When a 440 grabs one’s ear and says hello, it simply can’t be ignored. Up at the other end of those two pipes protruding from under the rear bumper are some serious cubic inches and pistons like buckets squeezing chunks of air and distilled petroleum product into little wedge-shaped bits and spitting them out to tumble down and around and out the back and go wuggawuggawugga. And that’s just at idle.
Subtle it ain’t. It goes with the territory, one might suppose. The 440 Super-Commando V-8 in question is bolted to the unit body of a 1970 Plymouth GTX painted a violent LimeLight green that glows like Chernobyl at midnight. A visual impact equal to trumpets simultaneously playing E-flat and D, it can’t be missed. The Plymouth Division made 7,748 GTX’s in 1970, and probably not very many of them were wrapped in this, um, striking hue.
It’s an unrestored original owned for the past twelve years by Jerry and Donna Clymer of Scotrun, Pennsylvania. Unmodified it is but for larger fuel lines (better to feed you with, my dear) installed by a previous owner for the optional carburetors. Ah, carburetors. Remember them? Quaint devices for sucking droplets of gasoline into a moving airstream? The 440 cubic inch V-8 has three, with two throats per, a $119 package that thumped output to 390 bhp, up from 375 bhp for the “base” 4bbl single-carb 440. With different jetting, each carb front to rear had its own part number. The front and rear were also vacuum operated, the front and rear flopping throttles open when intake manifold vacuum dropped under hard acceleration. Not just a new manifold and carbs, the 440 Six Barrel engine also included a new crankshaft, camshaft, tappets, timing chain, connecting rods, pistons and rings, valves and rocker arms. Even under wide-open no-load dyno testing, the valves would bend before the engine would blow.
The 440/six was a more affordable engine option for the GTX than the “Street Hemi,” which made 426 peak horsepower on the dynamometer but, in the GTX, cost $711, almost six months rent in 1970 dollars. With two four barrel carbs, a more radical cam and hemispherical combustion chambers, the Hemi was also less drivable than the 440 and lacked the bigger engine’s bottom end punch.
The GTX was the top of the Plymouth “intermediate” lineup, which had Belvedere on the bottom, with Satellite and Sport Satellite above that. The fabled Road Runner was a bare-bones go-fast-for-cheap Belvedere, while the GTX was a “gentleman’s hot rod” Satellite. Aimed at the more mature and wealthier over-25 age group, the GTX sported deluxe trim and was available only as a 2-door hardtop. Yes, kids, that means there was no B-pillar and yes, the rear windows rolled up. Chrysler’s 3-speed Torqueflite was standard, the 4-speed manual optional. Plymouth’s trick hood scoop, offered on Road Runner and GTX, was the Air Grabber hood scoop. Flip a switch under the dash and a trap door in the hood rose to admit cool air directly to the air cleaner. It was good, said Plymouth, for about .1 second in the quarter mile. It was better for intimidating the guy in the next lane at the stoplight grand prix. The door had the “GTX” logo positioned “upside-down” so that when open the logo was right side up from the passenger compartment.
To slide behind the wheel is to remember another era of automobile. The steering wheel is big, close, skinny and hard. The lap belt seems woefully inadequate. The bucket seats lack lateral support but are comfortable enough as chairs, though the Hurst pistol grip shifter, way up here and close to the wheel, suggests more than just lounging. The instrument panel has deep set gauges, with full instrumentation including a tach-clock combo that serves neither purpose well. Fit was woeful, but we didn’t know any better. The body design, if not Modern Aerodynamic, was classically American as Levi’s, a T-shirt and Ray-Ban shades.
The engine and drivetrain more than made up for any and all shortcomings, however. From the driver’s seat, exhaust rumble is subdued and matched by whine from the heavy-duty gearsets. The GTX motors about docilely, though the broad hood looks a soccer field tacked ahead of the windshield. It makes a narrow winding road a real challenge, the big steering wheel allowing only general suggestions for the car’s direction. Despite a sloppy on-center feel, it loves going straight, however.
That’s good, because the right pedal’s a firecracker, and with the close-ratio gearbox, it’s cacophony-shift-cacophony-shift-cacophony and there’s no need for fourth gear because the speed limit’s already ancient history and yeah, if it were 1970 and one heard wuggawuggawugga in the next lane, one had best take it seriously. And buddy, trust me. wuggawuggawugga from a GTX in the next lane should still give one pause…