the avalanche of brands downpoured a myriad of nameplates onto the streets of the most powerful economy in the world.

To settle the argument of the exact pinnacle year would be a long and arduous debate, but 1970 would be a strong candidate for the title. Perhaps because it was the peak of the muscle car age, or maybe it’s the fact that it was the last year for uncensored performance, but none of it is relevant now. What matters is that year produced some of the most spectacular street machines ever.

The list is long and overflowing with glorious names, but a top spot is definitely reserved for the primordial muscle car, the Pontiac GTO. Debuting in 1964 as a performance package for the Pontiac LeMans, the GTO moved up in ranks two years later, becoming a separate model. In an eerily similar manner to another Detroit demigod – the Plymouth Barracuda – the GTO nameplate emerged in 1964 and bid farewell to pistons a decade later, in 1974.

1970 Pontiac GTO 455
1970 was the GTO’s mid-generation year; that’s the second generation of the model (1968-1972) and the first year the fabulous muscle car went head-to-head with everyone else in the displacement wargames. General Motors yielded its motorsports ban crusade to the reality of the day and gave its non-luxury divisions the green light.

Chevrolet reacted with the 454 Chevelle; Oldsmobile upped the ante with its beefed-up 442, which received a 455 cubic-inch V8 as a standard engine; Buick kicked it up a notch with the Gran Sport 455. Pontiac, traditionally General Motors’ sporty division, didn’t flinch and immediately responded with the GTO 455.

1970, the emblematic nameplate waned in sales, with 36,366 coupes and 3,783 convertibles assembled. Forty thousand-odd cars was a flop of catastrophic proportions, considering that in its first year as a standalone model (1966), the GTO scored almost 97,000 units. The muscle car was falling out of fashion, but Pontiac went out in style.

1970 Pontiac GTO 455
In 455 cubic inches of style, to be exact. In an effort to spark buyers’ interest, Pontiac introduced the big engine as an option for the GTO. The big-cube lipstick didn’t add to the glamor of the nameplate, and 4,146 units came with the newly introduced powerplant – roughly one in ten Poncho muscle cars assembled that year.

The preferred setup was the coupe with the three-speed automatic gearbox – nearly half of the GTO 455 V8 production was ordered in this combination. Curiously, the biggest-displacement motor in the GTO arsenal was not as expensive as one might be tempted to believe. In fact, it was the cheapest optional powerplant, at $58. By comparison, the Ram Air IV 400-cube offered only ten extra horses over the 455, but it was a full $500 pricier.

Unlike other manufacturers, Pontiac didn’t segregate its engines by block size into ‘small’ and ‘big’ simply because the division couldn’t be bothered to make two types of blocks. It was a one-size-fits-all casting that was bored and stroked to the desired cylinder volumes. The 455 was the biggest, but its external measurements were identical to all its brethren. The output, however, was a different story.

1970 Pontiac GTO 455
The Megalodon engine was rated at 360 horses and 500 lb-ft of torque (365 PS, 678 Nm) – the horsepower rating was probably bluntly understated. Still, the torque was right up there with its other locomotive-aspiring relatives from Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Buick. It took a special gearbox to tame the monster, and the 455 had three options.

Standard equipment was a three-speed manual, and the extra-cost choices were the close-ratio four-speed with a clutch pedal and a floor-mounted shifter or the Turbo Hydra-matic 400 automatic. The former was a scalding $227 option, but it wasn’t the most expensive system that could be ordered in a 455-equipped GTO in 1970.

That honor goes to the $376 air conditioning, and the list of extras was long and filled with other wallet-drilling temptations. If you want to play a game of  ‘Let’s see how much a brand new heavily-optioned 1970 GTO cost,’ than have a look at the example in the gallery. It’s a matching-numbers brawler with a 455 V8, a three-speed auto – the THM400 – behind it, and the following list of creature comforts and performance extras.

1970 Pontiac GTO 455
 Power steering, power front disc brakes, air conditioning, 3.07 rear axle with Safe-T-Track, tilt-steering column with Formula wheel, cruise control, Rally Gauge Cluster with Tachometer, a center console, reclining passenger seat, heavy-duty suspension with larger front and rear stabilizer bars, hood and trunk lamps, a Pypes stainless steel dual exhaust with X-pipe, radial tires (235/60R14) mounted on Rally II wheels. At the bottom of this story, you’ll find attached a document revealing all the prices for the GTO options.

The car is offered for sale, and the seven-day-long bid (that opened today) is already at $15,000. The selling dealer doesn’t mention if this car currently living in Fredericksburg, Texas, is a survivor. I suspect it has been restored (an unmolested example would have underlined that detail in the description). The mileage is 56,614 (91,111 kilometers), and the engine sounds like a cherub choir – play the video below to enjoy the grunt and burble of 7.5 liters of pure American muscle.

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 Download: 1970 Pontiac Accesorizer (PDF)

About the author: Razvan Calin
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After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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