1969 PONTIAC GTO Ram Air V- Bill & Rita Schultz Print
Written by Double Dragon
Friday, 15 August 2014 13:22

1969 PONTIAC GTO Ram Air V- Bill & Rita Schultz

oneownercollectorcar.com

Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

69 gto ra V bill schultz f

Of all the owners of this Crystal Blue Turquoise Pontiac GTO Ram Air V historic heavyweight from the pinnacle of Pontiac's performance years no one has owned it as long as current owners Bill and Rita. Of all the engines that this GTO has hosted in its engine bay over the years no engine has resided underhood longer than the Ram Air V currently in the car.

69 GTO RA V bill nose

This Crystal Blue Turquoise Pontiac GTO was thrashed on the strip for magazine articles and then thumped on the streets of Detroit, Michigan before Bill bought it in 1980. By then this GTO's original Ram Air IV and subsequent Ram Air V engines were long gone. After a few years of using his new GTO as a driver, Bill embarked upon a restoration.

Bill recreated the long gone RA V engine using authentic RA V parts. Bill wants this car to preserve this highwater mark in Pontiac performance history when this car was packing a RA V and tested for magazine articles. Bill's GTO has the correct parts and paint. Note the RAM AIR V logo on the hood scoop beside the hood tachometer in the photo below.

69 gto RA V bill hood tach

What makes this GTO so important is that it showcased both the RA IV and RA V engines. The RA IV made it into enough production GTOS to keep the GTO competitive with some monster engines from competing manufacturers. After showing off the legendary RA IV for the magazine testers this car went on to house the RA V for another series of tests. The RA V was the last and greatest of the high compression engines Pontiac built to dominate the original musclecar era.

The next series of legendary engines released from Pontiac were the 1971-2 455 H.O. and the 1973-4 Super Duty 455 both of which shone brightly but were restricted by lower compression and other emissions control compromises. The 1969 Ram Air V was intended to finally re establish Pontiac at the top of the musclecar heap by providing professional racers with a Pontiac engine capable of thumping the fabulous engines populating the top rungs of the drag strips and road courses of the day.

69 gto RA V bill interior

By 1969 Pontiac was in the ironic situation of playing catch up after being first for nearly a decade. Pontiac established itself with a strong racing and drag strip reputation starting in 1959. Pontiac launched the musclecar wars with the 1964 GTO. When everyone else jumped on the musclecar bandwagon a 1968 Pontiac ad affirmed their leadership,

''Others have caught on but they haven't caught up.'

But the fact was that the competition was threatening the GTO's sales supremacy. Cheaper musclecars like the Roadrunner and Chevelle SS 396 were cutting into the pie. Pontiac was also slipping behind on the drag strips. The Pontiac GTO, Firebird and Grand Prix were still the best looking most well rounded of the street musclecars (although an argument could be made for the Oldsmobile 442 being the most balanced of them all). Pontiacs were still fast but the dragstrips had fallen to the mighty Hemis and other engines displacing more than a 'mere' 400 cubes.

Pontiac Motor Division was hamstrung by the General Motors limit of 400 cubic inches in an intermediate car. Ford pumped out 428 Cobra Jet Mustangs and Chrysler was building 440-6 barrel monsters and there were enough Hemi intermediates out there to make their mark. Even Oldsmobile and Chevy had small numbers of 455s and 427s put into their cars through devious rule bending with Hurst/ Olds and COPO cars. Royal Bobcat Firebirds and GTOs could still make the cut on the streets despite the cubic inch restriction but guys with regular factory 400s were feeling the squeeze and drag strip racers needed something more.

69 gto ram air v bill engine

Pontiac's street credibility relied to some degree on racing results. But as Ford found out, racing success has to be combined with potent street machines. Ford finally got it sorted out when they matched their impressive racing record with the street 428 Cobra Jet. Pontiac always had good street machines that combined speed, image and sophisticated ride and handling in one package. Chrysler had brutish engines and transmissions and riding qualities to match.

Pontiac held ground with the potent 400 Ram Air IV while development continued on the RA V. Using the 400 block as the basis for a Tunnel Port engine, Pontiac had a 400 cubic inch engine with the RA V that could handle the big block monsters roaming the streets in 1969. If the RA V had made it into general production the GTO would have maintained status with this high profile powerplant.

