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1970 Pontiac GTO - Graceland GTO

A transplanted LS3 revives a 1970s legend

D.J. Randall Jan 23, 2014
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The King of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, lit Memphis on fire. He took the city by the notes, and fine-tuned his talented take on music into a legendary existence here. True believers swear the King still frequents his former homestead, spiritually taking shape in spooky, ghostly shadows. Nevertheless, he rocks out daily, ridding radio waves across the universe. Unfortunately, thanks to an enlarged heart, a myocardial infarction (heart attack), and perhaps, some questionable substances, the King’s life was cut short. He had only aged 42 years. Hindsight is 20/20, and since personal health is a sometimes a sliver of life insurance, maybe the legend would still be with us had he taken better care of himself.

As a fellow car fanatic, Elvis once said, “Ambition is a dream with a V-8 engine.” Such a blissful quote is the perfect transition into another fanatic’s outstanding determination. Andrew Borodin, also a Memphis inhabitant, begins our story sitting in his beautifully clad, Cardinal Red 1970 GTO. He’s provided a magnitude of info, so let’s get started. Here’s where the numbers get a little strange... Andrew, who was born in 1970, says, “Doing the math, you see that I lived the first 15 years of my life without [the GTO] and the subsequent 28 years with it.” Against his mother’s advice, and with the help of his grandmother, Andrew welcomed the Pontiac into his life at an early age, and it has been a consistent part of his life ever since. Currently, since it’s 2013 at the time of this writing, the GTO, and subsequently Andrew, are both 43-years old. That’s one year older than Elvis was, when he died. Similar to Elvis, the GTO has an enlarged heart - under the hood of course. You see, Andrew has taken spectacular care of his Cardinal Red Pontiac, and under that Ram AIr hood is a horsepower-pumping, 21st century aluminum mill. Its heart is an LS3. Paralleling the King’s V-8 quote, Andrew’s dream really does have a V-8 engine, a new one, and it is all thanks to his ambitious mindset. He was adamant to protect his Pontiac, while wanting to make it a true maintenance-free, and drivable, 43-year old ride. In fact, prior to the LS3, “The 400 Pontiac engine had been replaced by a 502-Chevrolet big block, with Holley aluminum heads, Holley EFI, and a healthy Lunati camshaft. It made 500 rear-wheel horsepower, and was backed up by a Richmond six-speed, which was state of the art the time” (1998). Andrew “wanted the car to have something unique about it, but [he] didn’t want it to clash with the look of the car. A shaker scoop is a fixture of Pontiac styling and function, and [he] wanted to incorporate it into [his] build.”

Andrew had successfully completed his first engine transplant, and by 2002, the then 32-year old GTO was healthy, refreshed with a Chevrolet 502 big-block. Thanks to Andrew’s rockin’ determination, a dream became reality, and his Pontiac continued to age well. With that being said, transplanting a fresh engine into an automobile can be equated to an organ transplant for a human. Think about it. If a 50-year old with a damaged organ is fortunate enough to inherit a 20-year-old’s organ, he or she is going to be revitalized, and hopefully, able to continue on through life. While the GTO’s original powerplant was not damaged, it was updated with EFI technology, and Andrew was ensuring that his GTO was modern enough to drive on a very frequent basis. However, frequent GTO outings eventually turned into next-to-nothing, as Andrew accepted a new job, and was forced to garage his Pontiac for longer than he would have liked. Just because he was thrown out of his routinely perfect preventative maintenance program, doesn’t mean that Andrew forgot about his GTO’s future and wellbeing.


Fast forward to 2007, when Andrew’s ambition was revving up again. “By that time, the LS swaps were starting to be sorted out. In fact, I already had experience; building a 1988 RX7 with an LS6 engine, and a T56 transmission,” Andrew tells us. “I knew that the big-block belonged in a drag racing Chevelle, and not in my GTO.” It was time for another engine refresh. Andrew knew the GTO was due for an update, and after selling the big-block, Andrew located a new Gen IV L92 truck engine (that, as we know, are equipped with LS3-style heads). Fundamentally, Andrew knew the swap would satisfy his needs, but he longed for more horsepower. He wanted a healthy option, adding more years to his GTO’s life, without intruding on the drivability. Much like the King of rock and roll, if you tempt fate with power adders, or pills, the outcome could be catastrophic. The L92 would be a safe and modern, daily driver-worthy engine.

