Herb Adams

Herb Adams

Times Nominated: 1
Year Inducted: 2018
Nominated Year(s): 2018
Category: Pontiac Ambassador

Without Pontiac Special Projects Lead Engineer Herb Adams, there would be no Ram Air, no Shaker scoop, no Trans Am, no Super Duty 455.

That’s not to say that Adams was the sole person responsible for Pontiac’s biggest performance names, but he sure carried Pontiac’s high-performance torch in the post- 1963 years without ever letting his foot off the gas pedal.


In 1965 when he was just a few years out of college, Herb was assigned to be the test engineer at the Pontiac garage at the General Motors Proving Grounds. He saw the “beautiful GTO hood scoop” as having overlooked potential. “I guess no one had considered that it might be functional, but us hot rodders saw the obvious,” he recalls. “I found a small prototype shop at the Proving Ground and the guys there helped me build the [Tri-Power] basket air cleaner needed to make the Ram-Air Induction work without a company production order [being issued from engineering.] We found that the Ram-Air wasn’t much effect, but the cold air was.

It wasn’t a big improvement but it was measurable.” Nominal performance gains aside, Ram-Air Induction went on to be one of Pontiac’s most well-known performance features ... continuing on to the end of the Trans Am in 2002 and even finding its way onto late-model Grand Ams in the 2000s.

Part of John Z. DeLorean’s trusted inner circle, Herb was in a clandestine meeting with Delorean telling Bill Collins and him that he wanted a Firebird that was better than the expected Camaro Z-28. “No detailed instructions, just get it done,” Herb says. When the down-drafts carbs in his Pontiac Firebird Sprint Turismo (PFST) wouldn’t fit under the First Gen Firebird’s hood, Herb cut a hole in the hood and had prototyping whip him up an aluminum Shaker scoop. To this day, Herb believes that both Ford and Dodge saw the magazine article on his Shaker scoop and put it into production for the 1970 model year, beating Pontiac to market with their own Shakers. Of course, the Shaker reappeared on the 1970 Trans Am and became such an icon that it’s hard to imagine a Trans Am from any era without what started out a Shaker scoop.

Of course, Herb was also key in the engineering developments that led to the production 1969 Trans Ams, and the first rounds of Second Generation T/As that followed. One natural outcome of his Special Projects team was the SD-455, a logical progression from the race engines Herb was developing for SCCA Trans Am and NASCAR. Herb is modest in that he gives much credit for the Super Duty 455 to his teammates Jeff Young and Tom Nell. Still it was Herb who stood up in a weekly Pontiac meeting when Pontiac General Manager Martin Caserio asked, “What are we going to do with the stockpile of SD-455 parts that we have sitting around?”

Herb was the last guy to speak and said, “If we have 600 orders and 600 sets of parts, why don’t you build them to sell them,” effectively pushing Pontiac’s second Super Duty era in production and launching a legend. It was the Herb’s last day on the job at Pontiac as he had been asked to leave because his racing efforts were becoming all too obvious to General Motors.


Herb Adams Acceptance Speech

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