Pontiac: R.I.P.

by J Kraus

1970 GTO with Option W-73

1970 GTO with Option Code W-73: VOE

Since Monday when word came down of Pontiac’s demise, many articles have been written bemoaning the loss of the firm that brought forth the Firebird and the GTO. However, no one has mentioned possibly the most intriguing and unique feature that Pontiac ever offered to enthusiasts.

I speak of course of Option Code W-73: Vacuum Operated Exhaust. This option was available exclusively on the 1970 GTO (though some sources report that a few late-1969 models were so fitted.) It allowed the driver to select between ‘quiet’ and ‘not so quiet’ exhaust modes. To my knowledge, this was the first driver-selectable dual-mode exhaust ever offered on a production car.

Under-dash V.O.E. Exhaust Mode selector

Under-dash V.O.E. Exhaust Mode selector

In the ‘not so quiet’ mode, the back pressure was reduced and the volume increased by about 10 dB. I find this vastly preferable to more recent automatic systems that activate on the basis of throttle opening or load. Sometimes one wants to use full power without attracting undue attention. Unfortunately, the option was killed after only 233 units were so equipped after GM executives saw the introductory television commercial and were concerned that the option might encourage bad behaviour.

Here is the infamous television commercial used to launch the option during the Superbowl of American football on 11 January 1970. Watch as the driver reaches down to switch out of the quiet mode. Notice that this model has two under-dash knobs. The one to the right controls the operation of the external carburettor ‘Ram Air’ scoops. You may want to turn up the volume:

11 thoughts on “Pontiac: R.I.P.

  1. I like it! Why can we not have that now? There should be a three-way switch: quiet, louder, and auto switching mode.

    • I do have it…2017 Super Sport Camaro. Its an Option on the V8 SS Camaros.😁

      • Just about the time this article was written, Porsche introduced the switchable two-stage PSE Porsche Sport Exhaust, and it was soon emulated by several other manufacturers. Now a fairly common feature.

  2. A great idea and an entertaining advert. I want to go back in time and see if I can charm the blonde with the bangs.

  3. What shortsighted executives! This feature gave the GTO a taste of class and sophistication that lacked in the typical muscle car. What a great option, shortened by senseless bureaucrats. Long live the Goat (GTO)!

  4. SpeedART in Germany make 2-stage cockpit-controlled exhausts like this for Porsches but they cost over €3,000.

  5. That is quite expensive.

    Assuming a well-optioned GTO cost about US$4000 in 1970 and the W-73 option was US$63.19; that represented 1.5% of the price of the car. Applying that multiple to a contemporary Porsche, an equivalent option (were it available from the factory) should be more like €1,000-1,500.

    Of course, buying from the aftermarket, you are buying (and paying for) a complete exhaust system.

  6. If offered this option on a new car today, I would certainly be willing to pay a few hundred Euros for this feature. A great idea, way ahead of its time.

  7. A really great idea and a great commercial. I thought I was pretty cognizant of what was going on in the mid-sixties to early-seventies (I used to subscribe to C&D, R&T and others), but this somehow slipped by me. It’s too bad it was discontinued. It would have sold like the proverbial hotcakes.

  8. It would seem, with the increasing popularity of track days, that manufacturers today would have been offering such an option for some time now. I would certainly enjoy it.

    A tip of the hat to the gents at Pontiac who came up with this idea. Brilliant!

  9. Pingback: „M jak Muscle” (odc.2) – Pontiac GTO | SKN Motoryzacji

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