69 gto ra v bill individual exhaust ports

Bill Schultz's 1969 GTO was ordered as a Ram Air IV test vehicle by Pontiac Motor Division head John DeLorean and ad man Jim Wangers. It was built in the Pontiac, Michigan final assembly plant and shipped October 11, 1968 to Pontiac Motor Division engineering department. The price tag on this well equipped GTO was $3,199.96.

Jim Wangers picked the GTO up from PMD and immediately hustled it down to the Royal Pontiac dealership for the Royal Bobcat treatment by Milt Schornack and Dave Warren. After supertuning and adding headers the paint accents were applied. The striking looking GTO was taken to Lapeer Dragway for testing. Wangers intended to demonstrate to the world that the loss of Tri Power hadn't killed the GTO despite the perception of a big loss to Pontiac when GM banned Tri-Power from all their cars except for the Corvette. Despite losing power according to the street crowd, the main loss associated with the death of Tri-Power was an image loss. Wangers was working hard to remedy that impression.

POPULAR HOTRODDING covered the story and reported that the RA IV cleaned the clock of a legendary Tri-Power. A Royal Bobcat 1965 GTO Tri Power lost to the blazing 12.65 @ 109 MPH posted by the RA IV. The next runs with the Turquoise GTO RA IV were reported in the April issue of SUPER STOCK with the RA IV matched against a well tuned RA III GTO Judge to demonstrate the capabilities of both cars.

The RA IV had made its point but Jim Wangers wasn't finished- he was just starting. The Turqoise GTO Bobcat was taken back to Royal where the RA IV was yanked out and replaced with the new Tunnel Ram Air V.

The Turqoise GTO made the trip to Florida's Miami Dragway along with a 428 HO Grand Prix and a Ram Air III Judge for a session with HIGH PERFORMANCE CARS magazine. Jim Wangers and Milt Schornack made the trip down there to ensure that the car put on a good show. It did: instantly breaking into the 12s on the first run. The test report of the February, 1969 session in Miami was a peak moment for the Turquise GTO, and who can argue with a RA V? Because of the historical importance of the CARS shoot, the Turquise GTO is currently configured with the CARS logos and other markings from that photo shoot.

The Turquoise Bobcat came to a halt when the RA V blew up after a few laps of the Miami Speedway. The car was then run at Palm Beach Dragway with the old Ram Air IV re installed. Milt ran a 12.85 with the RA iV.

69 gto ram air v bill CARS test shot

In March, 1969 PMD sold the car as an Engineering Development Demo car. Jim Wangers kept the car in his press fleet to instill awe of the GTO  throughout Detroit. The Crystal Blue Turquoise GTO created a legend during late night street racing on Woodward Avenue.

Frank Ulbrik raced the Ram Air V on the street for Wangers. Frank was so well known to the local Detroit police that he had lost his license. He continued to race with a 'co-driver' in the passenger seat. Whenever Frank got pulled over his passenger would quickly change seats with him so Frank wouldn't get nailed for driving under suspension.

Frank Ulbrik was so enamoured with the car that he leaped on the car when Jim Wangers decided to sell it off. Frank rushed down to Royal Pontiac and paid cash for the GTO in one lump sum. Milt Schornack witnessed the sale at the Royal Oak dealership in 1970. He recalled that Frank handed over 33 $100.00 bills. Frank re installed the RA V and ran a 11.87 quarter mile at Detroit Dragway. Frank sold the GTO at the start of 1971 after blowing up the RA V.

Dave McElmurray was the next owner. Dave raced the Bobcat at Motor City Dragway from 1974 to 1978 under the name 'Bad Company' with a built 389 Tri-Power under the hood. Dave won top class eliminator in late 1974 with the car. The engine in the car only cost him $150.00. Dave sold the Turquoise GTO without an engine for $700.00. It wound up in a Detroit speed shop named RAM AIR PERFORMANCE which is where Bill Schultz first saw the GTO.

It was 1978 when Bill first laid eyes on the car. The odometer read a mere 19,000 miles despite the car approaching the decade mark. Quarter mile racing and some street racing didn't rack up much mileage. The car was also parked for some time without an engine in RAM AIR PERFORMANCE making it incapable of accruing any more mileage.

When the shop closed down, the owner gave the GTO to one of his employees. The owner owed salary to one of his mechanics and made good on it by signing over the GTO. It didn't stay in the mechanic's hands for long. Bill bought the Turquoise Bobcat from the mechanic for $700.00 in late 1980. The GTO was showing less than 20,000 miles and now had a freshly installed 1971 vintage 400 engine.

