1974 Pontiac GTO

Filed in Pontiac GTO by on August 27, 2017 • views: 338;

Most hobbyists consider the GTO the vehicle that launched the musclecar era. Its recipe of a large-displacement engine in a relatively small body was an immediate success, and most other manufacturers quickly followed suit. In later years, however, emphasis was redirected from performance to fuel economy and emissions, turning most performance cars into little more than appearance packages.

Fuel economy became a key selling point during the ’70s, and smaller vehicles with smaller-displacement engines became the economic choice for most buyers.

As GTO sales declined again in 1973, Pontiac took a different approach by changing the GTO’s platform for 1974. Based on the X-body Ventura, and with the 350 four-barrel as the only available engine, the ’74 GTO was a classic example of a performance car that was downsized to follow the market trend. But with just over 7,000 units built, this new GTO was cancelled after only a year, and is one that many new hobbyists are unfamiliar with.

The WW3 GTO package, however, incorporated several unique characteristics to separate it from other Ventura.

The GTO package included:

  • L76 350ci 200HP V8
  • Dual exhaust
  • Ride and handling package
  • Rally II wheels without trim rings
  • Color-coordinated decals
  • Unique grille treatment
  • Dual outside sport mirrors
  • Interior doorpanel badges
  • Functional Shaker hoodscoop.

The functional Shaker hoodscoop had a solenoid-operated air valve at the rear that allowed the carburetor to ingest cooler air under heavy acceleration. Its actuation system incorporated a vacuum-controlled electric switch that prevented function until vacuum levels dropped below approximately 2 inches. And a temperature-sending unit located in the cylinder head prevented electrical current from passing through the vacuum switch until coolant temperature exceeded 140 degrees.

The heart of the GTO was the L76 350ci four-barrel engine churning out 200 hp at 4,400 rpm and 295 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm.

Backing the 350 V8 were three transmissions from which buyers could choose-the standard M11 three-speed manual, the optional M20 four-speed manual, and the optional M38 automatic transmission. Power was transferred to the pavement through a leaf-sprung 8.5-inch GM 10-bolt rearend with 3.08 gears. The G80 limited-slip differential was an extra-cost option.

In its May 1974 issue, Cars magazine compared a well-optioned ’74 GTO complete with four-speed manual transmission and 3.08 gears to a ’64 GTO with a 389 four-barrel engine, automatic transmission, and 3.55 gears. Pontiac performance legend Nunzi Romano of Nunzi’s Automotive in Brooklyn, New York, was on hand to perform the comparison. With Romano behind the wheel, the ’74 posted a best quarter-mile pass of 15.72 seconds at 88 mph, while the ’64 model was slightly quicker, turning 15.64 at 90 mph. Zero-to-60-mph times for the two were similar at 7.7 and 7.4 seconds, respectively. But even though the new model was not as quick, writers raved not only about its performance balance, but also how much ride and handling had improved since its inception.

Even with less displacement and output than larger 455ci engines from the same year, the smaller body allowed the ’74 GTO to perform similarly to its predecessors.

The 1974 GTO was just never viewed as a performance car like the earlier models. Perhaps because Pontiac only put a 350 in it at a time when 400 and 455’s were still being produced. People believed it was only a GTO cosmetically, and didn’t have true GTO performance. Because of this, they were never viewed as collectible, and many did not survive.

Just 7,058 GTO’s were built during the ’74 model year. Total production numbers can be broken down to 687 hatchbacks with manual transmission, 1,036 hatchbacks with automatic transmission, 2,487 coupes with manual transmission, and 2,848 coupes with automatic transmission. But when you consider that only 4,806 A-body GTOs were built during the ’73 model year, it appears the smaller, X-body GTO may have offered to buyers more practicality than earlier models.

Restored With More Horsepower:

The Pontiac GTO you see here sold at the 2017 Mecum auction in Kissimmee Florida. When the car was restored, the 350 was replaced with a 425HP 455 Pontiac V8. Whoever restored it placed SD-455 decals on the hood scoop. This has to be a fun car to cruise around in. Imagine the fun you could have racing people if they thought it was the originally 350.


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