1970 Pontiac Formula Ram Air - Ram Air For All
This is a discussion on 1970 Pontiac Formula Ram Air - Ram Air For All within the GTO forums, part of the Vehicle Specific category; 1970 Pontiac Formula Ram Air - Ram Air For All As was stated in the June '07 issue, Ram Air ...
12-18-2007, 09:40 AM #1
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1970 Pontiac Formula Ram Air - Ram Air For All
1970 Pontiac Formula Ram Air - Ram Air For All
As was stated in the June '07 issue, Ram Air Pontiacs are steadily rising in value in the collector car market. In that issue, we discussed how purchasing a base-engine GTO would be a lower-cost alternative to a Ram Air car, and we used a pristine '68 Goat as an example. The June '07 issue was one of the best selling of HPP for the year.
Now we have another option for you. While a base engine is fine for some, nothing but factory Ram Air will do for others. Short of upgrading a non-Ram Air GTO or Firebird to Ram Air specs, what's an intrepid Pontiac person to do if he wants a real Ram Air car but doesn't have the coin to go the round-port Ram Air IV route? Enter the D-port Ram Air III.
Pontiac aficionados can have their Ram Air and afford it, too, with a R/A-III GTO or Firebird. They have all the underhood paraphernalia that goes with all the Ram Air Pontiacs, they have the free-flowing exhaust manifolds and even the carb numbers are shared between some D-port and round-port engines.
The good news is that R/A-III cars are less expensive than R/A-IV cars--all other factors, like comparative vehicle condition, being equal. This is because their R/A-IV counterparts overshadow the '69-'70 R/A-III-equipped Pontiacs.
Another advantage to a potential purchaser is that though Pontiac built considerably more R/A-III cars than R/A-IVs, the D-ports still maintain rarity status when compared to H.O. and base 400 production of the era.
Obviously, '69-'70 Judges and '69-'70 Trans Ams-all of which had R/A-III engines standard-skew the price to the higher side due to their desirability but, again, you'll still pay much more for a R/A-IV T/A or Judge than a R/A-III. The '69-'70 R/A-III Firebird 400s, Formula 400s and GTOs are where the most money can be saved. How much? Roughly 30 to 40 percent, depending on the comparative R/A-IV price. (Also keep in mind that 455 H.O.s and SDs are more expensive than a R/A-III Pontiac.) So if you must own a factory-equipped Ram Air Pontiac, the R/A-III is your best bet if you don't want to break the bank.
Our Feature Pontiac
Bill McCoy, a 56-year-old merchandising director for SkyMall and the vice president of the Cactus GTOs Club of Phoenix, knows all about the benefits of Ram Air III ownership, as he has enjoyed driving his so-equipped '70 1/2 Formula 400 since 1994. Though HPP does run its share of high-dollar concours restos, we do like to feature real-world cruisers when we find a really clean one. Bill's Goldenrod Yellow Formula fits that description aptly.
"I had a '70 1/2 Formula back in 1972," Bill recalls. "I owned it for a year until the Arab oil embargo of 1973 doubled gas prices within 6 months to 60 cents per gallon for premium, so I was forced to sell the car."
Though he kept busy with a '68 Firebird 400 project in the early '90s, and owned a '65 GTO that he's currently restoring, by the mid '90s, Bill was anxious to get back into a '70 1/2 Formula 400. "I wanted a nice Ram Air III Formula for my own personal enjoyment. The idea was to relive my college days in a Formula like I owned back then-one I could really have some fun with."
The only stipulations were that it had to be a Ram Air car with an automatic transmission, and it had to have A/C since he lives in Arizona. Not too tall an order until you realize that Pontiac only built 293 Ram Air III Formulas with an automatic trans in 1970.
Back to the R/A-IV versus Ram Air III comparison. To put production numbers into perspective, in 1970, there were only 88 Trans Ams built with the Ram Air IV, but there were 3,108 built with the Ram Air III engine-the standard powerplant for the line. Also, of the total Formula 400 production of 7,708, 689 were Ram Air IIIs and 7,019 were non-Ram Air 400s. As you can see, the R/A-IV engines are exceedingly scarce. The R/A-III is more plentiful but is still very rare as compared to the non-Ram Air 400.
Ultimately, Bill not only found a Ram Air Formula 400, but he found a rare Goldenrod Yellow example with A/C and automatic trans, not to mention Safe-T-Track, variable ratio power steering, power brakes, F60x15 tires, tinted glass, push button radio, clock, molding and dcor, console and remote deck lid release.
The Norwood-built Bird was sold through Ernie Von Schledorn Pontiac after having arrived there on April 3, 1970. Suggested retail was $4,772.72.
Bill remembers, "When I called regarding the ad, the lady who answered the phone said, 'It has the hood with the holes in it for the air to go through to the motor.' Could this be a real Ram Air Formula, I thought? I was about to find out. By the time I got there, she had already sold the body to a guy who was looking to part it out. I learned that she had already rebuilt the engine so I bought it from her and also got the number of the guy who bought the body. As a coincidence, though he lived in Arizona, he had grown up in a town 10 miles from where I grew up in Minnesota. He agreed to sell me the body for $300 more than he paid for it only a few days before."
Once Bill took possession of the body, he quickly realized why it had been bought as a parts car, as its condition was very poor. After a misfire on the restoration that involved a "friend," his eviction, and loss of money earmarked for the bodywork, Bill contacted Mike Baumgardner to perform the bodywork on the project. Bill says, "Mike's fine work is what has made the car the beauty that it is today." First, they tore the Formula down to assess the damage. Then they purchased another '70 Formula and combined all that was service-able from both cars to build the Pontiac you see here.