69 gto ram air v bill at his house 1980

Bill was about 19 years old at the time but was already established as an engine builder and performance nut. The Turquoise GTO made up for a mistake Bill made in late 1979 when he bought himself a brand new 1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am. Pontiac truly worked wonders with that small engine while contending with the smog regulations of the time. But for a performance person the car was sorely lacking. Bill's $700.00 GTO with the 1971 400 and 4 speed was a breath of fresh air after the disappointment of the T/A.

Bill actually put snow tires on this historic GTO and drove it year round. Detroit's notorious salty roads pummeled the GTO through 2 vicious winter years. At this point the Bobcat still had original paint and despite the 4.33 gears it was used as a daily driver. Work and school were both within 2 miles of Bill's home so the odometer didn't add much to the total over that 2 year span. Bill went to work, college and the movies in the car. In 1981 Bill was sitting at a light on Gratiot Avenue which was a cruising spot for street racing. The guy in the lane beside him told Bill that the Turquoise GTO was his old car. The legend of the old GTO was still alive on the streets, despite a low compression 400 in the car. As Bill summarizes,

"The GTO wasn't a racer at this point. It was transportation."

The original paint on the car kept memories alive and it was a good driver. It ran well and had no quirks even in severe winter weather. One day Bill towed a guy out of a field using a chain. The GTO showed 22,000 miles when Bill decided to restore the car. Note the current mileage shown below. The button on the right of the steering column controls the power rear fender mounted radio antenna.

69 gto RA V bill speedo

Bill decided to restore the car and further, to bring it back to its peak form with the CARS magazine lettering and a RA V in the engine bay. Despite a decade in Detroit, the car had minimal rust in the fenders. The trunk was solid, the rear window package tray area was still good. The car had stone chips and some fading on the front nose. During his career building street engines Bill came across a set of RA V heads and saved them. Now they would come in handy.

Restoration was finished in 1985. The car was first shown at the Feb 1986 Detroit Autorama as part of the Pontiac Motor Division official display. Pontiac was still happy to associate themselves with the Glory days of performance calling this 'The Ultimate GTO'. Milt Schornack was on hand to reminisce about the car.

Because of the low mileage the interior is still in good shape.

69 gto ra v bill steering wheel

The Turquise GTO test car was ordered with more content than a typical street GTO of the time period. Test cars for speed that aren't going to be run on streets by the press are often stripped, but not this one. The Ram Air IV and Ram Air V tests were indicative of what you could do with a fully optioned GTO. Instead of going to extremes with radio delete to lower weight for the drag strip this GTO was ordered much like a typical street test car of the period with comfort and convenience options.

69 gto ra v bill radio AM FM

Bill's GTO adheres to this typical test car policy of 'more is better' with the exception of A/C. Bill's GTO has a console for the floor shifted 4 speed, bucket seats, gauge package, clock, hood tachometer, AM/ FM radio with rear mounted power antenna and of course the cable control for the Ram Air system mounted under the dash as seen in the photo below.

69 gto ra v bill ram air control pedals

The loaded test car emphasized Pontiac's philosophy regarding the GTO. The GTO was a sophisticated fully finished, comfortable and well rounded car. The major competitor at this time was the wildly successful Plymouth Roadrunner which cut into GTO sales by providing a cheap fast car with no weight adding extras. The Roadrunner made do with a long skinny inland 4 speed shifter that bent up to clear a plain bench seat with rubber floor mats underneath. The GTO experience was lavish by comparison. You did get extra content when you ordered a GTO. Look at the bucket seats below.

69 gto ra v bill driver seat

The original door panel shows minimal wear as does the driver seat. That is what happens with a 22,000 mile original interior. The shift knob on the 4 speed was changed to a white cue ball mainly because its easier to see in contrast to the all back interior when street racing late at night.

69 gto ra v bill driver door panel

In 1992 the RA V revisited the famous Woodward ave ad with a photo taken in the same spot and position with Jim Wangers in the passenger seat wearing a red 'Judge' jacket. The car has held center stage at many car shows where its highwater mark in GTO history is preserved for performance fans to enjoy. Bill and Rita remain active in the musclecar world running their business Cruizin Collectibles located at 32476 Gratiot Avenue, Roseville, Michigan.

69 GTO RA V bill rear

Last Updated ( Thursday, 21 May 2020 22:10 )