50 Years Ago, Pontiac's GTO Super Bowl Ad Humbled Us All

Gif: Youtube

For 1970, Pontiac wanted to assert its position as GM’s “Fun” brand for the new decade. It needed to make sure America knew who the bad boys in Detroit were. And it was going to do that with the Humbler, a feature package for the GTO that debuted in the brand’s ad during the big game.


In it, a wily kid burbles through a drive-in restaurant in his 1970 GTO, drawing stares before disappearing into the night. Before he hits the road, though, he makes sure he makes an impression by flipping a switch.

But what did that switch do? It turned on the loud exhaust in the exhaust system that would give more throat and a little power boost to the 400 or 455 cubic-inch V8 under the hood with the push of a button. Just the kind of thing you need to go peacock around your local burger joint, right?

Apparently not for everyone, though. Sure, similar systems had long been installed by hot rodders, and variable loudness exhausts are pretty common on today’s sports cars, but this Hagerty piece says the feature, called Vacuum Operated Exhaust, or VOE, didn’t last long at all. In fact, despite the feature launching with this Super Bowl ad, the take rate was so low that only around 240 GTOs were ever equipped before the option was canned.

But the fact that the feature was quickly discontinued doesn’t matter. The ad made a splash at the beginning of the year and set the tone for the Pontiac’s for 1970, with or without the special loud button. And that’s exactly what a Super Bowl ad should do.

Max Finkel is a Weekend Contributor at Jalopnik.



Who pulls into a burger joint, circles the parking lot and exits without buying anything? This seems like the acts of a very lonely man looking for validation.. or something darker.

He drew attention from the burger patrons with his non-blinking, steely eyed stare, not the car. The driver engaged the loud exhaust to mask the screaming victim tied up in the back. The crowd was clearly getting his plate number at the end.

This man is a murder, check the trunk.