The first Ram Air pan, created for the newly restyled 1965 GTO hood scoop, was
made in Pontiac's Engineering Department. You can see the similarity to the
production unit (photo right), but in this rough form we can see the flat piece of
sheet metal used for the baseplate verses the contoured openings of the production
pan. Also note the provision to hold the baseplate down with wing nuts, so air
cleaners were not required. On the production unit, the air cleaner lids would hold
the air filter elements down (photo courtesy of Keith Seymore).
The term "Ram Air" is synonymous with 1960's Pontiac performance. The concept was simple; route outside air to the carburetor
inlet, as opposed to ingesting hot underhood air, increasing the efficiency of an internal combustion engine. The most popular
method of supplying outside air to the carburetor inlet is by use of an air scoop. Air scoops were widely used on aircraft designs in
the 1930's and 1940's, and after WWII, American automotive stylists were influenced by new "jet age" aircraft. The addition of
scoops (and various fins) in automotive designs proved quite popular, and air scoops conveyed a "performance image". While these
scoops and fins were attractive, they were (usually) non-functional.
When an automotive stylist wanted to convey the image of "performance", some sort of ornamental hood scoop was usually grafted
into their design. One of the most famous 1950's designs appeared on the 1955 Ford Thunderbird. Stylish and attractive, the T-Bird
hood scoop quickly influenced American automotive designers, and while 1955 Thunderbird hood scoop was non-functional, racers
soon discovered that the scoop could be opened up to allow some cool air to enter the engine compartment. By the early 1960's,
hood scoops made their way onto many high performance cars, and several manufacturers began offering hood scoops as an
over-the-counter item for their factory sponsored drag teams. However, none of the manufacturers had yet thought of a marketing
scheme to sell an entire "fresh air intake" setup to the high performance street crowd.
Pontiac's Styling Department totally revamped the GTO for 1965, and with that redesign came a new hood, with a centrally located
single hood scoop. Pontiac Engineers quickly realized that the position of the new hood scoop, though still ornamental, was situated
directly over the carburetor(s). While there is still some controversy to this day regarding who came up with the concept of placing a
bathtub shaped pan over the tri-power carburetors (Pontiac Engineering or Milt Schornack), and using a foam seal to act as a
gasket between the pan and the underside of the hood, the idea worked. Milt Schornack spent some time at a drag strip with a
Pontiac Engineer who used an elaborate series of airflow monitors and temperature probes to determine that the new bathtub style
pan garnered around 18 horsepower over the standard open element air cleaners.
What Pontiac needed was a catchy name for this setup. Whether Pontiac Engineering, Milt Schornack, or even the Marketing
Department came up with the name "Ram Air" is also a matter of debate, but the name was perfect. Ironically, there is no "ram"
effect of the incoming air, as the 1965 GTO hood scoop was situated too low on the hood, and it was much too small. But the name
"Ram Air" stuck, and the rest is history.
At General Motors, a new corporate mandate was passed down in January 1963 banning the financial backing of any and all factory
racing teams, and prohibited the promotion of racing activities. The successful Chevrolet Z-11 Impala and Pontiac Super Duty 421
programs would come to an abrupt halt, and with it came the end of the Z-11 fresh air intake system and other cold air induction
systems that GM designers were working on. But when racing activities halted, the engineering teams began looking at ways to
bring cold air induction to the street. Heading into 1964, Pontiac had a surprise hit on their hands with the new 1964 GTO. The GTO
had it all; a big 389 cubic inch engine, dual exhausts, optional Tri-Power, special badging, and a pair of hood scoops. While the
GTO hood was attractive, the scoops were non-functional, and spaced far apart. Even if the scoops could be made functional, they
were too far away from the carburetor inlet to be effective. The latter point was hammered home by some automotive writers who
had taken offense at Pontiac's use of the legendary Ferrari GTO nameplate, and they claimed the Pontiac's hood scoops were a
weak attempt at making the GTO appear like a serious performance car. Well, the 1964 GTO was a serious performance car, but
the phony hood scoops did not help the GTO's image much!
carburetor was through ducting. The 1963 Chevrolet Impala
Z-11 drag cars used a large enclosed air cleaner utilizing a
wide duct that extended back to the firewall, picking up cool
air from the cowl area just in front of the windshield. This
method was very effective, and eliminated the need for an
external hood scoop or any other device that would hurt
aerodynamics. Note the addition of rubber connector
between the duct and the firewall to allow for flexing
between the firewall and the engine. This setup would not
be used again by Chevrolet making an appearance on the
In 1964, Ford released their Thunderbolt drag cars,
which used two large rubber hoses connected to an
enclosed air cleaner. Each hose ran up to a headlight
bucket. Not only did this provide plenty of cool air to
the carbs, but the setup did not have any negative
impact on the car's aerodynamics. Another benefit of
this system was that there was a mild "supercharging"
effect (though negligible) where a slight positive
pressure could be generated in the intake system at
very high speeds. Drag cars of this time period were
approaching 120+ mph, so this setup was very effective.