Ultimately, Mike painted it using a DuPont base/clear system. Once the bodywork was complete, primer, block-sanding, and sealing was followed by six color coats of Chroma base and five coats of Chroma clear. The latter was wet-sanded with 600- to 1,500-grit and then polished to the shine you see in the photos. This was back in 1997, and the paint still looks great 10 years later.
Rebuilt by Automotive Machine of Scottsdale in 1993 prior to Bill's purchasing the Formula, the factory YZ-code 345-horse Ram-Air III engine features a 0.030 overbore and the pistons required to fit the bigger holes. Proper machine work was performed, and all serviceable parts were replaced with stock equivalents at the time. Even the cam maintains its 068 specs of 288/302 duration and 0.414/0.413 lift. The Q-jet is not original but the heads (No. 12s) and the intake (No. 9799068) are. The D-port Ram Air manifolds are reproductions, and a stock replacement exhaust system feeds into a Flowmaster crossflow muffler to add a little bite to the exhaust note. Transferring torque rearward, the code PQ Turbo 400 operates more efficiently via an upgraded converter and a shift kit. Out back, the 12-bolt Safe-T-Track rear houses 3.31:1 gears.
Though new body mounts have been installed, the suspension is mostly stock, with parts being replaced as they have worn over the years. Subtle upgrades include T/A stabilizer bars that measure 1.25 inches up front and 0.875 inch in the rear and AutoZone gas shocks. Factory 11-inch front disc brakes are aided by 9.5-inch drums out back. Though the Formula was built with optional 15x7 Rally II wheels and F60-15 raised white letter tires, they were long gone when Bill got it. A later set of Rally IIs are currently on the car and feature 235/60R15 Goodyear Eagle STs in front and 245/60R15 BFGs in the rear.
Inside, Bill upgraded the interior from standard to Custom specs, adding Comfort Weave vinyl for the seats and the assist bar on the dash, among other items. (Custom door panels are soon to replace the standard ones currently installed.) He also swapped a Formula steering wheel in place of the factory deluxe wheel, a dash tach in place of the optional clock, and a new carpet in place of the old one. Tunes are provided via an Aiwa CD AM/FM head unit, a pair of Pioneer 4-inch 2-way speakers in the dash and two 6x9 3-way speakers in back.
Bill's Formula is a clean weekend cruiser. It's not a concours car and he is happier because of it. While some may view that as a disadvantage, in reality, it's an advantage for the wallet as the Formula costs far less to maintain than a concours model. It can also be driven and enjoyed with much less worry of undoing thousands of dollars of resto work and detailing. Bill's Formula regularly takes home First and Second Place trophies in his class at the shows.
Though he wants to maintain the overall appearance of originality, he is not spending every waking hour in search of every NOS part ever made for his Formula, as would be required for a concours Pontiac.
Bill McCoy built his Poncho to suit his needs-to relive his college days with a Ram Air Formula 400. Though it's rare and valuable, when compared to any Ram Air IV Pontiac, it may be just what you desire and can possibly afford.
How Much Resto Do You Really Need?
Being able to acquire the Ram Air III that you want does not end with taking advantage of the lower-than-a-round-port buy-in price. The choices made before and during restoration work can potentially save thousands of dollars or cost you thousands of dollars you really didn't need to spend. Since Bill had a clear goal in mind for his Formula, he was able to decide what was important and what wasn't as he built it. This philosophy would pay dividends in the long run with reduced build and maintenance costs.
Build it for its real purpose- Bill did not intend for the Formula to be concours-judged but he does enter it in shows. Thus, the underhood and interior areas are detailed to a level that will perform well in a general show.
Payoff- Money is saved in parts and detailing, and the Pontiac can still be driven without constantly worrying about deterioration of painted surfaces under the hood.
No toothbrush detailing here- Bill knew that he would drive his Formula on a regular basis, so undercarriage detailing was very basic-mostly black. No stickers or inspection marks, etc. were applied.
Payoff- This saves time and money up front and long hours of detailing areas, after cruising, that most people will never see.
Only replace what is required- Bill has maintained the suspension and braking system on his Formula by only replacing worn parts as needed.
Payoff- This saves money if the suspension and brakes are in overall good condition to begin with. However, if the entire systems are suspect, more time and money will be saved by going through them completely in one shot.
Rolling stock rock- As you have read, Bill's Formula was equipped with 15x7 Rally II wheels from the factory with F60-15-raised white letter tires. All were gone when he bought the car. Replacing those early 15-inch Rally IIs is getting more expensive by the minute since the '70-'72 wheels used a 14-inch center with a 15-inch rim.
Payoff- The '73 and up 15x7 Rally IIs were redesigned and are much cheaper and plenti-ful at swap meets, so Bill installed those wheels instead. Also, since the Formula is driven regularly, modern radials were a better choice for him than reproduction F60-15 bias ply tires.
Upgrade where you want to- If Bill were to install 20-inch wheels and tires, his effort to maintain a stock appearance would be compromised. However, subtle upgrades like larger stabilizer bars and gas shocks will go unnoticed.
Payoff- Just like in this month's First-Gen suspension story, "Suspension Ascension," Bill enjoys increased handling capability while maintaining a stock look. The same sort of hidden advantages are realized in the decision to upgrade the torque converter, add a shift kit, and install a Flowmaster crossflow muffler.
Photo Gallery: 1970 Pontiac Formula Ram Air - High Performance Pontiac Magazine
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12-20-2007, 02:39 AM #2
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