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1999 Pontiac Grand Am SC/T Concept

The current Grand Am lends itself easily to the GTO idea with some hot paint, cool wheels, wider rubber, and add-on bodywork. However, the concept car in question is called SC/T and not GTO. Why? Pontiac wants to gauge reaction to the car at auto shows to see if you think it's a real GTO.
The MT staff needed to hear some honking exhaust and smell some frying rubber to decide if a front-drive GTO had legs. Fortunately for us, as part of this investigation, Jace Stokes, assistant brand manager for the Grand Am, agreed. He felt we should spend two weeks blasting around Detroit in two versions of the SC/T concept: a supercharged 3.4-liter Grand Am with a four-speed automatic and a supercharged 3.4-liter Grand Am with a five-speed manual.
These were virtually stock Grand Am GTs except for 17-inch light-alloy wheels from the Bonneville SSEi and low-profile Comp TA rubber. Interestingly, these "plain Janes" drew a lot of interest when we stopped for fuel or parked. At present, Pontiac is pondering the amount of exterior ornamentation, should this idea see production. We say "less is more."
Lift the lid on this Grand Am, and it's obvious there's something special going on. What's actually gone on is a large, well-packaged Eaton M62 blower on the right side of the engine bay puffing in boost. And it looks and performs as if it was born there. Unfortunately, the slightly quicker manual trans car wasn't prepped in time for our track work. On the street, though, that Getrag five-speed proved slick and exceedingly fun to stir. Our instrumented numbers from the automatic-equipped car offer a good idea about what drivers could expect from this package, despite copious amounts of wheelspin. Our run to 60 mph took 6.6 seconds. That's a sweet 1.1 seconds faster than the production car. (Stokes says GM's numbers for the manual version are 5.9 seconds to 60 mph.)
Currently, the hot version of the naturally aspirated 3.4 engine makes 175 horsepower and 205 pound-feet of torque. According to Stokes, our breathing-assisted 3.4 engine was making a reliable 262 horsepower and a handy 289 pound-feet of Comp T/A-vaporizing torque. Of course, that's more low-end grunt than the standard 4T45-E four-speed auto can handle with reasonable durability. So Stokes recruited senior development engineer Bruce Witherspoon and GM master technician Joe Roggenbeck to pull the standard box and install the beefier 4T65-E transmissions normally used in the supercharged 3800 V-6 Pontiac Bonneville. This swap was neatly managed despite dire corporate predictions about fitting it into the smaller Grand Am's tunnel. The interiors of our mechanically enhanced mules were bone stock. But the manual trans car featured a chrome Hurst stickshift with a simple white ball handle (a la the original '64 GTO).
Given previous examples of high-powered front-drives, we expected the SC/T would be a twitchy, torque-steering version of the Grand Am. But thanks to a minimum of handling modifications and the inherently stable and benign behavior of the chassis tuning, the Grand Am nicely controls the extra muscle transmitted to the wider contact patches.
This inherent goodness also extended to the base braking system, which rewarded us with a Corvette-level stop of 116 feet from 60 mph. We weren't able to put the SC/T through our skidpad and slalom tests, but it would no doubt handily beat a stock Grand Am GT's 0.83g and 64.8-mph performances. In the end, it may not matter if Pontiac decides to use the legendary GTO badge on this car. Given its power, poise, and strong promised value, it might well create a new legend of its own.