|Different Philosophies On Ram Air Systems
Milt Schornack, Royal Pontiac's chief mechanic, was looking for ways to increase
the performance of their 1964 Royal Pontiac GTO drag car. Schornack thought
about the cold air induction setup used on the 1963 Chevrolet Impala Z-11 race
cars, where a large rectangular hole was cut into the firewall just above the heater
box, and how a sheet metal not use an enclosed air cleaner (the 4-barrel version
did, but the Tri-Power was the hot setup for 1964), and the triple Rochester 2-bbl
carbs used three small open element air cleaners. Then one day, while working on
the red 1964 GTO Royal Pontiac Team car in the Service Department (incidentally,
this was the same car used for the famous March 1964 Car & Driver road test), Milt
noticed a Tri-Power equipped full-sized Pontiac sitting in the next bay. The big
Pontiacs used a large, enclosed air cleaner that covered all three carburetors. A trip
over to the Royal Pontiac Parts Department provided Milt with one of these "big car"
air cleaners, and then a visit to a local heating and cooling supplier netted him the
necessary duct work to make his own cold air induction setup, similar to the 1963
Chevrolet Z-11 setup. Back at the dragstrip, Milt's new cold air system proved quite
effective. The 1964 GTO picked up 1.5 mph at the end of the 1/4 mile, a very
significant improvement for a highly tuned race car. But as effective as this
arrangement was, this design would remain a one-off.
Milt would take a different approach to a cold air setup when the new 1965 GTO's
The original Car And Driver 1964 survives to this day, and is in the
hands of Tenney Fairchild. This GTO is arguably one of the most
valuable and historic GTO's ever produced.
This is the section above the heater core that
Milt Schornack originally cut open for 3 individual
hoses, but later decided on the single inlet style.
The final result of the Milt Schornack style
cold air induction setup. After 1964, every
year GTO would offer some sort of cold air
The production 1965 Ram Air pan, with contoured carb openings for smooth air
entry into each carb throat. The production unit was designed to use a foam
seal (not shown) that completely surrounded the tub on the horizontal
perimeter, and the air cleaners themselves held the baseplate down. One can
easily see that the production pan was stamped out of sheet metal, whereas
the prototype (left) was welded together from various scraps of metal.
|Pontiac's Ram Air Rarities (page 1)
NASCAR and NHRA racers had different ideas on how to provide cold air to the carburetor. One of the restrictions these racers
faced was whether the rules of their sanctioning body allowed the use of a hood scoop. In the early 1960's, NASCAR had a rule
stating that the hood line of a "stock car" (which were truly production based vehicles back then) could not be altered in any way, so
the addition of any type of hood scoop was strictly forbidden. But NASCAR teams soon found innovative ways to pipe cold air to the
carburetor without resorting to anything that could be seen from the outside of the car. The rules for hood scoops were a bit looser in
NHRA drag racing, and in some classes (such as Factory Experimental), the rules allowed items such as hood scoops to be used, as
long as the part was listed in the manufacturers parts book.
Chrysler used an innovative setup on
their 1964/1965 Plymouth race Hemi
vehicles. Similar in design to the setup
later used on the 1967 Pontiac
Firebird, Plymouth used an upper pan
sealed to a hood scoop. Velocity
stacks with fine mesh screen covered
the carbs (there were no air filters).
Obviously this was not a street setup,
but it was a very effective way to get
cool outside air to the carbs.
|1964 : Pontiac's First Factory Cold Air Intake System
As attractive as the 1964 GTO was, critics were quick to
point out that the hood scoops were phony. Fake hood
scoops were nothing new to American cars, they dated
back to the 1950's, but many in the automotive media
already disliked the GTO due to the "borrowing" of the
Ferrari GTO nameplate, so they were quick to point out
the that the Ferrari used functional scoops all around, the
Pontiac's were fake.
|1965 : The Debut Of Pontiac's "Ram Air"
|Reproduction Pontiac Window Stickers
High Quality, Accuracy, Attention to Detail, and Customer Service are our top priorities.
These are show quality window stickers far surpassing what Pontiac fans have been used to in the past!
Classic DVD's - Drag Racing, NASCAR, Vintage Road Tests, Promo Films!
|Copyright 2014 MusclecarFilms. All rights reserved.
|Performance Years Forums - click here
Horst Fiedler's 1973-1975 A-body Pontiac Information - click here