Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Gastonia, NC - Born & raised in Connecticut - 31 years
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"Ram Air" in the GTO's made its first appearance on the 1965 GTO tri-power cars as a dealer or owner installed option. It was a tub that fitted over the three carbs, to which you then bolted down your air cleaners. The tub had a seal that fitted up to the hood, and the hood had a replacement trim piece that was open to provide cool outside air instead of closed off.
In late 1966, the factory produced a few Tri-Power, Ram Air, GTO equipped cars known as "XS" cars after their engine codes. A bigger cam (the 744), stiffer valve springs, close ratio 4-speed, 4.33 gearing, and metallic brakes.
In 1967, the Ram Air option was factory installed and more of a drag package as it was not very street friendly. It was balky on the lower end. This was really the first year where the Ram Air option became more specific to the engine type in that they had special cams, heads, and exhaust manifolds. It was a step above the 360 HP rated HO option, although it retained the same HP rating. You got a bigger cam, improved heads, the carb tub (now a Q-jet) with open hood scoop, manual or auto trans, and it came from the factory with 4.33 gearing only. It ran best between 3,000 - 6,000 RPM's. Production was 751 cars.
In 1968, engine options for the 360 HP were the HO and Ram Air. The "Ram Air I" designation is not a factory name, but one give to this engine by enthusiasts. To make them a bit more streetable, cams were now altered to match the transmission. The HO manual used the 068, automatic the 067. Ram Ar manual used the 744 (used in the '67's), automatic the 068. Again, better heads, exhaust manifolds, carb pan with open hood scoops. New was the 4-bolt main for the Ram Air. In April, the 366 HP Ram Air engine (called Ram Air II by Pontiac enthusiasts) was introduced having forged pistons (only mentioned in one source I have), heads using round port exhausts and the larger matching factory cast iron exhaust manifolds. It introduced the 041 cam for both manual & auto. (used later on the Ram Air IV engines). It too had 4-bolt mains. Gearing was 3.90 with 4.33's optional. Total made, Ram Air I - 808; Ram Air II - 246.
In 1969, the factory introduced its factory named Ram-Air III (366 HP) and Ram Air IV (370 HP) engines. Some of the early RA III's used the 744 cam, but this was changed to the 068 cam for the rest of production. The RA IV used the 041. RA IV used the round port exhaust heads along with an aluminum intake and separate heat cross over, and forged pistons. All had 4 bolt mains. The Ram Air III & IV were an option on the GTO with the RA III standard on the Judge & RA IV optional. Standard gearing by this time was 3.55 with other ratios being optional. Total RA III cars - 8,491; RA IV - 759.
The same engine offerings were available in 1970 along with the introduction of the 455 HO. Total RA III cars - 4,644; RA IV -804; 455 HO -4,206.
Ram Air V was not a production engine, but was offered over the counter by Pontiac.
This is a quick look at the factory installed Ram Air option which can be expanded more fully in detail, but this gives you an idea of what the option was about. It differs from year to year and is based on a specific engine along with the open air hood. The factory gear ratios change through the years so as to be more street friendly rather than race orientated.