This is my opinion
, and just my opinion, in response to those who have done or are thinking of doing the modern day Chevy LS series small block engine swap into the first generation GTO "A-Body."
Being 55 years of age, I did not experience the "muscle car era" as it unfolded, but rather, reaped the benifits following that era in the late 1970's and early 1980's when these cars were somewhat worn out and abused, gas prices were going up, and they sold for cheap if they had not already been scrapped out. Pontiacs, and later the GTO, was my car of choice.
The hi-performance car was not invented by Pontiac nor its engineers as they have always been around. When the first GTO was introduced as an option on the Lemans, it was innovative. But this innovation was more about creating a meaning for the GTO than the GTO itself. It was the advertising and marketing genius of Jim Wangers who took his vision of a "super car" and created that meaning. It was then Pontiac chief engineer John DeLorean who turned out the GTO based on a concept with no guarantees that this concept was going to work in practice.
The first 1964 GTO was built around the horsepower and torque of the Pontiac 389 engine. The engineers knew that this casting had the potential to be enlarged to 400, 421, 428, and 455 cubic inches. This engine, with its assorted horsepower and torque ratings was the GTO. Even those who were not GTO savvy knew enough to ask, 389 or 400?
The GTO was an icon of the muscle car era that needed no introduction as it brought to mind the vivid image of horsepower & speed. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and with the sight of a GTO, there were not only words, but also, an excitement of the senses as you listened to the rumble of the dual exhaust either at idle or rowing through the gears.
Being fortunate enough to own several GTO's and other Pontiac cars of that era, it was all about horsepower and the Pontiac engine under the hood. The factory engine on the street really did not need a lot of tweaking as there was never any problems putting down rubber or taking on a would be challenger in his Chevelle, Ford, Mopar, or AMC. One might simply fine tune the engine or add a tri-power, a Torker intake, a Holley carb, Mallory dual points, or headers to root out a few more horsepower without going into the engine. These add-ons seemed to work if one was so inclined. Money back then was as tight as it is today and parts that were seemingly cheap by todays standards were expensive. So the factory engine with all its factory horsepower and torque made the GTO desirable when matched against the more readily available small blocks installed in the "other" makes. Big blocks were not all that common with the exception of the Road Runners or Chargers and their 383's.
Fast forward to today and we have seen the recent introduction of the second generation Holden GTO and its corporate small block Chevy LS series engines. Once again, the image of the GTO is built around the engine, but the first generation GTO with its legendary Pontiac manufactured engine is not the same as the second generation GTO and its Chevy engine. It is the old apples and oranges comparison when viewing the old GTO with the new GTO......only the name is the same.
As of late, the term "resto-mod" seems to have incorporated the approval of installing the later model LS Chevy small block engines into the engine bay of the earlier GTO. This is where I draw the line. I just want to snatch those GTO keys out of your hands, and tell you that you're just not yet responsible enough to own that GTO.
There is a reverence unspoken that simply "is" and words cannot express. Either you get it, or you don't. Maybe its simply because I was there, because I lived through that tail-end of the muscle car era.
As stated earlier, the GTO was built around the performance of the Pontiac engine. Chevy engines were installed in Canadian built Pontiacs and were given a completely different name, Beaumont. If you want to install an LS engine in your GTO, then buy a Canadian Beaumont. Unbelievably, I am even ok with the LS swap in a Lemans or Tempest, but not a GTO.
Would you install the Chevy LS engine in a Boss Mustang, Hemi Cuda, Buick GSX, Olds 442, or AMX? Install one in a Road Runner and pop the hood at a car show and let's see what kind of reactions you get.
The only reason anyone thinks it is cool is because they would not know the difference between a Model A engine and a Pontiac engine anyway. They simply think that all the chrome, polished aluminum, braided steel lines, and multi-colored do-dads is what its all about. But those of us who know our Pontiacs, shudder with agony and outstretch our arms to the heavens and shout out "why?"
I don't have a problem when it comes to body modifications, brake and suspension upgrades, transmission swaps, 18" rims, or interior changes. I'm even good with modifying the Pontiac engine anyway you like, old school or with contemporary electronics and fuel injection
.......but a GTO has to have a Pontiac block using factory or aftermarket fitted Pontiac parts -no exceptions.
So if you ask me what I think of the Chevy LS small block swap in a first generation GTO, you will probably watch my nostrils flare out, my face contort and redden, my body twitch, and hear the soliloquy of a few choice words escape my vocal chords that will inevitably let you know of my disapproval. And you won't hear me weenie out and say, "well its your car and you can build it any way you want." If it's a muscle car era GTO, it's gotta be Pontiac powered..........or just give me the keys. Pontiac built excitement, not Chevy powered muscle car era GTO's.