The 1974 Pontiac Super Duty Trans Am Was The Last Performance Pony Car Of Muscle’s Golden Age

Detroit’s muscle heyday peaked in 1970 with cars like the Hemi-powered Dodge Charger R/T and the LS6-coded Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454. safety gear saw power and performance plummet until by the end of the decade there was almost nothing left.

As early as 1974, the passionate landscape was unrecognizable from four years earlier. The Hemi was dead, big-block engine options were increasingly scarce, Chevy was about to do away with the Camaro Z/28 like it had already done with the SS396, and Ford had downsized the Mustang so much that you couldn’t even buy one with a V8 in North America. Yes, the best engine in a Mustang in 1974 was a 2.8-liter V6 that produced an embarrassing 105 hp (107 hp).

What made your Pontiac dealer the one in the city that spoke your language. The most obvious change to the 1973 Trans Am had been the optional new Firebird hood graphic, which replaced the front-to-rear stripe seen on 1970-1972 cars, and the addition of bold new colors, including the red Buccaneer snapping at the neck. . But the most important the change was under that hood. While every other manufacturer scaled back their performance efforts, Pontiac engineers actually upped theirs by introducing the new 455 Super Duty engine option.

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The Super Duty had special heads, a stronger block, and forged rods and pistons, and despite a low compression ratio of 8.4:1 allowing it to run on the low-lead fuel of the time, it pumped out 310 hp (314) and 390 lb-ft (529 Nm) of torque measured by the more realistic net power system introduced in 1972. Driver jumped into a three-speed automatic Super Duty (a four-speed manual was also available) and hit 96 km/h (60 mph) in 5.4 seconds, which was crazy speed for the time.

Pontiac quickly swapped out the cam for a smoother version pegging power at 290 hp (294 hp), but that was still 40 hp (41 hp) more than what you get from a regular 455 (7, 4 liters) and 65 hp (66 hp). ) on the Trans Am’s base 400 (6.6-litre) V8 in 1974, the year the car pictured here was manufactured.

Seventy-four Firebirds gained a new shovel nose style, but the rest of the set was essentially the same. Only 943 of more than 10,000 Trans Am buyers opted for the SD 455 option that year, after which it disappeared from the lineup. You could still get a 455 in a Trans Am, but now fitted with a catalytic converter and a puny single exhaust system, it was identical to the engine you could get in a Pontiac station wagon and only produced 200 hp ( 203 PS). It would take over 20 years before a Firebird was officially rated at over 300 hp (304 PS).

Which makes the Super Duty the last in the line from the first golden age of muscle. The car pictured here, which is currently in Florida and for sale on Bring a trailerunderwent a full restoration a few years ago, including an engine rebuild that involved the addition of a performance camshaft that should push it above the 300 horsepower mark.

The Smokey and Bandit connection drove up the prices of 77-78 Trans Ams, especially the rare special-edition Y82 models, though none of them were that fast. But the Super Duty reminds us that the TA was once a serious performance car, even if that hood bird tried to convince everyone otherwise.

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