|CIRCA 1962: The first muscle car I ever rode in was a 1963 Dodge convertible powered by a 426 Ramcharger engine. It was so impressive that I still believe it to be the quickest street car I ever rode in. The big Mopar was impressive and the 400+ horsepower was exhilirating. But the car and powerplant that was the most impressive to me was my neighbor's gleaming 1962 Pontiac Catalina. It was apple red and powered by a 421. While Mopars were awesome, Pontiac had power and great looks. At the track, Fireball Roberts dominated the NASCAR scene in his Catalina and the street powered version, with its great lines, was one heart pounding street machine.
For 1964 the mid-sized LeMans arrived with a potent 389. The GTO option was born--and the GTO, as we all know, became a legend. Throughout the '60s, I was amazed at how the GTO turned heads. In my opinion, only the '63 fuelie Corvette and the 1967 427 Corvette Stringray could compare to the GTO's street appeal.
In 1967, I drove my first four speed GTO and immediately fell in love with it.... The car was awesome. It was dark green with black interior...the paint was beautiful and the engine performed flawlessly. It had it all--great looks and performance. The first Firebird 400 I rode in was a buddy's light green '67 with a 4 speed. It was a blast. More spirited excitement followed when the 1969 Trans Am was introduced. However, the first TA that really caught my eye wasn't the '69, but the new 2nd generation 70 1/2 TA. You know the one--white with the blue stripe. It was quick and it handled like nothing else around at the time. Indeed, it was a great time for car enthusiasts. Muscle cars were everywhere (396 Camaros, 455 GS Buicks, 454 Chevelles, Road Runners, Cuda's, Chargers, Mach 1s, AMX's, "Da Judge" and others!). My brother's Olds 442, W-30 (455) was one of the meanest off-the-show-room-floor street cars ever built. I still can't believe he sold it without first offering it to me.
As most of us know, emission laws and gasoline embargoes stymied continued big V8 high performance in the '70s. There wasn't much anyone could do about it. Pontiac held on longer than all the other manufacturers and kept muscle car excitement alive. Finally, the only classic Pontiac engine left was the venerable 400. However, ever increasing emission standards outpaced automotive technology and by May 1979 the 400 engine would be gone forever. It was my last chance... so in late November, 1978 I ordered a 400 powered 1979 (L-78/W-72) Trans Am. It was delivered 6 months later and my 3-decades plus of ownership continues.--Bill Boyle
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