Not wanting to do an aggressive camshaft upgrade, he “realized that [he] could use a stock LS7 camshaft without too many issues.” Minor component transplants included Andrew installing the LS7 cam, dual valvesprings, and hardened pushrods, along with an LS3 intake package. He also installed an LS3 harmonic balancer and an LS3 water pump. Effectively, his L92 became an LS3. He says, “the only difference between my engine and a LS3 are the intake valves, which are lightweight in the LS3, while being solid stainless in the L92.” Connecting the transmission, “as it turned out, all of the parts worked together as promised. The shifter came up in exactly the same location as it did with the big block.” Continuing “to make the Richmond transmission work with the LS engine, [Andrew] used a reproduction 621-bellhousing made by Keisler. The 621-bellhousing was used on big-blocks with the 14-inch flywheels, the same diameter as the LS flywheel.” Andrew continued pushing on with the swap, and “keeping with the mild build theme, [he] chose a LS7 flywheel and clutch, and a hydraulic clutch release system that consisted of an adapter made by Keisler, a Wilwood master cylinder, and a throw out bearing made by Quarter Master Industries.”

While transplanting a new cardiovascular system into his ride improves its life expectancy, the GTO’s aged suspension components needed a new lease on life. For that, Andrew “got rid of the B-body spindles, …and picked up a set of AFX spindles from ATS (now Speedtech).” Since the more modern hubs would accept a more modern brake package, Andrew chose a C6 Z06 setup. The new lease on life has turned an older car into a modern driver. Talk about a reincarnation. Andrew’s ’70 GTO is the modern equivalent to Elvis rocking out today, like he did in the ’70s.

Conceivably, if the King had taken steps to live a healthier lifestyle, he may have been still with us today today. Either way, his legacy lives on through his music, and of course, the National Historic Landmark, Graceland. Though the King is gone, Andrew’s GTO is here to stay, and it’s very much alive, with a healthy LS3 heart. That GM heart is the motivation behind this Pontiac’s attraction, and while it’s a classic ride from 1970, the GTO is by no means old. Updated EFI technology, coupled with a multitude of other LS components, point to a car that has fought off fate, thanks to its owner. Andrew says, “If a builder actually wants to drive the car, there is no better option than the GM Gen III and Gen IV (maybe now Gen V?) engine families.” Since completing the transplant, the GTO has logged more than 15,000-miles, and too, has lit Memphis on fire. It’s aged well for a legend, and bets are, this healthy GTO will be around for a long time, all thanks to its owner.


Data File

Car: 1970 Pontiac GTO

Owner: Andrew Borodin

Block: 6.2L, LS3

Compression ratio: 10.7:1

Heads: Stock LS3

Cam: Stock LS7

Pushrods: Stock LS3

Rocker arms: Stock LS3

Pistons: Stock LS3

Rings: Stock LS3

Crankshaft: Stock LS3

Rods: Stock LS3

Throttle body: Stock LS3

Fuel injectors: Stock LS3

Fuel pump: Walbro 255 L/hr

Ignition: Stock LS3, coil-near-plug

Engine management: GM E67

Exhaust system: Edelbrock headers, Dr. Gas mid-pipe, Straightline Performance 3-inch muffler

Transmission: Richmond 6-speed

Clutch: LS7

Driveshaft: The Drive Shaft Shop Carbon Fiber shaft, Porsche 930 CV joint

Front suspension: AFX Spindles, Global West control arms, QA1 shocks

Rear suspension: Global West / Edelbock control arms, QA1 shocks

Rear end: Moser, 12-bolt, 3.42 gears

Brakes: C6 Z06 14-inch DBA rotors front, 2000 F-body rear

Wheels: Kinesis 18x9.5 front, 18x10.5 rear

Front tires: 275/35/18 BFGoodrich Rival

Rear tires: 295/35/18 BFGoodrich Rival

Fuel: 93-octane

Race weight: Unknown

Best ET/mph: 12.53/113

Best 60-ft. time: 2.0

Current mileage: 15,000 since LS3

Miles driven weekly: Unknown



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